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Four everyday spices and why you should include them in your diet

This post is also available in: हिन्दी (Hindi)

Spices have been used all around the world for culinary purposes. They are valuable for the flavor and aroma that they lend to the food.

However, most of us only think of them as ingredients we use for making food taste good. But there is more to these spices than their flavor and aroma. Most of the spices have been used in ancient and traditional medicine for their numerous health benefits.

Below are 4 spices we commonly use in our Indian kitchens and the health benefits associated with them.

GARLIC:

Garlic is the edible bulb that belongs to the lily family. A bulb of garlic contains around 15-20 cloves of garlic. It is one of the most commonly used kitchen spices all across the world.

Whole garlic, garlic powder, and garlic oils are the forms of garlic used to add flavor and smell to food. Ancient civilizations like the Chinese, Indian, Japanese,Roman, and Greeks used garlic for health purposes. Today it has become a widely used dietary supplement.

Garlic contains an amino acid called alliin. When garlic cloves are chopped or crushed, they release an enzyme known as alliinase. This amino acid and enzyme react to form allicin. Allicin is what gives garlic its medicinal value.

Some proven health benefits of garlic are:

 

1. Garlic is very nutritious

Garlic is very low on calories and yet is very nutritious. A clove of garlic, which is around 3 grams in weight, contains just 4.47 calories.

However, it is still rich in calcium, vitamin C and B6, fiber, and other nutrients.

 

2. Helps fight common cold

According to a study, allicin present in garlic helps fighting the common cold. Out of the 146 volunteers in the study,only 24 people receiving allicin-supplement developed cold as compared to 65 cases taking placebo. Their symptoms also lasted for a shorter while compared to the placebo group, 1.52 days vs. 5.01 days.

 

3. Aged garlic extract can help to lower blood pressure

Garlic contains phytochemicals like flavonoids that prevent oxidative stress. Aging the garlic extract generates antioxidant properties that reduce the oxidative damage.

A study was conducted on 50 people suffering from uncontrolled hypertension, undertreatment. A group received aged garlic extract for 12 weeks while the rest received a placebo. Patients who suffered from systolic blood pressure greater than 140 mmHg, showed reduced levels of blood pressure after 12 weeks.

 

4. Improves cholesterol levels:

A study conducted on 42 men who suffered from high cholesterol, showed that garlic increased the good cholesterol (HDL) significantly. These men were given 600 mg of garlic powder tablets every day while some were given a placebo. The patients who were given the garlic powder showed a 7.6% reduction in total cholesterol and an 11.5% increase in HDL after 12 weeks.

 

5. Reduces the risk of dementia

Increased cholesterol and blood pressure increases the risk of dementia. Since garlic has proved to reduce the cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure, it automatically reduces the risk of dementia.

 

SIDE EFFECTS OF GARLIC

The consumption of garlic is considered to be safe in most cases. Garlic breath is one of the side effects of consuming garlic. In some cases, garlic consumption can cause nausea and diarrhea.

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GINGER

Ginger is the root of the ginger plant, which is related to turmeric. It is commonly used as a spice and can be used in fresh, dried, or powdered form. Ginger is packed with nutrients that good for your body and has been used in traditional medicine for years. It has many health benefits, some of them being:

 

1. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent

Ginger has a compound known as gingerol. It is this gingerol that gives the taste and smell to ginger. Besides this, it also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This means that ginger has the capability of reducing oxidative stress, which causes various diseases like cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s, etc. The anti-inflammatory property helps relieve pain caused by inflammation in diseases like arthritis.

 

2. Anti-nausea agent

Throughout history, ginger has been used for relieving nausea. It helps in expelling intestinal gas.

Pregnant women are advised to consume ginger to reduce nausea. It is also used to help with seasickness. As per a study, pregnant women who given ginger in 250 mg capsules suffered from less nausea as compared to those who received a placebo.

 

3. Anti-carcinogenic

The gingerol present in ginger has anti-cancer properties. Numerous studies conducted have shown that it inhibits tumor growth.

 

4. Reduces menstrual pain

Studies have shown that ginger has the same effect in relieving menstrual pain as painkillers.

 

SIDE EFFECTS OF GINGER:

Ginger is largely safe for consumption, but in some cases, it can cause rashes, heartburn or irritation in the mouth.

