The most commonly used 7 Indian spices benefits and pointers on how to include them more in our daily diet.
Growing up in India, spices have been main remedies for our family following the tradition of Ayurveda which employs the benefits of Indian spices and herbs to prevent and treat ailments.
My mother used turmeric when we had a bruise or she would add it to warm milk and give it as a drink when feeling unwell. If having cough then she would give us ginger with some salt to chew on.
The spices have been part of the folk remedies as well as the ancient texts of India. I cook with spices every day turmeric, chili, coriander, cumin , cardamom, clove , garlic, ginger are all part of our daily diet. Its been said that “Spices are the friends of our well being and pride of cooks.”
We have listed benefits of 7 Indian spices below:
Ajowan/Ajwain benefits and ways to include it in your diet
Ajowan(also goes by the name carom seeds and ajwain) is known for the punch and aroma it adds to the curries, breads and biscuits. It is packed with Thymol which is an essential oil found in toothpastes and mouthwashes as well.
- Ajowan seeds steeped in warm distilled water make something called Omam water that is used in India as a home remedy for heartburn, bloating , reducing flatulence
- When you chew the raw Ajowan seeds they have a bitter flavor that momentarily numbs the tongue. It has thymol which can numb pain as well
- Ajowan has anti-viral properties researchers in India have been known to share these findings.
- Ajwain is a very good digestive and good anti-acidic agent. It can be taken with buttermilk to help with digestion related problems.
- A tablespoon of roasted, crushed Ajwain tied up in a small cloth bundle can be used for inhalation. It relieves nasal congestion. It can be placed while sleeping near the pillow.
- To instantly stop hiccups, ajwain seeds are taken with one or two sips water.
How to add Ajowan in your diet:
The small seeds are always sold as whole and its rarely used as a powder. It should be cooked to remove the numbing effect of the raw seed. The longer it cooks the mellower it gets
The seeds are chewable and people usually like their crunch.
You can use it in homemade breads, casseroles as it mellows with long cooking, sprinkle on top of roasted, steamed or fried veggies.
Bay Leaf benefits and how to include it in our diets
Bay leaf has a strong presence of antioxidants(an antioxidant is a chemical compound that protects cells against the effects of free radicals i.e. molecules produced when the body breaks down food or is exposed to pollutants such as tobacco smoke or radiation) and infuses our food with them.
When physicians in ancient Greece completed their education they were crowned with branches from the bay laurel tree.
Bay Leaf Benefits-
- Bay leaf aids in digestion by stimulating healthy stomach acids that break down food
- It fights infection and was found to show strong inhibitory effect on bacteria
- Volatile oils in bay leaf have been found to speed up wound healing
- Essential oil from bay leaves is a traditional mosquito repellant
- Water in which Bay leaves have been boiled, can be used to clear dandruff.
How to add Bay leaf in your diet:
Bay leaves add aroma to soups, beans, stews, marinades. The woodsy aroma and flavor of bay leaf with hint of eucalyptus is released when it comes in contact with warm liquid.
One or two leaves are usually enough and its generally used in savory preparations. They are used for flavoring only and discarded after cooking is complete.
Bay leaves can be added to the water when boiling any veggies like potato, carrots to give them more flavor. Similarly, can also be added when coking rice and it makes rice more fragrant.
Bay leaf can also be added to meat and sauces to enhance their flavor.
Black Peppercorn benefits and how to include it in our diets
In Middle ages black pepper was as valuable as gold and was called the “King of Spices”. After salt, pepper is world’s most used spice.
There are so many different varieties of Black pepper available now Green peppercorns, White peppercorns and even Pink peppercorns.
Out of the 7 Indian spices we have shared in this post, Black pepper is the most common one. But still its importance cannot be undermined as its flavors are unmatched and go well with all other spices.
Black Peppercorn Benefits:
- It simulates the body to produce more digestive enzymes and thus improves body’s digestive power.
- In Ayurveda pepper has been used for variety of everyday conditions like constipation, diarrhea, sunburn.
- Growing up my mother used to give us peppercorns to keep in our mouth whenever we had cough.
How to add Black Pepper to your diet:
One can get black pepper whole, cracked or grounded. Its flavor are the best when freshly grounded, so pepper mills are great.
