If you thought species were meant to simply beef up the taste of your food, there’s much more you can nab from your plate than just the aroma, flavour, colour, and taste.
The use of spices has been integral in many cuisines, although they have been an exclusive role in Indian cooking. While spices enhance the flavour of your food, turning anything that’s bland more palatable, they are characterized by salient features that may not be known to many.
A powerhouse of nutrition
Now, did that surprise you? Well, spices are packed with powerful health benefits. Let’s see how.
Derived from plant-based sources, spices are either culled from various parts of plants. These could include seeds, roots, bulbs, fruits as well as the bark of aromatic plants. Here are a few examples of a variety of spices that are derived from different parts of plants.
Herbs and spices such as a bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, basil, etc. are derived from the leaves of plants. Nutmeg, coriander, mustard, fenugreek, black pepper, cumin, fennel, etc. are examples of spices culled from fruits or seeds. Herbs such as garlic, turmeric, galangal, are all derived from either the root or bulb of plants while cinnamon and cassia are culled from barks.
If you are wondering as to how these spices can enrich your diet, we have you covered here.
Spices are composed of a plethora of chemical compounds; thanks to its plant-source. These compounds contain medicinal properties that can prevent a host of diseases and even treat or cure a dozen ailments.
Composed of essential oils, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and phytochemicals phytosterols and other components, spices are consumed only in small quantities.
Widely used in ayurvedic medicine, spices have been used in various forms in the diet. It is these properties that attribute to its nutritional value.
It’s various uses
From anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting to anti-flatulence and multiple other benefits, components in spices can aid in digestion, prevent stroke and coronary artery diseases, etc.
Not just used as edibles, spices such as thyme are known to be used as an antiseptic mouthwash and throat gargling.
Several spices are ingested as decoctions prepared to treat cold and flu-like symptoms. Be it indigestion, stomach upset, deworming or even menstruation pain, spices have been used in traditional medicine for ages in India.
Spices that have volatile properties such as cloves and peppers are often used to treat skin problems. Working as a rubefacient, these can soothe the skin by pumping the blood circulation around its area of application. Many tinctures and massage oils created to treat arthritis, muscle inflammation or local pain are infused with spices. And yes, they also serve a dual purpose; thanks to their aromatic properties, they naturally deodorize such oils.
Boost your meals with spices
Containing a bunch of minerals, spices can increase your immunity levels when used appropriately. Among some of the common minerals that spices are known to have include potassium, manganese, magnesium and iron. Some herbs like coriander are also rich sources of calcium.
Potassium is a vital nutrient that may be found only in traces and spices can well be used as a supplementary source. Known to be a prominent component that regulates the heart rate and blood pressure levels, spices such as turmeric, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cumin seeds as well as dill leaf are rich potassium sources to be included in one’s diet. Similarly, manganese is another component that you can add to your diet via spices and herbs such as cloves, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, etc.
Use of spices in cooking
Spices are not eaten directly but in combination with other ingredients that go into preparing a dish as they can taste bitter when consumed on your own. In Indian cooking, usually, spices are used in the form of seeds or their powered form depending on the recipe and its desired taste.
Not just in food but many healthy spices such as cardamom, cloves, black pepper, saffron, etc. are used in flavoured beverages as well.
Top spices with powerful health benefits
While every spice has a unique reason to feature in your diet, there are a few that are crowned for its well-known benefits. Let’s discuss a couple of them.
Turmeric: The primary constituent curcumin in turmeric works as a great anti-inflammatory combatant. It also consists of antioxidant properties that can help reduce oxidative stress and boost overall immunity with its anti-bacterial properties. It has also been known to be beneficial in fighting cancer cells and retard the development of tumours.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon can slow down ageing and eliminate toxins from the body. Studies indicate that it can be used to fight diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It works well when combined with ginger and can aid in maintaining insulin levels and healthier skin.
Chilli: It may ignite fiery sensations in your taste buds, but this spice has been known to help in weight management and boost immunity levels. It contains Vitamin C, A and E and has anti-inflammatory properties.
A little familiarity with your spices and their appropriate usage can optimize their nutritive values, catering to your health needs.