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We’ve been using spices for more than 4 millennia, as remedies, ingredients, flavours, aphrodisiacs, spiritual offerings and currency (did you know that black peppercorns once commanded a higher price than gold?) plus, they’re super food groups. These days spices are the ‘everyman’ of cooking, available everywhere, yet our repertoire revolves around using an average of just 5 spices in the home and often they’re relegated to a dusty corner of a kitchen cupboard. It’s estimated that Britain is stashing a hoard of £240m of unused spices and herbs…is this simply a case of the Ottolenghi effect and we’ve wound up with jars of sumac we don’t know what to do with or is it a case of kitchen confidence?
So let’s keep it simple and here’s your guide to six spices that’ll have your metabolism firing like a Ferrari, sleeping like a narcoleptic and feeling lighter than a spring lamb in spring, springing…(ok I could do better).
- Cumin Seeds – Dark cumin seeds contain thymol which is great for digestion and it’s also an ‘adaptogen’, which means that it adapts to individual body types to help protect the system from various ailments as well as helping combat stress. They’re also packed full of iron, great for keeping energy levels up.
- Chillies – A little heat from fresh chilli in your meal can help kickstart the metabolism, with the effects lasting for up to three hours after eating it. Chilli, along with paprika, can also enhance your disposition releasing endorphins, the happy hormones which help lift your mood.
- Ginger – Ginger can help relax the gut because it contains gingerol which can help reduce stomach contractions as well as helping to relax your body in general as it operates as a tonic for the circulatory system. It’s also packed with anti-oxidants, which help clean the body and boost the immune system.
- Fennel Seeds – These little aniseed’y’ tasting friends are like a one man army they contain a truckload of essential oil compounds such as anethole, limonene, anisic aldehyde, pinene, myrcene, fenchone, chavicol,and cineole. Hard to remember this list but remember this, they help relieve bloating, they’re a digestive carminative and help get rid of annoying wind…hmm now there’s a Trump solution!
- Turmeric – The doyenne of the spice world, where to start? Well apart from it appearing in everything from coffee, make-up, dyes and tanning lotion it’s got some impressive credentials. It’s a thermogenic which means it heats up your body from the inside, which means it can have a fat-burning effect on the body because of the heat it creates after eating and during the digestive process. Also it contains a compound known as curcumin which is known to help relieve inflammation and thereby help with agility. It’s also got other show off properties such as helping with liver and skin health as well keeping the gut ship shape.
- Nutmeg – Nutmeg and warm milk are great sleeping partners, why? Nutmeg is a top source of myristicin, a natural compound that helps keep the stress hormone, cortisol in check and inhibits ‘stress enzymes’ from breaking out. Nutmeg can help achieve deeper more restful sleep….grated over some warm milk, it’s a case of Goodnight Vienna.
So next time you reach for that jar of spice, check if it’s older than Harry Styles and if so, stock up on a smaller quantity and use it frequently to avoid it from losing its’ potency. Think of these food groups as super heroes because they’re more than just an ingredient and they could change the way you feel!