Spices play an extremely crucial role in the Indian cuisine; different types of spices have been used over the years in different regions of India. Every Indian spice has its own significance and it adds a distinct flavour to the dish. The addition of different spices makes the traditional Indian home cooked meal a healthy and delicious one and it also adds up to the health benefits of the Indian spices. India is a well known country for the use of spices; some of the spices are used for occasional cooking while some are used in everyday cooking.
We all love our spices and our home cooked meal is incomplete without the use of spices. At times you might be bothered with the question – is spicy food good for health? All your questions will be answered when we get into the depth of the health benefits offered by the spices we consume on a daily basis.
Here are the prominent health benefits of 15 well known Indian spices:
Turmeric powder is used in daily Indian cooking and the reason why it is used in almost every food item is because it has important medicinal benefits. Pure turmeric powder or haldi is packed with antioxidants, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-mutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is beneficial for your brain, prevents infections and has healing properties.
Turmeric looks like ginger; both turmeric and ginger are from Zingiberaceae family and are rhizomes. Curcumin is an important component of turmeric. Turmeric consists of three curcuminoids and curcumin is one of them. Curcumin provides the characteristic yellow colour to turmeric. Curcumin benefits include protecting against inflammation, protecting against heart diseases and serving as a potent antioxidant.
The antioxidant properties of turmeric destroy free radicals present in the body that damage the cells. Turmeric provides great colour and flavour to the curries and regular Indian dishes. Health benefits of turmeric make it the main ingredient in all the food items. Turmeric is also used as a dietary supplement in the treatment of inflammatory arthritis and turmeric uses also include treating stomach, skin, lever and gall bladder related health problems. Turmeric provides the benefit of keeping the lever safe by cleansing it of toxins. Turmeric milk or haldi milk is also commonly consumed in almost every Indian household. Benefits of haldi milk include providing relief from cold and cough infections and it also promotes good sleep.
Black cumin seed oil helps in preventing allergies, asthma and other respiratory related health problems. It contains antioxidants, important acids and B-Vitamin that helps in making the immune system stronger. Black cumin seeds have also found to be beneficial in treating the auto-immune disorders. In India, black cumin seeds are known as jeera and they are used in preparing various dry and gravy vegetable dishes. The medicinal values of black cumin seeds or jeera go back to several centuries; they have been used for treating everything right from treating bronchitis to diarrhoea.
Jeera is great for promoting a healthy digestive system. It is a rich source of iron and it supports the growth hormone in children. Cumin or jeera is also known to improve the blood cholesterol levels. The dietary fibre present in jeera improves the immune system as well. Jeera is popularly used in various tadkas. Jeera powder is used for providing flavour and aroma to buttermilk, raitas, salads and soups.
Cloves also known as laung are popular for maintaining oral health and they are also termed helpful in treating cough and respiratory infections and throat infections. Cloves are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic. They are rich sources of minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and fibre. Cloves are used as an antiseptic pain reliever in aroma therapy. It is beneficial for tooth ache and stomach pain as well. Cloves are generally mixed with other oils for treating various disorders. Clove is an important part of garam masala and it is used in tea as well. Cloves are also used for flavouring meat, sauces and rice dishes. Cloves are also used for binding and rolling vegetable dishes and sweets.
Divide the broccoli mixture in equal parts and create the shape of a tikki.
Coriander seeds and coriander seed powder or dhania powder are important ingredients of Indian cooking. Coriander is used as a staple in Indian cooking, coriander leaves are used for garnishing almost all the vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and coriander seeds are used for preparing curries and chutneys. Coriander is packed with fibres that improve digestion.
Coriander has anti-diabetic properties and it promotes insulin growth in the body. Coriander is also known for its properties of curing allergies, eye infections and anaemia. Apart from this, consumption of coriander seeds or coriander powder helps in reducing the bad cholesterol and promotes the production of good cholesterol in the body. Coriander seeds are rich in Vitamins K, C, B and they contain other important minerals that ensure healthy skin and hair growth.
Chilli powder is a common ingredient in almost all the Indian dishes. Indian cuisine is known to have a generous amount of spices and chilli powder or laal mirch powder is a very commonly used spice. Chilli powder not just makes the food taste better but it provides a lot of health benefits as well. Two types of chillies are used in the Indian cuisine – the green chilli and the red chilli and the chilli powder is made from the dried red chillies.
