Leaves are changing and the temperature is dropping as we enter into my favourite season of the year- fall! I love how our bodies begin to crave warming foods as we come out of the summer season. As we begin to crave more warming and seasonal fall foods, it gives us the perfect opportunity to start playing around with spices. Spices not only add many flavours to a dish, but they are incredibly healing to the body. If you look back to Ayurveda practices (eastern medicine practiced in India for thousands of years!), they use a ton of spices in their cooking. The Ayurveda philosophy uses spices regularly as their healing method or their “prescription” of choice due to the healing properties that exist in them. I would love to share with you 7 Ayurvedic healing spices that will change your life!
- Cinnamon – By simply smelling this wonderful scent, it increases brain activity. Meaning the scent alone of cinnamon boosts brain function! It also has anti-clotting effects in the body, anti-microbial properties and is amazing for blood sugar control. With the amount of skipped meals, and standard American diets (ie. processed foods) that are high in sugar, I think everyone could use a bit of cinnamon to aid in stabilizing blood glucose levels in the body. My favorite way to enjoy it: Adding it to my homemade hot chocolate and my morning smoothies!
- Rosemary – I love rosemary! It is probably my favorite of all spices, if I had to pick just one! Rosemary is anti-inflammatory, boosts the immune system, improves circulation and aids in digestion. Some studies suggest that it increases blood flow to the head and brain, boosting concentration levels. My favourite way to enjoy it: Combine lemon, olive oil and rosemary and brush it on your fish or chicken before cooking it.
- Ginger – Ginger has an active compound called gingerols and studies suggest that this compound may inhibit growth of colorectal cancer. It also has anti-inflammatory effects on the body and is an amazing immune booster. My favourite way to enjoy it: Ginger and lemon tea is one of my favourites, especially when I feel a cold coming on! You can make this yourself so it is more bioavailable. Add the juice of half a lemon and two 1-inch pieces of ginger to boiling water. Let it steep for maximum benefit. Or try this flu busting juice recipe HERE.
- Cumin – this potent herb is an excellent source of iron, which is a vital component of hemoglobin that carries oxygen to our cells. Cumin has been shown to contain anti-carcinogenic properties (ie. cancer protective substances), and benefits the digestive system by stimulating excretion of pancreatic enzymes. These enzymes are a critical component for nutrient assimilation and good digestion. My favourite way to enjoy it: In soups! This is an amazing spice to toss in your favorite homemade soup recipe, especially this spinach and quinoa soup recipe you can find HERE.
- Fennel – contains a host of phytonutrients with strong antioxidant properties. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C, which is the body’s main water-soluble antioxidant in the body. Vitamin C is responsible for offsetting free radicals in the body and without it, it can cause cellular damage, leading to a ton of potential illnesses. Fiber, folate and potassium are also present in large amounts in fennel, which are beneficial for cardiovascular and colon health. My favourite way to enjoy it: Salads are probably my go-to for fennel. I love tossing this in any of my quinoa, spinach or kale salads.
- Turmeric – this is an incredibly powerful spice that has been used in the Chinese and Indian medical systems for years to treat hundreds of inflammatory conditions. I am telling you, they know what they are doing over there! It is a safe, natural anti-inflammatory that is effectively used to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Cystic Fibrosis. This amazing spice also inhibits cancer cell growth, improves liver function, provides cardiovascular protection, lowers cholesterol and is a protection against Alzheimer’s disease. All of that in one spice, I know, it is pretty incredible!! My favourite way to enjoy it: I love adding turmeric to my wild and brown rice, giving it color and a wonderful flavor! Or you can even try making this ginger turmeric lemonade. It’s delicious! Recipe HERE.
- Cayenne – this spice helps to fight inflammation in the body. There are high amounts of beta-carotene (or pro vitamin A) and vitamin C that when taken regularly is known to boost immunity. It can clear congestion as it helps to stimulate secretions that help clear mucous. This makes it an excellent spice to use if you have congestion in the lungs or nose. Cayenne is also known to increase metabolism, making it a great aid for weight loss. My favourite way to enjoy it: I like to put a dash in my homemade humus to give it a bit of a kick!
These 7 spices are only the beginning! In North America we tend to commonly use salt and pepper as our spices and need to begin experimenting more with all the wonderful and flavourful spices and herbs that are available to us. Not only for improving the taste of our dishes but for the healing properties that exist within these foods. Research continues to show us the many health benefits of spices, and the list above is only the beginning. Its time for you to get creative! Play around with some spices and herbs in your kitchen and have some fun with it!