Cooking a favorite dish will never be complete without herbs and spices that accentuate the flavor of the dish while they give aesthetic delight to a foodie. Herbs and spices are said to have been used thousands of years ago for culinary and health purposes. No wonder even today, herbs and spices are always part and parcel of every sumptuous dish, local or international.
There are different herbs and spices we use daily and I thought that it is nice to know some of them and the health benefits they offer for each one of us especially for culinary purposes.
(These are retrieved from https://www.mdlinx.com/article/herbs-and-spices).
- Turmeric - fights cancer - Turmeric is the basic ingredient in curry powder. Its major component is curcumin that makes turmeric have its yellow color. Curcumin has "anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties" that show its potential for the treatment of cancer.
- Holy basil - fights diabetes - Tulsi, also called “holy basil,” has held a special place in Ayurvedic medicine in India for more than 3,000 years. It’s been used to treat everything from bronchitis to hiccups and from headache to a snake bite, and more.”
" In various randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials, patients with type 2 diabetes who ingested tulsi (as leaves, extract, or powder, depending on the study) showed significant reductions in fasting blood glucose."
- Sage for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease - It comes from the Latin word "to heal" has been basically "used as antioxidant with the ability to enhance mental function and memory and delays age-associated cognitive decline."
- Red pepper - for longer life - Regarding decreased mortality, a big population-based prospective study that included more than 16,000 US adults from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III found that those who ate hot red chili peppers had a 13% lower risk of death.”
- Cinnamon - lowers blood sugar levels and has a potent anti-diabetic effect. -lowers blood sugar levels and has a potent anti-diabetic effect. It has a compound called cinnamaldehyde that is "responsible for cinnamon's medicinal properties."
- Ginger - can treat nausea and possesses anti-inflammatory properties. One gram or more of ginger can successfully treat nausea in morning sickness, chemotherapy, and seasickness. Research shows that ginger mixed with cinnamon, mastic, and sesame oil lessened pain and stiffness suffered by those with osteoarthritis.
- Rosemary - helps prevent allergies and nasal congestion with its active ingredient called rosmarinic acid.
- Garlic - the health benefits are due to its compound called allicin that is also responsible for its noticeable smell; it is also good for the heart and for high blood pressure
- Cayenne Pepper - the type of chili pepper is used for spicy dishes. Its active ingredient called capsaicin reduces appetite and burns fat that is why it is a common ingredient for various weight loss supplements.
- Peppermint - studies show that peppermint oil improves pain management in IBS (Irritable bowel symptom) relaxing muscles in the colon which gives pain relief during bowel movements
- Oregano - has antioxidants and nutrients such as Vitamin K and E, calcium, iron, manganese, and fiber. Oregano could help increase the health of the heart and it also fights infections
- Anise - a rich source of two great antioxidants such as linalool, an essential oil, and Vitamin C which protects the body "from cellular damage caused by environmental toxins." (https://docs.google.com/).
- Allspice - "It is a kind of berry that combines flavors of pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon for a power-packed flavor. It helps in digestion, has anti-inflammatory properties, improves circulation, promotes dental health, enhances immunity, and promotes heart health."
- Cumin is an important part of Middle Eastern cuisine. It enhances immunity and treats skin disorders, insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis, and anemia.
- Coriander - known as cilantro or dhaniya. It has many health benefits such as antioxidants, a dietary fiber that keeps the liver healthy, and it also facilitates bowel movements. It also helps to generate digestive compounds and juices for smooth digestion.
- Celery Seeds - used for tea and treats menstrual problems, reduces anxiety, helps in the treatment of joint problems. It also lowers uric acid in the body and inflammation, too. It is also good for high blood pressure when you at least eat four celery stalks a day.
The use of herbs and spices generally is a good alternative to decrease salt intake and the risk of contracting heart disease. Spices such as black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, dumin, dill, basil, ginger, coriander, and onion are the most effective herbs and spices as alternatives for the taste of salt. (https://www.servings.org/about-us/news/nutrition).
When you cook with herbs and spices, you make foods more flavorful and sumptuous, sans having more calories. Adding sweet spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg in cooking your dishes does not anymore need sugar.
Various herbs and spices are under study for their property to decrease harmful inflammation in the body which triggers chronic diseases such as heart disease and Alzheimer's.
Herbs and spices also have antioxidants that help protect our cells from the damage of aging and different stressors. Oregano, sage, peppermint, lemon balm, clove, and cinnamon are said to be having the most antioxidants.
"Many herbs and spices have compounds that help inhibit tumor growth, prevent cell mutation and influence enzymes that aid the liver in clearing potentially toxic substances." (https://www.canyonranch.com/).
Using spices fresh or dried will also produce health benefits for us. However, it is reported that frying or grilling food with spices reduces the number of antioxidants of the spices.
Knowing the health benefits of common herbs and spices we use almost every day for cooking could help us enhance the flavor and taste of any dish we cook, complementing the health benefits we could reap from them.
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