Know Your Spice Rack
An Indian dish without spices is unimaginable. Spices are the first thing that come to a person’s mind when Indian food is discussed anywhere in the world. It is the spices that givethe authentic Indian food its aroma and flavors. India has been known for its spices since ancient times and is the largest producer and exporter of spices across the world. The diversity of India, in terms of food is yet maintained because each region and culture have their own combinations of spices. Every spice has a unique flavor and aroma, and the proportion of each differs from dish to dish. Some spices form the base for the flavor and some add depth to the food. These spices may even have an important role to play in clinical nutrition. So, those on an Indian diet for weight loss can add certain spices to help boost their weight loss efforts.
Spices add a flavor to foods and the positive is that they do so without adding unwanted calories, sugar and saturated fat to the dish. Also, they make the food more palatable even when one is on a weight loss diet.
So, apart from flavor, colour and taste consuming a variety of spices offers many health benefits. Many researchers are curious about the health benefits these spices can provide when eaten in moderation. They can be put to good use if you have the correct knowledge about them. We’ve put together a list of common spices that are found in every household with its benefits.
From giving Indian curries its yellow color and giving our skin a glowing look, this ancient spice has lived up to its hype. The active compound or ingredient in it that contributes to the very many benefits are called as curcumin. It is a strong antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. And all Indians will remember their grandmas putting it on cuts and wounds to help stop the bleeding and heal the wound?
Black Pepper (KaaliMirch):
This kitchen staple is many times called the ‘King of Spices’. It is loaded with beneficial compounds. One of which is piperene, which has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The same compound can help you control your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This pungent spice has been used in Ayurveda for coping with cold and cough along with digestive problems. So, a “kadha” including black pepper helps clear the sinuses and helps keep the seasonal illnesses at bay.
A highly popular spice in South Asia and in the Mediterranean region, it offers its distinguishing flavor to all our curries, dals and vegetable preparations. Like most of the spices, this too has been used in ayurvedic medicine since ancient times now. The characteristic health benefit of cumin seeds are that it improves digestion. It also helps flush out the body toxins as per ayurveda. It helps in maintaining the overall immunity of the body.
Cloves or laung are flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. The spicy and versatile flavor of these can spice up your biryani but at the same time lend its warm flavor to your desserts. Not only are they full of flavors but they are also low in calories and rich in micronutrients, especially Vitamin C and eugenol which are potent antioxidants. Another benefit of this spice is something that we come across every day, toothpaste advertisements are loaded with benefits of cloves for oral hygiene. Clove has shown to improve oral health and kills harmful bacteria.
Asafoetida or hinghas been an indispensable part of the Indian diet especially in dals and curries. It has many health benefits to offer like anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties which may help in relieving respiratory disorders like asthma, dry cough, etc. The distinguishing feature of hing is that it has been a cure for stomach problems like bloating, irritable bowel syndrome and flatulence since ages now. These therapeutic and remedial features make it the ‘Food of Gods’.
A part of many Indian sweet dishes, this sweet pungent spice imparts a good flavor and smell to food. Often called the “Queen of Spices”, it is a time tested immunity booster in Ayurveda. It improves digestive health and helps in bringing relief from stomach and intestinal cramps. Again like the black pepper it can be used in the “kadha” to get relief from cold and cough. Last but not the least, it helps you get rid of bad breath and is used in mouth freshners.
Fenugreek Seeds (Methi Seeds):
The leaves are used in preparing vegetables and the yellow seeds are used in preparing masalas and as a seasoning. Fenugreek seeds have been used sinces ages in our country for increasing breast milk. This spice may help in type 2 diabetes as the seeds contain soluble fiber and other chemicals that may slow the body’s absorption of sugar.
Found in almost every Indian kitchen, this spice comes with a strong pungent flavor and is often added to curries and pickles. The active enzymes in ajwain help boost digestive functions. It is often used to help with digestive troubles like abdominal discomfort, stomach pain and in flatulence. So, add them to your roti doughs or breads and in your curries for the very many benefits that it has to offer.
Always keep in mind that the spices do have a shelf life. Do not store them for more than a couple of years once they have been opened. Storing them in airtight containers will help preserve their taste and aroma. So, whether they have a role in the clinical nutrition aspect or are a part of an Indian diet for weight loss or are just used to enhance the flavor of food, make sure your kitchen cabinet is stacked with these spices. Our kitchen holds the secret remedies to many ailments and the spices may just be the answer to those ailments.