Is This Super Spice The Next Turmeric?
Megan Fahey, MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian, Functional Medicine Nutritionist and Registered Yoga Teacher. She holds her Masters of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Bastyr University, where she was trained to artfully blend eastern and western healing modalities.
For years, we've been sprinkling turmeric on everything—and with good reason! From golden lattes to warming curries, turmeric tastes delicious and seems to make everything super cozy. It has been linked to reducing inflammation, fighting infections, and combatting depression. However, there is another healing spice you should start to include in your diet: cardamom. Not only does cardamom provide a sweet and deeply spicy flavor to everything you sprinkle it on, but it comes loaded with a ton of benefits to nourish your body.
Cardamom is native to southern India and is one of the oldest known spices. Medicinal healers have used cardamom as a popular medicinal plant in Sri Lanka and India for almost 5,000 years. Cardamom comes in many different varieties, but green cardamom is by far the most popular for both culinary and medicinal use. Cardamom is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains rich levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, sodium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, and other micronutrients. These vitamins and minerals work together to give cardamom numerous health benefits.
For years, people have been chewing on cardamom pods as a cure for dental diseases. Cineole, a major component of cardamom oil, contains an antiseptic that kills the bacteria that produce bad breath. Studies also show the essential oils in cardamom help fight the bacteria that can cause tooth and mouth decay.
If you’re looking to find a remedy to fix your gut, look no further than cardamom. Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic medicinal practice from India, instructs followers to use cardamom to treat ailments like stomach aches and nausea. The spice is especially powerful at promoting digestive balance, which makes sense because cardamom is a member of the ginger family, well-known for curing digestive issues.
Green cardamom, in particular, is full of antioxidants. Antioxidants help a body’s cells fight against free radicals. Free radicals can damage our cell’s DNA, causing disease. One study found that the antioxidants in cardamom inhibited the growth of non-melanoma skin cancer. Other studies concluded the essential oils in cardamom prevented the growth of tumors. In fact, the overwhelming analysis by a multitude of studies concludes that cardamom acts as a deterrent to cancer by encouraging a healthy immune response.
Studies show cardamom helps stimulate digestion and control gastrointestinal issues such as stomach cramps, acid reflux, and gas. A study in India found that the oils extracted from cardamom helped to alleviate gastrointestinal problems, such as ulcers and excess acid, in mice. And, if you have high blood pressure, cardamom has been demonstrative in alleviating the symptoms. According to a double-blind study, researchers instructed participants with Stage 1 hypertension to take 3 grams of cardamom powder over three months. The participants who took cardamom experienced a significant reduction in their mean blood pressure.
Are you convinced yet? If you do not know how to use cardamom, here are five great (and tasty!) ways to use it:
1. Incorporate some cardamom oil in your DIY skin care.
Cardamom has high levels of vitamins A, B, and C, which can drastically improve your skin care routine. These vitamins, studies have shown, reduced blood pressure and increase blood flow to your skin, which can help improve your complexion. It also contains high levels of antioxidants, which can help control blemishes. I like to use the essential oil to add to my favorite shampoos and body scrubs.
2. Brew some cardamom tea.
Sure, you can buy the dried-out bags of chai tea in the grocery store, but why not try to make your own! Combine cardamom pods with cinnamon, black peppercorns, and either black or green tea to make your own chai tea mix. Simply add hot water to brew and start sipping away.
3. Include it in your favorite curry recipe.
Some of my favorite curry recipes use cardamom to add a spicy element. It brings a depth to the flavor profile that makes the curry taste warming and delicious inside and out. This recipe is one of my very favorites, served with rice, naan, or even polenta!
4. Sprinkle on your oatmeal.
Cardamom has a delicious sweet and slightly spicy flavor that makes it the perfect accompaniment to add to your morning oats. In a medium saucepan, combine ½ cup rolled oats, 1 cup of dairy or nondairy milk, ⅛ teaspoon cardamom, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until the oats break down and the water mostly evaporates. Top with your favorite fruits or nuts and enjoy.
5. Add to your baked goods.
Cardamom is traditionally from South Asia, but the Vikings brought it to Scandinavia, making it a prevalent ingredient in baking recipes from northern Europe. I have found it makes a delicious addition to any quick bread or cake.
So go forth and try out this fantastic spice. I promise the wonderful benefits of cardamom will work their magic.
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