In the 1700s, spices were only available to the wealthy as most came from India and the Far East. Fast forward to today, and spices are available in most supermarkets worldwide, which has only increased their popularity.
While people all over the world use spices in their food preparation today, their use is most commonly associated with India, where a wide range of spices is used in meal preparation on a daily basis.
What are spices?
Spices are derived from the seeds, roots, fruit or bark and are used for flavoring, coloring and preserving food. Spices are different from herbs which are the stems, flowers or leaves of plants, and used as a garnish or for flavoring.
Why should you add spices to your food?
Here are a few reasons why:
They make your food taste better
If you want to impress friends or family with a flavorful meal, spices are the ideal cheat ingredients. They add a flavor punch to any meal, and it’s as simple as adding a few teaspoons of the right ones, in the right amounts, from your spice rack.
It’s good for your health
Spices have several important health-supporting properties: many are antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. The use of spices for medicine date back to around 9000BC.
They add nutritional value, without adding calories
Using spices adds complexity and depth to your meal without having to resort to added calories, sugar, salt or fat to improve the flavor profile of the food.
Spices help preserve food
Many spices have antimicrobial properties that help in the preservation of food. Before refrigeration was available, meats would be smoked and then rubbed with salt, spices and herbs to preserve them.
Which spices should you use?
The right combination of spices depends on the type of meal you’re preparing, but if you want to maximise the health benefits of your food, these spices can help:
- Ginger and turmeric, for their anti-inflammatory properties
- Cinnamon and cumin, to help with digestion and weight management
- Other common spices such as black pepper, cardamom, chilli pepper, coriander, cloves, curry leaves, and garlic
With so many spices to choose from, it’s easy to become overwhelmed if you are a novice in the kitchen. To get started, you can use specific spice combinations, such as garam marsala, Chinese five spice or adobo that are already mixed and ready to go. Just remember that spices have an intense flavor profile, so use them sparingly.
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