IS IT WORTH GIVING SPICES ITS IMPORTANCE IN OUR KITCHEN?
A variety of spices (Image: mydailynews.com)
The history of spices is as old as the human civilization and the spice trade developed throughout the Middle East around 2000 BC with spice like pepper and cinnamon. In ancient times, the Egyptians
Egyptian civilisation ( Image: Virtuoso.com)
used different spices to enhance their food’s taste, embalming their dead (preserving the dead bodies) , in cosmetic products and perfumery.
In the ancient times, spices have contributed a lot in the development of civilization. Spices not only enhance the taste of food, add colour and spice our taste buds but also contain many beneficial nutrients that help to build our immune system. Spices are found to have anti bacterial and antiviral properties and they are high in B vitamins and traces of minerals such as potasssium, manganese, iron as well as magnesium. As a result over the millennia, spices were not only used in culinary purposes but also used as natural remedies concerning many health issues. In the ancient days where refrigeration have not yet been introduced, people used spices such as cloves and all spice to preserve meat or food for longer periods of time. And also cinnamon for its antimicrobial properties which help to extend the life of foods. Whereas ginger and garlic praised for their infinite medicinal properties to treat anything from digestive to arthritis.
Long ago spices were rare, valuable and expensive that man could even risk their lives for and today thanks to the Arab and the European explorers, the same spices were known and found in every kitchen around the whole world!
Featured Image showing a range of spices: (image credit: Freepik)
Spices originate from different part of plants such as flowers, fruits and seeds, barks, leaves and roots or bulbs
Fruits and seeds: fennel, nutmeg, fenugreek, black pepper, coriander, mustard etc
Bark: cinnamon and cassia
Leaves: curry leaves, bay leaves etc
Roots or bulbs: garlic, turmeric, ginger etc
BE SPICE WISE
Knowing the importance of spices from ancient times till now, it is necessary to be spice wise and including healthy spices in our diet. Also the fact that spices have high concentration of phytonutrients or phytochemicals (the chemical compounds found solely in plants) which ward off disease, antioxidants, essential oil, minerals and vitamins which contribute all for our general wellness. We have different spices with different health benefits and some healthy spices are cloves, pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, turmeric, nutmeg, fenugreek, mustard seeds, ginger, garlic etc
BELOW IS A LIST OF 12 COMMON SPICES USED IN COOKING, THEIR NUTRITIVE VALUES AND THEIR HEALTH BENEFITS
Cinnamon sticks (Image: Pixabay)
NUTRIENTS: Minerals like potassium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, iron, zinc and magnesium
Vitamin A,C,E,K, niacin, pantothenic acid, folates, riboflavin, thiamin and pyridoxine
Phyto-nutrients like carotene-B, crypto-xanthin-B, Lutein-zeaxanthin and lycopene
- it has the highest antioxidant value of all spices, anti-diabetic since eugenol has been found to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics, antiseptic and local anesthetic due to presence of eugenol ,the essential oil use in dentistry.
- it has anti-inflammatory, carminative and anti-flatulent properties.
- helps body to fight infections and viruses
- protects dental health and freshens breath naturally
- reduces the risk of heart disease where the anticoagulant function helps to prevent platelet clogging inside the blood vessels thus preventing stroke, peripheral arterial and coronary artery diseases.
- aids in fat burning
- reduces level of cholesterol
- cancer prevention
- helps in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Turmeric whole and grounded (Image: Freepik)
NUTRIENTS: Vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, folates, vitamin C,E,K and B6 (pyridoxine)
Minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, zinc and magnesium
- a very powerful antioxidant and cancer prevention as it contains curcumin which is a cancer-fighting compound
- a blood purifier
- boosts the immune system and heals wound
- strengthens bones
- protects against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, a common neurodegenerative disease
- relieves arthritis
- controls cholesterol level and diabetes
- an anticoagulants
- fights against depression
- delays aging or fights age related chronic diseases
Cumin seeds( Image:Plurk)
NUTRIENTS: Cumin is an excellent source of minerals like potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. The seeds are also a rich source of phyto-nutrients like carotene-B, crypto-xanthin-B and Lutein-zeaxanthin.
Vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B6), thiamin (B-complex vitamin)and vitamin E,A ,C
- rich in antioxidants and help fight cancer, carminative and anti-flatulent properties because of presence of many phytochemicals.
- cumin has antibacterial and antiviral properties and it helps to boost the immune system
- cumin improves digestion.
- food for the brain and it protects against memory loss thus decreasing risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia and the damaging effects of stress on the body.
- it is also beneficial for diabetics by reducing blood glucose .
