I love to cook and eat spicy food! My plate is an ever spinning “Lazy-Susan” of cuisine since I rotate between Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Mexican, Korean and Italian. Oh--and chili!!
The spiciest yet most flavorful hot sauce I’ve ever tasted was from a tiny restaurant in San José, Costa Rica. The owner grew over 100 types of peppers in his back yard, including Ghost peppers. He didn’t usually sell his special hot sauce, so the only container he had on hand was an empty Fanta soda bottle, which he filled to the brim for me. Our adventure took us all over Costa Rica and by the time we tried to fly home, the hot sauce had eaten through the plastic bottle!
Southern Indian food is one of my all-time favorite good eats! My number one go-to restaurant in Nashville, TN is The Woodlands. It is a vegetarian restaurant but they will cater to vegan and gluten intolerant diners as well. Their lunch buffet is a delectable feast of Sambal Soup, Coconut Chutney, Coconut Rice, Dosas, Chana Masala, Kofta, Samosas, Paneer, Carrot Halwa and more. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
I had a few guinea pigs (I mean friends) over the other night so I could try my hand at cooking some of my favorite Indian dishes. Not only is Indian Cuisine delicious, it contains several spices with myriad healing properties. Here are a few:
Cinnamon (Ceylon variety) is laden with highly potent polyphenol antioxidants, which protect the body from damaging free radicals. It also has anti-inflammatory properties (it can help the body fight infections and repair tissue damage). It may cut the risk of heart disease since it can reduce LDLs and triglycerides while HDL cholesterol remains stable. It can improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin and lowers blood sugar levels. Two compounds found in Ceylon Cinnamon reduce the buildup of a protein called tau in the brain leading to Alzheimer’s. In animal trials, it has been found to protect neurons, normalize neurotransmitter levels and improve motor function for Parkinson’s. It may also be protective against cancer since it reduces the growth of cancer cells, the formation of blood vessels in tumors as well as causing cancer cell death. Cinnamaldehyde has been shown to effectively treat infections caused by fungi. It can also inhibit the growth of Listeria and Salmonella. Antimicrobial effects prevent tooth decay and reduce bad breath. A laboratory study revealed Cinnamon (Cassia variety) to be the most effective treatment of 69 medicinal plants in the fight against HIV-1.
Cumin contains Cuminaldehyde, which activates our salivary glands to begin the first stage of digestion. Thymol stimulates glands that secrete acids, bile and enzymes to completely digest foods in the stomach and intestines. When mixed with hot water, the essential oils, magnesium and sodium content in cumin promotes digestion and relieves stomachaches. Cumin’s dietary fiber, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties act as a laxative in powdered form. It can heal wounds in the digestive and excretory system, which means cumin can heal the cause of hemorrhoids. It may help in the fight against diabetes by reducing the chances of hypoglycemia and glucosuria (too much glucose in urine). Cumin is a stimulant and relaxant simultaneously and can help with insomnia as well as reduce stress due to its tranquilizing properties. The Vitamin E content in cumin helps keep skin resilient and prevents wrinkles, age spots and boils. For those suffering from Bronchitis, Asthma, Respiratory Disorders or a Common Cold, the disinfectants of cumin’s essential oils and caffeine content act as an anti-congestive and expectorant (loosens phlegm so you can cough, sneeze or spit out). Since it’s rich in iron, cumin is helpful to lactating mothers and those with anemia. The amount of iron in cumin promotes hemoglobin production and the increase of blood-flow means better cognitive function to help prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and signs of aging. The high Vitamin A and C content also make cumin a great immune system booster and cancer preventative.
Turmeric is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial used in disinfecting cuts and burns. When combined with cauliflower, turmeric has been known to prevent prostate cancer or the growth of existing prostate cancer as well as prevent breast cancer from spreading to the lungs (in mice). It may prevent melanoma and cause melanoma cells to commit suicide. It reduces the risk of childhood leukemia, may prevent metastases from occurring in different forms of cancer, is a natural liver detoxifier, may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by removing plaque buildup in the brain (India’s Alzheimer’s rate is less than ¼ of the US’s in people aged from 70 to 79) and the progression of Multiple Sclerosis (in mice). It works as well as any anti-inflammatory drug without the side effects so it makes a good arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis treatment as well a natural painkiller. It has been found to delay liver damage, which leads to cirrhosis. It also reduces carcinogenic compounds formed by barbecuing or frying meats. Mix turmeric with castor oil for a skin detoxifier. I’m gonna make a batch tonight for my husband’s last run-in with poison oak!
