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Before I begin the discussion let me tell you how I got this blog post idea.

When I was in India my husband found an easy pasta recipe on Youtube; Pasta Aglio Olio. It requires only a few ingredients and tastes heavenly. Ever since the discovery of the dish from Youtube, we have been making it quite often.

The one reason why I love the dish is Chilli. I love them and in this dish, I can add a lot! But that’s also a PROBLEM for my husband, who is not really a fan of the SPICY ingredients. You see, I have a spicy tooth but he doesn’t.

I have been using chili and all other spices in almost all the Indian dishes I cook. But in the Western dishes, people use them sparingly. This got me thinking whether SPICES are really beneficial after all. Even Though I have been using it for years I have never thought about it. That’s how I decided to dig a bit deeper about the SPICES and share my research results with YOU.

So are spices good for you? The answer is YES, it is! In addition to fruits & vegetables, spices can provide us an additional source of natural antioxidants. My research told me that Spices and herbs have been extensively studied in different countries because of their antioxidant properties and health benefits.

This is great news because in India you can hardly find any dish without a spice. We believe that spices are a great way to flavor any dish. As you might have heard the general statement, INDIAN FOOD IS SPICY(Chili effect). But we also use spices for food preservatives and home remedies.

Note: Both herbs & spices are part of a plant. The term spices refer to the parts in “dried” form while Herbs are in their “fresh” state.

Why are spices used?

I am not a physician or dietitian to talk about the benefits of spice in medical terms. I am writing this post from the point of view of someone who has been consuming it for years.

As I mentioned earlier SPICE is a predominant ingredient in ALL our Indian food. When I say ALL, I really mean it. From warm & cold beverages and meals & Desserts. Mother earth has blessed us with so many different spices and herbs that I don’t think we can get enough of them!

In India, we mostly use turmeric, cardamom, chili, coriander, and ginger. Sometimes we make a mix of spices known as Garam Masala, which is a great flavor booster for meat dishes.

As mentioned earlier, it’s not just in the “curry” we add spices. For instance, we use cardamom in desserts for a strong flavor and fragrance. Another great spice we use widely is ginger. It’s a great immune booster and detoxifier and if you add a bit of ginger in your tea, it gives a great flavour!

My mom’s favorite spice is turmeric. She has turmeric plants in her garden. I remember her plucking it to heal a small scratch or inflammation when I was a child. Recently, when I cut my skin while shaving my leg (typical me), turmeric powder was the lifesaver. Do you know why Turmeric? Because it has some great antibacterial property. So next time if you cut your leg like me remember to grab a pinch of Turmeric.

Which spices are good for you?

I don’t think spices can be bad for anyone. However, it’s always best to consult a physician if you are allergic to certain spices.

I find the recent Vegan & Plant-based diet brought herbs and spices into the limelight. I am not Vegan but it’s satisfying to see people include more spices in their dishes.

If you are someone who would love to include some spices but doesn’t know the taste yet, I would suggest trying cinnamon. It has such a great aroma and a mix of sweet & savory flavour. And the best part, it has some great antioxidant benefits.

What are some of the best spices and how to use them?

As I am writing this post I asked my husband “Could you name a few spices”? His immediate answer was  “chili’’. Then he added ginger and Vanilla to the list. I must say I was impressed with his answers. I never thought he knew anything other than chili. Because most people I have known could only name “chili” as the only spice they know. I think it’s high time that we know some names of spices.

I don’t think I will be able to write all the spices in one blog post. So I have created a spice inventory(link in the end) for you in case you want to know the list of spices for your shopping.

For now, let me list some of my favourite spices and how I use them.

  • Turmeric:

A pinch is more than enough in almost all the Indian dishes. This is a great substitute for artificial coloring in desserts but always use them sparingly. Turmeric is good for the skin, I have seen some people using them on the face. However, I am not really a great fan of the yellow hue on the face. I remember using it in my teens and having some breakouts. In case you would like to try it on your face, I would recommend doing a patch test.

  • Saffron

Do you know this is the most expensive spice in the world! Apparently one gram of saffron is almost $7!

Finding the best quality saffron is the tricky part. You may not find the quality products in the supermarkets. So always do your research before you buy.

I mostly use saffron in my skincare regimen even though there isn’t any scientific proof of its skin benefits.


Psst: Would you like to have an organized spice rack? Then have a look at these sturdy strong glass spice jars to help you have an organized kitchen!


  • Chilli

I just love it because of the favour. I think almost all Indians would say the same. My recent favorite is chilly flakes. Have you tried it instead of chili powder? It has great flavor especially in Pasta Aglio Olio!

Pro tip: Chilli flakes from the store are expensive and are very less in quantity. So instead of chili powder, buy dried chilies from an Asian / Indian store. Store them in an airtight container. I always grind them just before cooking. For making flakes, remove the stem and grind them in the blender. Viola! Your chilly flakes are ready!

  • Cumin

I normally use them in my Garam Masala but I recently found out that they are great to use in soups, mostly in carrot soup.

  • Coriander

In my opinion, the strong flavour goes well with the meat dishes. It’s best to use them moderately.

  • Ginger

This is the key ingredient in almost all home remedies! Ginger juice is great for morning sickness. Also I love adding ginger in my tea.

  • Cinnamon

This is my recent favorite. I never used them much before. But my husband loves it with his tea. Morethan the flavor I love the aroma. Nowadays I use them in my vegan dessert recipes.

  • Pepper

If you live in the West, this must be your familiar ingredient. My mother in law taught me how to use them with fish. Pepper is also a great way to spice the soups.

  • Cardamom:

The queen of spices known for its aroma. A pinch of ground cardamom enhances the flavor and the aroma of your tea. But do you know this spice is great for your teeth? Also, the ability to fight mouth bacteria makes it a good mouth freshener.

This was a shortlist of my spices. If you would love to include more spices in your grocery shopping, I have created a spice inventory below.

5 Interesting facts about spices :

  1. Pepper was known as Black Gold back in the day. Nowadays the term refers to crude oil.
  2. Allspice is a berry, not a blend of spices.
  3. Turmeric has been surprisingly effective against Alzheimer’s symptoms in multiple studies, and currently out-performs any known Alzheimer’s drug.
  4. The deadly dose of saffron is as little as 10 grams (3/4 tablespoon)
  5. There is an herb called epazote, which can reduce the gassy effects of eating beans

Final thoughts:

I always prefer spices and herbs over medical pills as quick remedies. I believe that adding them to our cooking is a safe and effective way to improve our health.


Time for Your action:

What do you think about the post? Do you use any of these spices? Let me know in the comments or send me an email stephy@gmail.com.

References:

Antioxidant properties of Spices

Antimicrobial Properties of Spices

Anti inflamation properties of Turmeric

Facts about spices

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