India is known for its wide range of whole spices across the globe. While all are good, some that provide good nutrition and rich flavour include: cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorns, bay leaf and cardamom. They all are flavourful and strong in taste and aroma, so a little goes a long way without adding any calories, fat, sugar or salt. Research shows that these spices contribute to health just as much as fruits and vegetables, providing antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Plan healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner by learning about these healthy spice additions. For instance, you can sprinkle powdered cinnamon instead of using sugar in many recipes. These spices play a potent role in digestion and can help with weight management besides spicing things up right way.
Five spices you should add in your food:
Bay leaf: If you are not yet familiar with bay leaf, prepare to fall in love with it. Most Indian meals you make start with heating up of oil in a frying pan, bay leaf can certainly be added to it. Sautéing it in hot oil creates the most incredible aroma and signals to every tummy near kitchen that yummy food is on its way.Bay leaf is great with curry vegetables, dry vegetables, rice dishes, pulao and pulses. Backed with a healthy dose of vitamin A, C, magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium and iron, bay leaf soothes body aches and joint pains. Due to its powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties, it strengthens immune system. It aids diabetes treatment, high inflammation, cancer treatment, wound healing and fights fungal infections. Though it can help lower blood glucose levels, it may also have adverse effects if you are on medication for high blood sugar. So consult your doctor before consuming it. Also stop using it during pregnancy and breast feeding and at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery. There is no reliable information on safety of consumption during these stages, so better to stay safe and avoid use. Remove bay leaf from the cooked food before eating because it remains hard and stiff even after being cooked.
Cardamom: Whether whole or powdered, cardamom is a great addition to any Indian or Mughlai dish. It gives an extra zing when raw and mellows nicely when cooked, providing warmth and depth of flavour. You can enjoy its flavour in tea and also adore its unusual spiced flavour in baked dishes and pancakes. It also works well in homemade sauces and chutneys or sprinkled on poached fruits in powdered form. The seeds of cardamom can prevent and cure digestion problems including heart burn, intestinal spasm, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea, constipation, liver or gallbladder complaints and loss of appetite. Its consumption is also good to cure common cold and other infections, cough, bronchitis, sore mouth and throat, urinary antibacterial problems, headache and high blood pressure. Cardamom contains chemicals that may help the immune system. Thanks to its antioxidant, diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. It may also treat bad breath, cavities, liver problems and cancer. Cardamom can also aid in weight-loss by disappearing few inches from your waist. Do not take cardamom in amounts greater than those typically found in foods during pregnancy or if you have gall stones.
Cinnamon: Its dueling notes of sweet and spicy allow cinnamon sticks to knit different flavours together wonderfully. Try it with dry or gravy vegetables or sprinkle over desserts or salads. Cinnamon contains medicinal properties and large amounts of highly potent polyphenol antioxidants. The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help lower your risk of various diseases. It may improve some key factors for heart disease, including cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. By increasing insulin sensitivity, cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels and has a powerful anti-diabetic effect. It may also have protective effects against cancer, bacterial and fungal infections, tooth decay and bad breath. It is better to use ‘Ceylon’ – ‘true cinnamon’ because not every cinnamon is created equal. If you are using ‘Cassia’ variety, just stick to small doses as it contains significant amounts of a compound which is believed to be harmful in large doses.
Black peppercorns: Whether you are a spicy food fanatic or not, just a pinch of its powdered form can really take your dish to the next level. It does wonderfully in Chinese dishes and in Indian fruits and vegetable salads, raitas and rice dishes by giving it medium to high level of heat. That is why probably it is a staple of Chinese and Indian cuisine. It may help fight cancer and indigestion, slow down aging, lower weight, improve dental health and skin condition in case of pigmentation. It contains natural anti-inflammatory properties. This amazing spice can detoxify body, clean intestine and stomach, prevent constipation and help combat common cold, dandruff, poor hair growth and dull hair. When taken in large quantities, it can cause stomach burns and can also cause some irritation to pregnant and breast feeding women. So consume in moderation to reap its benefits.
Cloves: Cloves are underutilised when it comes to cooking. Adding few to a dish can really bring kick to life. It is super tasty added into pulao and other rice dishes and gravy potatoes. Saute them along with just about any dry or curry vegetable or simmer in soups and sauces and more – and you will have happy nostrils and taste buds. Cloves are low in calories and high in nutrients including fiber, manganese, vitamin K and vitamin C. Being high in antioxidants, it can help reduce oxidative stress and protect the liver. Thanks to its antimicrobial properties that may promote dental and bone health. It may help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce stomach ulcers. Get medical help if you have any of these symptoms of an allergic reaction – swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat, rashes, burning or redness on skin, itching, nausea, stomach pain, difficult breathing or mouth ulcers etc.
When using whole spices, they may be gently crushed with a heavy instrument to release more of their flavour. Learn more tips about healthy addition of these spices to your food and in no time you will be cooking healthier food for you and your family as they do not just make your food taste good, they are important for your overall health too.
Boost the gusto, whiff and vigour in your cooking with these spices cum herbs!