National Nutrition Week: 8 spices to include in your diet
A sprinkle of cinnamon in your morning coffee. A handful of freshly chopped basil over pasta. Herbs and spices can make any food appetising. Don’t you just love how happy your taste buds feel when you use spices to season your foods? We all do. Spices are not only great for flavor, but they are great for health too!
Spices do add colour and heighten the taste and aroma of food, but they can also do a lot to keep you well as well. This National Nutrition Week, let’s explore the therapeutic properties, protecting and alleviating properties of spices.
“India has a variety of spices, the two ranges of spices are the grounded spices and the whole spice range from a vast assortment of spices. The grounded spice can be incorporated by adding them directly into the curries and gravies and they have proven to have health benefits including fighting chronic diseases and also thanks to the anti-inflammatory effects of the spice,” says Mr Shammi Agarwal, Managing Director, The Pansari group. Whole spices have health benefits of lowering your blood sugar levels and help to heal heart diseases.
Turmeric, popularly referred to as the golden spice delivers some solid-gold benefits. That’s thanks to its high amounts of curcumin, a powerful antioxidant.
“Curcumin found in Turmeric aka haldi found in almost every Indian household is one of the most potent ‘natural’ antioxidants and anti inflammatories we can find. Amazing for lowering inflammation, health, immunity and even joints,” says Yash Vardhan Swami online health and fitness educator , coach as well as a nutritionist.
Star anise, a small flower like fruit, is a storehouse of some key ingredients and is also famous for its medicinal properties. “Chakra Phool is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamin A and C, which help fight free radicals that are responsible for early aging and diabetes,” says Mr. Amit Juneja, CEO and MD, Annakoot by ISKCON Bangalore.
Zamurrud M. Patel, RD, Chief Dietician, Global Hospitals, Mumbai, believes curry leaves are rich in alkaloids and phenolic compounds which are protective and potent health substances. “Curry leaves have shown positive effects on Cholesterol and thereby Heart Health. It’s very effective in correcting gut issues too. Simple, inexpensive herbs which can be added to all meals.”
A member of the mint family, rosemary is prized both for its flavour and its fragrance. “Rosemary, a scented herb with characteristics that strengthen sight and memory. Its usage dates back to ancient Greeks and Romans preparing a fragrant distilled water from the flower and inhaling its odour for best effects. A tea made from this herb is also very beneficial in relieving tiredness and fatigue. The oil of rosemary can also be used as a stimulant with few drops taken internally,” says Vikas Chawla, Founder and Director, Vedas Cure.
Bay leaves are a fragrant leaf from the laurel tree used as an herb. The leaves are added to slow-cooked recipes, such as soups, sauces, and stews, and are removed before serving the dish. Bay leaves are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Also regular inclusion of bay leaves in meals promotes general health. “Indian bay leaves are commonly known as “tej patta” and are used in dried form in curries, biryani and korma. Organic compounds like rutin and caffeic acid are found in the bay leaves which are good for heart health as they eliminate LDL or bad cholesterol from the cardiovascular system and strengthen the capillaries. They improve the insulin function , which is good for people suffering from diabetes,” says Dr Rohini Patil, dietitian and nutritionist, Nutracy Lifestyle.
Sorrel or better known in India as Gongura is a garden herb cultivated in the North-East region of India. The leaves of this herb are closely similar to Spinach
but have a tangy taste like Kiwi fruit. “Single Cup of Sorrel enriches your body with 3g of Protein, 17 percent Iron, 4g of Fibre and 106 percent of regularly suggested Vitamin A and C with on 30 Calorie. It helps in boosting slow digestion, reduces stress and anxiety as it contains high value Magnesium and Vitamin B6 and possibly helps in cure of sinuses,” says Eshanka Wahi, a Dubai & Delhi-based Wellness Advocate & Nutrition Coach.
Dr. Angeli Misra, Founder & Director, Lifeline Laboratory says,”There’s magic in your spice box! Herbs and spices commonly used in Indian cooking, in soups as a garnish, for tempering dals, added in gravy, or simply tossed up with salads, were recognized for their nutritional and medicinal uses thousands of years ago.”
She suggests nutmeg, a popular spice used in cooking across the world and is also famous for its health benefits “Nutmeg contains a wide array of powerful anti-inflammatory compounds and acts as an antioxidant in your body. It has antibacterial properties to protect from harmful strains of bacteria,” she adds.
The kalonji, or Nigella seeds, is used for tempering, and adds a beautiful aroma to the dishes, and a hint of flavour that you can’t quite nail.
“Kalonji, also known as Nigella sativa, black seed, and black cumin. Its seeds have long been used in herbal medicine to treat a variety of diseases and conditions ranging from diabetes to arthritis, It’s suggested that the active components in kalonji seeds boost weight loss by affecting the expression of specific genes related to appetite control and fat loss,” says Rani Garg, Director, ZeoNutra