Spices are widely used in cooking for flavouring food, particularly in Asian and Middle Eastern dishes, but did you know that they also come with loads of health benefits? So, pile your food with plenty of …
Not only does cinnamon win the award for best supporting role in a hot chocolate, it’s also great for weight loss (though perhaps not when you’re having it with your hot chocolate …). The inner bark of the cinnamon tree is peeled off and rolled into a tube and then dried (and sometimes then glued to your Christmas ornaments!). Used a lot in Indian cooking, cinnamon enhances your metabolism by helping to regulate your blood sugar. It was used by the Chinese to treat fever, diarrhoea and menstrual problems, and in medieval Europe to relieve sore throats and stomach trouble.
Speaking of Christmas ornaments … we’ve all got that uncle who comes around for the festive meal and we rather wish he wouldn’t because … well, you know! After the brussel sprouts, he has all of that pent up wind to release and he’s downed enough beer that he thinks it’s hilarious, right? Sneak as much ginger as you can into his meal this year! Used fresh or dried, ginger can help to digest fatty food, breaks down proteins and is excellent for reducing wind! It also helps to relieve nausea (including motion sickness and morning sickness), as a cold remedy and in India it was made into a paste to treat headaches.
Turmeric – king of all spices
You probably know this one as the spice that makes your curries yellow! However, it is used in many fascinating ways around the world – in India it has been, and still is, used in religious ceremonies; in China it was used to dye Buddhist robes; in Hawaii it was used for purification. As far as health benefits goes, turmeric is rich in disease-fighting curcuminoids, offering support for bone, joint, skin, digestive, circulatory, neurological and immune health. Extensive research over recent years has indicated that curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) can help to reduce blood cholesterol levels, prevent LDL oxidation, suppresses tumour formation and so much more. It is a powerful antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory so, if you’ve got a sore throat, pop some turmeric into a glass of warm milk or warm water with honey and lemon. It might stain your fingers but it will do wonders for your health!
Capsaicin, the chemical in chilli which gives it that signature heat, causes your blood vessels to relax, so it’s thought that it may be useful for treating high blood pressure. Additionally, (The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology) claims that eating around 1 tablespoon of chilli can temporarily raise your metabolic rate by up to 23%! It’s widely thought that it’s the seeds of a chilli which produce the intense heat, but it’s actually the white fleshy bits, not the seeds, that you need to remove if you want the flavour of the chilli without the heat. Surprisingly, it also goes very well with chocolate!
These are just a few spices that can benefit your well being, there are many others that have health enhancing effects so don’t be afraid to add spices to your food. Make yourself a nice home made curry that is full of spices and enjoy!