Getting to know your spices

This article is authored by Bonny Shah. Bonny is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator.

Known as the land of spices, it remains unsaid how important spices are in every Indian kitchen to give that dash of flavour and taste and to turn your bland curries and vegetable preparations into finger-licking tasty meals. The delicious aroma, great taste, unique color, and amazing flavor; a result of rich spices is what makes the Indian cuisine like no other. Spices are not only an easy way to take any dish to the next level but also the secret of bringing the other ingredients to life.

These spices not only excite your taste buds but also contain various health benefits and nutritional values. They have been an integral part of our food since centuries, and even today remain equally relevant, if not more.

Can you imagine eating food without any spices? No red chilli powder, no turmeric, no masala? Even though most people can't remember majority of the names of spices, they are still important in every dish cooked at our homes and hence is essential to know about their taste and benefits.

Although the Indian cuisine is vast and every state or region has their own distinguished taste and ways of preparation, there are a few common spices used that help create a plethora of dishes across the country namely Red Chilli Powder, Turmeric Powder, Jeera Powder, Coriander Powder and Garam Masala. These versatile spices give you the ability to cook whatever flavour you are craving. These are definitely must-haves in your Ghar Ki Masala Daani.

  1. Red Chilli Powder

Red Chilli Powder used in the preparation of most Indian dishes is made by the process of drying and pulverizing red chillies. No Indian delicacies are said to be complete without a little sprinkling of this spicy flavour note giving it a classic vibrant red colour and having a distinct taste and aroma. However, you might not know that, but there are many health benefits of having red chillies as a part of your daily food. Capsaicin, a primary bioactive plant compound in red chillies, is responsible for its taste and health benefits. It is also a fabulous source of dietary fibre, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, potassium, manganese and vitamins A, C, K & B6 (USDA data). Therefore, be it to add a zing to our food or our well-being, red chillies have star power for sure.

Try the Tata Sampann Chilli Powder with Natural Oils, which is made of carefully handpicked, naturally sundried, scientifically processed whole chillies from Guntur. With its natural oils intact, this red chilli powder retains its health benefits and the authentic taste of the spice.

  1. Turmeric Powder

Also known as Powdered Gold, Turmeric Powder is undoubtedly one of the most used and loved spices in not only the country but around the world. From massaging it on the skin of the bride and groom at the haldi ceremony to attain that unmatchable glow to using it in our everyday meals to impart that colour, aroma and flavour; Turmeric Powder is a versatile spice. The pungent flavour and bright yellow-orange color makes it a powerful addition to any meal. Turmeric is an offshoot of the ginger family, known for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. As it contains antioxidant properties, curcumin has been known to eliminate free radicals. In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is a well-documented treatment for various respiratory conditions, runny nose, cough and sinusitis.

  1. Jeera Powder

Cumin powder is a fundamental spice in most Indian households and many parts of the world as well. Cumin’s earthy flavour and warm aroma is what make it so distinct. It is a combination of both bitterness and sweetness, which is what makes it a versatile spice for many dishes. Several snacks and drinks can elevate their taste with a pinch of jeera powder, not to mention they even make your everyday curries and vegetables tastier. Jeera Powder is rich in minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, and manganese and contains some omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. But the star quality of cumin powder is as a source of antioxidants compounds that can reduce inflammation and prevent oxidative damage in your body.

  1. Coriander Powder

Coriander powder is one spice without which defines the taste of Indian food. Coriander powder is the ground form of coriander seeds and is one of the customary spices that is used in many savoury dishes. It adds a mild earthy and peppery flavour and aroma to sweet and savoury food preparations. Apart from just being an aromatic spice, coriander seed has several curative and cooling properties. Its various health benefits include pain relief, lowering blood sugar levels, combating food poisoning and aiding digestion. Incorporating coriander in your everyday food is a way of adding goodness to your dishes and keeping yourself healthy. But it is important to ensure that you use pure dhania powder with its essential oils intact. This preserves the nutrient value of the spice.

  1. Garam Masala

Garam masala is an Indian spice blend that is very commonly used in Indian cooking. It includes variety of authentic spices which get toasted and then cooled down before they grind it. The warmth in the flavour is said to also increase metabolism. It’s warm, floral, hint of sweetness from mace flower and cinnamon, and mild heat from dry red chili and black pepper is what make it a flavour-packed spice mix. Garam masala is called so because the spices contain heat which keeps the body temperature warm in harsh winters. The recipe of this masala varies in terms of level of spice based on state and region. Garam Masala has an Ayurvedic significance as well. It is known for bringing six tastes together, popularly known as ‘rasas’ in Ayurveda. This mix of spices improves digestion and reduces toxins. Garam masala also boosts immunity.

Who knew the job of your everyday kitchen spices was not just to make your meals flavourful and aromatic but they were also secretly helping your body in various ways. Always use pure and authentic spices to enjoy these benefits and stay healthy.

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Spices