Here’s how spices keep your health in check
In a world where digestive problems are rampant and perpetuating, spices play a wonderful role. Food is how we interplay with nature. It has the potential to be the most potent medicine. It is simple to use and quite powerful. Any food that we consume can only be beneficial if our body is able to digest it. If digestion is weak and we are unable to digest, the best of food can cause an inflammatory reaction.
Spices are nature’s medicine cabinet within our kitchen. It supports strong digestion, but only when it is used in the right way.
In this article we will look at the benefits of spices, the right way to use them, and how spices may need to be used differently for different individuals.
The benefits of spices
The main benefits of spices can be understood when looking back at how disease development occurs. When we cannot digest the food we eat, we create metabolic waste known as ama. This ends up created an abnormal cellular environment, which can lead to suboptimal function in any body organ or system. In all symptoms and conditions, step one is about restoring healthy digestion.
1. Spices aid digestion when used appropriately. Since weak digestive strength and accumulation of metabolic toxins are the primary cause of disease, there are spices that increase the digestive fire and spices that help metabolise toxins. Most spices are helpful in strengthening the digestive fire. However, most of them can be potent and warming, and more is not always better.
2. When food tastes wonderful, it stimulates the release of the required enzymes for the digestion of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, at various stages of the digestive system. I recall twenty years ago when I lived in an ashram in the Himalayas where no spices were used, how food lost all its excitement. Spices are the way we transform food as they are powerful in enhancing taste.
3. In ayurveda, it is considered balancing to all body constitutions if every meal has the right amount of all six tastes, which include sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Grains provide the sweet taste, proteins such as lentils are astringent, and leafy greens are bitter. When combined with spices, we introduce salt, sour, and pungent, balancing the meal with all elements.
4. Every spice has different benefits. Broadly, there can be warming and cooling spices. Spice benefits include helping digestion, breaking up mucus, cleansing the intestinal tract, destroying digestive toxins, calming nausea, detoxifying caffeine, having diuretic properties, dispelling gas, and cleansing the liver.
5. Spices like saffron are wonderful for women in balancing the menstrual cycle. Using them in a warm drink or a whole grain can be a great way to include them into daily life. It is also helpful to build blood, and supports the assimilation of nutrients into the tissues of the body.
The right way to use spices
There are a few things to keep in mind when using spices correctly. These include the quality of the spice and the method of cooking.
1. Spices can be fresh, dried, or powdered. All spices differ in strength based on their age, storage method, and the weather during the growing season. Spices that are too old will not have the benefit of firing up digestion. The best way to know if the spice has benefits is if they release an aroma the moment they are simmered in ghee or other fats.
Spices that have been stored for a long time which do not fill your kitchen with the aroma will not have the therapeutic benefits. Spices need to be stored where it is dark. Storing them in bright light reduces their potency. You might not be aware of how they were grown, but you can ensure that you buy less and use them fresh as far as possible.
2. When using spices, there can be a world of difference between using them towards the end of the cooking process or using them at the beginning. The way to derive the therapeutic benefits of spices is to simmer ghee or other oils, add your spices to the warming ghee to awaken the spices, and then add your whole grains, lentils, animal protein, or vegetables. Spices are awake when the kitchen is filled by their aroma. Using them this way will also ensure that you use the appropriate amounts, as a little goes a long way.
Should spices be used differently for different people?
When considering different body constitutions, the main thing to keep in mind is the power of a spice to be warming or cooling.
1. Bodies that are heating, which struggle with symptoms such as acne, headaches, rashes, burning, acidity, heartburn, anger, PMS, or excess sweating should be conscious of using too much of warming spices. Spices such as asafetida, black pepper, chili peppers, garlic, cumin, and mustard can be excessively warming. Balancing a warming cumin with a cooling coriander can be safer.
2. Bodies that struggle with symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, and weak digestion can do very well with spices, if used in moderation and simmered in ghee to awaken them. Ajwain, cumin, fennel, and ginger are wonderful spices which can be used every day to support string digestion.
3. Bodies that struggle with symptoms such as sinus congestion, depression, postnasal drip, inability to lose weight, water retention, and bloating, do well with most spices. Using the warming ones at every meal can stimulate the digestive fire, increase the warmth in the system, and prevent congestion in the lymphatic system.
The main thing to take away from this article is understanding your body so you can use the right spices, storing your spices away from light so they can stay fresh, procuring your spices in small quantities regularly to ensure they retain their therapeutic benefits, waking them up by simmering them in ghee or other fats, and having an intention that they are nature’s medication which can strengthen your digestive fire and prevent all disease.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)