Spice up your Life

Spices come from bark, roots, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and cooking with them is a smart idea for a number of reasons! Not only are you adding flavour to your food without increasing its fat, sugar or sodium content, but some spices have significant health benefits.

Spices are packed with antioxidants like beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C, and E that fight free radical damage, slow down ageing and contribute to the prevention of diseases such as heart disease and cancer. They also have antibacterial properties to fight and prevent illness. Studies have shown that garlic, allspice and oregano are effective against all bacteria, while cloves, cinnamon, and garlic were found to be excellent at reducing fungal growth in minced meat.

The following spices have a variety of health benefits and is a must have in the pantry or spice cupboard of every household.

We are all familiar with the bright yellow condiment that you can buy in a jar from the supermarket, but did you know that the mustard plant comes from the same genus as cabbage and broccoli, and shares the same anti-cancerous properties? Its high selenium and magnesium content makes it a great anti-inflammatory agent and is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Take advantage of that robust, spicy flavour and add mustard seeds to curries, salad dressings and meat marinades.

Cayenne Pepper 
Burn baby burn! Cayenne pepper is a hot spice that is mainly used in Mexican and Indian cuisine. The spiciness comes from a substance called capsaicin, an irritant that creates a burning sensation. Capsaicin contributes to weight loss by increasing metabolism, thermogenesis and oxygen consumption in the body. If you like your food spicy, add to casseroles, creamy sauces or sprinkle over roasted sweet potato.

This super yellow spice has a warm, bitter flavour and is a key ingredient in curry powder. Because of its rich hue, it has been used as a food colouring, but more importantly, it has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine to treat many illnesses caused by inflammation. The magic ingredient is curcumin, a substance that is known for its anti-inflammatory effects and ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Add a bit of colour to your food by stirring turmeric through your egg salad or mixing it with the water you use to cook rice.

This versatile spice has a sweet, warming flavour and is great in both sweet and savoury dishes like curry and apple pie.  It contains polyphenols that help to regulate blood sugar levels and has the most powerful antioxidant properties when compared to other spices. Sprinkle it into your fruit smoothie or morning porridge, or add to simmering beans for a delicious taco filling.

With its strong, spicy flavour and energetic aroma, ginger is one of the healthiest spices around. Throughout history, it been used medicinally to treat cold and flu symptoms, digestive issues and nausea, but its anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant content have only come to light in recent times. Liven up your stir fries and curries with some thin slices of fresh ginger, or dust baked peaches with some ground ginger.

A wonder spice with a powerful flavour and long list of health benefits to go with it, garlic is a fabulous addition to any savoury dish.  It’s packed with vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium and manganese, as well as the potent compound allicin, which has been shown to lower blood pressure and prevent weight gain. Garlic is also great for cardiovascular health, preventing heart disease and destroying cancer cells. Garlic is great in salad dressings, curries, marinades, or roasted with a little olive oil until tender.