Six healthiest spices to add to your recipes

Learn the health benefits of warming spices such as turmeric, cinnamon and cardamon and try them all at once in a coconut vegetable curry recipe
By Marni Wasserman
Six healthiest spices to add to your recipes Getty Images

The many fragrant warming herbs and spices available from the around the world are not only fabulous for flavouring our recipes, but they also have wonderful healing properties. Look to them to nourish both your organs and your soul while making comforting meals and recipes taste even more delicious.

Here are six warming spices you should include in your recipes this winter, both for their delicious flavours and for their health benefits.

1. Cinnamon: Sweet and pungent, pleasant and warming. In Chinese medicine cinnamon is used to support the spleen and the pancreas, stomach, bladder, kidney, and liver meridians. Cinnamon aids in digestion and circulation, and helps to treat diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and menstrual cramps. This spice is also well known for its blood-stabilizing abilities.

2. Ginger: This popular root has a peppery and pungent taste. It is warming, stimulates digestion, and boosts circulation, respiration, and nervous system function. Ginger is useful for colds and fevers and alleviates motion sickness and nausea. It is also an anti-inflammatory and destroys intestinal parasites.

3. Turmeric: This yellow-coloured spice is the highest known source of beta carotene. It tones the spleen, pancreas, liver, and stomach, and strengthens the immune system and enhances digestion and helps to dissolve cysts and gallstones. Turmeric is antibacterial and may help diabetics control blood sugar.

4. Cardamom: This spice, common in Indian recipes, is sweet, pungent, and warming. It also acts upon the spleen, pancreas, stomach, lung, and kidney meridians. It aids in digestion, relaxes spasms, and cuts mucus, making it useful in lung tonics. It also eases coughs, breathlessness, burning urination, incontinence, and hemorrhoids.

5. Cloves: Cloves are bitter, spicy and warming. They tonify the kidney, spleen, pancreas, and stomach. Cloves also aid digestion, and treat nausea, hiccups, and vomiting.

6. Cumin: Similar in colour to turmeric, cumin is pungent and bitter. This super spice aids the digestive system, improves liver function, promotes assimilation of other foods, and relieves abdominal distention, gas, and colic, as well as migraines and headaches.

Coconut vegetable curry

1 Spanish onion
1-2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ cup coconut oil
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 medium cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
1 cup shelled peas, cooked
½ red cabbage
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
(vegetables can be roasted)

Curry blend:
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoons turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon fenugreek
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds, no pods
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger, grated

1. In a large skillet, sauté onions, with one teaspoon salt in oil until they begin to soften and brown. Add squash and cook ten minutes more. Add sweet potatoes and curry blend and continue sautéing another five minutes, stirring often.

2. Add cauliflower to the top of the squash and sweet potatoes, being careful no to stir the mixture. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes).

3. With a wooden spoon, smash some of the squash in the curry mixture against the sides of the skillet to thicken the sauce. Stir in the peas and season to taste with salt.

Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.  


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