Peek inside a nutritionist's pantry PART II: Spices & Seasonings
Part II is here! Today is all about my favorite spices and seasonings!
A warming, slightly spicy and bitter root, turmeric is known for its vibrant mustard yellow color and as an ingredient in Indian curries. It’s long been used as an anti-inflammatory agent in both Chinese and Indian traditional medicine. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, has been extensively studied recently for its potent anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-ulcer, and even anti-cancer effects (1, 2). I like to make turmeric-ginger tea by chopping finely or grating the roots, allowing them to simmer in water for about 20 minutes, strain, then add some fresh lemon juice or raw honey to make a warming drink (great for those chilly nights or flu season!). I add ground turmeric powder in almost ANY of my cooking—stir-fries, stews and soups, cooked rice and quinoa, cooked vegetables, eggs (scrambled, fried), and of course, curries!
Sea Salt/Mineral Salt
Salt has gotten its fair share of bad rap for raising blood pressure. But here’s the magic word again. You guessed it. Quality. Most table salt--which is typically mined from underground salt deposit--you buy from the grocery store, you see in restaurants, and added in most commercially processed foods are highly processed and stripped of nutrients (3). Sea salt, on the other hand, is evaporated from ocean water or salt water lakes, undergoes minimal processing, and hence retains most of its trace minerals (3). Iodine deficiency--which can result in conditions like goiter, low thyroid functions, and poor breast health--is a common condition in western culture (4), and this is due to not only to the consumption of the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.), which is nutrient-depleting, but also because we have been (a) told to shake off the salt-shaking habit, and (b) consuming table salt that is stripped of minerals, including iodine. In addition, iodine is a mineral rarely found on land and in soil, so pretty much the only way to get enough iodine is through consumption of sea salt, sea vegetables, and/or seafood. Next time you go shopping, look for salt crystals that are slightly pink or gray, an indicator of high mineral content (3). And instead of shake, grind! I always feel extra fancy when I grind coarse sea salt over my meals. :)
This is probably one of the staples in all kitchen around the world. Spicy and warming, black pepper comes from the berries of the pepper plant. Black pepper stimulates our stomach to produce hydrochloric acid, which is necessary for properly digesting protein and other food components (5, 6). In addition, research studies show that black pepper possesses impressive antioxidant activities (antioxidants clears up DNA-damaging free radicals in the body) (7). Personally, I love buying whole peppercorns and grind them through a mill whenever I need it to season the food. It’s another way to connect to the food that you eat!
Ahhh, another spice that I love. Cinnamon is the bark of the cinnamon tree, and has warm, spicy, and slightly sweet aroma. Cinnamon is a great spice for diabetics, as it is known to increase insulin sensitivity, and therefore help lower blood sugar levels (8, 9). Instead of adding honey or maple syrup to my plain yogurt and oatmeal, I now add cinnamon for just a touch of sweetness. I also love cinnamon in baked goods (bonus: perhaps help offset the effects of sugar in those baked goods?), and almost always find myself adding twice the amount of the spice as written on the recipes. I love cinnamon barks for making my own mulled apple cider or better yet, mulled wine. Adding ground cinnamon and a touch of raw honey to heated milk makes a great Ayurvedic tonic for good night’s sleep.
This stuff is praised and adored by vegans in particular for its protein density. A mere two tablespoons of nutritional yeast provides 9 grams of protein, as well as all of the essential amino acids (the ones we can’t synthesize in our bodies). In addition, nutritional yeast has a nutty and cheesy flavor, in which vegans often use for making “cheese” sauces and flavors. Because nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of yeast, it is safe for those with candidiasis to consume (10). Furthermore, preliminary studies show that nutritional yeast may have specific antimicrobial properties and can help improve healthy gastrointestinal flora (10). Like turmeric, I add this to almost everything I eat, including salads, eggs, soups/stews, stir-fries, fish, quinoa and rice, and even oatmeal if I fancied a savory oatmeal bowl.
What about you? Do you have any of the above spices and/or seasonings in your pantry? Comment below and share the article with friends and families!
Check out PART I if you missed it!