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CINNAMON

Cinnamon is a spice used for its aromatic and flavorful properties. It is used in kitchens all across the world to prepare both savory as well as sweet foods. Cinnamon is also well known for its medicinal value for centuries.

Cinnamon is of two types:

Cinnamomum Verum or Ceylon cinnamon, also known as true cinnamon,

Cinnamomum Cassia, which is used more commonly.

The cinnamon tree is an evergreen tree, the barks of which are harvested. The bark is dried and turns into curled rolls, which are called cinnamon sticks. These sticks can be used whole or ground into a powder

The flavor and smell come from the oily parts. This oil part contains a compound known as cinnamaldehyde is what attributes to the medicinal properties of cinnamon. It is known for its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Cinnamon is also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in nature.

• Reduces the risk of heart disease: a study was conducted on 60 people suffering from type 2 diabetes. They were divided 6 groups of 10 each. Three groups were given placebo tablets, and the other 3 were given 1-3 grams of cinnamon daily for 40 days. The study concluded that the groups that consumed cinnamon showed reduced levels of LDL, fasting serum glucose, as well as total cholesterol. A low cholesterol level means a healthier heart with a reduced risk of heart diseases.

• Has anti-diabetic effects: according to a study, cinnamon reduced the fasting blood glucose in type 2 diabetic patients by 18-29%.

• Helps protect against various infections: the antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of cinnamon help fight various infections like common cold.

Good nutritious value: 100 gram of cinnamon has 53 grams of dietary fiber and around 4 grams of protein. Iron and calcium can be found in cinnamon in good quantities.

 

SIDE EFFECTS OF CINNAMON:

• Cinnamon contains coumarin, a colorless solid. According to studies, excess consumption of coumarin can cause liver damage.

• Cinnamon can lead to mouth sores in a lot of people.

• Cinnamaldehyde present in cinnamon can cause irritation in the throat.

• Though cinnamon is known for its anti-diabetic effects, eating too much cinnamon can lead to hypoglycemia. This means that the blood sugar levels become too low. This is because cinnamon behaves in the same way as insulin, which removes sugar from the blood.

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CUMIN

It is the spice that is derived from the plant of CuminumCyminum. It is used to cook in seed or powdered form. Like most spices, cumin has been used for medicinal purposes throughout the world. Few health benefits of cumin are:

• Improves digestion: cumin has been used for improving digestion for years. It speeds up digestion by increasing the digestive enzyme activity.

• Improves blood cholesterol levels: cumin is an excellent food to improve your overall blood cholesterol levels. According to a study, those who consumed 3 grams of cumin twice a day for 3 months had higher levels of HDL, compared to those who did not. Another study showed that LDL was reduced by 10%.

• Natural source of iron: cumin is rich in iron, and can provide up to 22% of daily value intake.

• Has anti-diabetic properties: according to test-tube studies, cumin has properties that help reduce advanced glycation end products (AGE). These are produced due to high blood sugar over a long period of time. Cumin helps improve serum insulin levels.

• Has anti-microbial properties: cumin has been used as a food preservative for years due to its anti-microbial properties. It is known to be resistant against bacteria like E Coli and Salmonella.

• Is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in nature.

 

SIDE EFFECTS OF CUMIN:

Like most spices, cumin is considered to be mostly safe for consumption. According to research, the average daily consumption of cumin should be between 300-600 mg. Consumption over and above this cap can lead to problems like reduced blood sugar levels and heartburn.

 

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END WORD

Just because these spices offer numerous health benefits, it does not mean that they can fully treat ailments and diseases. Inclusion of these spices in your diet means they will aid in reducing symptoms of diseases and not get rid of the disease fully. It also does not mean that you go all out and consume large quantities. Taking small quantities is advisable to get the maximum benefits out of these spices. It is important to keep in mind that excess of everything is bad.

 

BENEFITSGARLICGINGERCINNAMONCUMIN
Fight common coldAntioxidant and anti-inflammatoryProtect against various infectionsImproves digestion
Lower blood pressureAnti-nausea agentReduces risk of heart diseaseImproves blood cholesterol
Improves cholesterol levelsAnti-carcinogenicAnti-diabetic effectsAnti-diabetic properties
Reduces the risk of dementiaReduce menstrual painGood nutritious valueAnti-microbial &anti-oxidant properties.

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