5 must-have spices for your kitchen cupboard

Posted on November 11, 2016 by Helen Field

HY SPICESHow often do you venture into your spice cupboard to add a dash of oomph to your meals? Whether it's often or not, there are some surprising benefits to having spices in your diet. It would be a shame if you missed out on them, so discover what they are in this blog.

Turmeric: nature's treatment for disease

A word of warning: eating curry while wearing a white t-shirt is not a good idea. Especially if the curry contains turmeric. It makes a really good dye, as well as having a surprising range of health benefits.

Turmeric's main active ingredient is curcumin, the yellow pigment, which is known to inhibit many molecules that play a role in inflammation. Chronic inflammation plays a part in many common Western diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, chronic pain, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's, and other degenerative diseases1.

The body can't absorb curcumin into the bloodstream very well, so combining it with a substance found in black pepper, called piperine, helps absorption2.

Most powerful health benefits:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Proven to fight and prevent disease

Other health benefits:

  • Anti-cancer effects - treating breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer
  • Reduces risk of diabetes and treats side-effects
  • Linked to improving brain function and fighting brain degenerative processes
  • Effective anti-depressant, according to a small study 4

Easy ways to include it in your diet:

  • Add a pinch to scrambled eggs
  • Make some fabulous curries
  • Add to rice for some vibrant colour
  • Sprinkle into vegetable or chicken soup
  • Turmeric tea - simmer with milk and honey

Ginger: Provides the TLC your stomach needs

Some say ginger has earned its status as a superfood, alongside garlic and blueberries. Why? Well, this 'hot' plant root contains gingerol which provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. For centuries Asia, China and India have used it for various medicinal reasons including nausea and arthritis. Ginger is still used for the same ailments today throughout the world.

Ginger helps you produce saliva, bile and gastric juice, to aid digestion. If you suffer from cold fingers and toes, you might want to try some ginger tea. You may notice how it improves circulation, warming you from tip to toe. Battling through morning sickness? You guessed it - try some ginger. Its immune-boosting ability is great for colds too4.

Most powerful health benefits:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Relieves digestive problems
  • Helps prevent nausea

Other health benefits:

  • Can help reduce muscle pain and soreness
  • Lowers risk of infection - great for fighting colds
  • Reduces symptoms of osteoarthritis
  • Helps treat chronic indigestion5

Easy ways to include it in your diet:

  • Ginger tea - simply pour boiling water over grated or sliced root ginger
  • Throw some chopped ginger into a stir-fry or curry
  • Mix grated ginger with honey, lemon juice and water for a fiery ginger lemonade
  • Blitz up into smoothies

Cinnamon: keeps your heart health sweet

Used since ancient Egyptian times, cinnamon has shown links with reducing heart disease6. It has been proven to reduce total cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as regulating metabolism and lowering blood-sugar levels . That's great news for those with type 2 diabetes.

There are in fact two types of cinnamon; Cassia, the more common type and Ceylon, the 'true' cinnamon. Unfortunately, Cassia cinnamon contains more coumarin8, a compound which can be harmful in large amounts. As it's cheaper, supermarkets tend to stock this version. Ceylon cinnamon doesn't contain so much, so if you can get hold of some, it's the better choice9.

Most powerful health benefits:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Protects against heart disease
  • Anti-diabetic effect - lowers blood-sugar levels

Other health benefits:

  • Boosts brain function - beneficial for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease
  • Antifungal and antibacterial properties - Protects dental health
  • Can help curb food cravings
  • Anti-clotting effect on blood10

Easy ways to include it in your diet:

  • Add half a teaspoon to coffee
  • Sprinkle on your porridge, yogurt, or fruit
  • Add a cinnamon stick to stew, tagine, or curry
  • Use to sweeten recipes instead of more sugar

Cumin: Keep your digestive juices happy

Cumin has had some colourful uses throughout history, including being used in mummification by the ancient Egyptians. Known for its ability to help digestion and relieve stomachache, Cumin is a must-have spice for your kitchen cupboard. Its essential oils help heal infections and wounds in the digestive system as well as speeding up digestion11.

Like several other spices, cumin has an anti-diabetic effect, and may reduce the chance of hypoglycaemia (low blood-sugar)12.

Most powerful health benefits:

  • Aids digestion
  • Anti-fungal, antimicrobial properties
  • Can prevent diabetes

Other health benefits:

  • Combats insomnia
  • Helps relieve respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis
  • Fights the common cold
  • Can increase lactation and reduce anaemia13

Easy ways to include it in your diet:

  • Add to roast vegetables for a warming flavour
  • Include in a curry or Moroccan-style stew
  • Use as a meat rub, or marinade with lemon olive oil and oregano
  • Stir into rice for a comforting dish
  • Give potatoes some warmth with cumin seeds

Cayenne:  it's no headache

Cayenne pepper definitely puts some fire in your belly, so you'll just need a pinch! Like other spices it can work wonders for digestion, including healing an upset stomach and stopping diarrhoea14. Its ability to get rid of pain is a big plus - cayenne reduces the amount of substance P, which is a chemical that carries pain messages to the brain.

As well as acting as a painkiller, the capsaicin in cayenne pepper helps reduce appetite and increases fat burning . Some slimming supplements contain capsaicin as it increases metabolism, normalises glucose levels, and suppresses the feeling of hunger .

Most powerful health benefits:

  • Relieves headache and migraine pain
  • Aids digestion
  • Prevents blood clots, boosts circulation

Other health benefits:

  • Relieves arthritis joint and nerve pain
  • Boosts metabolism and weight loss
  • Clears congestion and helps fight viruses
  • Reduces cholesterol17 

Easy ways to include it in your diet:

  • Add a kick to pasta sauce
  • Add a dash to your curry or chilli con carne 
  • Put a sprinkling in rice or paella dishes
  • Put some flames in your soup

Get cooking!
So these are just a handful of must-have spices you should keep in your kitchen cupboard. There are plenty more you can liven up your food with. Why not try some and see what delicious dishes you can come up with?

Discover some really tasty ways with spices in 5 healthier burger recipes.

2 http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/02/05/why-pepper-boosts-turmeric-blood-levels/
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23832433
4 http://homeremediesforlife.com/ginger-for-flu/
5 https://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-benefits-of-ginger/
6 http://herbs.lovetoknow.com/Cinnamon_for_Heart_Disease_Prevention
7 http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/cinnamon-and-diabetes-an-update/
8 https://www.evidence.nhs.uk/formulary/bnf/current/a1-interactions/list-of-drug-interactions/anticoagulants/coumarins
9 http://www.steenbergs.co.uk/blog/2015/07/cinnamongate-is-cinnamon-safe-to-eat/
10 https://draxe.com/health-benefits-cinnamon/
11 https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-cumin-essential-oil.html
12 http://www.healthyandnaturalworld.com/health-benefits-and-uses-of-cumin/
13 https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/seed-and-nut/health-benefits-of-cumin.html
14 https://draxe.com/cayenne-pepper-benefits/
15 https://draxe.com/cayenne-pepper-benefits/
16 http://www.livestrong.com/article/443653-cayenne-pepper-as-an-appetite-suppressant/
17 http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/cayenne-pepper.html