Could Your Spice Rack Replace Your Medicine Cupboard?
The spice rack is common in most kitchens – but are you making the most of the contents of those little glass jars?
While they can offer many health benefits, lots of the spices might well be past their best with little or no nutritional value left when they have been sitting on that spice rack indefinitely.
If you cannot grow your own spices, then make sure to purchase high quality organic versions.
All spices originate from plants: flowers, fruits, seeds, barks, leaves and roots, improving the taste of food while helping to preserve them.
Spices and their health benefits
- Spices have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
- Many are high in B-vitamins and trace minerals. For example, true natural sea salt contains 93 trace minerals.
- Most spices also contain even more disease-fighting antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.
Turmeric is a good source of curcumin, an antioxidant that eases inflammation while studies have found that it can help ease pain while lowering the risks of heart attacks. A further health benefit could be the prevention or slowing down of Alzheimer’s disease, possibly by helping prevent the brain plaques that lead to dementia.
Many have found that the regular use of turmeric eases any persistent and niggling pain.
This sweet and pungent spice is well know for its ability to soothe an upset stomach.
Take a daily half teaspoon of cinnamon to reduce the risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
Studies have found that cinnamon may help with inflammation, fending off free radicals that can damage your cells, fighting off bacteria – and even protect against those conditions that can affect the brain or nervous system.
Oregano is rich in bone-building vitamin K as well as high in antioxidants.
Ginger is renowned for helping to settle an upset stomach because it has a calming effect on the lining of the digestive system while easing nausea.
Ginger is also high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Capsaicin is the compound that gives cayenne pepper its burn, helping to up the body temperature to burn extra calories and fat.
By a strange twist, because the cayenne pepper causes temporary pain on the skin with its heat, chemical messages are sent from that skin to the joint. This then offers joint pain relief. For topical joint pain relief, use cayenne pepper as a paste with honey.
One tablespoon of these aromatic seeds fulfills 22% of your daily requirement for iron, helping to keep your energy level high and your immune system in flu-fighting shape.
Cumin also has a reputation for boosting the brain power.
This is not a pure spice but a combination of several. If you regularly use a good quality curry powder, you will be adding coriander, turmeric, cumin, cassia, chilli powder, black pepper, fennel, ginger and pimento to your diet.
A few tips to remember to keep your spices fresh and healthy
- Unless you are able to buy your spices fresh from a market, keep an eye on the “best by” date on the bottle. Compost any dried herbs and ground spices after two years and whole spices after three.
- Store your spices in a dark, cool and dry place.
- When possible, purchase whole spices, like black peppercorns and cumin seeds, and grind them yourself as needed with a mortar and pestle or a spice or coffee grinder.
- Keeping your spices organized and attractively displayed encourages you to use them more often so you are not too reliant on salt.
- Spices can be lightly sauteed in pure olive oil to release their flavors. Examples are garlic, chili and ginger which have antiseptic benefits.
In the USA, the most potent and healthy herbs are rarely used (mostly because of lack of knowledge) while the least potent (that is salt and pepper) are the most commonly used.