If you are like me, you’ve probably got a whole cupboard full of herbs and spices that never seem to get a lot of use. For most of their lives, they sit in my kitchen longing to be sprinkled, grated, chopped, or used somewhere, anywhere, in my cooking. If I’m honest, I don’t think I even know how to use all of them. Yet despite my ignorance, herbs and spices are kind of a big deal. They are like the Kryptonite of the culinary world. All over the globe and all throughout history spices dominate culinarily practice. So it makes me wonder if these spices are too important to be sitting in my kitchen. But herbs and spices are never the stars of a curry. They are never the pinnacle of a salad. They don’t really have a massive impact on your diet/food intake either, do they?
Why do we use herbs and spices?
Let’s get real. We use herbs and spices because they make our food and drink more flavoursome, more colourful, and ultimately more smelly. We rarely use them because of the benefits they have on our health. Yet, they do. They are a low-calorie addition to our food that have an abundance of benefits on our bodies.
Our Top Five
Did you know that chilli powder contains more than just crushed chilli? In fact, it contains a blend of cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and paprika, so it is more than just pure heat!
Chilli contains high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A. Both of these vitamins contribute to normal iron metabolism and immune system. It also contains a chemical known as, Capsaicin, which releases endorphins to elevate mood. This chemical also gives chilli the capacity to lower blood pressure. It does this by encouraging the walls of blood vessels to relax, in other words making them widen. These properties make chilli a nutritional powerhouse, which makes us feel better about having that extra helping of our Chia Curry earlier…
Ever wondered why a curry is so colourful? It’s mostly down to this spice, Turmeric. It gives food a wonderful yellow flavour and a peppery, mild fragrance. The reason it does this is down to a little compound within it called Curcumin, and that little compound is why Turmeric makes our list.
Curcumin is a natural anti-inflammatory that helps us to fight and repair damage. This makes it rather useful in treating some conditions related to chronic inflammation. Its antioxidant properties counteract the increased uptake of oxygen caused by inflammation. In doing this, curcumin helps to protect our bodies from the effects of inflammation, like oxidative stress. This is important as these effects could contribute to the onset of neurodegenerative diseases.
Turmeric then has definite benefits for our bodies. However, it’s not very well absorbed unless taken with black pepper. Here at myvitamins, we combine our Turmeric supplement with Bioperine with a black pepper extract, for added absorption.
Another spice staple is Cumin. It has a warm, if not slightly bitter, flavour that is often key to Indian curries and Mexican chillis.
Like Turmeric, Cumin is rich in antioxidants. It helps to fight oxidative stress in our bodies, making us feel healthier. It also inhibits bacterial growth, giving it antibacterial properties. But it doesn’t stop there! Cumin contains iron and copper to promote healthy red blood cells and zinc to boost your immune functions. Its potassium content helps to control blood pressure, and calcium to harness strength in teeth and bones. Lastly, Cumin contains a natural relaxant, magnesium. As an antidote to stress and key to a better night’s sleep, we think that makes cumin a really big ‘Dhal’ indeed.
Coriander SeedsBefore we consider the benefits of this entry in our top 9, let’s clear up some confusion. Coriander and Cilantro. Are they the same? Well, yes and no! They both come from the same plant, but what you call them depends on where you’re from. In the UK, the leaves of the plant are Coriander, while the seeds are known as Coriander Seeds. In the US and other parts of the world, the leaves are Cilantro, while the seeds are Coriander. Confusing, right? In this article, we’re going to look at the benefits of the seeds of this plant. We’ll refer to them as ‘Coriander Seeds’.These seeds look pretty and they are packed full of goodness. They are a great source of Iron, which helps to reduce tiredness. They also contain Vitamin A and C, which are important to our growth at a cellular level. They’re also great for garnishing curries and chillis. But it’s the impact of the ethanol extract in the seeds that puts it on our list. This ethanol actually affects blood sugar. It helps to lower the amount of glucose in the blood by encouraging the secretion of insulin in our bodies. So we think that Coriander Seeds are a worthwhile garnish to our Chia Seed Curry!
You name it, Garlic is probably in it. Curry, Pasta, Chili, Soup, Risotto, Meats, Oils, Pizza…where should our list end?! Garlic is used in many dishes and for many health conditions. Did you know Garlic was even used to fight infection in World War II?
Garlic’s main claim to fame is its possession of allium. This antibacterial compound hinders the reproduction of bacteria to prevent them spreading, thus making Garlic useful in fighting infection and boosting immune function. These benefits were even noticed by the founder of modern medicine himself, Louis Pasteur. To top that, Garlic is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Manganeses…in fact garlic contains trace amounts of almost everything we need. So, although Garlic was last in our top 5 list, it is by no means least.