Red chillies have a high content of potassium that helps in soothing blood vessels and maintaining the blood pressure. They are also a rich source of Vitamin C as a result of which they support the functions of the immune system as well and help the body in combating various diseases and infections. Also, the red chilli powder contains an important compound known as capsaicin that plays an important role in increasing the metabolic rate of the body and burning fat. It is important to use top quality chilli powder to make the food spicy, tastier and healthy.
Black cardamom also known as elaichi is great in preventing heart diseases. It balances the blood pressure and prevents the creation of blood clots. It is a prominent solution for many oral health issues like cavity, mouth odour and bleeding gums. Black cardamoms help in stimulating the gastric and intestinal glands; they promote digestion and help in preventing acidity. Black cardamoms contain Vitamin C which is an essential antioxidant and it helps in improving the blood circulation in the body.
Black cardamom seeds also have antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties that help in protecting against the infections. Black cardamom has varied uses in Indian cuisine, it is used to flavour tea, it is used in various sweet dishes and it is a prominent part of the garam masala powder as well. Black cardamom is also extensively used in the preparation of daals, soups, meat preparations and vegetable dishes.
Saffron, known as kesar in India is a very powerful antioxidant that makes the immune system stronger. Saffron is also known as the ‘Sunshine Spice’ as consumption of saffron helps in improving the mood and treating depressive symptoms. Saffron extract is also helpful in treating mental impairment and memory loss caused in old age.
Saffron also proves as a stimulating agent and is very effective in treating cold infections and fever. Usually saffron is mixed with milk and applied on the forehead for relieving cold. One of the most popular uses of saffron is in milk, which is also called saffron milk. You can easily get saffron milk mix also known as Kesar doodh masala in ready to use form having the goodness of saffron and dry fruits like almond, cashew, pistachio etc. This can be readily added to milk to prepare nutritious saffron milk. Saffron is also used in popular Indian dishes like various types of biryanis, kheer and other sweet dishes like kulfi and gulab jamun.
Nutmeg is a spice of many benefits. Nutmeg or jaiphal contains many essential oils that help in relieving pain. Consumption of smaller quantity of nutmeg with warm milk at night provides a calming effect and helps in treating insomnia. Nutmeg is effective in treating digestion related disorders like constipation and diarrhoea. Nutmeg is also considered as an important spice in ensuring brain health. Nutmeg is an important ingredient for skin health as it contains anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. You can use the whole nutmeg or nutmeg powder. It is used in various Indian food items like tea, kheer, rice preparations and curries.
Black pepper or kali mirch is a wonder spice and it is also known as the ‘king of spice’. It is packed with many health benefits. Consumption of black pepper helps in losing weight and detoxifies your body. Black pepper consists of potassium that helps in regulating the heart rate and prevents high blood pressure. Black pepper has anti-bacterial properties and therefore it helps in reducing cold and cough infections. All you have to do is take a teaspoon of honey and add some black pepper powder to it and this will keep the infections at bay.
Black pepper contains piperine that aids the digestion process and helps in weight loss. The same piperine content helps in dealing with depressive thoughts and helps in the proper functioning of the brain. Black pepper is one of the important ingredients of making garam masala. Premium black pepper powder is used in flavouring various curries. It is used in rice preparations and khichadi as well. Not to forget the dash of flavour added to a simple omelette by sprinkling some black pepper powder.
Cinnamon, also known as Dalchini has a very distinct flavour and profound health benefits. The most important benefit of cinnamon is that it helps in reducing the blood sugar levels and consumption of cinnamon is especially helpful for the patients with diabetes. Cinnamon has been proven to fight against the bacterial, fungal and viral elements present in the foods. Cinnamon provides antioxidant benefits as a result of which it reduces inflammation and cuts down the risk of other diseases.
Cinnamon also helps in reducing the bad cholesterol in the body. Cinnamon is either used in the whole stick form or in the powder form. Cinnamon sticks are generally used for flavouring Puloao and Biryani. Cinnamon is used in dessert dishes as well, mostly in the cakes and puddings. It is also frequently used in vegetarian curries and savoury dishes of chicken and lamb.
