For those of us who are accustomed to the richness of flavour, vibrancy of colour and the delicacy of aroma of the food we eat, it is impossible to imagine cooking without spices. Cooking with spices is ‘the way’ to serve delicious food. The availability of spices in the market freely today enhances our enthusiasm of trying different foods and flavours. Spices have played a major role in the development of Civilization, and it is said that wars were fought and lands explored and colonised in an attempt to find new ways of obtaining spices from the Orient and gaining control of established routes. Spices enrich our food and give a distinctive flavour to them. The spices are also very healthy, and aid in digestion too. They also make the food last longer.
Spices are great in flavour and yet low in sodium and fat. All spices used in cuisines carry some or the other dietary as well as medicinal properties. Spices add to the creativity in cooking. Spices are easy to store and are not affected by bacterial contamination and they have a longer shelf life. One can mix them as per their individual tastes. To enjoy long-term health benefits, spices must be included in one’s diet to enhance the flavour of food and make it more interesting. Each spice has its own merit and enhances the flavour and aroma to the dish it is added to. Spices are generally dried leaves, roots, bark, nuts or fruit of a plant. Apart from the seasoning the dishes, spices add medicinal and preservative value to the dish they are added to. The Ayurveda practice of medicine lists several spices for treatment of various ailments. Spices and herbs are incorporated into our foods and beverages for better health.
The dish is well cooked when the spices blend properly in its gravy or even when sprinkled on dry dishes for seasoning. Spices maintain and enhance the character of the dish. Spices like asafoetida counteract flatulence and colic, and are added to lentils to help digest them. Turmeric is used for burns, stomach ulcers and for glow of the skin. Indians use fragrant fennel, cardamom or cloves and mix them with sugar for helping to digest the food. Not only are they great mouth fresheners, but they aid digestion, prevent heartburn. Some spices help to break up food particles and enable the digestive process to function effectively. Adding spices in our daily cooking not only keeps us healthy but also adds taste to the food we eat. Some spices are believed to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in our blood. Certain spices also prevent skin diseases. Turmeric is included in many lotions and creams because it adds shine to the face and prevents pimples. Coriander is a very rich source of iron, manganese and magnesium. Cinnamon reduces inflammation and is also good for the heart. Cumin is also a vital ingredient in curry preparation for its anti-carminative properties. It is well known for its cooling effect on the body. All the wonderful and exotic spices make cooking a pleasure.