Spices, in India, are just as diverse as its geography and its people. No Indian meal can be prepared without including a range of the choicest spices. While spices do enrich the taste and the flavour of our meals, do they have equally enriching qualities when it comes to our health?
The relationship between Indians and their spices predates history. The usage and trade of spices in India can be traced back to 7000 years ago. Spices like turmeric, black pepper, cardamom and asafoetida, have maintained their hold over the culinary world since the days of the Indus Valley Civilisation, when they were first cultivated.
Through the ages, spices have been the hottest trade item originating from India and were the reason for a number of explorations undertaken by western voyagers. Indian spices are also what led to the discovery of multiple routes between Asia and the western continents. The English and the Dutch empires waged prolonged wars against each other for exclusive control over spice-producing regions such as India and Indonesia!
Add Spice for Health
Spices are treasure troves of a variety of potential health benefits. Let’s take a look at the various ways in which different spices aid healthy living:
Rightfully known as the ‘golden spice of India’, turmeric boasts of a barrage of health benefits. Research has shown that turmeric works as an anti-inflammatory agent, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial and also has antiparasitic benefits.
With its ability to prevent free radical formation, turmeric can prevent the development of chronic illnesses such as hypertension and heart disease. The curcumin present in turmeric is an anti-hyperglycemic agent which helps diabetic individuals by lowering blood sugar.
Some research also indicates that curcumin may be a highly effective anti-cancer agent.
Used mainly for its intoxicating aroma, cumin does more than create flavoursome recipes. In addition to helping in weight loss, stress reduction, and cholesterol management, cumin has been proved to be highly beneficial as an anti-oxidant as well as an anti-diabetic agent.
Widely used in ancient civilisations for treating a number of ailments, cinnamon remains as potent today as it was thousands of years ago. Apart from its already well-established effects as an anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-diabetic and anti-microbial agent, recent research suggests that cinnamon may also help improve cognitive abilities and may even show promise as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Capsaicin, the chemical present in chillies, that lends them their characteristic pungency and bitterness, can also help improve metabolism thus causing effective weight loss. It is also known to help improve longevity by preventing heart disease related deaths and even cancer mortalities. Arthritis is another malady that is positively affected by the consumption of chillies.
From chai to biryani, the flavour-enhancing abilities of this spice are boundless and apparently so are its associated health benefits. Cardamom can be used to treat headaches, constipation, diarrhoea, and epilepsy. It can also help prevent obesity by aiding cholesterol reduction.
Clearly, adding spices to our everyday meals helps achieve a lot more than just mouth-watering dishes. However, the key to realising this gain is, using spices in moderation. This will not only help achieve a robust gut but also help prevent a number of diseases.