spice up for delicious flavor and health!
Spices are an intrinsic part of yoga cooking, and most are known to possess therapeutic and healing properties.
These seven wonder spices will start you out and get you familiar with cooking yoga food with much ease…..What’s more, the exotic colors and heady aromas of spices will help you elevate any dish from the ordinary to a sublime feast for the senses of sight, smell, and taste.
So spice your meals to enhance your food with better taste and medicinal and healing properties without adding a single calorie! You are taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary and here's why:
• Spices and herbs maximize nutrient density. Herbs and spices contain antioxidants, minerals and multivitamins.
• Spices naturally increase your metabolism. Because spices are nutrient dense, they are thermogenic, which means they naturally increase your metabolism.
• Spices have real medicinal properties. Centuries old eastern medicine and now recent studies and scientific research both boast the healing benefits of spices.
#1 spice: Turmeric Powder
Turmeric is native to southern India and indonesia, where it has been harvested for more than 5,000 years. It has served an important role in many traditional cultures throughout the East, including being a revered member of the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. Much of its recent popularity in the west is owed to new research that has highlighted its therapeutic and healing properties.
A member of the ginger family, now cultivated widely in India, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, turmeric is used throughout southern Asia. It is the underground rhizome of a robust perennial plant that grows to a height of about three feet. Its flavor is peppery, warm and bitter while its fragrance is mild yet slightly reminiscent of ginger, to which it is related. Although available fresh, the rhizome is most often sold dried and ground to a powder. It adds a warm, mild aroma and distinctive deep yellow-orange color to foods. It has been long been used in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine for healing and as a condiment.
Nutritional Profile: Turmeric is an excellent source of both iron and manganese. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, and potassium.
Yoga/Holistic benefits: Turmeric is the wonder of all wonders - a heating spice for the body, turmeric contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is a strong antioxidant. Every teaspoon of it has medicinal value.
#2 spice: Coriander Powder
Spanish: Coriander/ Coriandrum sativum.
The use of coriander can be traced back to 5,000 BC, making it one of the world's oldest spices. It is native to the Mediterranean and has been known in Asian countries for thousands of years. Coriander was even cultivated in ancient Egypt and was used as a spice in both Greek and Roman cultures. The early physicians, including Hippocrates, used coriander for its medicinal properties, including as an aromatic stimulant.
Now cultivated in India, southern Europe as well as the Middle and Far East, and the Americas, Coriander is popular in cuisines worldwide. It grows from one to three feet tall and bears small clusters of tiny white or pink flowers. All parts of the plant are used for different cuisines in different ways. The fresh leaves (also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley) are used in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Spain, Portugal, and Mexico. On the Indian subcontinent, both the seeds and leaves are essential ingredients in curries.
Coriander seeds have a health-supporting reputation that is high on the list of the healing spices. In parts of Europe, coriander has traditionally been referred to as an "anti-diabetic" plant. In parts of India, it has traditionally been used for its anti-inflammatory properties. In the United States, coriander has recently been studied for its cholesterol-lowering effects.
Nutritional Profile: Coriander seeds contain an unusual array of phytonutrients. They are a very good source of dietary fiber and a good source of iron, magnesium and manganese.
Yoga/Holistic benefits: Coriander is known to be a powerful aid to digestion, has anti-bacterial properties and helps to prevent infection in wounds as well as aids in combating allergies.
#3 Spice: Red Chili Powder
Hindi: Mirchi/Lal Mirchi
Spanish: Chile en polvo
French: Piment en poudre
Italian: Polvere di Chili
Chili peppers are members of the capsicum family and they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. There are over two hundred different types of chilies grown in all parts of the tropics. Indigenous to central and South America and the West Indies, they are cultivated in India, Mexico, China, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand. Chilies have little aroma but vary in taste from mild to fiery hot. Chili peppers are usually red or green in color. Red chili, Cayenne, habañero, chipotle, jalapeño, anaheim and ancho are just some of the popular varieties available.
Red chili peppers are used in cuisines around the world and spice up many savory dishes. They enhance the bland flavor of staple foods in India and Southeast Asia, Mexico and South America. After being harvested, red chilies are dried in the sun and may be left whole, crushed into flakes, or ground into powder. Chili peppers are used as a food and seasoning and revered for their medicinal qualities. (*Do not touch the eyes or any cuts when handling red chilies.)
Nutritional Profile: Red chili peppers contain beta-carotene, are a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and dietary fiber. They are also a good source of iron and potassium.
Yoga/Holistic benefits: Red chili aids is weight loss, fights inflammation in the body and boosts the body’s immunity to fight diseases
NOTE: Red chili peppers in any form should be used in very small quantities for their yoga/health benefits and should not be consumed in excess.
#4 spice: Asafetida
French: Férule persique
Italian: Resina di gomma/Asafetida
Asafetida is the strong-smelling, even stinking, dried brownish resin extracted from the root of a plant (Ferula assafoetida) that grows wild from the eastern Mediterranean to central Asia. Its name is derived from the Persian aza (resin), and the Latin fetida (stinking)—so the name describes its most obvious attributes. Ferula are odorous plants that grow to heights of between six and twelve feet. They have soft-centered stems and finely toothed leaves and produce clusters of yellow flowers. When the stems and roots are cut, a milky liquid exudes, which then dries to form asafetida. It is used in ground powder form. In western and southern India, asafetida flavors pulses and vegetable dishes, pickles and sauces.
