Spices are wonderful! They make our food taste so much better by bringing so much flavor to our meals without adding any salt or fats. They also contain so many health benefits that we should incorporate them into our cooking more regularly and use a variety of them to gain the benefit of all their wonderful health properties.
Spices may come from a root, a fruit, a bud, a seed, or a plant. We can find them whole or ground, and it’s best to store them in a dark and cool place, away from the light and heat, and use them within six months to preserve their freshness. We can use them at the beginning of our cooking, but also, at the end as a decoration on the plate.
Now, let’s look at some of the most popular spices. Even though sea salt and garlic are not spices, I have included them on the list since they are two important components in cooking.
Cardamom has a strong and spicy taste. There are different types of cardamom but the most common is the green one. Cardamom is popular in the Indian and Middle East cuisine and goes well with meat, curries, and lentils, as well as in some beverages and desserts.
This spice is good to treat digestive problems and colds.
Cayenne pepper is a very hot and spicy powder that comes from cayenne peppers. It’s very popular in cooking as well as medicinal use. Cayenne is good to clear congestion, boost our metabolism, keep us warm during cold weather, and it’s also good to fight inflammation in the body and strengthen the immune system. Cayenne pepper is also known to be good for the heart and digestion.
Don’t confuse cayenne pepper with chili powder, which is a blend of chili peppers with other spices. It’s not as hot as cayenne pepper.
Cinnamon has a sweet and spicy taste and is appreciated by almost everyone. This spice has many health benefits and should be consumed regularly. It’s a good antioxidant and is helpful to stabilize blood sugar. Cinnamon is known to lower “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure, as well as reducing inflammation in the body.
Add cinnamon to your oatmeal, cereals, desserts, and tea. Cinnamon goes well with raw honey as well. It’s a warming spice and is perfect for falls and winter seasons. You can consume ½ to 1 teaspoon a day.
Cloves are flower buds that have a strong and sharp flavor. They can be used whole or ground and go well in bean dishes, chutneys, and curries, as well as being popular in some desserts and beverages. Cloves are known to be a good anti-inflammatory. If you don’t have clove in your kitchen, you can normally substitute with allspice.
Coriander is one of the oldest spices and is appreciated in almost all cuisines. It’s a very aromatic seed that can be found whole or ground. Coriander is the seed of the plant also known as cilantro. Cilantro is popular in many different types of cuisines and is also used as a garnish. Coriander seeds are known to have anti-bacterial properties and be an aid for the digestion.
Cumin is a very aromatic spice and has a nutty flavor. It’s mostly used in Indian, Middle East and Mexican cooking. It’s available ground into a powder or in its whole seed. Cumin is also used to aid digestion, and to improve absorption of nutrients, as well as being good to enhance immunity and to boost our metabolism.
Curry powder is a mixture of spices very popular in the Indian and Asian cuisine. The health benefits of curry powder are immense; it’s a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Curry powder is normally a mix of turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, coriander, and red pepper. Some blends may also include cayenne pepper, paprika, cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
You can also find curry paste that is normally used to make curries. There are many different types of paste, according to the type of cuisine.
Mustard comes from the seeds of the mustard plant. It’s one of the oldest spices. It’s a popular and traditional condiment in American and European cuisine. In America, the most popular type of mustard is the prepared yellow mustard, but there are many other types that are more natural and as, if not more, delicious. Mustard goes well into sauces, marinades, and dressings, as well as being a good condiment with meat. It’s one of the most popular spices. Horseradish or wasabi are part of the mustard family.
Mustard seeds are known to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can also be used as a laxative and a muscle pain reliever.
Nutmeg has a sweet and rich taste and goes well in desserts, drinks, sauces, and baking. You can buy powdered nutmeg or you can grate the whole nutmeg itself. It’s a very popular spice in America, especially during the holiday season. Nutmeg is known to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as well as being good to stimulate the brain and aid in digestion. It’s best to use nutmeg in a small dose as it can become toxic if consumed in excess.
Onion powder is made from ground, dehydrated onion. It has an intense flavor and is very low in sodium. You can find onion powder and onion flakes, which are the same but have a different texture. Be careful to not confuse these with onion salt since onion salt is salt with onion powder.
