When Columbus discovered the spice route, he didn’t know that one of those spices could help him rid his double chin! Indian food is incomplete without its spices and the Indian spice cabinet is a Pandora’s box of health and happiness! You will be surprised that spices and condiments that have been occupying the foremost shelf and are used most frequently for everyday cooking, are the ones with maximum benefits. Spices and herbs not only add flavour to your food but also offer wonderful properties for reducing body fat content. Believe it. While some of those can soothe your taste buds, some can burn your bellies. Well, literally; the bellies we totally detest donning and wish for magical potions to cast their spell on and make them disappear overnight!
The Tints of Turmeric
The goodness of this 4000 year old golden spice is as difficult to revoke as it is to wash its stains off your whites! Used almost in everything we cook, turmeric, comes loaded with anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, liver detoxifying, digestive, immune- and metabolism-boosting properties. With the ease of availability, economical value and a neutral taste, it can be conveniently added to our curries, vegetables, soups and even beverages like milk and tea. Turmeric holds a special place in the Ayurveda and even traditional Chinese medicinal practices. Due to its high metabolic index, it is a terrific additive for weight loss. Curcumin, the principle chemical of turmeric giving it that bright yellow colour, is known to lower cortisol, elevate serotonin and noradrenalin levels, subsequently decrease anxiety and keep our mood calm. Now you know that when your grandmother swore by that cup of turmeric milk for a good-night’s sleep, she meant business!
Talk about curbing those evening and midnight cravings and that one spice which wins hands down is our dear old cinnamon. One of the veterans from your spice rack, cinnamon has a history to astonish. Its intoxicating spicy-sweet scent attracted traders from all over the world. Considered as the most desirable spice during the Middle ages, it was exorbitantly priced and unavailable to the common man. Be it the Ceylon cinnamon ( Sri Lankan Cinnamomum verum) or the Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia from China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia), powdered or in stick form, this luxurious spice has amazing anti-diabetic, anti-microbial, immunity-boosting, antioxidant, cholesterol lowering and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains an unparalleled archive of nutrients, ranging from minerals, amino acids, vitamins and essential fatty acids. Sprinkle it on your veggies or gulp it down as an early morning mix with water, honey and lemon, it has shown beneficial effects on regulating metabolism, detoxifying and weight loss. Cinnamon stays irreplaceable, be it your favourite eating joint or your home but it also comes with a disclaimer: an overdo of it can bestow immense damage on liver and kidneys due to its Coumarin content, so go cautious with your daily portion.
Cure it with Cumin
Good things come in small packages! Cumin, a warm and bitter tasting dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, can season your dishes as well as it can spruce up your system. Anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, antiviral/fungal/bacterial, digestive and detoxifying, the list goes endless for the benefits cumin offers. The high fiber content makes it an effective source of regulating digestion and treating constipation. Cumin water has been the mantra for weight loss for ages. A daily morning ritual of this magic potion can truly cast magic on your metabolism, lower cholesterol levels and decrease body fat. In your yoghurt on in your lentil soup, soaked or powdered, cumin certainly prospers your health.
The Fiery Two: Cayenne Pepper and Black Pepper
If your throat burns, your fat too will! 2 of the most popular seasonings used worldwide, both these renowned (red and black) varieties of pepper from the scriptures of Eastern medicine, are from natural herbs with potential fat burning characters. They prevent fat cell differentiation and enhance fat metabolism, basically blocking new fat cells to be formed. Let these spicy sprinkles give not only your soup a kick, but your belly fat too!
Apart from these prominent spices, there are a few other notorious ones like cardamom, curry leaves, ginger and garlic, posing potential threat to the fat fraternity! They act as appetite suppressants, lipid- and glucose-lowering agents and enhance fatty acid oxidation for weight loss. Be it your favourite stir fried freckled with garlic or the ambrosial splutter of curry leaves on your daal, from a splash of freshly grated ginger on your salad to a simple cardamom-ginger tea, you wont miss out on the wonderful attributes of these good Samaritans!
A good look at your spice rack and you will discover an entire habitation of health embracing your kitchen. Add the spices not to make your food hotter, but to make them healthier. Nutritionist and dieticians too recommend use of spices in daily cooking even while on a weight-loss regimen. Wouldn't your, after all, want the food you are eating to be tasty as well? Spices make our dishes enjoyable to eat; relishing your food, be it for sustenance or weight loss, has better effect on metabolism and absortion of nutrients. And food taken in half-heartedly gives only half-hearted results!
Most of these spices are indigenous; but practically all are easily available. You do not need to rush to supermarkets or gourmet stores to grab them or wait for weeks before they grow on your terrace garden. Their accessibility and economical value should push us to exploit their benefits to the maximum. Just that, we need to be prudent in exerting our generosity; too much of spice in food can be intimidating: stomach ulcers, heartburns, intestinal irritation and disturbed bowel movements, to name a few. The correct quantity, proportion, and combination determine if your spices are going to regulate your system or just rumble your rectum!