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The spice of life! The worlds healthiest spices, and why. (Part 1)

Hello and welcome once again to my blog.

This article is an in-depth look at the worlds top ten healthiest  spices, along with an explanation as to their individual health benefits, and why we should be trying to incorporate more of them into our daily diet.

  For centuries our ancestors have been collecting wild herbs and spices to make elixirs and potions to cure all manner of ailments and disease.  It´s only recently that medical science has begun to take herbs and spices a bit more seriously, and have taken a much closer look at why they might be beneficial to our health.

Many of us use a wide array of herbs and spices to enhance the aroma and flavour of different food on a daily basis.  However not everyone is actually aware of their potential, to not only ward off some life threatening conditions, but also their ability to actually cure certain illnesses with their powerful medicinal properties.

  This became apparent to me during a telephone conversation with an old friend of mine Penny as were discussing various recipes, and I soon became aware that she had absolutely no idea that herbs and spices had such powerful health properties, which is what spurred me to make this the subject of my next ten articles.

Medical professionals initially began to take notice when people from India first started to move away from their native country and began emigrating to the west, therefore adopting  more westernised eating patterns.  It soon became apparent that their rate of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and coronary heart disease started to rise, as oppose to being relatively low whilst living in their native country.

Researches primarily blamed this on the fact that they had adopted a meatier, fattier western diet, but other experts believed that it was actually due to the lack of spices that they would normally be consuming whilst they were living in their natural environment, and that this was indeed an important part of the puzzle.

 

The first spice I am going to be talking about is

Turmeric.

(Queen of spices)

  This is a herbaceous perennial plant that is a member of the ginger family, commonly known in India as haldi.  It is derived from the root of the Curcuma Longa plant, which is native to Southern Asia, and is often referred to as poor mans saffron. This plant enjoys a climate with an average temperature of between 20 and 30 degrees, and requires a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive.  It is the root of this plant (which is a rhizome) that is the part of the plant used to produce turmeric by being dried and ground.

  Turmeric has a distinctive flavour and is the primary spice used in Indian cuisine.  It is also widely used in many Bangladeshi, Indonesian, Iranian and Pakistani recipes.  Apart from its culinary uses, has also been used for centuries in the process of dying cloth for making cloths etc.

This spice has a vibrant golden colour with a slightly tart taste, and is often used in conjunction with other spices to make curry powder.

 

Turmeric is also very beneficial to you health as it has anti inflammatory properties, which is why it can be helpful for a long list of medical conditions and disorders brought about by excessive inflammation, and is widely used to treat symptoms of arthritis.

 

The most impressive health benefit of consuming turmeric is for its anti-cancer properties.  Research shows that this spice can not only help you to avoid contracting cancer but can also stop its progression should you already be suffering from it.

 

In India it is commonly applied to wounds to accelerate healing, and sipped in tea to relieve colds and respiratory problems.  Medical experts are now studying turmeric for its potential in managing heart disease and Alzheimer´s, and its ability to relieve pain from arthritis, various injuries, and dental procedures.

 

 Here is a list of some of the many health benefits and other uses of this wonderful spice.

 

(1) Cancer!

   Particularly colon and beast cancer.

  Preliminary studies have found that turmeric can inhibit tumour cell growth and supplies enzymes that activate carcinogen blockers, these carcinogens being cancer forming and therefore very dangerous to our health.

 

(2) Diabetes control!

Turmeric has the ability to improve blood sugar, and also reduces insulin resistance, therefore reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes.

 

(2) Alzheimer´s disease!

 Promising research is now being conducted into the possibility of using turmeric in the treatment of this terrible degenerative disease.  Turmeric breaks down amyloid beta plaques, which is a typical hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.  Other studies are showing encouraging results regarding another chemical found in this spice called turmerone, this has been shown to stimulate stem cells to make new brain cells, which is something that could help with neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer´s and dementia.  These experiments are still in their infancy and are at present on-going.

 

(3) Reduces bad cholesterol!

This amazing spice also has the ability to reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood.  This reduction in your bad cholesterol levels could prevent dangerous plaque from building up in your archeries, therefore helping to prevent blood clots from forming which could ultimately lead to heart disease and stroke.

