a bit more spice to your life, and you may improve your quality of
life — or, at the very least, look forward to eating your
very high in antioxidants, even more than fruits and vegetables,"
says Michelle Black of Milwaukee, a registered dietitian. She notes,
however, that the potency of spices decreases with time, so replace
your spices after they’ve been on the shelf for six to 12 months.
All spices have
intrinsic health benefits, according to Alamelu Vairavan of Whitefish
Bay, and she is on a mission to convince Americans to use more of them
in their diets. Vairavan, who holds a degree in health information
management from UW-Milwaukee, is the author of several cookbooks,
including her latest, "Chettinad Kitchen: Food and Flavors from
her "magic bag of spices" everywhere, from Bloomingdale’s
department store in Chicago to the annual Food and Wine Event in
Kohler to her own Milwaukee Public Television series to the Whitefish
Bay Farmers Market, where she demonstrates how to cook vegetables that
even children will love.
spices are used as natural flavoring, it makes the food taste really
aromatic and flavorful," Vairavan says, and that leads to another
benefit: "When food is aromatic and flavorful, one is satisfied
with a small portion."
not offering medical advice, below are some spices often used for
maintaining wellness in addition to flavoring foods:
which have a peppery flavor. Vairavan says they are a good source of
iron and are known to aid digestion. Combined with black peppercorns
in soup, cumin seeds can help relieve respiratory congestion due to
colds and flu, she notes.
Ginger is also
reputed to aid digestion and to relieve nausea, Black says. In China,
ginger has been used medicinally for more than 2,000 years. Fresh
ginger is used in chutneys and curry pastes.
Fennel seeds are
a source of vitamin C. In India, Vairavan says, fennel seeds are not
only used in cooking, but candy-coated fennel seeds are chewed as a
breath freshener. Fennel seeds can be used to flavor fish and are also
used as an ingredient in rye bread and sausages.
often cited as a spice that can help control spikes in blood sugar.
Use cinnamon on cereal, on fruit, in coffee or sprinkle a bit on sweet
potatoes. Vairavan recommends using about a 1/2 teaspoon daily.
known as "Indian Gold," Vairavan says, and is often compared
to saffron, one of the most expensive spices. Turmeric is one of the
ingredients in curry powder and is a warm, earthy spice.
"Vegetables come alive" when cooked with turmeric, and it is
also added to rice dishes and meat marinades, Vairavan says. It is
touted as an anti-oxidant, anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory agent.
Patty Erd, owner
of the Spice House in Milwaukee, says it’s easy to incorporate
spices in your diet. The Spice House website — thespicehouse.com —
offers free recipes using all the spices discussed here and more, like
this one that uses turmeric:
Turkish Rice Pilaf
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup basmati rice
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon pepper-shallot seasoning
1 teaspoon gray sea salt
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
Melt the butter
in a large sauté pan. Stir in rice until all grains are coated. Mix
in remaining seasonings until the rice is an even, golden color from
the turmeric. Add the stock and apricots, increase the heat and bring
to a boil. Cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer on low until all the
liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted almonds
just before serving. Makes about 2 cups.