Soups, stews, curries and spiced lattes are on trend this winter. But is there something to these spiced packed dishes or are they simply there to humour our tastebuds?
Whilst we only consume small amounts of these ingredients they may actually be doing us some good.
You can treat this article more like a herb and spice dictionary…
Nowadays we add this to everything be it drinks, smoothies, porridge and baked goods. However, this ancient spice is a source of antioxidants which help to reduce free radicals in the body. Cinnamon also helps to stabilise blood sugar levels which can help to reduce those sugar crashes at 4pm.
Cumin helps to simulate the the salivary glands as digestion starts in the mouth with the enzyme amylase which can help the consequent digestive process.
It’s also rich in vitamin C to help boost the immune system for the colder winter months (although cumin alone won’t cure you of the sniffles!)
Although best preferably avoided in first date situations (and second and third for that matter), garlic is actually an anti-bacterial ingredient. It’s also been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers. The bioactive compound of garlic allicin has also been shown to help lower cholesterol. These studies often use high doses (which is definitely not recommended for your social life) and more research is required.
It’s one of those love it or hate it spices, but there’s no denying it’s beneficial in reducing nausea and aiding metabolism. The magnesium in ginger is also helpful for muscle relaxation and sleep. There’s your excuse for sitting down with a ginger tea in the evenings.
Turmeric lattes… Brilliant or BS? The bioactive compound in turmeric is curcumin which is renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties. When combined with black pepper you can increase the absorption of the curcumin. If you’re a particularly bad sufferer of inflammation, you can buy turmeric capsules as a turmeric latte won’t cut it. In general the amount provided in one turmeric latte won’t relieve your inflammation although you’re better off with a TL over a coffee. Every little helps…
Polyphenols are bioactive compounds, components of antioxidants which are naturally found in plants. Polyphenols contain anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Herbs and spices are particularly rich in polyphenols due to their plant family derivatives.
It’s important to note that adding herbs and spices alone to your meals and drinks won’t transform your health. They can make small contributions to better health but they certainly won’t make all your health concerns disappear (in fact no one thing individually will… sorry for the reality check). Having said that you’re always better to add them to your dishes than you are not to.
Opara, E. I., & Chohan, M. (2014). Culinary herbs and spices: their bioactive properties, the contribution of polyphenols and the challenges in deducing their true health benefits. International journal of molecular sciences, 15(10), 19183-19202.
Lu, Y., He, Z., Shen, X., Xu, X., Fan, J., Wu, S., & Zhang, D. (2012). Cholesterol-lowering effect of allicin on hypercholesterolemic ICR mice. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2012.
Fraga, C. G., Galleano, M., Verstraeten, S. V., & Oteiza, P. I. (2010). Basic biochemical mechanisms behind the health benefits of polyphenols. Molecular aspects of medicine, 31(6), 435-445.