Spice up your taste buds with healthy spices in your diet!

Spices not only just excite your taste buds but are composed of an impressive list of phytonutrients, essential oils, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for overall wellness. Spices have been an integral part of our food for centuries, and today, even become more relevant to us. Thanks to the Arab and European explorers, whose contributions in spreading them from their place of origin to the rest of the planet has immensely broadened their use and popularity all over the world!

What exactly is a spice?

Spices are derived from diverse plants or trees’ bark, buds, fruit, roots, seeds, or stems. (In contrast, a herb is derived from the leafy sections of plants that lack woody stems.) They can be either fresh or dried. Dried herbs taste stronger than fresh, but they lose their potency rapidly.

Spices are classified botanically based on the plant portion from which they are derived, as follows:

Aromatic plant leaves: Examples included bay leaf, rosemary, oregano, and others.

Fruits or seeds: Nutmeg, coriander, fenugreek, mustard, black pepper, and coriander are a few examples.

Roots or bulbs: Examples include ginger, galangal, turmeric, and garlic.

Bark: Cassia, cinnamon, etc.

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Here are some widely used food spices found in most homes.

  • Allspice: The term “allspice” refers to a spice that tastes like a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. This spice may be used in both savory and sweet dishes. It gives baked items, such as spicy cakes or pumpkin pastries, a particular flavor. It’s also a key element in jerk seasoning and is used in pickling. While allspice is utilized in baking in North America, it is more commonly seen in South American and Jamaican cuisine.

  • Anise: Anise gives meals a sweet licorice flavor. In Southeast Asian cuisine, it is frequently used to flavor pork, poultry, and breads as well as drinks like this hot mulled tea.

  • Cardamom: Cardamon has a powerful scent and a flavor that is warm, spicy, and sweet. It’s popular in pastries, rice meals, and sweet puddings. Because it is extremely potent, just use a small amount at a time. It’s popular in East Indian and Scandinavian cookery (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden).

  • Five spices from China: Chinese five spice is a potent blend of five ground spices – cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns – mixed in equal parts. You may make your own or locate pre-packaged mixtures in Asian markets and most grocery shops, which are commonly used in Chinese cooking. It is most commonly used in recipes that contain soy sauce.

  • Cinnamon: A flavorful bark with a sweet, woodsy, and fruity aroma is cinnamon. There are other types of cinnamon available, but cassia cinnamon is the most often offered in North America. While it is commonly used in sweet recipes, it may also be used in savory stews, soups, and curries. It’s also delicious with meat.

  • Cloves: Cloves add a sweet and spicy flavor to both sweet and savory foods. Baked foods, smoked meats, pickles, stews, curries, and mulled beverages all benefit from it. They can be served whole (and later removed from the meal) or ground. Cloves have a strong flavor, so use them sparingly.

  • Coriander: Dried coriander seeds are derived from the same plant as the well-known herb cilantro. Coriander seeds have a flavor similar to lemon, sage, and caraway. This spice may be used in curries, soups, pickling spices, and alcoholic beverages such as mulled wine. It is commonly found in Indian, Mexican, Asian, and Caribbean cuisines.

  • Cumin: Cumin adds a toasty, nutty flavor to meals. It’s a common ingredient in curries, chili powders, and barbecue spice mixes. It is most commonly seen in Middle Eastern, Asian, and Mediterranean cuisines.

  • Curry spice: Depending on the area and recipe, curry powder is a combination of ground spices. Coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, mustard, fenugreek, ginger, clove, cardamom, chiles, and black pepper are common ingredients. The mix of spices provides gravy-based meals like Indian curries with a hot spicy flavor. It’s great as a marinade or dry rub for meat, fish, lamb, veal, and potatoes.

  • Garam Masala: Curry powder-type spice mixtures like garam masala don’t contain cumin or caraway. The combination of spices, like curry powder, will be determined by the chef and the dish. It typically comprises cardamom, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, fennel, clove, and black pepper. It’s popular in Indian cooking because it offers a deep, rich flavor. It is often added at the conclusion of the cooking process.

  • Turmeric: Turmeric has a spicy, earthy flavor. It is commonly used in Indian and Caribbean dishes to provide flavor as well as color (a vivid yellow). Turmeric is most commonly seen in curries and pickled meals.

Why should we add spices to our diet?

Spices include a long number of plant-derived chemical compounds with disease-preventing and health-promoting qualities. They have been used for anti-inflammatory, carminative, and anti-flatulent qualities since ancient times.

Spices have been proven to have anti-clotting properties (they prevent platelets from clogging in blood arteries) and hence aid in relaxing blood flow, reducing stroke and coronary artery disease.

The active components in spices may aid digestion by enhancing digestive tract motility and digesting capacity by encouraging excessive release of gastro-intestinal enzymes within the stomach.

Gargling with warm thyme water might assist with bronchitis and sore throat symptoms. Additionally, the antiseptic mouthwash made from thyme is used to treat gingivitis and cavities.

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Colds, influenza, moderate fevers, indigestion, stomach distress, and painful menstruation are treated with a decoction of various beneficial spices.

In traditional therapies, spices are also believed to have a natural anthelmintic effect that helps manage worm infestation.

Spices are high in minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is a vital component of cell and body fluids that aids in the regulation of heart rhythm and blood pressure. The body uses manganese as a co-factor for superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant enzyme.

To keep spices fresh, purchase and store them appropriately.

Buy spices in tiny quantities and utilize them fast to get the maximum scent and flavor out of them. To obtain the best flavor, ground entire spices rather than buying them prepared. You may use a pestle and mortar or an electric coffee grinder to ground them. For up to 6 months, store whole and powdered spices in sealed containers in a cold, dark area.

The bottom conclusion is that spices may boost your food’s flavors and smells without introducing extra fat, salt, or calories. Experiment with different spices to find which ones you prefer.