It can be used on fruits, meats as a rub. Peppercorns are also used as dressing on the homemade salad.
Peppercorn goes well with all the spices and can be used almost any savory dish.
Best to store peppercorns in a non wood peppermill so metal, plastic or glass and wood tends to absorb the flavor from the peppercorns reducing their flavor.
Cardamom benefits and how to include it in our diets
If pepper is the king then cardamom is known as the “Queen of spices”. During middle ages it was one of the costliest spices. Its a spice filled with delicate flavor of being refreshingly astringent and pleasant aroma.
- Cardamom is rich in cineole an antioxidant which kills bacteria and stops bad breath.
- It has anti-inflammatory agents that improve digestion and calm down the gut.
How to add Cardamom to your diet:
Cardamom is used in spice mixes like the garam masala and sweets like puddings and custards. It is also used in making chai masala or hot spiced tea.
Cardamom powder can be added to gingerbread recipes. It can also be added to rice when boiling to give it more flavor and fragrance.
You can also use it as a rub on meats.
Cinnamon benefits and how to add it in our diets
Its ironic that cinnamon that is used in sugary confections helps control blood sugar but its true.
- It stops sudden spikes in blood sugar levels after a meal.
- Inclusion of water soluble cinnamon compounds reduces risk factors associated with diabetes.
- Cinnamon also helps increasing focus and attention
How to add more cinnamon to your diet:
When buying cinnamon pay close attention to its texture and folds as it might be cassia.
Cinnamon quill can be added to beef, vegetarian stews and lentils. It can be sprinkled on top of apples, bananas and oranges.
Cinnamon can be added to hot cocoa to enhance its flavor.
You can also make cinnamon spiced tea but simmering water with 2 sticks of cinnamon and then adding a sliced lemon to it.
Turmeric benefits and how to add it in our diets
Turmeric was once called poor man’s saffron due to the yellow color it adds to any dish but now its considered Indian gold. Its a staple spice found in almost every dish. It has most health benefits out of the 7 Indian spices listed in this post.
Turmeric gets its power from curcumin, which has been found to improve the health of almost every body organ. There is no spice under more scientific testing and no spice offering promise of better health than turmeric.
- Traditionally it has been used as a powder to speed up wound healing
- Topical paste to clear skin problems
- Antacid to soothe digestive problems
- It is known to help with weight gain as well
How to add more turmeric to your diet:
Turmeric mellows as its cooked, raw turmeric can be very harsh. You can include more turmeric by heating oil in a pan and then add turmeric to it before to add vegetables to make stir fry.
You can also add turmeric to fried onions. Turmeric can also be added to eggs while they are being cooked.
Turmeric can be added to soups, stews, chilis and meat.
Coriander benefits and how to add it in our diets
Coriander is not the plant as that is called cilantro. The sweet, nutty seeds of the coriander plant are called the spice coriander. It is a key spice in all forms of curry spice mixes.
- Coriander helps prevent bloating and flatulence
- It has been documented as the traditional treatment for cholesterol
- In folk medicine it has also been used to improve insomnia
- Coriander has been used as a traditional remedy for pain in the joints
How to add more coriander to your diet:
Coriander is sold powdered but its best to buy whole seeds as the oil dissipates quickly. Always roast coriander seeds before you ground them.
If you have gone too heavy on a spice you can add ground coriander to it to correct the flavor.
You can add whole or ground seeds to stews, casseroles and pickled dishes
Coarsely grind coriander and rub it into meat before cooking.
Even though the post says 7 Indian spices, here’s a bonus but important one for you:
Cumin benefits and how to add it in our diets
Cumin bitter and pungent raw but when cooked it changes to release rich, nutty aroma. It adds the zest to the food. India has appreciated cumin for a long time for its aroma and medicinal qualities.
It was used by ancient Romans to pay taxes.
- Cumin has been found to be the most effective spice in blocking bacteria that causes food poisoning.
- It may help in preventing osteoporosis.
How to add cumin to your diet:
Cumin seeds should be dry roasted before they are used. The ground spice is pungent but mellows when cooked. It pairs well with strong spices.
Its a key ingredients in Indian spice blends like garam masala.
It can be used to make a glaze for roasted vegetables. It can be used to spice up creamy dips. You can also add toasted seeds to lentils and rice pilaf.