SPICE UP YOUR LIFE
Spices that are used in Indian cooking makes Indian food appealing to the world. Spices extensively used in Indian kitchen is not to make the food fiery hot but to make the dish distinctive, flavourful and wonderfully aromatic. Spices may be technically called heart of Indian cuisine and Indian kitchen. Each spice gives its unique flavour and taste to the food and when different spices are combined together, the permutation creates wonders with taste and flavour. Apart from food, spices are also traditionally used in Ayurveda for its medicinal properties and health benefits. Hence spices not only render taste but also health. Must have heard of “Dadima ke nuskhe” which are the traditional household treatments for simple ailments; and in these treatments spices finds an important place.
Let’s get to know a few popular Indian Spices and their health benefits:
Turmeric (Haldi): Turmeric has been used in Indian household from time immemorial not only in cooking but also for its medicinal properties. The spice that gives the traditional Indian curries its yellow colour has lots of important role to play in our health just than improving the appeal of the food. Turmeric has a compound, called curcuminoids or most importantly curcumin which is the main active ingredient in turmeric and gives it the healing properties.
- It has powerful anti-inflammatory effect
- It is a very strong antioxidant.
- Curcumin improves brain function and lowers the risk of brain diseases.
- Curcumin has been linked to improve heart health by improving the lining of the blood vessels of the heart.
- It can also prevent and perhaps even treat cancer as it reduces cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level.
- Being anti-inflammatory, it may also help reduce pain and inflammation in arthritis or any trauma.
So when in pain have turmeric milk, though taste weird but it miraculously treats you.
Cinnamon (Dalchini): One of the most delicious and healthiest spices on the planet. It can lower blood sugar level and reduce heart disease risk factors. Distinct smell and flavour of cinnamon is due to the oily part comprising a compound called cinnamaldehyde which has powerful effect on health and metabolism. The antioxidant activity of cinnamon can even out rank super foods like garlic and oregano.
- It is a natural food preservative, has anti-inflammatory properties, fight infections and repair tissue damage.
- It reduces levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while maintaining the HDL cholesterol, hence reduces the risk of heart disease and blood pressure.
- Improves sensitivity to the hormone insulin and thus a powerful anti-diabetic effect.
- Prevents neuro-degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s characterised by progressive loss of structure or function of brain cells and improves motor function.
- Reduces the growth of cancer cells and formation of blood vessels in tumours, toxic to cancer cells preventing growth and spreading of cancer cells.
- Prevents bacterial and fungal infection.
- Prevents tooth decay and reduces bad breath.
- Even helpful in reducing weight by cutting down the fat stores.
Next time you have a toast in breakfast or brew yourself a coffee, sprinkle some cinnamon powder to it.
Caraway seeds (Ajwain): Caraway seeds contain several health benefitting essential oils which are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti flatulent properties. In traditional European cuisine, caraway seeds is one of the dominant spices featuring in several savoury dishes.
- Rich source of dietary fibre hence helps prevent constipation.
- Fiber also binds to toxins in the food and helps protect the colon mucosa from cancer.
- Further fiber binds bile salts and decreases re absorption in colon reducing serum LDL cholesterol levels.
- Caraway is an excellent source of minerals like Fe, Cu, Ca, K, Mn, Se, Zn and Mg. Also vital vitamins like A, E, C as well as Vit B comprising
- Caraway water is used in traditional medicines to treat flatulence and indigestion and to relieve infertile colic, also used in mouthwash and gargle preparation as frothing agent.
- It may also help in clearing cold, bronchitis, and IBS.
It may be used as whole seeds or as powder. Add some to your dough for making paranthas or puris or chew on some roasted caraway seeds after meal to enhance digestion and prevent flatulence.
Fennel (Saunf): It is a common practice particularly in Indian sub continent to chew fennel seeds after meal to facilitate digestion and also to prevent bad breath. It stimulates secretion of digestive juices and facilitates proper absorption of nutrients from the food. Fennel is good source of fiber, potassium, Vit C, Vit B and phytonutrients, coupled with lack of cholesterol, all supporting heart health. Health benefits include relief from anaemia, indigestion, flatulence, constipation, colic, diarrhoea, respiratory disorder, menstrual disorder and even in eye care.
- It contains significant amount of fiber, which helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood.
- Its essence is widely used in mouth freshener, toothpastes, desserts, antacids, and in various culinary applications.
- It is a very popular anti flatulent from infants to elderly; extract expel excess gas from stomach and also to reduce symptoms of non ulcer dyspepsia. Its laxative effect helps relieve constipation.
- Apart from being helpful in preventing heart diseases, it is also a probable cure of cancer. Fennel seeds extracts has shown impressive results in inhibiting growth of tumours and also its chemo protective characteristic helps to protect the normal cells from radiation and chemical while treating cancer.
- It is a good source of potassium which being a vasodilator relaxes tension of blood vessels thereby reducing blood pressure.
- Bacteria induced diarrhoea can be treated because the essential oils have disinfectant and anti bacterial properties.
- Fennel also eases and regulates menstruation by properly regulating hormonal actions in the body. Also it reduces the effect of PMS, soother pairs.
- Juice of fennel leaves can be externally applied as eyes to reduce irritation and eye fatigue.
- It is a natural expectorant – fennel seeds and powder can help to break up phlegm and toxin build up of throat and nasal passage and hence quicker recovery.