 

(4) Detoxing your liver!

Turmeric will naturally detox and cleanse your liver, therefore vastly improving blood circulation.

 

(5) Improves your mood!

The regular consumption of turmeric will drastically improve your mood, and is also used in the treatment of depression.  It also has the power to aid a good nights sleep.

 

(6) Weight control!

Turmeric is known to increase bile flow, which in turn is important to help break down body fat, therefore helping you to lose, or maintain a healthy weight.

 

(7) skin health!

The regular ingestion of turmeric prevents skin pigmentation, and is one of the top ten foods known for good skin!

 

 

(8) Treatment for wrinkles!

    You can make your own face mask with turmeric, which is an effective and cheap anti wrinkle treatment.  Just blend together some turmeric, rice flour, natural yogurt and avocado to a smooth paste and apply to your face.  Leave the mixture on for about 10 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.  This will help reduce the appearance of fine lines and tighten up the skin to give a more youthful appearance.

 

(9) Treating dark circles underneath the eyes

   Just add a pinch of turmeric to a tablespoon of plane thick cream, apply to the skin underneath the eye area and leave for 10 minutes.  This practise will lighten the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.

 

(10) Facial hair remover!

   Mix a pinch of turmeric with rice flour and water into a paste and massage into the face each day.  After about a month you should notice that your facial hair will be greatly reduced.  With regular use, this face scrub will remove and inhibit the growth of unwanted facial hair.

 

(11) Cracked heal treatment!

   Again make a paste with 2 teaspoons of turmeric and some sesame or sweet almond oil.  Apply to your cracked heals and leave on for about 15 minutes.  This should help to restore your cracked heals due to the natural healing properties of the turmeric, and the  deep moisturising and soothing effect of the oil.

 

(12) Treatment for dandruff!

  After massaging a mixture of turmeric and coconut oil to the hair, (concentrating more on the roots), it will improve circulation to the scalp, fight dandruff and nourish your hair.  Just leave on for 20 minutes then wash out thoroughly and style your hair as normal.  You will soon start to notice your dandruff disappearing, and your hair and scalp looking and feeling much healthier.

 

(13) Acne treatment!

    Mix a pinch of turmeric with some sandalwood oil and apply to affected area.  The anti bacterial properties in the turmeric will help fight the bacteria, which is usually the underlying cause of all acne.

 

(14) Treating minor burns!

   Add a pinch of turmeric to some alo-vera gel and this mixture will make a soothing balm for any minor burns.

 

(15) Stretch marks!

   Mix together some turmeric, natural yogurt and a little lemon juice.  Massage into the stretch marks on a regular basis.  This should even out the skin tone and reduce the appearance of your stretch marks.

 

(16) Hair loss treatment!

  Turmeric contains an active ingredient called curcumin, this is a very strong antioxidant known to be effective in TGF beta-one which is one of the causes of hair loss.  Mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric with 1 tablespoon of honey and some natural yogurt.  Massage it into your hair and scalp then leave on for at least 15 minutes.  After that time is up, wash you hair and style as normal.  This practice will encourage and stimulate new hair growth.

 

(17) Treatment for chapped lips!

Mix together a small amount of turmeric with some natural yogurt and gently massage into your lips, this will remove the dead and dry skin from chapped lips and the antiseptic properties in the turmeric will also help them to heal.

 

I try to incorporate turmeric into my diet every day, usually by adding a teaspoon full into my green tea in the morning, I also add teaspoon of ginger and about half a teaspoon of cinnamon, as all of these three spices have the most amazing health benefits.  This practice works well for me, as I don´t have to worry about adding it to my food throughout the day.  It´s ok If your going to be eating chilli con carne or some other kind of spicy food such as curry, but can be difficult to incorporate into other meals due to it´s distinctive earthy taste and vibrant golden colour.

 

.  Here is a recipe for a great smoothie, and it is packed full of healthy goodness.

Creamy tropical smoothie!

