Are you adventurous with your spices in the kitchen? Most people know a little about the popular spices we see in Australia but there is so much more to learn about the spices available to us; you may be surprised to learn the nutritional properties and uses they can provide us with! Spring welcomes cooling wholefoods like salads, healthy snacks, desserts, smoothies and side dishes to compliment balmy bbq nights and spices can add layers of depth you might never have thought possible.
Cinnamomum Verum or ‘true cinnamon’ is one of the most celebrated spices for its versatility in both savoury and sweet food. It is from the bark of the cinnamon plant and has so many health benefits when eaten in moderate amounts. Studies have shown that cinnamon regulates blood sugar which can help people with diabetes and hypoglycaemia and can also stabilise energy levels and moods. It believed to reduce harmful LDL cholesterol and cytokines which are linked to arthritis, has anti-bacterial properties and is a natural food preservative. It contains fibre, calcium, iron and manganese and also has a natural chemical called Cinnamaldehyde which is thought to increase the hormone progesterone and decrease testosterone, helping to balance hormones and potentially reduce menstrual pain and infertility in women. Its versatility goes beyond traditional apple pie, try it in curries, slow cooked dishes, raw desserts, smoothies and dukkah seasonings. Try our Hazelnut and Almond Dukkah recipe!
Turmeric has a long history in Indian food and has some interesting nutritional benefits. It is considered a natural antiseptic, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agent as well as a liver detoxifier and is thought to have the ability to remove or minimise amyloid plaque build-up in the brain which could slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other memory related conditions. It has been attributed to increasing fat metabolism and weight management. Studies are developing links between Turmeric and minimising the spread of cancer cells in breast cancer, prostate cancer, and leukaemia. Turmeric can be used to compliment other strong spices, substituted for other spices particularly saffron or added to marinades, egg dishes or combined with cooking oils to enhance the flavours.
Cumin has a long history in cooking as well as treating skin products. It is a powerful antiseptic and anti-bacterial agent to boost immunity and fight flus, cold and parasites, increases body heat making metabolism more efficient and is a rich source of iron, anti-oxidants, zinc and manganese. It adds great flavour to chicken dishes, salads with legumes and even as crumbing for fish.
Coriander powder was originally a Mediterranean spice but crosses many cuisine borders these days into Indian, Southern European and Middle Eastern food. It contains many phytonutrients, particularly dietary fibre, which can aid diabetes and bowel conditions, iron to aid haemoglobin levels, magnesium for a healthy heart and headache relief and manganese for bone health. It can also alleviate allergies and skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema and fungal infections. It is perfect in Latin-American cooking so get experimenting!
Curry powder is complex blend of spices to give you a very aromatic and tasty full flavoured curry, perfect with vegies, meat or egg salad- it’s very versatile! H2G stocks Pure Food Essentials Curry Powder in mild and medium which comes from Northern India and contains cumin, chilli, ginger, coriander, fennel, fenugreek, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper. The combination of spices is thought to regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol and even detox the liver by removing heavy toxins!
Black Pepper Corns
Piper nigrum or Blacker pepper corns contains many health promoting properties including anti-inflammatory, carminative, anti-flatulent components. They are an excellent source of potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, magnesium and B vitamins like pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamine and niacin as well as vitamin C and Vitamin A which are both anti-oxidants. They can aid digestion by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions and increase absorption of selenium, B Vitamins and beta-carotene (Vitamin A).
Chilli powder is part of the nightshade family of Solanaceae along with tomatoes and eggplant. It is sometimes used interchangeable with cayenne pepper but cayenne pepper is a vegetable that is ground into powder while chilli powder is a mixture of several dried chillies and herbs and may have cayenne pepper in it. It has very similar nutritional benefits to cayenne powder but where cayenne pepper is extremely hot, chilli powder is more mild and can add great flavour to soups, meat or vegetarian chilli bowls.
This fiercely hot and pungent spice really packs a punch! Cayenne Powder comes from Cayenne fruits which are long thin pods native to Central America but are now an important crop in India, Pakistan, China, Argentina and USA. It is a rich source of Vitamin C and Vitamin A, antioxidants which help protect the body from free radicals generated during stress or disease. It is also high in niacin, pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), riboflavin and thiamin (Vitamin B1) and beneficial for digestion and circulation. It’s easy to see why cayenne powder is added to detox drinks but why not try adding it to slow cooked dishes for a bit of a kick!
Ginger powder should not be forgotten. It has both nutritional and medicinal uses. Ground to a powder from the ginger root, it creates great warmth and flavour in dishes but is also connected to Ayurvedic medicine to relieve colds, sore throat and coughs. It also has analgesic, sedative, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Ginger also contains numerous vitamins and minerals like pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium. As a result, it is linked to reducing nausea and studies have shown could alleviate migraines.