- relieves asthma
- treats insomnia
- prevents anemia
- treats respiratory disorders and as an expectorant , cumin works to loosen phlegm and make it easier to remove. Helps colds (tip mix a little cumin powder with a little raw honey for a quick cold remedy)
- prevents colon cancer and removes toxins from body naturally (detoxification)
Fennel seeds:( Image: Pinterest)
NUTRIENTS: Fennel seeds contain concentrated source of minerals like potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.
Vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B6), thiamin (B-complex vitamin)and vitamin A ,C
- relieves indigestion
- relieves colic pain and aid digestion in new born baby when given fennel water
- helps treat respiratory ailments.
- relieves menstrual cramps
- eliminate bad breath
- helps kill internal parasites
- helps relieves arthritis. Massage oil to cure joint pains.
- boosts the immune system
- prevents cancer
- helps treat diabetes
- helps weight loss
Cardamon pods (Image: Foodyinfo)
NUTRIENTS: Cardamon is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium,
manganese, phosphorus and zinc
Vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, thiamin and vitamin A and C
- digestive aid
- cures bad breath and oral infections due to its antimicrobial properties
- relieves cold and flu as well as cough
- lowers blood pressure levels
- removes toxins from the body
- aids in cancer prevention
- helps in diabetes treatment
- fights asthma, bronchitis and respiratory problems
- promotes heart health
- enhance appetite
- good for kidneys thus promoting urination and removes calcium and urea accumulated in the kidneys
Black pepper: (Image credit: www.cosmopolitan.in)
NUTRIENTS: Black pepper contain a good amount of minerals such as calcium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium,iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium ; vitamins A,C,E,K, folic acid, choline, niacin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and thiamin. Phyto-nutrients like carotene-B, crypto-xanthin-B, Lutein-zeaxanthin and lycopene.
- anti-inflammatory, carminative and anti-flatulent properties.
- the phyto-nutrients help the body to remove harmful free radicals and help protect from cancers and diseases.
- use as an antiseptic remedy in dentistry for tooth decay and gum swellings
- relief gas that is flatulence
- colds and coughs
- reduces memory impairment and cognitive malfunction
- beneficial in patients’ condition suffering Alzheimer’s and dementia
- provides relief from sinusitis, asthma and nasal congestion
- helps fight infection
- combats Arthritis
- helps increase nutrient absorption and stimulation of appetite
- aids digestion
Cloves:( Image: Pixabay)
NUTRIENTS: Minerals like potassium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium
Vitamin A,C,E,K, niacin, folates, riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid and pyridoxine
Phyto-nutrients like carotene-B, crypto-xanthin-B and Lutein-zeaxanthin.
- it is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, carminative and anti-flatulent properties.
- clove contains health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol which has local anesthetic and antiseptic properties useful in dental care and treatment
- help to control blood sugar levels
- boost immune system
- improves digestion
- treats vomiting and nausea
- stops bad breath and helps to cure gum diseases like gingivitis
- preserving bone density
- treats headaches and sinusitis
- fights stress
- improves respiratory conditions
- cures cough
- relieves joint pain
Brown mustard seeds: (Image: commons.wikimedia.org)
NUTRIENTS: minerals like potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese and zinc. Phyto-nutrients like carotene-B, crypto-xanthin-B, Lutein-zeaxanthin.
Vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B6), thiamin (B-complex vitamin), pantothenic acid, vitamin A ,C,E and K
- reduces risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases
- relieves of aches like muscle pain, rheumatism and arthritic pain
- provides relief from respiratory disorders
- alleviates headaches like migraine
- treats menopause
- treats asthma
- lowers blood pressure
Fenugreek seeds: (Image: India Mart)
NUTRIENTS: Minerals like potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. Vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B6), thiamin (B-complex vitamin), vitamin A ,C
- digestive aid
- helps relieve constipation ailments
- decreases flatulence and fever
- uses as a remedy for cough and bronchitis
- controls cholesterol levels, triglyceride and also high blood sugar (glycemic) levels in people with diabetes
- decreases burning micturition (burning sensation of urine), pain abdomen and burning sensation of stomach
- helps in hair growth and elimination of dandruff.
- prevents colon cancer
- helps to lower the risk of heart ailments
NUTRIENTS: Minerals such as potassium, calcium, copper, iron,magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. Phyto-nutrients like carotene-B, crypto-xanthin-B, Lutein-zeaxanthin. Vitamins like folates, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamins A,C,E and K.
- Cancer prevention since garlic is a cancer fighting food
- reduces hypertension as garlic helps control high blood pressure
- lowers the cholesterol levels
- uses to treat cough, colds and bacterial infections and garlic is known for its anti-bacterial, fungicidal and insecticidal.