1 medium onion = 1 teaspoon onion powder = 1 tbsp. onion flakes
Paprika goes from sweet to hot in terms of flavor and has a beautiful rich color. They are many varieties of paprika and this spice is popular in European and Western cuisine. Paprika doesn’t last long so it’s best to buy in a smaller amount. This spice has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to be an aid to the digestive system. Use it in your vegetables dishes, with your meat, in your sauces, or as a garnish. Paprika is also used as a natural dye.
Saffron is a spice that comes from a flower named Crocus. It’s the most expensive spice in the world. Saffron has also been used as a natural yellow dye. Before using it, it’s recommended to soak the threads in water. Saffron goes well in Indian, European and Arabic cuisine. It has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being a powerful antioxidant. Rubbing saffron on sore gums can also provide relief.
Turmeric is one of the greatest Indian spices. Turmeric is also popular in Ayurvedic medicine for its medicinal properties. It’s known to be one of the most powerful healers and its health benefits are numerous; it has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it’s known to inhibit growth of cancer cells, it’s good for the brain and the heart, and is also good for the digestion. Use turmeric in your curries, sauces, or any other Indian, Middle East, or Asian cooking. It can also be used as a natural dye.
Vanilla is the fruit of an orchid plant that has an aromatic and rich flavor. You can buy many different form of vanilla such as the vanilla bean itself, vanilla powder, or vanilla extract. If you buy vanilla extract, make sure the one you buy is pure. Whole vanilla beans can be reused and kept in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Vanilla is used in many different desserts and beverages, as well as being a popular fragrance.
1 teaspoon of a pure vanilla extract = 1 vanilla bean
For centuries, garlic has been used for its natural healing power. It’s a powerful natural “antibiotic” that helps to combat infections in the body and inhibit growth of cancer cells. It has strong anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
Note: If you meditate, be careful with onion and garlic because it can disturb your meditation by stimulating your central nervous system. It can also, for some people, disturb sleep.
Fresh garlic is very strong; it can be irritating for the digestive tract if used in excess. One clove a day will be beneficial for your health.
Ground garlic brings a ‘’cooked’’ flavor to a meal. It can be easily substituted with fresh garlic. 1 medium clove of garlic = 1/8 tsp. powdered garlic.
Fresh ginger has a strong and pungent flavor and is often used in oriental cooking. It goes very well in fresh juices as well. Ginger has many health benefits and should be consumed more often. It has anti-inflammatory properties, it boosts our immune system, it’s an aid to our digestion, and it’s also helpful to relieve headache, nausea, and morning sickness. Ginger tea is also very popular after a meal.
If you use ground ginger, it doesn’t have the same taste but it goes well in desserts or in meals where you don’t want a taste that is too pronounced.
1 tbsp. fresh ginger = 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
Salt is not a spice but a mineral. There are many types of salt on the market and it’s best to get a good quality salt and avoid table salt (NaCl), which is an acidic and inorganic substance, heavily processed, refined, and stripped of all its minerals, with the exception of sodium and chloride. It also contains additives.
We have to be careful with our consumption of salt since if eaten in excess, salt may lead to many health problems such as water retention, high blood pressure, calcium loss, and kidney problems. You don’t need a lot of salt to enhance flavors. Choose quality, avoid table salt, and avoid consuming processed food, which is high in salt.
Those are my favorite types of salt:
Kosher salt is a type of salt that has a larger grain and a different shape than table salt. It contains no additive and is a favorite of chefs.
Celtic Sea Salt is a whole and unprocessed salt that comes from fresh ocean water. It contains many minerals and trace elements. Celtic Sea Salt is lower in sodium and chloride than other salts, and higher in minerals and trace elements.
Himalayan salt contains 84 minerals and trace elements, and is easily absorbed by the body. It’s unrefined, unprocessed, and helps your body to maintain a healthy electrolyte balance. It’s a salt that comes from the sea.
Available whole or ground, in many different kinds, pepper is the most used of all spices. It comes in different colors and this is due to its ripeness. Pepper is known to have antibacterial effect and be helpful for the digestion.
Black pepper: You can have ground black pepper or peppercorn. They have a hot flavor and aroma, especially if freshly ground.
White pepper: It has a milder taste than black pepper. White pepper is often used because of its color–to keep a light color light.
Pink pepper: Pink pepper has a delicate, fragrant, sweet, and spicy flavor. It goes well with fruit sauces, vinaigrettes, and desserts.
Green pepper: Spicy, aroma and pungent flavor, it goes well with salads, steamed vegetables, salsas, and sauces.