Spices are unavoidable in our daily food, not only for the flavours they infuse but for all sorts of medicinal benefits they bring along as well.
Curcumin, the active component of turmeric, is an object of research owing to its properties that have the potential to turn off certain genes that cause scarring and enlargement of the heart. Regular intake may help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and high blood pressure, increase blood circulation and prevent blood clotting, helping to prevent heart attack.
Curcumin also kills cancer cells and reduces the size of tumours. Turmeric aids in treating arthritis, heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhoea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, and loss of appetite. Turmeric is also used as a topical treatment for issues like skin inflammation, infected wounds, and ringworm.
Cardamom, the thermo-genic herb, aids the digestive process, helping the body break down and assimilate nutrients. It is also known to boost metabolism and burn body fat, aiding weight-loss. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties and the fact that it can alleviate muscle spasms, black cardamom is a saving grace for asthmatics. Few cloves of cardamom into tea could be used for a steamy cup of good health.
Cumin is known to relieve us from digestive problems, reduce chances of anaemia and alleviate common cold. It can reduce the problem of piles, serves as a laxative and provides our body with iron and manganese, which aids the absorption of calcium and control of blood pressure.
Saffron has the ability to treat depression, prevents loss of vision, and improve memory. The stigma of the flower can relieve us from digestive issues with the help of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-depressant properties.
Chillies are another great ingredient to ramp up our metabolic rate and burn that excess fat. The component capsaicin is a thermogenic food which generates heat and boosts metabolism, helping burn calories for up to 20 minutes after your meal.
Curry leaves help reduce LDL levels in the body and are a great way to detox. They also help reduce fat deposits in the body. Adding 8 to 10 chopped curry leaves into daily diet (mixing them into a drink, or sprinkle them over a meal) is a great aid to any weight-loss programme.
An effective fat-burning food, garlic contains the sulphur compound allicin which has anti-bacterial effects and helps reduce cholesterol and unhealthy fats.
CINNAMON AND CLOVES
Both these spices aid the production of insulin and help control blood sugar levels in the body. Highly beneficial to people with type 2 diabetes, especially if resistant to insulin, cinnamon can help control it. It is recommended as a garnish, sprinkled as a powder into a cup of tea of coffee, or as full cloves when in rice or dal. Besides, cinnamon is used to give relief from indigestion, common cold, diarrhoea, poor blood circulation and tension during menstruation.
Clove is the spice to treat tooth problems since it contains
anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Cloves can be used for treating vomiting, indigestion, an upset digestive tract and loose motions.
It helps move food more quickly from the stomach into the small intestine for absorption. Ginger also appears to assist with inflammation improvement in osteoarthritis pain.
The antioxidants in coriander seeds help relieve oxidative stress in diabetes patients.
Like cloves, nutmeg too has anti-bacterial properties. It helps fight tooth decay. Besides, nutmeg can fight Alzheimer's and improves memory. This lesser known spice has the ability to reduce flatulence and improve appetite - a problem that all mothers face when it comes to their child's fussy eating habits. It can also release the tension in muscle.
Black pepper has the ability to increase production of hydrochloric acid which the stomach needs for digestion. Black pepper helps during constipation and an upset stomach, and can also help to stop the bleeding on a cut when applied topically.
By Chowdhury Tasneem Hasin
Chief Dietician, United Hospital Ltd.