Spices are not just a great way to vary food, add flavour without over-salting foods and keep things interesting.
Here’s a quick guide to some common spices and to just some of their health benefits.
Turmeric – the curcumin in tumeric has proven anti-inflammatory qualities, and has also been used to provide relief and prevention from PMS, arthritis, smoking related diseases, heart disease high cholesterol & alzheimers, and helps the body destroy mutated cancer cells.
It is also thermogenic, boosting the body’s basal metabolic rate, and has anti-estrogenic qualities.
Turmeric is great in egg dishes, providing a deeper colour & flavour, also used in curry dishes and lentil or bean dishes. Or try in my cauliflower & almond soup.
Cayenne Pepper – also has a high concentration of capsaicin, a known pain reliever and has the ability to increase the body’s basal metabolic rate, stimulating the burning of fat for energy.
It is also known to aid digestive disorders, and can actually help heal peptic ulcers, and abdominal pain.
Aids the cardio vascular system by reducing blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and can aid in the prevention of blood clots.
Try sprinkling over a mixture of prawns or crayfish, mango & cooked chicken for a zingy salad. Sprinkle over squash or sweet potato chunks before roasting.
Or try my crayfish, avocado & tomato starter.
Nutmeg – has long been used as a carminative, to prevent flatulence and lessen wind formation.
It also aids in stomach upsets & diarrhea. Nutmeg oil also has anti-bacterial qualities, and is a natural means of food preservation.
Excellent grated on spinach & creamier soups.
Cinnamon – has long been used for arthritis, asthma, insomnia and many many other common disorders. It is a circulatory stimulant, and recent investigations have found that it is particularly useful in reducing blood glucose levels and diabetes. It is also an anti-convulsant, aiding in epilepsy & spastic muscles.
Great in curries, and with apples & pears.
Star Anise – Anise is rich in cancer preventing coumarin compounds. It is also known to reduce coughs & has an antispasmodic effect on intestinal spasm.
However, it is slightly estrogenic, and also should also not be fed to infants.
Most commonly used to flavour cakes & biscuits, it is also wonderful ground up over fruit salads, and can add a great depth of flavour when cooking your own tomato based sauces.
Cloves – commonly used for it’s anesthetic and antibacterial qualities for teeth & gum problems, it is high in eugenol, which aids in reducing/preventing toxicity from environmental pollutants.
Stud an onion with cloves as a great base for stocks & soups etc, or great with apples. You could also try a small sprinkling of ground cloves to zing up a stir fry.
Cumin – enhances the liver’s detoxification enzymes, and is believed to have anti-cancer properties, and in the prevention of stomach and liver tumours.
Aids proper digestion & nutrient assimilation.
Quickly fry cumin seeds & other preferred spices to release the flavour & create a base for curries and lentil dishes.
Mustard seeds – a decongestant, they also have excellent levels of phytochemicals that are being studied for their anti-cancer effects.
Stir fry prawns with mustard seed & chilli for a great starter. Add to rice, quinoa or millet based dishes for flavour.
Saffron – modern research suggests that saffron can help prevent and treat cancer including leukemia, memory loss, heart disease & inflammation. It is also a potent antioxidant.
Infuse yoghurt with saffron to make a great accompaniment to spiced or curried lamb. Add to fish based soups or stews for great colour & subtle flavour. Add to rice based dishes. Or simply add saffron & grated cinnamon to yoghurt to create a lassi style dessert.
Julie Winterton is a Level 2 Health Coach, Yoga Siromani & Kinetic Chain Assessment Specialist at the Dax Moy Personal Training Studios, Islington, London
She is also the author of the forthcoming cookbook “Good Nutrition for Food Lovers”
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