Healing Spices - By Vicki Edgson
The spices in your kitchen cabinet provide a veritable feast of healing nutrients and compounds, and really should feature in your cooking for their benefits as well as for their flavours. Here at Honestly Healthy, they stand as ‘must have’s’ in our kitchen, and the following are frequently found in our delicious and nutritious dishes for good reason.
Originally the king spice of Asian cooking, and especially prominent in Indian dishes , turmeric, (which is powdered from the dried and ground tuber), provides potent anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. A little goes a long way, and we recommend that you start small as you can always add more. Drinking a mug of hot water with lemon and ½ tsp turmeric in the morning is great for warding off seasonal colds and flu. This is a spice that develops in its taste, so curries, soups and dips can all be made, and stored in the fridge for 2-3 days, owing to turmeric’s protective nature. It is possible to obtain turmeric capsules, but nothing beats the original food-state spice.
It is the curcuminoids in cumin that have been found to enhance immune function, and especially the Natural Killer cells (NKcells) of the immune system, that fight disease and rogue cells circulating in the body. Such cells can turn cancerous, and our immunity is affected daily with stress, lack of sleep, and poor nutrition. Adding a little of this spice may go a long way to helping your immune system. Cumin also supports healthy joint function, digestion, liver function and natural detoxification, leading to clear skin and bright eyes. Ensure that you choose organic varieties, and not just your usual supermarket variety, as many of these spices have been sprayed with chemicals that you certainly do not want to ingest.
This natural sweetener has myriad health benefits. Most recently, it has been found to help balance blood sugar levels, so is brilliant for those who are weaning themselves off sugar, and especially for diabetics,
who cannot allow themselves refined sugar at all. Cinnamon also has potent anti-inflammatory properties, being especially good for joint pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and all types of skin problems (eczema, psoriasis, and other inflammatory skin complaints). The research on ingesting cinnamon to promote heart health is unequivacable , as the relationship between excess sugar elevating your cholesterol levels is now well understood. Don’t eat sugar – add cinnamon instead is the straightforward answer. Nothing beats a cup of warm almond milk with cacao nibs and a dash of cinnamon before bed – a veritable antioxidant feast in a mug!
Always buy the seeds, rather than the ground version, as it is the oils in the seeds that contain the potent anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory benefits, and these are lost within one month of grinding. Bloating, wind, IBS, cramping, diarrhoea and constipation can all benefit from adding coriander to your meals – be that in soups, salad dressings, or curries and casseroles. Do not confuse with cilantro, which is the green leaf similar to parsley – this is the leaf of the plant, but the benefits are in the seed predominantly. Add to your peppercorns for great flavour, or cook over low heat in oil of your choice, until the ‘pop’, releasing their pungent odour and flavour.
‘The holy grail of hormone balance’ – fennel seed is known for its ability to reduce menstrual cramps significantly in those who suffer badly with their periods. Embracing anti-spasmodic and hormone-regulating properties, I recommend this to all women who are also going through the peri-menopause, or who are suffering from PCOS, to help rebalance oestrogen-dominance-related conditions. Drink as a herbal tea, or add the seeds to your cooking at the start of preparing the dish, allowing the oils of the seeds to be released gently, so as not to damage. A little goes a long way
Laura Bond, another of our Honestly Heroes tells us why Turmeric is one of the most powerful spices in the fight against cancer.
Try our Curried Sweet Potato
side dish for an extra turmeric hit.