Traditional ingredients for good health

While there are many modern foods offering our bodies adequate nutrition, here are some age-old ingredients that will add a dash of nostalgia to your dishes, along with a great taste.

In this day and age, when we think about getting our recommended dose of nutrients, more often than not, what comes to mind are bottles of colourful multivitamins and supplements.

While there's no disputing the marvels of modern medicine, there are ways to get the proper nutrients you need from all-natural sources.

Many traditional recipes from your grandmother's cookbook include ingredients that have been scientifically proven to be rich sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and other wonderful healing properties.

In addition to replenishing our bodies with the nutrients we need, these ingredients are also delicious and palatable – especially for young kids who still experience difficulty swallowing pills. In other words, Grandma knew what she was doing!

So the next time you're making dinner for your family, consider including some healthy herbs and spices to flavour the meal. Here are some common ingredients from time-honoured, wholesome recipes.


This root has been used by Chinese herbalists for over 2000 years to treat nausea and indigestion. It has a long history of being used as a medicine in Indian and Arabic herbal traditions, too. Ginger is an incredibly versatile ingredient; its pungent flavour adds a rich spiciness to any broth, but it can also be tossed through a salad, baked into cookies or infused into a soothing tea as a cold remedy.


Another age-old staple in traditional Chinese medicine, wolfberries (also known as goji berries) are considered a powerful superfood by nutrition experts. In addition to being low in calories, fat free and packed with fibre, wolfberries are also an excellent source of antioxidants and have been known to improve eyesight and boost immunity. These versatile berries can be added to smoothies, yogurts, cereals, soups and tonics.


For the Japanese and Koreans, seaweed has been a part of their daily diet for centuries, and with good reason. Seaweed is low in calories yet packed full of vitamins and minerals. A study also showed that seaweed is a better source of bioactive peptides, which help lower blood pressure, than milk products.

Seaweed is incredibly easy to include in your diet. You can sprinkle strips of dried seaweed over your noodles, serve it as a salad with sesame seeds or boil it with miso to make a comforting broth.


Originally from Ethiopia and Southeast Asia, this cereal grain has been a diet staple for many societies from as early as 8000 BC. Barley offers vast benefits to our health as it’s a rich source of dietary fibre, magnesium and selenium, which has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer. Its chewy, pasta-like consistency also makes it especially appealing to children; add it to stews and soups for extra flavour and heartiness.

Star anise

Native to China, this flower-shaped spice is characterised by its sweet, aromatic flavour that’s similar to liquorice. It has significant antibacterial and antifungal properties, as well as having a high content of antioxidants. Its wonderfully fragrant flavour is the main ingredient in Vietnamese pho and it’s often combined with cinnamon, cloves and pepper to create Chinese five-spice powder, which can be used to season just about anything.

Use these ingredients to conjure up flavourful dishes that you may one day pass down to your grandchildren. Happy cooking!