Most spices have considerable health benefits, and have been used for centuries in their original cultures for healing as well as for their delicious taste. Contrary to what many people are led to believe, spicy food is usually NOT hot! But it should be very tasty, and learning about a few basic spices can add greatly to your cooking while being inexpensive to use.
Easily grown in England, this can be used as a leafy addition to food or as seeds, or seed powder. Coriander is a great source of potassium, iron, vitamin A, K and C, folic acid, magnesium and calcium. The leaves have a distinctive slightly lemony taste which goes well with stews and curries, and is often chopped into yogurt to make a refreshing dip.The seeds can be used whole or crushed and added to any sort of soups and stews, where its delicate flavour adds a depth without dominating the taste of the meal
Its health benefits are very highly regarded in the East: it’s good for diabetes, menstrual problems, anaemia, skin disorders, and has antibacterial properties as well as helping thicken hair growth. Well worth using in your daily diet!
Ginger is a hugely useful spice, and can be used for sweet foods as well as savoury, and many people know crystallised or chocolate coated ginger from Christmas feasts. Many people know its common use for feeling sick, either in pregnancy or sea sickness.
Its uses in health are very extensive (1). It contains a little vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and copper. It reduces high blood pressure, is an anti inflammatory (good for putting on arthritic joints), seems to help fight cancer and is, surprisingly, very helpful for the digestion.
To use in food, you can either chop fresh root or use ginger powder, and it adds warmth rather than heat to a dish, so that used in small quantities – if you aren’t used to it – you don’t have too much of its pungent flavour..
Externally, because its warming, you can mince it and put it, warmed gently, on any sore place to draw out heat and swelling; it’s excellent for sprains, bruising and arthritic knees.
This incredibly useful spice is related to ginger and has a woody warm taste. Indian people give it to their children in milk for coughs, and it in antiseptic(2), helps wound healing and internally it boosts the immune system, slows down many chronic diseases, supports the heart and lungs.
It is usually available in a bright yellow powder, and can be added to soups and stews, ond as you get used to the taste there are many lovely vegetable recipes, such as cauliflower in turmeric, that are delicious as well as very nutritious.
Cumin is a good source of Iron, Manganese, and other vitamins and minerals. Some research shows that cumin can stimulate the production of pancreatic enzymes and help digestion. One study found that cumin was protective against memory loss and the damaging effects of stress on the body(3).
in traditional herbal medicine, cumin is used as a diuretic and to treat stomach upset and flatulence. It is thought to promote a healthy digestive system, stimulates menstruation, and also can be added to gargles to treat laryngitis. Poultices of cumin are used to treat swellings of the breasts or testicles.
In cooking you can use it as seed or powder, and it really adds a lovely slightly musky flavour to any sauce, and is part of the traditional flavour or many Moroccan and Indian dishes.
Now try these recipes:
Dhal and Rice: This is a daily meal for many Indian families, very nutritious and very cheap.
Vegetable Stew: A very easy and delicious meal.
Moroccan Lamb Tagine: This is a lovely, cheap, traditional dish which everyone loves, as it’s tender and sweet.