With friends belonging to different parts of India, my taste buds have been treated with all sorts of delicacies – dal pakwaan, handwa, thalipeeth, makkai roti with sarson ka saag, thepla, bisi bele bhaath, idiappam, gate ki sabji, dal bati, to name a few. And on the occasions, I have visited their homes; I have seen their kitchen shelves stacked with the same spices that my mother uses.
Spices are a regular feature in every Indian kitchen. These spices not only add dollops of taste and a pop of colour but also bring in a host of health benefits.
Besides food enhancers, spices have been long recognized for their medicinal properties. No wonder my grandma always insists on a cup of ginger tea when I am down with a cold. Or a teaspoon of methi daana when I am constipated.
Without further ado, let’s explore the staple ingredients which lend Indian food their magic:
Ginger treats nausea, digestive problems, circulation and arthritis. It also promotes proper blood circulation, relieves stress, reduces frequency and intensity of headaches and flushes out toxins. Cut fine slivers of ginger, add rock salt and squeeze some lemon juice and eat it with your meal, or have ginger tea.
Garlic: Garlic promotes a healthy heart – prevents heart disease and lowers blood pressure; boosts thyroid gland health and metabolism; and slows down the ageing process. Include garlic in your dal, chutneys, etc.
The humble ‘jeera’ is packed with anti-oxidants and B-complex vitamins that play a key role in preventing respiratory diseases, insomnia, amnesia, digestion disorders and osteoporosis. Dry roast some seeds and grind them to a powder. Add this powder to your curd, buttermilk or chutneys.
Cardamom: The queen of spices, cardamom, relieves stress, promotes healthy kidneys, alleviates vomiting, treats impotency and relieves joint pain and backaches. Add it to your tea or pop one pod in your mouth after your meal.
Black pepper offers the ideal cure for tooth decay, cavities, vitiligo, sinusitis and gas. Also, eating black pepper promotes the absorption of nutrients to all the tissues of the body, thus improving overall health. Use black pepper in your curd, buttermilk, over your salad and soups.
Clove: Cloves cure bad breath, increase secretion of digestive enzymes and boosts insulin function. Cloves protect the liver from damage caused by free radicals and promote strong bones. Add clove in dal ka tadka, ginger tea, etc.
A brain tonic, cinnamon is effective as a natural birth control. Also, this spice lowers your risk of urinary tract infections. A dash of cinnamon with warm water in the morning cures elevated cholesterol and glucose levels.
Turmeric: Turmeric is the best antiseptic for cuts, wounds or bruises. Also, it helps in easing arthritic joint pain and inflammation. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, destroys cancerous cells and protects from Alzheimer’s. Include turmeric in your diet by adding it to your dal, subzi, milk, etc.
Just like Akbar’s court boasted of nine gems, you need these nine spices to ensure the health of your loved ones.
So, pump up the taste and make every dish a scrumptious and nutritious one!
Vishruta is a nutritionist by profession and a writer by heart. Content writing and menu planning have become her passions over the past few years. Love food, love life — is her mantra.