Salt and pepper aren’t the only things that can enhance the flavor of food. There are many flavorful spices that can make ordinary dishes taste extraordinarily good.
Most spices, across the world, are made by grinding the seed, fruit, root, bark or any other plant substance and is used to add flavor and color to food, or to preserve it.
Most spices have antimicrobial properties. Which is why they are more commonly used in places that have warmer weather and have more infectious diseases. These spices are also able to keep meat from spoiling.
Let’s take a look at 5 spices, from around the world that not only add to the flavor of dishes, but also have health benefits.
The South-Asian Curry Powder
This is a classic spice that originated in the South of India and happens to be popular across the world and for good reason. Along with mustard, it contains cumin, that helps in weight loss, fenugreek, that helps curb cravings, and turmeric that is associated with reducing inflammation.
It adds flavor to both slow-cooking as well as instant dishes.
It is usually added to chilies, soups, stews and curries and left to simmer. It also works well with shrimp, scallops and many other seafood varieties and doesn’t just add to the flavor and taste, but also lends a dash of color to the dishes.
The Lebanese Za’atar
This amazing spice popular in the middle-eastern regions is made with thyme, that happens to be a diuretic, sesame seeds that help fight bad cholesterol, marjoram that helps relieve pain and oregano that is known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
It can be used to make a delicious dip, by adding poppy seeds, garlic salt, dried shallots, smoked paprika and olive oil. This dip can be used on top of whole grain bread, bagels, or with hummus and pita chips.
The Indian Garam Masala
Garam masala is a combination of ground spices and is used extensively in Indian cuisine. It is used on its own but can also be used with other seasonings. The spices used in the garam masala are toasted to enhance the flavor and aroma, and then ground together. The word ‘garam’ means hot and ‘masala’ means spices, so garam masala, translated literally means ‘hot spices’. But unlike what the name suggests, it isn’t very spicy or hot.
Used in many curries, it is a blend of pepper, which helps lower blood pressure, cinnamon, that helps regulate blood sugar, fennel seeds that aid in digestion, cloves that help reduce flatulence, star anise that helps prevent bloating, and nutmeg that helps with relaxation and improving memory.
Garam masala is versatile and can be used to add flavor and aroma to many dishes. On the one hand it can be added to pastries and pies to give them a slightly spicy taste, and on the other hand it can be used to add flavor to not just curries, but also corn on the cob, mashed potatoes or rubbed on to proteins and kebabs before grilling.
The North-African Harissa
This North-African paste contains smoked chili peppers, that help with metabolism, and contain Vitamins A, C and B6, that help with the eyes, skin and the immune system. It contains lycopene, that helps fight cancer, from the peppers that give it the red color. It also contains caraway seeds that have antihistamine properties and tomatoes, coriander, rose petals and mint, that are iron-packed.
It can be used as a marinade with vegetables before you roast them and also rubbed onto pork and chicken.
The Japanese Shichimi Togarashi
This spice is made with nori, which is rich in iodine and Vitamin B, cayenne that helps in detoxifying, black and white sesame seeds that help with the formation of bones, garlic and citrus that help fight illnesses. This can work as a great substitute for salt that can be added to many dishes like eggs, tuna salad and with oven-baked fries to name a few.