Indian cuisines are well known for their aromatic spices. Over the years, spices have been uniquely making their impact on Indian food, leaving an aroma that lingers for days. Spices play an important role in adding continental texture to the recipes. A mix-match of different spices is primarily done to flourish a subtle taste change in different cuisines. Spices go a long way in the context of their taste as well as their medicinal properties. Let’s peruse away some more information about spices.
What are spices?
Spices are obtained from seeds, fruits, plants, and leaves primarily used to add colors and flavors to the food. They aren’t used as the main ingredient but play a huge role in making the dishes a bit tangier. Spices not only add flavor but also makes the food look appealing, hence stimulating the appetite.
Traditional spices when used on a daily basis have wholesome effects on human health. Spices are available in different forms, be it whole spice, powder form, or extracted form. Each form adds its own touch to the recipe. Some prefer buying the whole spices and grinding them themselves whereas others prefer spice powders for their convenience.
Spices are so much with flavors that even a small amount can alter the taste. A person needs to have really good culinary skills and a tactic to use the right amount of spices to extract the maximum flavors. Spices having the original taste and not having any added colors or preservatives are widely used.
Nowadays, food experts are a bit persistent in finding new spices and flavors so as to tally with the demand for cross-cultural cuisines globally.
How do traditional spices add aromatic flavors?
Traditional spices can turn any bland ingredient into a great dish with a perfect blend. Traditional spices are a must for every kitchen cabinet, as they not only add taste but are also a key element that fills the dish with aroma. To this day, even though most Indian spices are used individually, but in some regions, different spices are mixed to create blended spices.
Fresh whole spices, when roasted or fried in oil or ghee give a very aromatic texture to the dish. The aroma can capture one’s taste and make one salivate. Traditional spices also add a fresh taste to the dishes.
Spices such as cumin, curry leaves, cinnamon, and asafoetida are some of the initial spices put into ghee or oil to intensify aromatics.
- Whole cumin seeds are used for a bit of earthy texture and give a warm and nutty flavor to the dishes.
- Just a pinch of asafoetida (hing) has a very strong essence and when cooked, imparts a wonderful flavor to the food.
- Curry leaves are one of the most common spices of almost every Indian dish. Fresh curry leaves have a full signature aroma, they can either be fried for flavor or can be used for garnishing.
- Cinnamon on the other hand gives an amazing woody aroma and a sweet subtle flavor.
Several other spices that add aromatic flavors are turmeric, fenugreek, mustard seeds, black pepper, cardamom, and many more.
What are the medicinal properties of spices?
Throughout history, the use of spices has been considered remarkably important. Nutritionists say that there is more to spices than to just add colors and aroma. The health benefits of some spices have turned out to be the best cause in daily life. These spices are found all over the world and are something that a lot of people would normally eat in a day in at least one of their meals.
It has been continually reported by researchers that spices offer a diverse range of medicinal properties with the compounds present in them. Traditional spices are considered for the use of remedial as well as therapeutic purposes, to cure various chronic diseases. Along with giving taste and aroma, spices and herbs play a keen role in boosting one’s health. If someone is new to cooking, one needs to initially understand the right amount and usage of spices and herbs, figure out the combinations according to the liking and then you’re good to go.
Cardamom, cumin, chili pepper, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, and many other spices have health benefits. Let’s read about them one by one:
Cardamom- Cardamom has got an intense flavor along with a sweet taste. Throughout the centuries, its extracts and oils have been used for medicinal properties. It helps with all digestive and gastrointestinal issues such as spasms, stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, etc. cardamom also helps in getting rid of bad breath with its antibacterial properties. Intake of cardamom can be done in various ways, into daily life in either tea, coffee, or through any meal also improving the blood circulation.
Turmeric - Turmeric, sometimes also known as the golden spice is famous for its powerful biological properties. Turmeric is suggested for curing various health conditions, with its pain-relieving and healing qualities. The antioxidant ability of turmeric helps in improving liver function. People who take strong drugs for various health conditions seem to be in relief as turmeric helps the liver from being harmed by toxins. Studies also show that turmeric has protective properties against various cancers such as prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and multiple myeloma. Turmeric with its anti-inflammatory also plays an essential role in food digestion.
Cumin seeds- Cumin seeds are claimed to have almost all kinds of health benefits with their daily consumption. From having antioxidant properties to having anticancer properties, cumin seeds are counted on for a lot of things. Cumin also helped in controlling the blood sugar level of diabetic patients. Cumin seeds tend to have an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effect aiding the bacteria and parasites of the immune system.
Black Pepper- Spicy foods with amazing aroma can be very appealing to everyone. And if one gets a health benefit out of it in the form of a key ingredient, then it's like a cherry on the top. Chilli pepper with its prevention of acid reflux helps in the upset stomach by killing the bacteria. It also improves your metabolism, which increases one’s fat-burning skills. Chilli pepper also strengthens the immune system, heals infections and injuries as it contains vitamin C which acts as an antioxidant.
Cinnamon- Cinnamon is known for its woody flavor, leaving the perfect aroma in deserts and curries. It helps in managing blood pressure. Cinnamon is used for its herbal way along with its antifungal and antiviral properties. With its prebiotic properties, it helps in restoring digestive health. People having diabetes appear to have managed blood sugar levels.
Cloves- Over the centuries, cloves are used all across the world for their well-known medicinal properties. Cloves are consumed as natural remedies for oral health treating any plaque, inflammation, and bacteria present in the mouth. According to the studies, the use of cloves also had a positive effect on extracting the elements that lead to obesity. They are also deemed to be good to protect bone density and focus on the tensile strength of bones.
Well, now it’s clearly evident that traditional spices have got a lot more to themselves than just adding a certain texture or flavor, or color. Once you just need to find a perfect way to consume them, some spices are beneficial when used as whole spices, some give the maximum benefits in powder form while others in their extracted form. If you would like to explore some recipes try out Kheer or yummy chai using cardamom.
Spices need to be preserved in a perfect manner for their long-lasting effect. Some spices lose their aroma and benefits when in contact with humidity, eventually decreasing their shelf life. Instead of storing much quantity, all at once, one should consider storing small quantities in smaller containers so as to preserve the flavor as long as possible. Some spices might not have greater shelf life since the beginning and that should be checked beforehand to avoid any kind of discomfort while cooking.
Now that you know the medicinal properties of major spices, start using them regularly for great health and awesome flavours!