It should always be used sparingly. The pungent, bitter smell and taste disappears when cooked to leave behind an onionlike flavor.
Nutritional Profile: Asafetida contains minerals and vitamins content including calcium, phosphorus, iron, carotene, riboflavin and niacin.
Yoga/Holistic benefits: Asafetida has antispasmodic properties and aids in digestion and stomach disorders, coughs and respiratory problems. It is very widely used in ayurvedic (eastern holistic medicine) medicine preparations.
#5 spice: Cumin Seeds
Originally from the Nile Valley, cumin was commonly used as a culinary spice in ancient Egypt. These seeds were highly honored as a culinary seasoning in both ancient Greek and Roman kitchens. Cumin's popularity was partly due to the fact that its peppery flavor and both its medicinal and cosmetic properties were renown. While it still maintained an important role in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, the popularity of cumin in Europe declined after the Middle Ages.
Cumin is now widely grown in India, Middle-East, and Mediterranean countries. It needs a warm climate and thrives best in sandy, calcium-rich soil. The plant grows to a height of about a foot, and fruits appear after two months. Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds but are not the same although they both are oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color.
Although the small cumin seed looks rather unassuming, it packs a punch when it comes to flavor, which can be described as penetrating, nutty and peppery with slight citrus overtones. It can be used in both forms – tempering the seeds or dry-roasted ground powder.
** Roasted Cumin Powder: Add cumin seeds to a pan and dry roast on low flame until they turn dark brown. Usually it takes less than 5 minutes. Cool the seeds and use a mortar and pestle to grind to a powder (not too fine). Roasted cumin powder is rich brown in color, and the smell is quite pronounced—strong and heavy, with acrid or warm depths. The aroma and flavor persists for quite some time. Store in glass jar in a cool place. This powder stays fresh for over 6 months.
Nutritional Profile: Cumin seeds are a very good source of iron and a good source of manganese.
Yoga/Holistic benefits: Cumin is a cooling spice. It carries a reputation as the “seeds of good digestion”. They are known to help flush toxins out of the body and provide iron for energy and immune function.
#6 spice: Mustard Seeds
Mustard seeds can be traced to different areas of Europe and Asia with the white variety originating in the eastern Mediterranean regions, the brown from the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, and the black from the Middle East. Mustard seeds are mentioned in ancient Sanskrit writings dating back about 5,000 years ago. The physicians of both civilizations, including the father of medicine Hippocrates, used mustard seed medicinally. Mustard continues to be one of the most popular spices in the world today.
The mustard is a well-known oil seed. It is a small annual plant that thrives in temperate climates and grows up to a height of three feet. The fruit is a pod of about an inch long containing seeds. Dry mustard seeds are small, round, and darkish-brown or grayish-brown in color. The seeds are used to make a paste where the whole seeds are pounded and moistened with water to emit a pungent odor or as in yoga cooking - tempering it, which leaves a crunchy, warm, slightly bitter taste with no smell.
Nutritional Profile: Mustard seeds are a very good source of selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. They are also a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, dietary fiber, iron, calcium, protein, niacin and zinc.
Yoga/Holistic benefits: Mustard not only stimulates the appetite but also has digestive, laxative, antiseptic, and circulative stimulant properties. It is also known for its anti-inflammation properties
#7 spice: fennel seeds
Ever since ancient times, fennel has enjoyed a rich history. The ancient Greeks knew fennel by the name "marathron"; it grew in the field in which one of the great ancient battles was fought and which was subsequently named the Battle of Marathon after this revered plant. Fennel was revered by the Greeks and the Romans for its medicinal and culinary properties. Fennel has been grown throughout Europe, especially areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and the Near East since ancient times. Today, the United States, France, India and Russia are among the leading cultivators of fennel.
A perennial that grows tall, Fennel has an erect, bright green stem. The yellow flowers grow in dense, compact clusters. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. The fruits, which are about 1/2 inch long, are oval and ridged. The seed heads are harvested just before the seeds ripen. Fennel seeds are sweetish in taste, and work as fabulous flavor-enhancers along with all their healing properties. Fennel's aromatic taste is unique, strikingly reminiscent of licorice and anise, so much so that fennel is often mistakenly referred to as anise.
Nutritional Profile: Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a very good of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, folate, and molybdenum. In addition, fennel is a good source of niacin as well as the minerals phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper.
Yoga/Holistic benefits: Fennel seeds are a cooling spice (cools the body) and have a unique combination of nutrients that make it a powerful antioxidant. It is also believed to help cure stomach complaints and is extremely good for digestion. In India, eating a few fennel seeds after a meal is a common practice.
General Tips for Cooking with Spices
• Spices should be used in small quantities for the maximum therapeutic benefit.
• Most spices are potent, so a little goes a long way. You want to enhance the flavor of food, not overpower the dish.
• When blending several spices in a dish, experiment to find combinations with other spices and different foods that appeal to you. You’ll find your own favorite ways to use them. Be adventurous!
• Look for organic, non-irradiated spices. These can be found at any Indian grocery store or online.
• Spices can stay fresh up to a year - Store spices in airtight containers away from heat and light.