We live to eat or eat to live – irrespective of the category one belongs to, almost everyone loves food and appreciates the taste if it is well prepared, nicely cooked and served in style. Almost every great cook in the world would agree that the secret of making a recipe tasty is the blend of herbs and spices which go into cooking along with the main ingredients. It is these spices and herbs which are responsible in giving the zing to the taste.
While the herbs are from plants and plant parts, spices often come from the seeds, berries, bark, or roots of plants. Seasonings, such as cinnamon, often lead lists of commonly eaten foods with the highest levels of measured antioxidant activity. Commonly known and used herbs and spices such as cinnamon, basil, turmeric and parsley may help protect against certain chronic conditions. For example heart disease, cancer diabetes and inflammation etc.
Role of spices and herbs
We all know that herbs and spices are low calorie which adds zest to your meal by enhancing the taste, giving it the flavor and aroma along with the color. Without them it would be impossible to give the yummy taste or an aroma to a dish – whether cooked in Asia or Africa or America. Be it a breakfast or lunch or dinner dish there is always a role of spices and herbs to make them tastier. Egg or meat or vegetarian dish or just the fruit salad – they all need spices and herbs as the taste enhancers. Even the desserts and beverages need them.
Health benefits of spices and herbs
You may ask “So what’s new?” Well, there are great health benefits of spices and herbs too. While you may be aware of some of the benefits but here is comprehensive information of a few well known and popularly used kitchen herbs and spices.
Try these herbs and spices in your upcoming meals and get various health benefits.
Ginger is a root plant and belongs to the family of Zingiberaceae. This plant needs a lot of sunshine to grow. It is known for the refreshing fragrance and giving hot taste. The mature ginger has stronger aroma which is hotter than the young one. Therefore, go in for the mature root with a fresh skin and avoid shrunken one.
Though its use originated in Asia, it is now used world over in cooking. Ginger gives to the food a spicy and strong taste – which is the way Asians do their cooking who use a lot ginger. Perhaps there is no main Asian dish without ginger, garlic and lemongrass in it.
Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger is a digestion friendly spice and it can be consumed both as a spice or a medicine.
- It contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Some use it to get relief in muscle pain by rubbing the mixture of grated ginger and coconut oil
- Ginger reduces sore throat, mild cold and cough
- It possesses medicinal properties to relieves gastric trouble
- Ginger Helps to overcome nausea. Grandmothers have recommended its use for the treatment of morning sickness during pregnancy.
- Similarly ginger has been used to help prevent motion sickness. Ginger also helps stop migraines by preventing inflammation in the blood vessels in the brain.
- Ginger can help increase appetite.
- Its use enhances absorption of nutrients and minerals
- Ginger may also help in headache, allergy caused by mild cold and flu.
- The anti-inflammatory properties of Ginger help in relieving muscular pain / joint pain by rubbing a mixture of grated ginger and coconut oil.
It doesn’t seem to matter how you get the ginger into your system, you may include more ginger in your cooking or brew ginger tea or take ginger supplements.
Ginger tea is well known in Asia and has also started getting popular in Europe and other west country. Have you ever tried the Ginger Tea ?
Turmeric is also an herb in the ginger family and belongs to Zingiberaceae family. Turmeric is the ingredients of many Asia curries that give it the distinctive yellow color and gives it a unique flavour.
Turmeric is found in every Indian kitchen and also perhaps in most of the kitchens now around the world. Turmeric root powder is a common ingredient is South Asian cooking. It adds a distinct flavor to many savoury dishes including soups. Just to give the dish the spark of taste and flavour add to meat, egg, vegetable dishes including stocks, and curries besides sauces and baked foods. Due to its vivid hue, turmeric powder is also used to color food products ranging from popcorn to cheese to yogurt.
Health benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric is one of the most potent medicinal plants and is considered to be the most powerful healer. It is considered to be a natural antiseptic agent. Curcumin appears to be the active compound in turmeric and this substance gives a natural yellow color.
It has been found that:
- Turmeric is a good source of manganese, iron, and vitamin B6.
- It is taken medicinally for its ability to reduce inflammation and improve joints. Natural antiseptic for cuts and burns
- It may also provide relief for arthritis.
- Helps in weight management
- Stops the growth of tumor
- Natural pain killer
- It detoxifies the liver.
- Curcumin, is being seen as a cancer-fighting compound.
Some studies suggests that curcumin may reduce amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. But these studies uses pharmaceutical amounts instead of natural spices. Turmeric extract supplements are currently being studied for a wide variety of functions to see if they have a role in preventing and treating some cancers.
Another wonderful herb that is used in many parts of the world for a variety of purposes is mint. It is associated with its very strong flavour and one of the uses of Mint is as an important ingredient for mouth and, chewing gum, candy, breath fresheners and inhalers.
Mint is scientifically known as Mentha, has more than two dozen species and hundreds of varieties.