Ginger is in the Zingiberaceae family so it is closely related to turmeric, cardamom and galangal. It contains the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compound, gingerol in the rhizome of the plant (the root). It is helpful when dealing with morning sickness, nausea, chemotherapy related nausea and motion sickness. The anti-inflammatory properties help heal exercise-induced muscle pain. It can also help with Osteoarthritis, lower blood sugars, reduce risk of heart disease, dyspepsia (chronic indigestion), and menstrual cramps. Gingerol is effective against bacteria responsible for gingivitis, periodontis and the RSV virus, a common cause of respiratory infections. It has also been found to protect against age-related damage to the brain.
Cayenne anti-irritant properties help with ulcers, sore throats, stomachaches, coughing and diarrhea. It aids breaking down congested mucus with respiratory infections or the flu. It may also help relieve allergies. Cayenne stimulates the digestive tract, increasing the flow of enzymes and gastric juices. It stimulates peristaltic motion, which aids digestive assimilation and elimination of waste. Cayenne increases the pulse of our lymphatic and digestive rhythms and helps us sweat which is part of the detoxifying process. High in capsicain, cayenne can act as a joint pain reliever and lung or liver tumor preventative. It’s a metabolic booster, aiding the body’s caloric efficiency and acts as an appetite reducer. Cayenne also normalizes blood pressure, can help reduce atherosclerosis and prevent factors which lead to the formation of blood clots.
Sesame Seeds are full of zinc, which is responsible for collagen production and skin elasticity, repairs damaged tissue and prevents skin related disorders. Zinc also boosts bone density and overall bone health. Sesame seeds offer 4.7 grams of protein per ounce, making them a great source of protein for a vegetarian diet. Sesame is used in “oil-pulling” to remove dental plaque by swishing and boosting oral health. Due to its high magnesium content, sesame seeds (oil form) have been shown to combat diabetes by lowering BP and plasma glucose in hypertensive diabetics. It has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and boost heart health by preventing atherosclerotic lesions due to sesamol, which harnesses anti-atherogenic properties. Some studies have shown that it may also prevent DNA damage from radiation exposure. Magnesium and phytate content in sesame seeds help prevent cancer and airway spasms for asthmatics.
Fennel contains iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K – all which contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength as well as reduce blood pressure. Fennel’s fiber, potassium, folate, B-6 and phytonutrient content support heart health and digestion. Selenium is a mineral not found in most fruits and vegetables but it is present in fennel. Selenium supports liver enzyme function, reduces tumors and inflammation. Fiber in fennel prevents colo-rectal cancer and the folate in fennel is important for DNA synthesis and repair. Fennel is a source of vitamin B-6, which breaks down carbohydrates and proteins into glucose and amino acids thereby regulating energy metabolism within the body. Fiber helps with weight management by reducing appetite with bulking agents. Estrogen is found naturally in fennel and is crucial in regulating the female reproductive cycle and fertility. High in Vitamin C, fennel acts as a guardian against free radicals from sun exposure, smoke and pollution and also promotes collagen growth which smoothes wrinkles and improves skin texture.
I nervously cracked open Vegan Richa’s, Indian Kitchen cookbook, rolled up my sleeves and wiped the sweat from my brow. Luckily, Richa Hingle’s recipes are easy to navigate so in a little over an hour I’d made Mashed Potato Fritters (a Vegan, Gluten Free version of Samosas), Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry), Kadhai Vegan Paneer Palak (Vegan Paneer and Spinach in Tomato Sauce) and Jasmine Rice. Note: Make sure you soak the almonds and cashews for 24 hours before you make the Vegan Paneer.
I wanted to make Vegan Kalakand (Fudgy Cardamom Squares) for dessert, but unfortunately that experiment will have to wait for our next dinner party. I ran out of time because I had to stuff our messiness into the closet before guests arrived!
I’m a big fan of Richa’s blog so check out her website at www.veganricha.com or purchase her cookbook from www.VeganHeritagePress.com.
Life is too precious to waste, so MAKE IT SPICY!!!
P.S. In honor of all things wonderfully natural, I would to share the video of my current UK single, “STONE BUTTERFLY” with you. Fly on Little Wing!
*** I receive no endorsements for any products mentioned in my blog. These are items, experiences or recipes my family enjoys and I only wish to share our joy with you. Also, the health benefits of spices listed above are in no way meant as a replacement for medical treatment. ***