Spices – More Than Just Flavor!

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It’s common knowledge that spicing the food you cook improves its flavor. But did you know that spices can also improve digestion, decrease gas, kill food pathogens, and boost health?

Common spices like ginger and black pepper have been shown to increase stomach and pancreatic secretions, liver function, and bowel absorption and peristalsis. Ginger itself is several times more potent at helping you digest proteins than some of your key protein digestive enzymes. Piperine in black pepper and Indian long pepper (pippali) increase the bio-availability of vitamin A and curcumin (found in another spice, turmeric) by well over a thousand percent.

Other spices and herbs have effects similar in strength to ginger and black pepper.  Here’s a list of medicinal plants to consider for super-charging your food:

Cumin, basil, mint (peppermint, spearmint, wild mint, etc), fenugreek, turmeric, coriander, dill, parsley, thyme, oregano, lavender, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, black cumin, savory, saffron, cassia, ajwain, cilantro, allspice, fennel, mace, caraway, sage, licorice root powder, and even chamomile. Of course, not all of these are meant for all types of meals; I wouldn’t put licorice root or chamomile on a homemade pizza, but they work great for sweets! Caraway, parsley, and oregano might make your oatmeal taste funny, but give a third dimension of flavor to a starchy dish. Likewise, lavender and sage enhance and refresh a boring roast. Even microwaved meals and fast food can benefit from a good amount of spicing! (…But please don’t eat that stuff!)

 

Next time you’re feeling adventurous with your cooking, try adding some dried herbs and spices you’re not familiar with, and don’t worry about adding too much! Experiment with how they make you feel during and after eating, because each and every one of these plants has a secret to tell, and you’ll never know if you don’t take a chance!

 

Resources:
-The Amazing and Mighty Ginger (Ann M. Bode and Zigang Dong; ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
-Black pepper and its pungent principle-piperine: a review of diverse physiological effects (Srinivasan K; ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
-Improve Your Digestion (Patrick Holford)
-Dr. Jensen’s Guide to Better Bowel Care (Dr. Bernard Jensen)

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