Indian Cooking Spices and your Health

Can a meal  with  no meat satisfy all  your craving  and  desires?

Image result for photo of a indian vegetarian meal

You bet!

Anyone who has ever tried  being a vegetarian, a vegan or even  just  wanted to reduce animal meats and eat a more balanced diet that included more  vegetables has been faced with the blah factor. Guess what? It doesn’t  have  to  be  that  way!

What is the answer? SPICES

Five Indian food spices that are good for your health…

  • Turmeric. This bright orange spice is not only great for adding color to your dish, but the health benefits are immense. …
  • Black Pepper. Black pepper is not a spice that many people associate with Indian cooking. …
  • Cardamom. …
  • Clove. …
  • Cinnamon.


What do these spices do for you?  Here is a a brief synopsis of the known health benefits of these spices.


Tumeric is by far the one most people think of being a major health benefit.  It is used in the curries that we so crave when we talk about Indian or Asian Foods.  Health food stores have been selling Tumeric supplements for years.  A bottle of 100 capsules can run you easily $30 dollars US or more.

This is a definition that Wikipedia has for Tumeric.


Turmeric (Curcuma longa) (/ˈtɜːrmərɪk/)[2] is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial flowering plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.[3] It is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and requires temperatures between 20 and 30 °C (68 and 86 °F) and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive. Plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes and propagated from some of those rhizomes in the following season.

When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled in water for about 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep-orange-yellow powder[4] commonly used as a coloring and flavoring agent in many Asian cuisines, especially for curries, as well as for dyeing. Turmeric powder has a warm, bitter, pepper-like flavor and earthy, mustard-like aroma.[5][6]

Although long used in Ayurvedic medicine, no high-quality clinical evidence exists for use of turmeric or its main constituent, curcumin, as a therapy.[7][8]

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What is a Curcuminoid ? Here is a scientific breakdown by wikipedia.

A curcuminoid is a linear diarylheptanoid, with molecules such as curcumin or derivatives of curcumin with different chemical groups that have been formed to increase solubility of curcumins and make them suitable for drug formulation. These compounds are natural phenols and produce a pronounced yellow color.

Many curcumin characters are unsuitable for use as drugs by themselves. They have poor solubility in water at acidic and physiological pH, and also hydrolyze rapidly in alkaline solutions. Therefore, curcumin derivatives are synthesized to increase their solubility and hence bioavailability.[1] Curcuminoids are soluble in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), acetone and ethanol,[2] but are poorly soluble in lipids. It is possible to increase curcuminoid solubility in aqueous phase with surfactants or co-surfactants.[3] Curcumin derivatives have been synthesized that could possibly be more potent than curcumin itself. Most common derivatives have different substituents on the phenyl groups.[2] There is an increasing demand of late for demethoxycurcumin and other curcuminoids because of their recently discovered biological activity.[3]

The last sentence of that paragraph says it all.  “…AN INCREASING DEMAND OF LATE FOR…BECAUSE OF THEIR RECENTLY DISCOVERED BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITY…” While the biological activity can be either good or bad, in this case it is mostly good.

Image result for picture of turmeric powder


Benefits of Tumeric – From the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

  • Claims that curcuminoids found in turmeric help to reduce inflammation aren’t supported by strong studies.
  • Preliminary studies found that curcuminoids may
    • Reduce the number of heart attacks bypass patients had after surgery
    • Control knee pain from osteoarthritis as well as ibuprofen did
    • Reduce the skin irritation that often occurs after radiation treatments for breast cancer.
  • Other preliminary studies in people have looked at curcumin, a type of curcuminoid, for different cancers, colitis, diabetes, surgical pain, and as an ingredient in mouthwash for reducing plaque.
  • The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has studied curcumin for Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and prostate and colon cancer.

Although they do start with a disclaimer that none of the claims are supported by strong studies, I like what I read about the preliminary studies.   Tumeric has been used as a folk medicine and food ingredient for centuries.  Maybe it’s about time to do some more in depth studies and make the medicinal effects known to all.

Below are the other common Indian food spices known to have beneficial effects.

Black Pepper

Black pepper aids in digestion, congestion, an upset stomach and can also help to stop the bleeding on a cut when applied topically.

Image result for photo of peppercorns


Cardamon can be used to counteract a number of digestive problems including, bloating, gas, heartburn and loss of appetite—it can even treat bad breath and is commonly used as an after-meal breath freshener. In preliminary studies it has also been shown to have cancer fighting effects against non-melanoma skin cancer. However, more research is needed before cardamom can be recommended for cancer prevention.

Image result for photo of cardamom


The little bud resembles a tiny flower used not only in Indian cuisines, but in African and Middle Eastern as well. In cosmetic uses, close is found in toothpastes, soaps, and perfumes. Indian healers have used the oils, flower buds,and stems from the plant in an array of medicine. For example, clove is possibly effective in helping with premature ejaculation when applied directly to the penis. Clove oil can also help with pain when applied topically, and can help with stomach issues like gas, diarrhea, nausea and upset stomach.

Image result for photo of cloves


This bark-like spice originates from Sri Lanka, and was originally harvested by Arabian traders from a tall tree and ground to create the powder form of cinnamon. According to the Mayo Clinic, research suggest that cinnamon might help to regulate treatment for people with type 2 diabetes. The theory is that cinnamon increases insulin action.

Image result for photo of cinnamon

For more information check out Medical Daily for more in depth information.

Try this Recipe taken from PINCH OF YUM!

Thai Yellow Chicken Curry with Potatoes - the ultimate comfort food that is surprisingly easy to make! So perfectly savory with just a teensy bit of sweet. |


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • half a yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup yellow curry paste
  • 10 baby golden yukon potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut cream (it’s like coconut milk, but even more luscious)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
  • cilantro and rice for serving


Live long and eat well!!!!


About rsingram

Environmental Specialist, Disaster Reservist, Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control, Para-Archeologist
This entry was posted in Basic food preparation, India, Indian Food Spices, Spices for Health, Vegetarians and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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