1 cup of coconut or regular milk if preferred

1 cup of pineapple juice or fresh pineapple

1 medium sized banana

1 natural or vanilla yogurt

1 teaspoon of ground turmeric

1 teaspoon of both ground ginger and cinnamon

Honey, sugar or artificial sweetener to taste

 

Just place all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor, and wiz it up for about 1 minute.  If you don´t like coconut milk, then just replace it with either regular milk or fruit juice.

 

There are endless ways of trying to incorporate turmeric into your daily diet, you could try mixing equal parts of turmeric and white or black pepper into your pepper pot, and just sprinkle some on to your dinner.  You can also add turmeric to cake, biscuit, or bread mix and it can even be added to home made iced cream. .

 

Here are a few more great recipes for you to try that all contain turmeric.

 

Creamy scrambled eggs with spinach and turmeric.

Ingredients
1 tsp olive or coconut oil
½ garlic clove, finely chopped
100g spinach leaves
4 large eggs
50ml coconut or regular milk
2 tsp grated turmeric or 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
2 slices sourdough bread, toasted

Method
Put the coconut or olive oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat. Lightly fry the garlic, add the spinach leaves and wilt for a few minutes – add a splash of water if they stick.
Whisk the eggs with the coconut or regular milk and turmeric. Season well. Add to the pan with the spinach and stir continuously for 5-8 minutes until the scrambled eggs are at the desired consistency. Serve on slices of toasted sourdough.

 

Roasted cauliflower salad with turmeric

Ingredients
6 servings

1 large head of cauliflower, stem trimmed
½ small onion, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves, smashed
¼ cup basil leaves
¾ teaspoon Madras curry powder

1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
Pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ ounce Parmesan, finely grated (about ¼ cup), plus 3 ounces cut into ¼-inch cubes
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¼ cup parsley leaves with tender stems, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons mint leaves, plus more for serving
4 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
¾ teaspoon sugar, plus more
¼ cup golden raisins
8 ounces feta cheese
½ cup chopped salted, roasted almonds
6 spring onions, thinly slices
½ cup fresh coriander leaves chopped

Salt to taste

 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

Place cauliflower on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Blend onion, garlic, basil, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, grated Parmesan, ¼ cup oil, ¼ cup parsley, 2 Tbsp. mint, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and ¾ tsp. sugar in a blender until smooth.

Slather onion purée over cauliflower so it covers the entire surface in a thick layer; season generously with salt.

Roast cauliflower until florets are tender and browned but stem is still firm and crunchy, 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool.
Meanwhile, toss raisins, 3 Tbsp. lemon juice, and a pinch each of salt and sugar in a small bowl. Let sit until raisins rehydrate and are plump, 10–15 minutes.
Process feta in a food processor in long pulses, thinning with brine as needed, until feta is smooth and the consistency of Greek yogurt.
Transfer cauliflower to a cutting board and cut into ½” pieces.

Transfer to a large bowl and add almonds, cubed Parmesan, and raisins with their soaking liquid.

Drizzle with oil, season with salt, and toss to combine.

Taste and season with more salt and lemon juice, if needed, then fold in half of the spring onions and half of the coriander.
Spread feta across bottom of a large platter and mound cauliflower mixture over.

Top with remaining spring onions and coriander, and add a little more parsley and mint.

Drizzle with a little more oil.

 

 Spicey turmeric hummus
A healthy snack with a spicy twist

 

Makes one large bowl


Ingredients
Two 400g/14oz tins of chickpeas

The juice of 2 lemons

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground chilli or cayenne pepper

3 cloves of peeled garlic

10 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons tahini or smooth peanut butter

Salt to taste/season

Method
Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
Squeeze the lemons to collect the juice.
Place all the ingredients into a food processor, and blend until the hummus is smooth and creamy.

 

 

Well folks, that’s about all for this time.

 

As usual, I hope you have enjoyed reading this article, and that you found it interesting and informative.

Please don´t forget to join me again soon to read part 2 of “The Spice of Life” when I will be talking about the amazing health benefits of cayenne pepper.

 

Please feel free to leave any comments.

Bye for now

Tracey Edwards.

 

 

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