As we head into autumn it’s all about embracing the chunky knits, getting the wellies out and wrapping up to go outdoors, as well as cooking up healthy, warming soups and stews. As much as I love summer, crisp mornings, falling leaves and a new wave of seasonal fruit and vegetables gets me excited!
This time of year can also signal the start of the dreaded cold lingering around, which is why it’s even more important to eat well and exercise. Have you considered upping your intake of spices in your diet? They can be massively beneficial to your health as well as adding a boost of flavour to all kinds of dishes and creations.
Here’s a list of my top five spices, why they’re so good for you and how you can incorporate them into your cooking and baking. Let’s go!
Boasting one of the highest antioxidant values of any spice, cinnamon is known to help reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar levels, alleviate nausea and increase sensitivity to insulin, helping to aid burning fat. High in iron, calcium and manganese, daily consumption has even been reported to reduce risk factors of heart disease and diabetes, highlighting just how powerful this sweet spice is.
How to use it: I sprinkle cinnamon in pretty much EVERYTHING, I’m obsessed! It works well in stirred into coffee, a bowl of porridge or sprinkled on top of yogurt. Cinnamon is an ideal partner for bananas, apples, cherries, pumpkin or sweet potato, nut butters and cacao. Add it into healthy muffins, cakes, cookies, desserts, protein shakes…The opportunities are endless!
Recipe idea – Try my Raw Spiced Apple Pies recipe over here! http://www.spamellab.com/2016/09/raw-mini-spiced-apple-pies/
Another spice I’m addicted to, fresh ginger root doesn’t look the most appealing but when you consider its health properties, don’t be put off using it (ground is also fine). Like cinnamon it can help to relieve inflammation and any joint pain, plus it is a fantastic ailment for upset tummies, nausea and motion sickness, sore throats and colds. An all-round health booster, particularly at this time of year.
How to use it: A staple in many Asian sweet and savoury dishes, ginger can be sliced, grated, ground or crystallised and adds a satisfying kick to many recipes. Add a chunk of fresh ginger to hot water and a slice of lemon to kickstart your day and digestive system, or why not sprinkle it into healthy baking mixes to add an extra layer of flavour. Ginger works particularly well with plums, pears, apples and nuts like almonds and walnuts, plus on a savoury note it makes an ideal addition to curries, stir-fries and glazes.
Recipe idea – Whip up a batch of my Spiced Pumpkin & Peanut Butter Oat Squares! http://www.spamellab.com/2015/10/spiced-pumpkin-peanut-butter-oat-squares/
Well-known for its ability to relieve pain equal to over-the-counter remedies like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, turmeric also contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This bold, bright orange-yellow spice can also help to digest fats quickly and is a powerful antioxidant, making it even more of an essential to have in your kitchen cupboard.
How to use it: Don’t be afraid to use this spice in sweet creations; although it has a distinct flavour, combine it with other ingredients and it can add a pretty colour to desserts, baking and breakfasts. I like to add the spice to porridge and serve with figs, hazelnuts and maple syrup. Turmeric also works wonderfully in homemade, veggie-packed curries, stews and soups, plus it makes a tasty addition to dressings and sauces for warm salads.
Recipe idea – Give my Raw Fig, Pineapple & Mango Cheesecake Bites recipe a go! http://www.spamellab.com/2016/09/raw-fig-pineapple-mango-cheesecake-bites/
Rich in protective anti-inflammatory compounds that can help to lower your risk of cancer, nutmeg can also help to prevent cavities thanks to its antibacterial properties. The spice can soothe indigestion, detoxify the body, reduce insomnia, increase the immune system function and even help to improve blood circulation.
How to use it: Another spice to grind or grate and add to your coffee, nutmeg makes a delicious partner to milky-based sweet puddings or healthy bakes which include apples, sultanas and other dried fruits, pumpkin or sweet potatoes. Stirring in a sprinkle of nutmeg into a home-cooked chilli or while cooking spinach leaves is also an idea to try out.
Recipe idea – Add it into a coffee and hazelnut-infused porridge! http://www.spamellab.com/2015/11/coffee-hazelnut-fudgy-protein-porridge/
Last but not least an aromatic, exotic spice which is high in potassium, calcium and magnesium, cardamom contains disease-fighting, health-promoting properties. High in antioxidants, it can help to counteract digestive problems just like its relative, ginger, so use to combat bloating, nausea and heartburn. The spice helps the body to eliminate waste through the kidneys, making it a great way to detox your system.
How to use it: Adding a naturally sweet and fragrant aroma, spice up porridge, sauces, rice puddings, healthy bakes, cookies and stews. Cardamom makes an ideal accompaniment with apples, plums, pears, apricots, peaches, oranges and lemons, plus nuts like pistachios and walnuts. From a savoury side, carrots, rice and curries are also great sidekicks, along with lamb and chicken if you eat meat.
Recipe idea – Why not try my Blueberry, Peach & Cardamom Crumble Bake? http://www.spamellab.com/2016/09/blueberry-peach-cardamom-crumble-bake/
I hope this inspired you to get into the habit of including more spices in your cooking and baking, so next time you hit the spice aisle when you’re food shopping, get topping up!
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