The term spices and condiments refers to plant products; used in whole or ground form; mainly for imparting flavour, aroma and piquancy to foods. The beauty of spices and condiments lies in their use, blends and their ability to alter and enhance the character of any food. In addition to bringing out the unique taste of various cuisines, they possess medicinal properties that prevent and treat diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.
Daniel Gilbert quoted, 'The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices is knowing when to use it.'
► Ginger is a herb used as a spice for its therapeutic qualities.
► The cineole content in ginger helps relieve stress, improve blood supply, remove toxins and protect the brain vessels from becoming inflamed thus useful in treatment of headaches.
► It contains shogaol and gingerol, which provide relief from vomiting and nausea. Shogaol improves functioning of the digestive tract and decreases cholesterol absorption whereas gingerol acts as an aphrodisiac by enhancing testosterone production.
► Ginger contains panaxitriol, a phytochemical, which inhibits growth of cancerous cells.
► Ginger acts as a natural expectorant that cures cough associated with cold and flu.
► Topical application of ginger oil provides relief from arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
► Garlic is a herb used as a flavouring agent and has medicinal properties and facilitates growth of good bacteria in the intestines.
► It is an excellent source of manganese, which controls blood sugar levels.
► Being a rich source of selenium and iodine, garlic plays a role in optimum functioning of the thyroid gland.
► Garlic contains allicin, which boosts the level of antioxidant enzymes atalase and glutathione peroxidase. This helps to minimize the damaging effects of nicotine. Raw garlic is better than cooked garlic because allicin gets destroyed while cooking.
► Compounds like quercetin, diallyl sulphide and ajoene found in garlic decrease the harmful effects of nitrosamine and aflatoxin, which can cause stomach, lung and liver cancer. Ajoene and quercetin reduce cholesterol absorption and inhibit formation of blood clots.
► Cinnamon is a spice used in sweet and savoury food preparations.
► A study published in the Diabetes Care journal has shown that regular consumption of cinnamon lowers serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people suffering from type-2 diabetes.
► The odour of cinnamon acts as a central nervous system stimulant by enhancing motivation, performance and alertness. CEppt, a compound found in cinnamon inhibits progression of Alzheimer's.
► It works as a digestive tonic by treating indigestion, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea and flatulence.
► It increases secretion of milk in lactating women.
► Black pepper, the king of spices is used as a spice and medicine.
► Pepper stimulates salivary glands, stomach, pancreas and liver to secrete saliva and digestive juices thus aiding digestion.
► It fights tooth decay and provides relief from toothache due to its anti-bacterial properties.
► Piperine, a constituent of black pepper helps burn fat from adipose tissue thus aiding in weight loss.
► It possesses diaphoretic and diuretic properties, which assist in detoxification.
► Eating black pepper promotes absorption of nutrients, thereby, improving overall health.
► For its excellent aroma and health benefits, cardamom is referred to as the queen of spices.
► Cardamom promotes urination, lowers blood pressure and removes accumulated calcium oxalate and uric acid crystals in the kidneys.
► It acts as a mouth freshener and eliminates bad breath.
► Cardamom treats sexual dysfunctions such as impotency and premature ejaculation.
► It helps avoid nausea and vomiting due to its anti-spasmodic properties.
► The nutty, peppery flavours of cumin seeds give a nutritional punch to Middle-Eastern, Indian and Mexican dishes.
► They contain B-complex vitamins and improve the digestion process, thereby, treating insomnia.
► Cumin functions as a carminative i.e. provides relieves from gas troubles and improves digestion and appetite.
► Aromatic essential oils found in cumin act as an anti-congestive for respiratory disorders like asthma and bronchitis.
► Components such as cuminaldehyde, thymol, phosphorus etc. in cumin seeds are good de-toxicants, which prevent rashes, pimples and boils.
► Turmeric is known for its pepper-like aroma and golden colour.
► Health benefits of turmeric come mainly from its main ingredient curcumin, which possesses immunity boosting and anti-oxidant properties.
► Curcumin is effective in treating inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis and arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
► Curcumin inhibits oxidation of cholesterol in the arteries, which cause plaque formation and may result in atherosclerosis.
► Turmeric improves liver's ability to detoxify xenobiotic (toxic) chemicals and increases the levels of liver detoxification enzymes, thereby, enhancing functioning of liver.
► Milk with turmeric strengthens immunity against cold and infections due to its anti-bacterial properties.
► Clove is one of the highly-prized spices for its medicinal and culinary qualities.
► Eugenol, a key component in cloves is effective against dental decay.
► The compounds in cloves increase gut motility and improve digestion by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions, thereby, relieving indigestion and constipation.
► Clove functions as an insulin mimetic by controlling blood sugar levels.
► Topical application of clove oil prevents pimples, scars and blemishes and treats rashes, cuts, wounds, bites and fungal infections.
A WORD OF CAUTION
► While spices and condiments possess a multitude of health benefits, they must be eaten in moderation since their excess consumption may result in acne, diarrhoea, ulcer or gastritis.
► Spices such as ginger, garlic, clove, cinnamon and black pepper must be avoided during conditions like typhoid, gall bladder stones, peptic ulcers, gastritis because they act as chemical irritants.
► Garlic must not be consumed prior to any surgery as it is a natural anti-coagulant.
► Cardamom must be avoided during pregnancy as it can cause cramps, premature delivery and uterus contractions.
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