Health Benefits of Mint
As an herb Mint has been used for hundreds of years for its extraordinary medicinal properties. It contains carotene, iron, magnesium, copper, iron etc. As an herb, Mint has many nutritional benefits.
- Health Beverages: Due to its strong flavor and aroma, Mint is regarded as the best ingredient in most of the health beverages.
- Mint is also used in various cosmetics and perfumes .
- Digestion: The aroma of mint activates the salivary glands in our mouth as well as glands which secrete digestive enzymes, thereby facilitating digestion.
- Oral Care: Mint also has germicidal qualities which quickly freshens the breath. This facilitates oral health by inhibiting harmful bacterial growth inside the mouth and by cleaning the tongue and teeth. For these reasons, mint is one of the most common elements in toothpastes, mouthwashes and many other dental hygiene products.
- Nausea & Headache: Even just the smell of freshly crushed or mint leaves mint oil or the use of any product with mint as an ingredients is a quick and effective remedy for nausea. and helping in stomach issues .
- Headache: The strong and refreshing aroma of mint based balm or basic mint oil gives quick relief when rubbed on the forehead and nose. Mint is a naturally soothing substance, so it can ease the inflammation and temperature rise that is often associated with headaches and migraines.
- Respiratory Disorders and Coughs: The strong aroma of mint is very effective in clearing up congestion of the nose, throat, bronchi and lungs. Practitioners of traditional medicine use it for getting relief from respiratory disorders that often result from common cold. As mint cools and soothes the throat, nose and other respiratory channels, mint balm relieves the irritation which causes chronic coughing. Unlike the aerosols, the mint based product tends to be more effective and eco-friendly.
Basil is one of the favorites herbs which has it has many uses. It can be added to almost everything from soups to pastas to sandwiches. Its leaves are liked for its fresh, pungent flavour. Basil is not only delicious, but it could help protect or prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke.
It also has been found to contain oils and flavonoids that protect the body from illness and infection. Very small concentrations can kill harmful bacteria, but still be very beneficial.
Health benefits of Basil
- Cell and DNA Protection: Basil leaves are packed with a range of antioxidants and wonderful phytonutrients such as phytonutrients, orientin and vicenin, (of the flavonoid family), which have been found to “protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage.”
- Anti Bacterial: The presence of essential oils (volatile oils) like estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene are responsible for giving antibacterial properties to basil. The essential oil of basil leaves has demonstrated the ability to inhibit several species of pathogenic bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used antibiotic drugs.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Eugenol extracted from basil can also help block the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX) in the body. COX is the same enzyme that anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen are formulated to help block. This makes basil a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Source of Vitamin and Minerals: Basil contains vitamin A (through beta-carotene), magnesium, and many other nutrients that can help protect cell walls from free radical damage, improve circulation of blood and help stop cholesterol from oxidizing in the blood stream.
- Inhibit diabetes: Since basil extracts reduce sugars, tests were conducted in relation to its effect on glycemic index, leading researchers to conclude that the extracts may have the potential to inhibit diabetes.
- Anti-aging properties: according to research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester, basil has properties that can help prevent the harmful effects of aging. The extract of basil was effective at killing harmful molecules and preventing damage caused by some free radicals in the liver, brain and heart.
- Nausea: People make Basil tea (brewed basil-water) to help them get nausea relief from and is thought to have mild anti-septic functions too.
This spice with the unique flavour and aroma contains many nutrients like potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamin K and vitamin C. Thanks to its unique taste and flavour, Black pepper can go well with almost every dish starting from vegetable or fruit or mixed salad to a well cooked dish.
Besides making the recipes yummier, black pepper also has numerous health benefits which must be taken into account.
Health benefits of Black Pepper
- Rich source of body friendly chemicals: Black Pepper contains a number of chemical compounds essential oils such as piperine, amine alkaloid, and monoterpenes hydrocarbons such as sabinene, pinene, terpenene, limonene, mercene, etc. These are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties. Peppers have been since centuries for its anti-inflammatory, carminative, anti-flatulent properties.
- Source of Manganese: Did you know that a teaspoon of black peppercorns contains 370 micrograms of manganese, which is about 20 percent of the daily intake recommended for women and 16 percent for men. This manganese content of Black pepper makes enzymes the active to metabolize nutrients, including proteins and fats. Right quantity of manganese in your diet supports healthy bone development too.
- Source of other minerals: Black peppercorns contain a other minerals too such as potassium, calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium.
- Aids in boosting metabolism: Black pepper used in cooking along with other spices, such as ginger acts as a thermogenic, to help increase the metabolism
- Anti aging: Black pepper is known to have antioxidant properties. It is also rich in flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants like carotenes, cryptoxanthin, zea-xanthin and lycopene. These compounds help the body remove harmful free radicals which help protect from cancer.
