Appetizing, aromatic, piquant, fragrant, fiery..if words like these are enough to make you sit up and take notice, imagine what the real deal can do. Spices have been used to flavour food for thousands of years and at one point were even used as currency. Here are some great reasons why you should restock your spice rack and include more spices in your food.
Spices make eating more fun
Imagine the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls, enough to get you drooling right? Packing in an intense flavour, spices are seeds, roots, berries or barks of plants that contain a high concentration of volatile oils that give them their trademark piquant flavour. So flavoursome and aromatic, that in most cases just a pinch will do to bring any dish to life. Spices are what make an ordinary dish extraordinary, adding layers of flavour, colour and even texture to make food more palatable and inviting, so dinnertime isn’t a snoozefest.
Spices can help reduce excess use of salt or sugar
Hot, sweet, nutty, floral, pungent, woody, piney, earthy, with so many flavours to play around with, you will find yourself relying less on salt or sugar to season a dish with, and that can only be a good thing. With salt and sugar consumption around the world on the rise, Spices offer a great way to cut back while making meals more enjoyable.
Spices are chock full of nutrition
This one might come as a surprise, but spices are chock full of nutrition. They contain volatile oils which are essentially phytochemicals, or nutrients found in plants. It is these that give spices their antioxidant, anti inflammatory and cancer fighting properties.
The curumin in Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and has been found to help with conditions such as arthritis. Some studies have found that cinnamon helps lower blood sugar and aids in weight management. Coriander is regarded as a diuretic, helping your body shed excess sodium, therefore lowering blood pressure. Black pepper is another strong antioxidant that contains Pipirines which are natural anti-fungal and antibacterial agents.
Spices are a rich source of fiber and often contain minerals such as potassium, iron, magnesium and manganese.
Ancient Indian texts by Charaka and Sushruta detail the medicinal uses of spices in healing the body as well as in bringing balance to both body and mind. Systems of alternative medicine around the world have made use of spices in healing, and modern medicine has just begun to recognise their true potential.
Rather than take them in the form of supplements, it is both advisable and infinitely more pleasurable to include them in cooking to delight and engage the palate.
Spices aid in Digestion
Feeling heavy after a meal? Look no further than your spice cabinet for quick and effective home remedies.
Spices like Fennel, Cumin and Ajwain or carom are excellent at curbing bloating and flatulence and work well as a digestive aid. Cloves are strong antimicrobial agents and are useful in quelling anything from a tooth ache to an imbalance of gut bacteria. Ginger has been known to reduce symptoms of nausea and even increase appetite.
Spices make cooking exciting
A palette of rich colours and wonderful aromas to choose from, tantalizing flavours that add richness and detail, Spices add so much to the culinary process that without them, not just would food be bland, but cooking wouldn’t be any fun either.
From Allspice to Paprika and Nutmeg to Turmeric,with as many as 100 spices used around the world, no matter what cuisine you enjoy, there are spices waiting to make it more fun.
How to buy spices
Spices can be bought whole or in powdered form, but while whole spices retain their flavour and essential oils for around 3 years, powdered spices are best used within 6 months of purchase. Whether whole or in powdered form, bear in mind that spices are susceptible to contamination, so try to ensure that you buy your spices from a reliable source. In cases where this is not possible opt for a store that sells cold pasteurized spices, as this is an FDA approved technique for ensuring there is no contamination, while maintaining quality.
If grinding your own spices sounds too laborious, you might want to purchase powdered spices that are cryogenically ground, as this ensures all the volatile oils are intact in the spice profile. Due to the heat generated in most grinding techniques, many spice powders often lose between 20% to 50% of their volatile oils if not more.
The next time you find yourself cooking, give these tastemakers a go, and you can be assured of a flavourful, aromatic, nutritious meal , but remember, don’t just stick to one, mix it up for a layered and rich dining experience. Go ahead and spice it up!