India is the spice hub of the world, and Indian spices benefit our health in innumerable ways. South Indian Spices also have a vital role to play both as food and medicine. This blog is an attempt to outline the different Indian spices and their role in boosting health.
Famous Spices in India
Indians are fondly credited with the generous use of spices in their cuisines. Rarely is an Indian recipe bland in taste, thanks to the heavy use of flavourings in the form of spices that impart distinct aromas and flavours. However, Indian spices and their benefits aren’t limited to taste alone, for they have a tremendous role to play in maintaining good health. Before we take a closer look at Indian spices and their medicinal uses, here’s a list of the different spices in India:
- Turmeric (Haldi)
- Cumin (Jeera)
- Cloves (Loung)
- Cardamom (Ilayachi)
- Star Anise (Chakra Phul)
- Pepper Cinnamon Fennel (Saunf)
- Bay leaves (Tej Patta)
- Nutmeg (Jaiphal)
- Ginger Asafoetida (Hing)
- Fenugreek (Methi)
- Mango Powder (Amchoor)
- Red Chilli
- Saffron (Kesar)
Benefits of different spices in India
Turmeric:Turmeric is a spice that has long been acclaimed for its medicinal properties. Its major active compound is the polyphenol named curcumin. It aids in the management of inflammatory conditions, arthritis, anxiety, muscle soreness, and hyperlipidemia - an increased level of fat in the blood. Apart from imparting the yellow colour to curries, turmeric is also used topically on the skin due to its antimicrobial abilities. You can try out this Turmeric Honey Latte recipe for a healthy dose of this spice.
Fennel Seeds:One of the popular spices used in Indian cooking is fennel seeds. It is also used in the treatment of a wide range of ailments, including those related to the digestive, reproductive, and respiratory systems. It bears the tag of being a galactagogue, which is used to refer to foods that help increase the milk supply of lactating mothers. Additionally, it is considered a good remedy to treat bloating. To include fennel seeds in your diet, you could consume them in the form of Cucumber Fennel Salad or add them to a chilling Thandai.
Cardamom:The queen of spices, cardamom has a pleasing aroma and a versatile flavour and is used in many foods and beverages, including flavoured milks, biscuits, soups, jellies, and pickles. Cardamom is used as an anti-inflammatory agent and can reduce the symptoms of inflammation. It may also be used effectively to manage bronchitis, depression, gallbladder problems, and dysentery. For a simple start to including this spice into your meals, you can try out this recipe of Cardamom Milk.
Cinnamon:Obtained from the bark of the tree, cinnamon is known to manage our blood sugar levels. Insulin is the hormone that helps stabilise blood glucose, and cinnamon can mimic insulin in its function. It also has blood pressure lowering properties and can act as an antioxidant to protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. The distinct flavour of cinnamon goes well with many people, and apart from being used in traditional Indian dishes like biryani, it can also be used to make Apple Cinnamon Muffins and Plum Crumble.
Cumin seeds:Cumin is a famous spice that is locally known as “zeera” and has a special aromatic effect. Cumin contains active compounds like pinene that have shown positive results against various diseases. Besides, this popularly used South Indian spice is a major source of energy and is also known to strengthen the immune system. In a traditional Indian household, it is commonly used as a tadka, or tempering to the main dish.
Clove:Clove stands out amongst other spices due to its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. This spice is considered a champion in terms of its antioxidant potential and is also known to have anaesthetic, pain relieving, and insect repellent properties. Besides, it is an important preservative and is antiviral in nature.
Saffron:Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and is a valuable medicinal food product. The bioactive compounds, called phytochemicals, present in it can improve the symptoms related to depression, neurodegenerative conditions, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Both Paneer Saffron Hot Milk and Kesar Pista Lassi are made with saffron and can be valuable additions to your diet.
Black Pepper:Black pepper is an essential healthy spice owing to its antioxidant, antimicrobial, and gastro-protective potential. It is also one of the South Indian spices as it is widely used in the dishes of this region. Piperine is the bioactive ingredient of black pepper, and it can help destroy free radicals that are known to be harmful to health. It also assists in cognitive brain functioning and boosts nutrient absorption.
Fenugreek seeds:Fenugreek is originally a legume but is widely used as a spice to enhance the sensory quality of foods. Fenugreek seeds are known for their medicinal attributes, such as the ability to manage diabetes, regulate cholesterol levels, and play a role in strengthening the immune system. Although slightly bitter in taste, fenugreek finds a place in several recipes, like Methi Papad.
Indian spices benefit our health in numerous ways, and while each of them has exemplary functions, the effect is much stronger when they are consumed in combination with each other. For example, piperine is the primary active component of black pepper and, when combined with curcumin present in turmeric, it has been shown to increase its bioavailability by 2000%. From playing a part in gastric health to improving immune function, the health benefits of Indian spices make them an important part of our culture, cuisine, and health.