- Fennel is diuretic helping in removal of toxic seeds from body stimulates production and secretion of milk in lactating mothers.
Cumin (Zeera): It is most common spice used in Indian curries as whole seeds or as powder in curries. Its ability to aid in digestion, improve immunity and treat piles, insomnia, respiratory diseases, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, lactation, anaemia, skin disorders, boils and cancer. Many of you might remember having hated those curries and soups which had roasted or fried cumin or those who are of the opinion that spices are bad for one’s health should note that cumin can be beneficial for some of the most dangerous diseases and is generally considered a boost for overall health.
- Cumin is also carminative thus relieves from gas troubles and stomach aches.
- Cumin has fiber so it prevents constipation which is the prime cause behind piles added with infection in the wound in the anal tract.
- It helps in regulating blood sugar by reducing chances of hypoglycaemia.
- It helps to relieve stress and anxiety and hence prevent insomnia.
- It acts as an expectorant – loosens up the accumulated phlegm and mucus and hence helps in respiratory disorder, asthma and bronchitis.
- It acts as an disinfectant and helps fight viral infection.
- Cumin is rich in iron and considerable amount of Vit C essential for a healthy immune system.
- Cumin is rich in iron and calcium hence helps prevent anaemia, calcium and iron both eases lactation and menses.
- Increases cognitive performance.
- Cumin is rich in Vit E needed for maintenance of skin and preventing premature ageing even prevent skin disorder originating from fungal or microbial invasion.
Cardamom (Elaichi): Cardamom is the spice that originated in India, primarily in humid climate of Western Ghats. There are two main types available in India, green cardamom and black cardamom. It is considered as the queen of Spices and is one of the costliest spices ranking third after saffron and vanilla. It is found in the form of small pod with tiny black seeds inside. Both the seeds and the pod give a pleasant aroma and flavour. In Indian cooking, cardamom is not just used in hot spicy dishes but also in desserts and beverages to compliment the sweetness. Cardamom tea is a much favoured beverage all over India. Apart from imparting flavor in Indian dishes, cardamom is also one of the important herbs in Ayurveda. It is believed to be a remedy for teeth and gum infection, throat infections, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of the eyelids, digestive problems, renal failure and gall stones and also used as an antidote for poisons and venoms in Chinese medicine.
Health benefits of cardamom includes:
- Gastrointestinal well-being
- Lowering the production of Cholesterol, improving the blood circulation and hence relief from cardiovascular issues
- Prevention and spreading of cancer
- Curing dental problems
- Helpful in curing urinary tract infections and gonorrhoea
- Being aphrodisiac, cardamom is also used as a cure for impotency, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.
So now you know why cardamom tea may actually prove healthful.
Black cumin or Onion Seeds (Kalounji): These tiny black seeds are important in Indian cooking, traditionally being used as seasoning of curries or as a spice mix in pickles. Its hot tanginess imparts unique flavour and taste to the dish. These tiny seeds have got the cure for almost every disease owing to over hundred chemical constituents that are found in it, the essential fatty acids are the abundant of all. The health benefits are numerous and are listed below.
- It is a best known carminative meaning they tend to aid in digestion and helps relieving gases in stomach and intestine. They also help in normalising bowel movement and thus relieve constipation.
- The essential oil of black cumin is antimicrobial and helps in eliminating intestinal worms.
- It’s a natural remedy for the autoimmune disorders. Black cumin in combination with garlic can harmonise the imbalance which cause the immune cells to destroy the healthy cells.
- It has been found useful in asthma and allergies.
- Being a good source of essential fatty acids, it also proves helpful in maintaining balance of good and bad cholesterol and thus keeps our heart healthy.
- It may also help in increasing the sperm count and also milk production in lactating mothers.
- It keeps our immune system healthy thereby preventing the growth of cancer cells.
- Black cumin can be helpful in treating eczema and other skin problems and thus finds a place in beauty treatments too.
To incorporate black cumin in your daily diet, you may put in some seeds while brewing your tea or simply sprinkling some powder over the salad or simply having it with honey may do wonders.
Asafoetida (Hing): The smelly powder is a common taste enhancer and is used in seasoning of daals, sambhar, curries, and various other recipes of Indian cuisine. The smell is the only fault of this highly beneficial spice which has numerous health promoting factors.
- It is anticoagulant and a natural blood thinner which makes it highly beneficial in controlling blood pressure and related problems.
- It also lowers triglycerides and cholesterol thereby keeping our heart and vascular system healthy
- It is a natural anti-flatulent and laxative hence relieving both gas and constipation.
- A pinch of asafoetida in a glass of water can cure migraine and headaches. Even asafoetida mixed with lemon juice may cure toothache.
- It treats infection of the respiratory tract, acts as a respiratory stimulant and expectorant to release phlegm and relieves chest congestion. It may be found useful in treating dry cough, whooping cough, bronchitis, influenza, and asthma.
- Asafoetida is recommended in hysteria, convulsions, and other nervous disorders.
- It can relieve pains and cramps during menses and can regularise the irregular periods.
- It is a powerful antioxidant, protects against free radicals and hence prevents cancer.
- It also regulates blood sugar levels by stimulating the secretion of insulin.
- Studies are being done to showcase the use of asafoetida against H1N1 hence may be used in developing drug for treating swine flu.
- It may also act as a sedative.
Spicy is not that bad you see.