Affordable, tasty and easy to use...there's no reason not to spice up your life!
So, what are spices anyway?
For centuries, we’ve been adding spices to our food to excite our taste buds and enhance our dining experience - but have you ever wondered what they actually are?
In the Culinary Arts, a spice is any dried part of a plant (aside from the leaves - those are herbs) that is used for adding flavour to a recipe, but is not used as the main ingredient.
This includes dried bark, roots, berries, seeds and twigs, which contain many of the phytonutrients, essential oils, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are vital to our wellbeing and can provide us with a long list of incredible health benefits. The power of plants never ceases to amaze!
Here are 6 spices to include in your diet for powerful health benefits.
In just 100g of Cumin, you’ll find 369% of your daily requirement of iron - wow! You’ll also get 93% of the Calcium you need, as well as large doses of vitamins and a balance of your essential nutrients, like fibre, protein, and fat.
Adding cumin to your diet can help improve your digestion, and has been used traditionally to help conditions such as anaemia, anxiety, and insomnia. Cumin also strengthens your immune system to fight viral infections, removes toxins from the body and helps maintain beautiful, healthy skin.
As if all this wasn’t enough, it’s also a tasty addition to comforting, yet invigorating Indian dishes, like this vegan, gluten-free Toor Dal.
Native to Indonesia, nutmeg has a pungent, spicy aroma, and it has long been used for both, culinary and medicinal purposes.
Adding nutmeg to your diet increases your intake of dietary fibre, which improves digestion and helps control blood sugar and cholesterol levels, making it an important nutrient for overall health and wellbeing.
Copper and magnesium are just two of the many minerals that are boasted when you add nutmeg to your diet, both of which are important for skeletal health. Copper also boosts your immune system, while the manganese in nutmeg aids in the synthesis of sex hormones, making this spice an aphrodisiac.
According to studies, nutmeg also contains a number of chemicals that might be able to play a part in combating cancer growth. A great way to get your dose of nutmeg is by adding it to homemade banana walnut muffins. Flavour hack: Grate whole nutmeg seeds, rather than buying pre-ground nutmeg from the store.
Cinnamon is the dried inner bark from a number of tree species, and is well known in the world of desserts, muffins and chai lattes… but this delicious spice contains cinnamaldehyde, which has anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties - making cinnamon a great addition to your diet, especially when you’re suffering from a respiratory infection.
This wonderfully aromatic spice is rich in essential oils and antioxidant compounds, as well as possessing powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
The medicinal use of turmeric dates back as far as 4000 years and has been a long-standing treatment for depression in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This golden spice is still well known today for its healing and protective properties, most of which come from the presence of curcuminoids, which are also responsible for the intense yellow pigment of turmeric.
The scientific community has shown a lot of interest in turmeric, particularly in research related to cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many inflammatory conditions.
Regularly adding turmeric to your meals can also improve digestive health, aid in the metabolism of fat, and assist in detoxifying the liver.
Not only is turmeric a great addition to your diet, it’s also a useful spice to keep in your first aid kit, as it can be used topically as an antiseptic for treating minor cuts and burns.
Most of us will know that turmeric is what makes curry so amazing, but have you ever tried it in a smoothie?
5. Cayenne Pepper
Now, this spice is truly spicy! Cayenne pepper is so hot that it can fire up your metabolism and get your blood pumping.
The increase in energy expenditure and dilation of blood vessels might even make you break out in a sweat, and this is because of the high capsaicin content in this spice.
The rise in our core temperature caused by eating cayenne pepper, has a direct impact on the hunger hormone, ghrelin, significantly lowering the appetite and reducing the desire to consume fatty, salty and overly sweet foods.
If you can cope with the heat, adding cayenne pepper to your meals could help prevent poor food choices, while simultaneously boosting your metabolism. This spice is so hot that it’s cool!
6. Fennel Seeds
Originating in the Mediterranean, fennel was used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans for culinary and medicinal purposes and has long been used as a remedy for flatulence, constipation, diarrhoea and indigestion in traditional medicines.
Some of fennel’s other powers include relief from anaemia, respiratory issues, and menstrual problems, with many of these benefits being attributed to the components of the essential oils found in this sweet flavoured spice.
Fennel’s essential oils are widely used around the world as ingredients in natural mouth fresheners, toothpastes, and antacids. Not only does fennel seed add a beautiful flavour and many health benefits to soups, pasta, and even desserts, the whole fennel plant is a great addition to your diet.
Given the powerful health benefits and incredible flavours of these 6 spices, it’s no surprise that the medieval spice trade was so integral in shaping the world as it is today.
However, we’ve been bombarded with many new ideas over the centuries, and have become distracted from the amazing power of plants.
The time has come for us to get back in touch with nature and really appreciate the wonderful things the Earth has provided us with. To finish with a quote, ‘people of the world - spice up your life!’- 90’s British pop group, The Spice Girls.