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Healthy spices nutrition facts

Spice up your taste buds and build immune system with healthy spices in your diet!
spices curry leaf plant
Healthy spices! Curry leaf plant.

Spices not only just excite your taste buds but are composed of an impressive list of phytonutrients, essential oils, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that are essential for overall wellness. Spices have been an integral part of our food for centuries, and today, even become more relevant for us in the medicine. Thanks to the Arab and European explorers whose contributions in broadcasting them from their place of origin to the rest of the world. Moreover, today; their popularity widened, usage reached almost all the households on the earth!

Spices can be categorized botanically according to their source of plant part as follows:

  • Leaves of aromatic plants: Examples include bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, etc.
  • Fruits or seeds: Examples include fennel, nutmeg, coriander, fenugreek, mustard, and black pepper, etc.
  • Roots or bulbs: Examples include garlic, galangal, turmeric, ginger, etc.
  • Bark: Cinnamon, Cassia, etc.

Why include spices in our diet?
  • Spices contain an impressive list of plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties. They have been in use since ancient times for their anti-inflammatory, carminative, anti-flatulent properties.

  • The components in the spices have been found to have an anti-clotting function (prevent clogging of platelets in the blood vessels) and thus help to ease blood flow, preventing stroke episode, and coronary artery disease.

  • The active principles in the spices may help in smooth digestion through augmenting intestinal tract motility and the digestion power by stimulating excessive secretion of gastrointestinal enzymes in the gut.

  • Throat gargling with tepid thyme water can help relieve sore throats and bronchitis symptoms. Thyme is also being used as an antiseptic mouthwash in the treatment of caries and gingivitis.

  • Decoction of certain healthy spices is used for the treatment of colds, influenza, mild fevers, indigestion, stomach upset, and painful menstruation.

  • Spices employed in traditional medicines as anti-helminths ( to treat worm infestation in the gut).

  • Certian essential volatile oils in spices (cloves, peppers, etc.) may work as a rubefacient (soothes skin around the site of application) through increasing the local blood circulation. They are being applied as a popular home remedy for arthritis and sore muscles and used either as a poultice or in hot baths.

  • Spice essential oils are being used in the aromatherapy as well as deodorants in the perfume industry.

  • Spices contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps in controlling heart rate and blood pressure. The human body uses manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.


Culinary uses of spices

Spices can be aromatic or pungent in flavor; and peppery or slightly bitter to taste. To keep their fragrance and flavor intact, they added to the recipes at the final moment since prolonged cooking results in evaporation of much of their essential oils.

  • Spices are being employed in the preparation of soups, barbecue sauces, pickling and as a main ingredient in a variety of curry powders.

  • Spices, along with some seasonal herbs, are being used to enhance the flavor and taste of vegetable, chicken, fish and meat dishes.

  • Some healthy spices like cloves, cardamom, coriander...etc., are also being used in flavored drinks.

Spices chiefly compose of essential-oils, phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and phyto-sterols. They should be consumed in minute quantities in the diet. Medicinally, spices employed as a home remedy to improve digestion, to get relief from arthritic pain and sore muscles, and as poultice or in hot baths.



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Further Resources:

1. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.

2. Gernot-Katzer's spice pages. (Opens in new window)

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