I'm a bit of a spice-a-holic, so whenever I can correct or maintain my health with spices, I reach for my alternative medicine cabinet in the kitchen.
As women, our bodies are perpetually going through changes from decade to decade. A lot of spices have many different health benefits associated with them, but here are the five I would choose time and again for women’s health.
As North America’s most used spice (after salt and pepper), you might already be using cinnamon, but are you using the right one?
Ceylon cinnamon (grown in Southern India and Sri Lanka) has less of a potentially toxic element called coumarin compared with cinnamon from other Asian countries. Ceylon cinnamon is better for you and actually tastes better, too!
You can identify Ceylon cinnamon by the label; it should list it as either Ceylon or True cinnamon. You can also tell by the color, which is lighter and dustier than other types, and by the taste, which is sweeter than Cassia cinnamon.
The warming, circulation-improving effects of this gorgeous spice are commonly used for hormone balancing and regulating our body temperature. All you have to do is add it to your morning coffee, tea, oatmeal or smoothie and you’re already starting off the day well.
Turmeric is another spice with well-documented healing benefits. Known as a powerful anti-inflammatory, this spice works wonders at keeping inflammation down in all parts of our bodies.
It's also known to increase bile production in the liver, the most important organ for detoxifying and balancing our body. My simple tip for turmeric: Use one with a high curcumin content (organic if possible), combine it with heated coconut oil or ghee and always combine with black pepper to increase absorption. (Want more ideas for how to use turmeric? Start here.)
3. Red chili
Red chili (or cayenne) is a great metabolism booster. As we age, our metabolism slows down, so we need all the boosts we can get. Add a pinch to your smoothies, salads, soups, marinades, grain dishes — the possibilities are endless.
This traditional Indian spice (pronounced ASA-fe-ti-da), also known as hing, is often used when cooking legumes or beans to alleviate gas production in the digestive system.
It smells like sulphur but tastes like a cross between fenugreek and mild curry powder and works wonders on the belly! Asafoetida expedites transition of food through the gut and can prevent bloating.
Whether you're gluten intolerant or not, if you're working on improving your digestion, it's best to use asafoetida that's gluten-free. Because asafoetida is expensive, it can often be mixed with other ingredients, so make sure you read the label. Add only a quarter teaspoon to soups, curries and any legume or bean dish.
You can buy asafoetida online at various websites.
5. Nigella Seeds
Nigella seeds contain a plant-based antioxidant (thymoquinone). They have a mild nutty taste and are super easy to use on absolutely everything. I add them to my salad dressings, soups and stews, on roasted veggies, and as a pretty garnish for almost anything.
You can buy nigella seeds online at various websites.