Did you know that curries may actually be good for you? Packed full of flavour, spicy curry is an antioxidant-rich meal that has the power to transform your health. In fact, spices in any form have as many antioxidants and health benefits as super foods such as broccoli and strawberries. Now that really is hot news!
People are increasingly realising the enormous power of spices. There are now popular curry diets which use spices to help to burn fat and suppress appetite, and Abby Clancy last year claimed she had lost weight by eating a spice-rich diet. The great thing about curries is that you can replace the unhealthy fats and oils with healthier, tastier spices and still have a great tasting dish. Using spices as a food substitute adds flavour to food and reduces the need to add so much salt and sugar e.g. by adding cinnamon to homemade biscuits.
A brief guide to spices
For centuries spices were considered so mysterious and valuable that explorers like Columbos and Sir Francis Drake risked their lives to get them. Spices were believed to have important medicinal, religious and culinary uses. The fact that they were exotic, expensive and rare made them even more alluring. Across the world, spices had the power to make even the most bland food interesting.
A nutritional powerhouse of spice
As well as adding flavour, spices provide many nutrients. They have been used across the world for years as a natural treatment for various ailments. Even today almost every house in India will give a milky turmeric tea as a remedy for colds or fever.
In fact, spices are so nutrient-dense they are sometimes considered an alternative to medicine. Just a teaspoonful of dried cinnamon provides as many antioxidants as a portion of blueberries, and one teaspoonful of Schwartz curry power gives an antioxidant fix as powerful as a portion of super foods such as broccoli or red pepper. Considering spices are so cheap they could be considered a very economic way to getting your five a day and enhancing your health.
Weight loss aid
Cayenne pepper is king when it comes to speeding up weight loss. The fiery spice is rich in capsaicin which, according to U.S. research, raises your body’s production of fat-burning proteins. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon onto your meal and up to 8% more fat may be burned. Cayenne pepper is also thought to slightly raise your metabolism by generating heat in the body, and similar results have been shown with ginger and black pepper. Other studies suggest weight loss is due to capsaicin working as a mild appetite suppressant, making people consume up to 200 calories less at subsequent meals. The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin, so for the most benefits choose Scotch Bonnet, or if you prefer to be just gently warmed stick to jalapenos or Spanish Pimentos.
However, not all spices are equal. Up to a 1,000 fold difference can be found between antioxidant contents. Their health-giving benefits also vary hugely. Here are some of the most valuable ones:
Turmeric is a bright yellow spice with powerful anti-inflammatory properties to support healthy joints. Just a teaspoonful each day could halve your risk of type 2 diabetes. The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric may also help protect again Alzheimer’s and prevent heart disease and massively boosts the immune system, as well as protecting against infections of the stomach and intestines. For beauty’s sake, put a tiny pinch in your moisturiser for a natural glow and UV filter.
Cinnamon is mostly known to lower blood sugar levels, so is great for people with type 2 diabetes. . However, it is also great for stimulating blood circulation and aiding digestion. Don’t forget the wonderful scent. Studies have shown cinnamon lessens irritability and improves brain function, even just by sniffing it.
Ginger is a well known anti-nausea spice and used extensively as a universal medicine throughout Asia. It is also a potent anti-inflammatory which aids arthritis, muscle pain, joint pain, bad backs and headaches.
And the rest... Cayenne pepper will help digestion and gas and even kill cancer cells; cloves aid toothache; nutmeg soothes anxiety and stress, almost mimicking Prozac; paprika quells inflammation; black pepper helps control blood pressure and reduce water retention. The list goes on and on.
If you’re still not sure which spice to choose, studies suggest the most beneficial ones to add to your shopping list are chilli, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, allspice, turmeric, paprika, mustard and curry spice mixes.
The best way to add spices into your life is to try to include some every day. Don’t just think curries – you can add nutmeg and cinnamon to your coffee, add turmeric to smoothies and rice, grind black pepper over your chips and include coriander or cumin seeds in your tuna sandwich. You don’t need to use much. In fact, you are only half a teaspoonful away from spicing up your health. With increasing levels of health problems and disease across the world there’s plenty of reasons why we should give spice a chance.