A Deeper Look at Indian Spices with Luke Coutinho
Let’s imagine a typical spice box that’s commonly found in Indian households. It’s full of vibrant colours, aromas, and tastes. Containing spices like turmeric, jeera (cumin), ajwain (carom seeds), heeng (asafoetida), black pepper, clove, elaichi (cardamom), and many more, this spice box is a complete medicine kit, too. These spices, apart from making our daily meals delicious, can also take care of our immunity, digestion, gut health, acidity, inflammation, pains, metabolism, fat-loss, blood sugar management, lipid control, blood pressure, etc.
When these spices are added to our meals in the right proportion, they are simultaneously utilized by the body for various health benefits. Let’s take a look at some of these spices and what benefits they offer to us:
1. Haldi (Turmeric)
Famously called the ‘yellow gold’ in many parts of the world, turmeric is known for its healing and anti-inflammatory properties. With the presence of its key compound - curcumin, turmeric can treat anti-inflammatory conditions, skin diseases, wounds, digestive ailments, cognitive health (especially for conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Dementia, etc.), immunity as well as liver conditions. Turmeric is added in most Indian dishes, making it one of the regular ingredients of your meals. Turmeric milk before bedtime is mostly advised for a better sleep and stronger immunity, too.
2. Jeera (Cumin)
Commonly known as jeera, cumin is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, manganese, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin B1. It facilitates better digestion and has several antibiotic, antiseptic, anti-microbial & antibacterial properties. So, if you feel a bit under the weather, you can rely on the addition of jeera in your meals since it has the ability to fight off viruses, bacteria, and fungi in your system, boosting your overall immunity. Cumin also lowers blood sugar levels, detoxifies your liver, and lowers cholesterol & triglyceride levels. You can take a little bit of this miraculous spice, boil it in water, and drink it to enjoy its health advantages. Its brew/tea is also an excellent fat burner!
3. Cinnamon (Daalchini)
Cinnamon is a popular spice that’s used all over the world for both savoury and sweet dishes. The key ingredient is cinnamaldehyde that has multiple health benefits. It helps lower blood sugar levels while reducing heart risk factors by lowering LDL levels (bad cholesterol). It’s also loaded with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties as well. Studies have, in fact, even shown that regular and balanced consumption of cinnamon has an anti-diabetic effect on the human body as well! You can add cinnamon to your smoothies or you can even sprinkle a little bit of powder on stewed fruits like rhubarb and apples or a tasty snack. And goes without saying – certain baked goods like cookies and rolls, taste best with some cinnamon powder sprinkled on them!
4. Nutmeg (Jaifal)
Nutmeg has the ability to relieve pain, strengthen cognitive functions, aid digestion, detoxify the body, reduce insomnia, increase immunity levels, etc. Myristicin is the main active ingredient of this wonderful spice, which helps in improving sleep quality by decreasing the activity of stress-related enzymes in the body. For best results, take a pinch of nutmeg and add it to a glass of warm milk and take it right before bedtime. You can also a few almonds and cardamom powder to make your drink tastier as well as healthier.
5. Fennel Seeds (Saunf)
Since a long time, fennels seeds have been used in many Indian cuisines and is offered as a mouth freshener in Indian households. Apart from adding flavour in various dishes and your favourite cup of masala chai, this aromatic spice works great as an antioxidant, too. It aids the health of your heart, and is said to have antibacterial & anti-inflammatory properties (thanks to the presence of anethole, estragole, fenchone as its main active ingredients), too. It’s also helpful in soothing indigestion issues like bloating, IBS, and constipation. Fennel seeds can be either chewed as a mouth freshener or could be added to warm water or tea.
6. Carom Seeds (Ajwain)
Ajwain contains high levels of thymol, making it perfect to treat digestion issues. It helps release the gastric juice from the stomach, which in turn, helps fasten the process of digestion. It improves cholesterol levels while lowering blood pressure levels in the body. Ajwain also has powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties. This is why it’s no wonder that our grandmothers have always been fond of offering ajwain as the go-to remedy for any stomach related issues!
7. Cardamom (Elaichi)
Cardamom’s active main ingredient is cineole, which is antimicrobial & antibacterial in nature. It helps fight off any infections that may directly or indirectly affect the health of one’s lungs. It is especially beneficial for those who have asthma, bronchitis, or choked respiratory passages. It’s also a rich source of manganese, which is a powerful detox mineral. Apart from adding this spice to your daily meals & dishes, you can also boil a few pods of cardamom with ginger in water, and take this concoction with honey for your liver, lungs, and kidneys.
8. Fenugreek (Methi ke Daane)
Fenugreek seeds, also known as methi ke daane, are beneficial for balancing cholesterol, soothing stomach aches and reducing menstrual cramps while maintaining liver & kidney health. It also helps in breaking fevers and helps control diabetes. If fenugreek seeds are added to tea and taken for fevers, it’ll be equivalent in value to taking quinine for fevers.
Staying healthy and strong should be everyone’s priority, but it really does not have to be boring. If we just look around in our kitchen, so many ingredients that we use in our daily meals actually help and maintain our health for us without us even realizing it! When you’re also mindful of what’s going in your body, you’d realise the multitude of benefits that we can reap from these commonly available spices!
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