The most commonly accepted health benefits of fenugreek seeds include reduction in blood sugar levels. Fenugreek seed powder helps in soothing the skin inflammations and injuries. If fenugreek seeds are regularly used in cooking, they can help in balancing the cholesterol levels and easing the digestion problems. Fenugreek seeds are especially helpful for the people who are trying to reduce weight. Soak some fenugreek seeds overnight and consume the water in the morning, this helps in reducing weight and reducing the appetite as well.
Apart from this, fenugreek seeds help in maintaining lever and kidney health and they also help in soothing the muscle pain. Fenugreek seeds or methi dana are used in the preparation of garam masala and they are used in various daal and curry preparations as well. By sprouting the fenugreek seeds, you can put together a nice, healthy and delicious salad along with adding other ingredients like carrots, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. In the winters, ‘methi ke laddoo’ are made as they induce heat in the body and protect from infections during the cold weather. Fenugreek leaves are also used in Indian cooking and goes by the name of kasoori methi.
Garlic & Ginger
The nutrients from ginger are highly effective in maintaining the health of your digestive system. Regular consumption of ginger helps in reducing bloating and cramps. A good digestive system is very important for weight loss.
Garlic also works wonders on the digestion system and helps in enhancing immunity and protects against seasonal infections. Garlic has the power to naturally increase your metabolic rate and it is an effective appetite suppressant as well. Benefits of eating garlic raw include maintaining the cholesterol levels and stimulating the digestion process. The ginger garlic paste is used in almost all the Indian dishes. Garlic is used for flavouring tea. Ginger mixed with one teaspoon honey can help in soothing a cold and cough infection. Nowadays a convenient combination of ready to use ginger and garlic paste is also available online and in the market for direct use in cooking.
Mustard seeds are a high source of magnesium that helps in reducing the severity of asthma attacks. Mustard seeds are also known to provide relief from migraine attacks. Mustard seeds are a rich source of calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, protein and dietary fibre and therefore adding ‘rai’ is the first step in making any vegetable or non-vegetarian subji. People suffering from a bad appetite can consume a few mustard seeds along with milk before the meal for improving the appetite. Mustard seeds work excellent for the digestion and help in increasing the metabolic rte. All the tadkas in Indian dishes are incomplete without a splash of mustard seeds.
Garam masala is a spice blend that is prominently used in the Indian cuisine for flavouring curries, daals and soups.
It is made up of whole spices that include:
- Cinnamon (dalchini)
- Black pepper corns (kali mirch)
- Cloves (laung)
- Mace (javitri)
- Black and green cardamom pods (elaichi)
- Cumin seeds (jeera)
- Coriander seeds (dhaniya)
All the whole spices used in garam masala are rich in antioxidants that help in keeping the immune system stronger and fight skin problems. Garam masala also helps in fighting bloating, excess fat production in he body and nausea as well. Cardamom and coriander present in the garam masala helps in regulating the blood pressure and improving heart health. Garam masala is an important part of various Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian gravy dishes therefore you must make sure that you get the best garam masala that adds the right flavour and spice. The spicy meat, chicken and fish dishes are incomplete without a dash of garam masala. It can be added to a plain khichadi preparation as well for uplifting the flavour of the dish.
Hing or Kabuli Hing
Asafoetida or hing is a very old medicine for stomach ailments including gas, bloating and flatulence. Hing is added to various curries and daals. Add a pinch of hing in water and drink it; this is very effective in treating the digestion problems. Benefits of consuming hing in food include relieving many respiratory disorders like asthma, bronchitis and dry cough due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Hing is known to be a natural blood thinning agent and it helps in reducing the high blood pressure levels. The anti-inflammatory properties of hing are known to reduce headaches. Consuming hing water daily also acts as an anti-depressant. You can order the best quality genuine hing online to use in everyday dishes.
The use of Indian spices dates back to centuries ago. These spices have many roles to play! They provide the perfect flavour and they have numerous health benefits as well. However it is important to ensure that these spices are consumed in moderate quantities to avoid increase in body heat and to avoid any side effects.
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