- blood purifier
- prevention of heart disease
- a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Ginger: (Image: Pixabay)
NUTRIENTS:Minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, magnesVitamins C,E,K,B6 (pyridoxine), B5 (pantothenic acid), niacin, folates
- relieves gastrointestinal problems including morning sickness, nausea and vomiting
- Arthritis, osteoarthritis and migraine headache relief
- it is beneficial for treating cough and cold
- boosts the immune system
- anti-inflammatory,carminative, anti-flatulent and anti-microbial properties
- heals ulcers
- improves diabetes
- fights cancer
- helps in weight loss
- lowers cholesterol
NUTRIENTS: Minerals such as iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus
Vitamin C and B- complex vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.
- aids digestion
- treatment for sore throat and allergies
- cures for cold and flu
- helps urinary tract infection
- Decreases fever and increases appetite
- fights food poisoning
- it is used against stomach disorders and nausea
- decreases blood pressure
- lowers blood sugar levels as coriander is an antidiabetic spice
- improves cholesterol levels
- prevents menstrual irregularities
- prevents anemia
Can you imagine your life without spices?
I personally will never be able to live only on bland and boil food! Eating my egg without pepper or cooking without spices? No way. And nowadays in every kitchen all over the world has the presence of spices!!!! And spices are used as a flavoring, an aromatic , colouring and as a medicine. For millennium, the Eastern cultures have been practitioners of natural cures whereas people in Western civilizations are more prone to use expensive and addictive pharmaceuticals such as pretroleum based. As a result, this practice is creating generation of prescription of drug addicts. Thank god when the westerners have realized the adverse effects of using addictive chemical drugs and they have turned to natural plant based. The use of Ayurveda medicine is increasing throughout the world. Spices have been able to pave its way in every kitchen all around the world. Never will we find a kitchen without spice! Even in books like the Bible, the Vedas etc, spices are mentioned many times.
HOW TO STORE SPICES?
Spices are available in several forms such as fresh, whole dried and pre ground dried. To get the optimal benefit of spices, we must store the dried spices in an airtight container.
USES OF SPICES
Most spices when use whole such as cardamom and cinnamon are added at the beginning of cooking to let the strong flavors to infuse the dish but unfortunately the prolonged cooking result in evaporation of essential oils. But however there are spices like the garam masala which are added at the end of cooking so as not to lose any flavors.
Spices are used in soups, in salad, in marination of meat/chicken, stew of fruits, pickling, as a main ingredient in a variety of curry powders, in vegetable, chicken, fish or meat dishes, flavored tea, in cakes, sweets etc.
WHAT IS GARAM MASALA?
Garam masala is a blend of 8 spices grounded into powder which is used to ”finish” curries, vegetable dishes, soups or stews.
The ingredients for garam masala are: cumin, clove, black pepper, fennel seeds, green and black cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise.
Above picture showing garam masala in grounded form
Recipe for chicken thighs in spices and honey
3 chicken thighs without skin
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cinnamon sticks
4 – 5 cloves
pepper powder 1/4 tsp
1 star anise seed
1 bulb of garlic cut into pieces
1 onion cut into pieces
1tbsp of honey
1 tbsp rum (optional)
dark soy sauce 2 tbsp
1. Clean the chicken thighs and put slit mark with knife on the chicken
2. Combine all the above ingredients and mix them with the chicken and let marinate for 3 to 4 hours
3. Cook on medium flame for 30 to 45 mins in a covered wok
4.When the chicken become golden brownish in colour and very soft and traces of oil can be seen, then it is ready!
Can be eaten with bread, salad, french fries.
My journey discovering the world of spices is fascinating!!! Before I was using spices mostly for taste and flavors and I have very few knowledge concerning the nutrients of each spice and the health benefits. Despite learning a few home remedies from my parents and grand parents are not enough comparing to my self discovery of spices. I have become more health conscious and at the same time determined to make the most of spices in my daily life. I was really shocked to find that spices are very nutritious, healthy and at same time they have lots of health benefits!!! Of course we must not forget that a spice can bring change to our health on condition that we use it on a regular basis. But still we must not overuse spices because they can do us harm. For example, excessive amounts of black pepper or cumin can cause gastrointestinal irritation ,indigestion and stomach ulcers. Do not consume fennel seeds in large amounts because the compounds present may be neurotoxic in higher concentration and may also cause hallucinations as well as seizures!
But however, despite the inconvenience spices may cause us when we overuse them, I think they really deserve to have an importance in our kitchen contributing a lot for our wellness! Do you share the same opinion?
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