Flavors of Spain Will Spice Up Your Health

Grounded red paprika in a bowl

Over the past year, FoodTrients has been exploring foods and flavors from around the globe. This week, we take a look at the flavors of Spain as part of our new series on the world of foods, herbs and spices that help create some of the distinctive dishes we have featured, and the age-defying benefits they deliver.

Due to its location, Spain has a variety of cultural influences from Greece, Northern Europe, Italy, and Northern Africa, which are responsible for introducing foods such as olives, wine, meat pie, stews, and honey to Spain’s cuisine. Fish and other seafood are considered staples due to the vast coastlines surrounding Spain. With rich soil and relatively dry climate, foods such as olives and grapes grow easily here and are often incorporated into dishes, along with beans, cheese, bread, and meats such as chorizo and ham. Here are some of the foods, spices and flavorings that make Spanish dishes some of the world’s favorites:

Annatto powder in organic powder - Bixa orellana


A tree common to South America, Annatto’s bright red seeds are used medicinally to treat gastric and nausea discomfort, fever, and can be applied topically to help with skin irritations such as burns, bruises and rashes. In the kitchen, Annatto is often mixed with other spices to form achiote paste, which can be used in sauces, marinades, and rubs to provide a spicy yet sweet flavor to Spanish dishes. (Read more about the benefits of annatto and enjoy our recipes, too.)

Fresh healthy onions on chopping board

Onion (Spanish/Yellow)

Due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, onions are used medicinally throughout the world for a variety of conditions such as respiratory illnesses and the common cold/flu, and to even help prevent certain types of cancer. Within Spanish cuisine, onions are used in most dishes, creating a savory flavor profile that pairs well with other spices such as paprika and sun-dried tomatoes.



Made from a blend of peppers, paprika is known to contain high amounts of Vitamin A, which may help support the immune system, as well as antioxidants, which help to reduce free-radicals that damage the cells in the body. While cooking Spanish cuisine, paprika is used to provide a rich flavor and vibrant color to dishes like paella, a rice dish commonly eaten in Spain that is made by simmering onion, chicken, and seafood in a variety of spices.

Italian Sun Dried tomatoes in olive oil with green basil and spices in glass jar on blue kitchen table, copy space

Sun Dried Tomato

Like the name implies, sun dried tomatoes are created by drying tomatoes in the sun over a span of a few weeks. Medicinally, they are similar to tomatoes as they keep most of their nutritional components intact, with the potential to help with high blood pressure, colds and flu, gastric disorders, and even possibly helping to prevent cancer. In Spanish cuisine, these potent tomatoes are added to dishes to bring a unique, umami/savory flavor, pairing well with other spices and foods common to the culture.

References The Spruce Eats. Mealtimes and Culinary Customs of Spain. https://www.thespruceeats.com/meals-and-the-culture-of-spain-3083066. Updated 6/23/20. Accessed 12/20/20.

Food In Every County. Spain. http://www.foodbycountry.com/Spain-to-Zimbabwe-Cumulative-Index/Spain.html. Accessed 12/22/20. Natural Medicines Database. Annatto. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=23. Updated 10/9/2020. Accessed 12/22/20. Natural Medicines Database. Onion. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=643. Updated 3/3/20. Accessed 12/22/20. Natural Medicines Database. Tomato. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=900. Updated 7/10/20. Accessed 12/22/20. Beach, Village & Urban Living in Oazaca. The Many Uses of Annatto. https://theeyehuatulco.com/2019/07/28/the-many-uses-of-annatto-achiote/. Accessed 12/22/20. The Spruce Eats. Achiote Paste. https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-achiote-paste-2342971. Updated 11/29/20. Accessed 12/22/20. The Spruce Eats. Paprika. https://www.thespruceeats.com/all-about-paprika-4036017. Updated 7/20/20. Accessed 12/22/20. The Spruce Eats. Sun Dried Tomatoes. https://www.thespruceeats.com/homemade-sun-dried-tomatoes-1808065. Updated 10/07/19. Accessed 12/22/20.

About Ginger Hultin, MS RDN CSO

Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, CSO, LDN, is a health writer and owner of Champagne Nutrition specializing in integrative health and whole food-based nutrition. She serves as Immediate Past President for the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chair-Elect of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group and is a Media Representative for the Illinois Academy. Read Ginger's blog, Champagne Nutrition, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Ginger Hultin MS RD CSO LDN gingerhultin@hotmail.com | @GingerHultinRD Chair-Elect, Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group ChampagneNutrition.com  
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