Clove: It Deserves Your Attention
Native to Indonesia, clove is the dried flower bud of the tropical Eugenia caryophyllata tree. The active disease-fighting compounds found in cloves are tannins, terpenoids, eugenol, and acetyleugenol. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, a growing body of evidence is discovering the anticancer properties of clove. It gives a strong sweet, spicy, and peppery flavor to sweet and savory dishes. To preserve freshness, grind it with a mortar and pestle when needed. Add it to curries or to flavor onions, oranges, or apples in your dishes.
Ginger: A Journey through Time
Ginger goes a long way back. For centuries it has been used for nausea, inflammatory joint diseases, migraines, asthma, dementia, ulcerative colitis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and colds especially in India and Southeast Asia. The most abundant bioactive compounds in ginger are gingerols and shogaols, which give ginger its characteristic pungent odor. These compounds have demonstrated anticancer and anti-metastatic effects, especially in preventing colon cancer. Grate, crush, or chop fresh ginger to add its juice to various dishes. Add a ground ginger powder to baked dishes. Ginger pairs well with garlic and chili peppers.
Turmeric: "Indian Saffron"
This spice has been used as a home remedy in India for centuries. Scientists have isolated more than 100 different active compounds in turmeric. Curcuminoids give it its strong, yellow, earthy color. These coloring agents are the natural antioxidants found in turmeric. Turmeric is even a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. As a traditional herbal medicine, turmeric has been used for flatulence, gallstones, arthritis, menstrual problems, digesetion, wounds, skin conditions, and as an antibacterial agent. The volatile oils in this spice are so potent that even low levels show health benefits as long as it is used consistently. It has proven to be heart, liver, and kidney-protective. It fights against inflammation, viral infections, tumor growth, and digestive problems. Turmeric gives a peppery, musky taste to curries, vegetable dishes, or rice pilafs. Use it in combination with garlic, citrus fruits, or curries that include coriander, cardamom, and cumin.
Cardamom: The Queen of Spices
This antioxidant-rich spice indigenous to Sri Lanka and India was historically used as a remedy for stomach aches. The distinctive, intense, aromatic taste of cardamom is due to the oils found in its seeds. One active component in cardamom oil is cineole, an anti-inflammatory and potent antiseptic. A growing body of evidence points to the skin cancer-protective ability of cardamom. Add it to a spicked milk tea (chai) together with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, fennel, and nutmeg for a sweet-spicy beverage without adding sugar. Add entire cardamom pods to dishes for bursts of flavor in stews and curries.
Saffron: Pricey yet Priceless
Saffron is a potent, yet delicate spice with a rich auburn color and bitter flavor. It has anticancer properties, especially skin cancer. Saffron seems to fight cancer by suppressing tumor growth. In vivo and clinical pilot studies also show that saffron has antidepressive effects. It's a good thing a little saffron goes a long way; it is the most expensive spice on the market. It adds a pleasant golden hue to dishes and a slightly bitter taste due to picrocrocin, a bitter glucoside. Although popularly used in rice dishes, it can also be added to vegetable dishes, fish entrees, and soups (after being crushed and soaked in water).
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