Health spices that really are the variety of a Good Life!

Friday, 13 May 2011 

Making sure that you keep a well stocked food larder is key to staying healthy but did you know that if your spice rack is lacking essential health spices you could be missing out?

I guess we all know that. After all, it's been drummed into us for years now.  And I'm no exception. Every week I am to be found extolling the virtues of foods in season and the important "must have" products to keep handy.

Among these is always plenty of fresh, dried and preserved spices.
So it came as no surprise to me to discover a recent article on a Saga website which says "Eating more spices could soon be as important as eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day".

The article quotes a few eminent men of science who discuss the benefits of the antioxidant properties of spices as being greater than virtually any other food. The point is made that this abundance of healthy compounds has been linked to a reduction in the incidence of cancers, heart conditions and digestive tract problems.

One 'expert' is quoted as saying:

"Making regular use of spices and herbs is a healthy and economic way to enhance health and your cooking."

Now I know there is a general view that the folk who read Saga are a little slow, and addled with age, but surely this isn't news to everyone; especially the 4 billion inhabitants of Asia, who have long been aware that the correct blend of herbs and spices makes food taste better and promotes health.

It seems that we, in the West, often take a little time to catch on to the ancient knowledge from Eastern cultures, and whem we do we tend to change them to make it more "acceptable".

For instance, many of the curries which we take as being authentic are in fact only made for British (and Portuguese) tastes. Go to India and ask for a vindaloo and they won't have a clue what you are talking about.

The origins of spicing food were quite simple - it allowed meagre portions to go a lot further, let you use ingredients which were past their best and to protected food in storage.

But in addition the healing properties of each of the spices was clearly understood and used to manage the general nutrition of the whole family.

Adopting this knowledge into our western diets and lifestyles couldn't be easier - all you need to remember is to use some of the seven main spices in your food every week.

You could even make it one a day... what could be easier.

Discover the secret of the seven miracle spices

Using any one of these in a dish will not only provide a huge impact on flavour, but also give major health benefits. Whether you are suffering or just want to stay in good shape.

Turmeric - The king of spices, long revered as an anti-inflammatory and aid to digestive function. This brightly coloured powder is a real asset to anyone suffering from arthritis, psoriasis or other inflammatory conditions, in addition there is a growing body of evidence to show that it is effective in preventing some forms of cancers such as those of the breast, prostate and pancreas.

Chilli - The fire spice, it may burn your mouth but it is a very effective pain killer. Chillies contain capsaicin which has been shown to be a powerful anti inflammatory, a relaxant and an aid to digestion as well as significantly reducing the levels of sugar in the blood.

In this way eating chillies is good for your heart, liver and stomach, reducing the risk of strokes, cancers and respiratory disease.

Cinnamon - The sweet spice, commonly found in apple pies, it actually does wonders for your heart. By helping the body manage cholesterol and sugar levels in the blood it is vital for improving circulation and reducing the work the heart has to do.

In trials cinnamon has been shown to be very beneficial to those suffering with Type 2 diabetes, as well as being an aid to weight loss.

Garlic - The versatile spice, found in recipes from all around the world, though not to everyone's taste! Love it or hate it garlic is a powerful natural anti fungal, anti bacterial and anti viral agent - which means it protects us from all of the little nasties that are responsible for making us ill.

It is also very useful in reducing cholesterol in the blood and acts as a blood thinner, so improving heart function. Garlic is useful for all sorts of reasons, especially for heart health, reducing the effect of nicotine on the body and digestive health.

If you can't face adding it to your food, there is always garlic capsules available.

Cumin - The father of spices, whose use has been traced to very early civilisations. The health benefit of cumin for digestive disorders has been well known throughout history. It can help with flatulence, indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea, morning sickness, and atonic dyspepsia (heartburn). It can also be mixed with water and applied to boils.

Ginger - The powerful spice, now known to be effective against a wide range of conditions varying from digestive upset through to ovarian cancer. I must admit that the taste of ginger is one of my all time delights whether it is in a curry, a tea or a dessert I can't get enough of it.

This vital component of Asian cuisine is a very effective pain killer, anti inflammatory and enhances digestive function.

Coriander - The understated spice, the leaves are fantastic in curries but the ground seed is even more potent. This spice forms the base of every Indian dish, but hasn't made a name for itself in the way those above have. Essentially it acts as a modifier of digestive function, allowing fat breakdown to occur faster and more effectively which prevents stomach upsets - it also has the distinct advantage of reducing intestinal gas and bloating.

Coriander is effective for stomach upsets, urinary tract infections and protects against salmonella infection.

Back to difficult health sums...

So, it looks like we need to have five fruit and veg a day, and at least 1 of seven spices to keep ourselves in tip top condition.

I was never a fan of mathematics at school, but I think I'm going to have to get my old slide rule out again! At least I do understand the benefits of spices though, that's why I wrote my book - The Spice Healer





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