A look at how common spices and flavours can do you health wonders
Did you know that chewing on a clove can cure toothache? In fact, many of the spices that flavour
your favourite Indian dishes have all kinds of hidden benefits.
Saffron Saffron is used in many popular Indian dishes. It has a very strong flavour and only a pinch can be used for a whole dish. In cooking, saffron is used to marinate prawns in biryani and in lamb dishes. It can also be added to boiled milk to make a soothing drink. Most of the biryani available come from Kashmir, in the north western region of the Indian subcontinent.
The benefits of saffron are plenty. It is good for the liver, has antifungal properties that can treat acne and other blemishes, and is also recommended for pregnant women to improve digestion and reduce mood swings and stomach aches.
Ginger Ginger can strengthen the immune system and ginger tea and powder can be consumed regularly to keep from vomiting or feeling nauseous.
Turmeric One of the most commonly used spices in Indian cooking is turmeric. This spice is from the same family as ginger. It has a rich yellow colour when ground up and is beneficial mainly because of its antibacterial properties. Turmeric can be applied directly to a small cut or wound to prevent infection and promote healing. Turmeric can also be mixed with yoghurt and applied directly to the face to help clear and brighten skin. It’s good for promoting strong bones, preventing allergies and has even been used to prevent and help control cancer cells.
Green cardamom There are several different types of cardamom, but green cardamom has the most beneficial properties. It can be used to fight bad breath and also helps with the common cold when it’s mixed with ginger and used in tea. It has a very strong flavour and therefore is often used in chicken and red meat dishes rather than with seafood. Green cardamom is sold in small pods with seeds inside. The pods can either be smashed and opened to get the seeds or placed in hot oil until the pods burst, which actually enhances the already strong flavour of the seeds.
Cloves Cloves can be cooked, made into a powder or oil, or even eaten on their own, though they can be intense. They’re great for pain relief and if you have a toothache, you can put a clove on the tooth, leave it in your mouth, and within minutes, you’ll be toothache-free. In fact, the properties are so effective, that people who suffer from joint pain will rub clove oil on their aching shoulders, elbows and knees to relieve soreness.
Cinnamon Used in sauces and gravies, it’s added to a dish during the early stages of cooking. Like many of the other spices on this list, it’s often used in biryani and curry as well. Cinnamon can be very beneficial to people with diabetes as it can lower blood pressure and decrease insulin resistance, and is thought to even boost brain activity.
Mint Technically a herb, mint is included in this list because of its prevalence in Indian dishes as well as its many health benefits. The main advantage of mint is that it promotes kidney health, but can also help with stomach acid and heartburn.
Raw papaya Raw papaya is actually a vegetable, even though ripe papaya – the mango-like fruit that most people are accustomed to – is indeed a fruit. It’s often used for marinating and tenderising meat because it contains the most digestive enzymes of any vegetable. For this reason also, it’s often served after a meal, chopped up with onion seeds for flavour, to help promote digestion.