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The Science Behind Indian Spices - Why The Variety?

Indian kitchens are filled with such a beautiful array of colourful, aromatic, and diverse spices and they complement each other in a sumptuous way to create the most delectable foods, whether they be savoury or sweet. Even a simple glass of chaas has a minimum of three spices and herbs!

You must've wondered why so many masalas go into Indian cooking and whether a dish requires all of them. I have too. Well, I dived into this question and as it turns out, these spices not only elevate food but have lots of science behind their usage! Each spice has significant health benefits, right from black pepper to saunf (fennel seeds).

Let's have an individual look at a few spices that we commonly use.

1) Black Pepper (Kaali Mirch)

Black peppercorns

Black Pepper is rich in an alkaloid compound called piperine which has superb antioxidant properties and is known to actively fight inflammation. Black Pepper is also widely used in Ayurveda. It can also help fight throat congestion and a blocked nose. 



2) Cinnamon (Dalchini)

Cinnamon sticks piled up

Cinnamon is used in both savoury recipes and desserts. It contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde which makes the spice antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol lowering. Cinnamon also lowers blood sugar levels and helps fight bacterial and fungal infections. 
The best part is that cinnamon is medicinal, cheap, and available everywhere. 

Make sure you get Ceylon cinnamon or stick to small doses if using the Cassia variety. 



3) Turmeric (Haldi)

A person adding turmeric to a bowl of flour

Turmeric fights inflammation and keeps blood sugar levels in check as well. It supports the integrity of the gut lining. It's also good for soothing the throat and is great for the skin! You can add it to face packs or body scrubs to improve overall skin health.



4) Cumin (Jeera)

Cumin seeds


A study shows that cumin is a powerful 
anti-carcinogen plant. The spice also aids digestion, curbs blood sugar levels, and is known to fight bacteria that attack the immune system. 



5) Cardamom (Elaichi)

Cardamom

The diuretic properties of elaichi are have been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure levels in a study conducted on 20 adults. Ancient remedies used cardamom to treat bad breath and improve oral health. Cardamom extracts and cardamom oil are antibacterial. 



6) Clove (Laung)

Cloves piled up on each other


Cloves contain fibre and important nutrients like vitamin K and manganese. Manganese maintains brain function and the strength of bones. They are full of antioxidants and are a great source of beat-carotene. They're also effective in relieving toothaches and maintaining gum health to a certain extent. 



7) Saffron (Kesar)

Saffron


Kesar is the most luxurious spice in the world and has a volley of health benefits as well. It is a powerful antioxidant and is believed to reduce PMS symptoms. Research has shown that it may help improve memory, mood, and protect your brain from oxidative stress. 



8) Fennel Seeds (Saunf)

Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds are packed with fibre, a tablespoon gives you about 2 grams of fibre. Adding fibre to your diet helps relieve constipation and other digestive problems like gas, which is why saunf is generally chewed on after meals. It also acts as a mouth freshener. Fennel seeds also have antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. 


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