Whole spices have long been associated with health benefits, acting as a natural alternative to salt, sugar and other unhealthy additives. But surprisingly, the use of spice is still not as widespread as it ought to be in the western world.
It goes without saying that quality makes all the difference as far as spice shopping is concerned. Buying your spices fresh, whole and (where possible) organic gives you the best chance of getting every ounce of goodness that these aromatic seasonings have to offer. Using pre-ground spices is sometimes unavoidable – especially when life gets hectic and you don’t have anything fresh on hand. A simple way to ensure that you always get the most from your spices and herbs is to prepare your own mixes in advance, which you can store for a few weeks in a cool, dark place. Investing in a spice grinder is a must, allowing you to easily grind your favourite spices to have them on hand for cooking, meal preparation and beverages.
Which whole spices have the most benefit to your health, and how can you use these super spices to get the optimal healthy boost? Keep reading to find out.
Fast-Track Your Health With These Powerful Whole Spices
Some of the spices that you should add to your collection include the following:
- Cinnamon. This sweet spice is known for its versatility in desserts, baking, cookies, pancakes and chai tea, but it can be used in savoury foods as well. This spice has antioxidant properties, along with antidiabetic properties and anti-inflammatory properties. Cinnamaldehyde, the main active component of the spice, has antifungal and antibacterial properties, and when applied topically as oil or ground spice, cinnamon also has a number of skin and hair benefits. Try adding a sprinkle to your tea or coffee, over oatmeal or even to soaps, stews and sauces. You can also use whole sticks as stirrers in your favourite hot beverage (it is particularly tasty with hot chocolate and cocoa!).
- Paprika. Made from red peppers, this hot spice is high in capsicum – a strong antioxidant that is good for the immune system. It has a high level of carotenoids, providing an excellent dose of vitamin A. In fact, just one tablespoon of paprika gives you over 100% of your daily vitamin A allowance. This vitamin helps to promote vision, reducing night vision and improve eyesight. While you probably won’t want to get your dose with a tablespoon of straight paprika, adding this spice to green tea, honey and lemon drinks, avocado sandwiches, potato salad, pasta and other meals will help you get the benefit of its vitamin-enriched goodness.
- Cayenne Pepper. Helping to ease upset stomach, ulcers, sore throats and coughs, this anti-irritant spice is made from chili peppers, and is as hot as they get. But despite its uber spicy reputation, this spice is full of powerful nutrients. It is a natural pain reliever, boasting anti-allergen, anti-flu and anti-cold and anti-fungal properties. Its high levels of capsicum make it great as an all-round immune system booster, too. The best way to get the benefit of this spice is to slowly start to add a tiny amount to your diet, so that you can get used to it without being put off by its spiciness. You can also use it on wounds by sprinkling it directly over the injury, in order to stop bleeding.
- Ginger. An old favourite for colds and tummy bugs, ginger is the ultimate ‘feel better’ spice. Used along with lemon and honey in hot toddies, it is great for colds and flu. Used whole, cut into slices, it can be added to tea or hot water to help reduce nausea. Motion sickness, upset stomachs, morning sickness and various other tummy problems can all be eased with ginger. It can be used ground, whole or even as an oil. Make your own ginger tea by adding freshly sliced ginger to your favourite Ceylon or rooibos tea.
- Turmeric. This bright yellow spice contains curcumin – a substance that has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It has loads of healthy properties that make it good for everything from heartburn and headaches to arthritis, colds and tummy bugs. Used topically in skin care treatments, it is just as powerful; offering exfoliating and skin brightening properties. To use it in meals, add to rice, curries and stews. You could also try ‘golden milk’, which is turmeric blended with almond milk.
To get optimal use out of your spices, be sure to purchase and store whole spices carefully so that you can retain the full flavour and nutrients of each spice.