- Helps in digestion: It helps the body fight against bacterial growth, particularly in the intestinal tract.
- Stimulates Appetite: Black pepper in the food promotes digestion as it works as an appetite stimulant. According the research conducted, black pepper helps improve the appetite through olfactory stimulation. This makes it an excellent, simple remedy for those with a poor appetite.
Indian kitchens, regularly use both the seeds and leaves of fenugreek (methi in India) in our in various dishes. Its uses are multiple – as a vegetable or spice or just a herb
However, most of us wouldn’t know that fenugreek is a rich reservoir of medicinal properties. Fenugreek it belongs to the family of Fabaceae and contains Protein, Fibre, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Potassium, Niacin, Iron and alkaloids. It also contains a compound diosgenin which has oestrogen-like properties, as well as steroidal saponins. This unique combination of chemicals, vitamins and minerals bless fenugreek with many benefits.
Health benefits of Fenugreek
- Helps reduce cholesterol: Studies have confirmed that fenugreek helps to reduce cholesterol level, especially LDL (low density lipoprotein ). It is a rich source of fiber, which scrapes the extra cholesterol off the arteries and the blood vessels. By reducing cholesterol in the bloodstream, you lessen the chances of clots formation or it getting stuck in the vessels.
- Helps reduce heart disease risk: Fenugreek being a good source of potassium and due to the presence of galactomannan, it helps counters the action of sodium to help control blood pressure and the heart rate.
- Helps control blood sugar levels in diabetics: Fenugreek is beneficial for patients of diabetes. Galactomannan, a natural soluble fibre present in fenugreek slows down the rate of sugar absorption into blood. It also contains amino acid has the property of inducing the production of insulin.
- Aids digestion: Fenugreek relieves indigestion and helps treat constipation by working toflush out harmful toxins from the system.
- Helps counter acid reflux or heartburn: About 2 grams of fenugreek seeds in your diet can be an effective remedy for acid reflux or heartburn. Mucilage – a chemical in fenugreek seeds coat the lining of the stomach and intestine and soothe irritated gastrointestinal tissues.
- Appetite Suppressant to helps reduce weight: Chewing soaked fenugreek seeds in the morning on an empty stomach put natural soluble fibre in stomach which fill by swelling and thereby suppress the appetite.
- Helps reduce menstrual discomfort: Compounds like diosgenin and isoflavones present in Fenugreek help reduce symptoms of discomfort and menstrual cramps associated with PMS.
The fenugreek seeds can be soaked overnight and chewed next day morning or the ground seeds powder can be sprinkled onto prepared food, or fenugreek capsule can consumed be with water.
Flax seed, also called linseed, has been cultivated since Mesopotamian times, throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. Flax seed is also known as linseed and is grown for its oil and fiber.
The seeds are quite chewy and are consumed as a delicious snack or are added to breads, muffins and other bakery products and vegetable dishes or just sprinkled over hot soups. They give a mild, nutty flavor to the dishes and go well with other nuts and seeds, such as peanut or almond butter.
Full of nutrients, the Flax seeds have been known to mankind as a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid, omega-3 fatty acids which is more than twice that of fish oil, B vitamins and a group of antioxidant compounds called lignans. Flaxseeds also contain fibre of both the soluble and insoluble types.
Health Benefits of Flax Seeds
- Protect the Heart: If someone is suffering from high cholesterol then the advantages of using flax for our heart are boundless. There is a mixture of several fatty acids such as, poly-unsaturated fats, mono-unsaturated fats, and very little saturated fats. The poly-unsaturated fats remain in the form ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) helps to reduce bad cholesterol, while leaving the good cholesterol in the blood intact. It also reduces blood-pressure and chances of stroke.
- Controls Diabetes: Lignans present in Flax seeds work effectively in controlling Type 2 Diabetes. Research shows that a daily intake of flax people. The high level of soluble fibers in flax builds up insulin sensitivity in glucose intolerant in the body of the person who consumes the recommended quantity daily. Consumption of a table spoon of ground flax seeds for at least 30 days is said to improve fasting blood sugar levels.
- Flax Seeds help in Weight Loss: Since Flax seeds are a rich source of fibre, if you include them in your diet then you not only stay healthy but can look forward to losing a extra pounds. The high fiber content absorbs fluids and expands in volume, giving a fuller feeling in the stomach for a longer time and check cravings for food, thus preventing a person from over eating.
- Antioxidants that Fight Cancer: The presence of omega 3 fatty acid and Lignans in flax helps combats prostate cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer. A study has found that flaxseed has the capacity to significantly reduce cancer cell creation rates. It also has the ability to disrupt the events leading to cancerous cell production.
Note: The nature of this article is purely informative and entertainment. This no way encourages the readers to indulge into self medication. Those suffering from any disease or ailment must consult their qualified physician or medical doctor. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.