Use of Spices in Processed Food

Every day we all eat processed food in one form or the other. Any change brought about in a food on purpose before we eat it is food processing.

What is processed Food?

Processed food is not just canned and frozen food but also

  • Cut vegetables, roasted nuts etc.
  • Foods reinforced with nutrients like vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, and fibre
  • Foods with claims of being healthy and nutritious
  • Packed foods like cereals, meat and poultry, baby foods etc.
  • Canned foods like beans, tomatoes, tuna, fruits -processed to maintain their nutritional values and freshness.
  • Foods with added ingredients like spices, oils, colours, sweeteners
  • Ready to eat foods like wafers, meat etc. frozen foods, bread, fruit juices etc.

Processed foods stay for a longer time and are more user friendly. Harmful bacteria and micro-organisms are also killed. They can be carried for long distances without them getting spoilt. Occurrence of food borne diseases is reduced due to processing of food.

Spices in Processed food

Spices in Processed food

Spices add flavour, colour and aroma to food. Food becomes more attractive and tasty as spices add a unique taste. These are used as natural food preservatives.  Mixtures of spices have been developed to add flavor to processed food.

  • Processed Meat –  Pepper is added to meat for its flavour and also to maintain its quality. In fresh sausages spices like pepper, capsicum, nutmeg, ginger, and herbs  are added. In pickled meat and dry sausages coriander and cardamom is also used.

Cardamom, chilli, pepper, paprika, nutmeg, mace, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cumin powder, are some of the spices used in processed meat.

  • Soups, Sauces, Chutneys, Dressings – The demand for processed soups, chutneys, sauces, etc. is increasing day by day. Spices like celery, pepper, capsicum, onion and garlic are used to add flavour and taste to these. For barbeque sauces, coriander and ginger extracts are used.
  • Fish and Vegetables – A wide range of spices and herbs are used to make pickled and brined vegetables and fish.
  • Cheese and Dairy products – Spices like pepper and cumin are used to add different taste and flavours to a variety of cheese and dairy products like pepper cheese spread. Pepper and cumin are added to packed buttermilk too.
  • Baked Products – Cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger etc. are some of the spices used in baked products available in the market today.
  • Confectionary – Use of spices in confectionary is unusual. But cardamom oil used in chocolates, toffees and other confectionary items has found a new market for these products.
  • Snacks – Pepper, chilli powder, celery, turmeric powder, masala mix, cumin, coriander etc. are some of the spices that add flavour and taste to the yummy snacks we love to eat.
  • Beverages – Ginger oil is used to make ginger beer. Many other spices like cloves, cardamom, cumin etc. are used to make soft beverages.

Today a wide variety of food is available to people across the country and in other countries as well due to processing of food and spices help to add different flavours, tastes and colours to these processed foods.

Use of Spices in Chinese Cooking

The Chinese for ages have had a tradition of using spices and herbs to enhance the flavour of their cuisine while providing nutritional benefits. These days you can find many Chinese spices and herbs at your local supermarkets and some specialty food stores. While creating Chinese dishes, you can’t go wrong if you use the following spices and herbs.

Spices used in Chinese food

Spices used in Chinese cooking

Star anise

Star anise as the name suggests is in the shape of a star, which is the seed pod of a tree found in southwest China and Japan that grows all year long. This spice is dark brown in colour and has 8 segments.

Star anise can be found in most Asian supermarkets in whole and ground form, even if you are in a western country. This spice needs to be stored in a sealed container that is placed in a cool dark place. If stored properly, this spice can survive for several months.

Most Chinese culinary creations need star anise to spice up the dish. You need to use the whole spice while cooking, but it can’t be consumed, hence you need to discard the spice before serving the dish.

Fennel seed

Fennel seeds come from the Fennel plant, which is used as a herbal medicine and also acts as a spice in Chinese cooking. It adds taste and a fragrant odor.

The freshness of the spice depends on the colour of the seeds. Bright green colour is the best quality. The darker the colour of the seeds the older they are. These seeds need to be stored in an air tight glass container in order to preserve its freshness and can last for about 6 months.

Toast or heat the seeds in a frying pan for a minute before adding them to your dish.

Spices used in Chinese cooking

Cloves

Cloves add an extremely strong, sweet and pungent aroma to the Chinese dish. It can be found in whole, ground or oil form. Cloves are the dried and unopened flower buds of the myrtle tree that adds to the spiciness of the dish if used in oil form.

Cloves can be found in most supermarkets as it is a very popular spice that needs to be stored in an air tight container and kept in a cool dark place. Cloves can be used in whole or ground form while cooking.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a spice that is found from the inner bark of the Cinnamon tree. The bark of this tree is peeled, dried and rolled into quills. This dried spice gives a highly fragrant aroma and sweet taste to the dish. Cinnamon is a very important spice for Chinese cooking and can be found in ground and stick form.

This spice can be found in any local supermarket and should be stored in an airtight glass container and kept in a cool dark place.

White Peppercorns

White pepper powder originated from white peppercorn. It adds a spicy taste to the food and is most commonly used in soups. It helps reduce headaches and helps with digestive problems.

White peppercorn is very popular amongst the Chinese. It can be stored for many years if kept in a cool dry place. Smash the peppercorn with a spoon to bring out the aromatic taste.

The Most Popular Herbs and Tasty Spices Used In Mexican Food

The Exotic Mexican cuisine that we are so fond of today evolved over time. In the sixteenth century when Europeans came to Mexico they brought along with them range of spices and herbs, vegetables and fruits that did not grow in Mexico. Over the years these became part of Mexican cuisine.

Most of the dishes today, have basic ingredients as beans, rice, corn and chilli pepper. Many recipes include Mexican spices like garlic, garlic powder, chilli powder, cumin, oregano, coriander and epazote.

Popular Herbs and Spices used in Mexican Food

Popular Herbs and Spices used in Mexican Food

Sesame – Sesame is a very important ingredient used to make moles, and in garnish for mole Poblano. It is used on cemitas or sandwich rolls and in many baked items.

Anise – The seeds of the plant are used in cakes, candies, stews and in liqueur taken after dinner.

Mexican Safflower – Mexican Safflower also known as Mexican Saffron is known more for the colour than for its flavour. It is used in dishes made from chicken and seafood.

Coriander (Cilantro) – Coriander or Chinese parsley has a tangy, pungent aroma. The leaves of cilantro are used in salsa, rice, stews, soups, moles etc. The seeds are ground and used to flavour stews.

Cumin (Cominos) – The seeds of the plant are used whole or in powder form in stews, meat and soups. It has a strong flavour and is a very popular spice in Mexico. cumin powder is used in dishes like enchiladas, chalupas and in rice dishes as well.

Spearmint (Hierba Buena) – With a strong flavour, this herb is used in soups, sauces, meat stews and gives a lovely fragrance to the soup – Caldo de pollo.

Bay leaf (Laurel) – Mexican bay leaf is thinner than the European bay leaf. It is used in stews, soups and to marinade food.

Peppermint (Menta) – It is different from spearmint but it is used just like spearmint in meat stews, soups and sauces.

Tasty Mexican Spices

Oregano – Oregano is found in Mexico on a regular basis and it is frequently used in dry form. It is used in pozole (traditional pre-Columbian soup or stew from Mexico), in dishes with tomato as base, and in huachinango a la veracruzana (a classic fish dish).

Pepicha – The aroma of the herb is a mix of citrus, pine and mint. It is used in many dishes including dishes made from eggs, cheese and chillies.

Parsley – With its mild flavour, parsley is added to the dishes like soups, stews and green moles after cooking the dish.

Rosemary (Romero) – It is more frequently used as a tea than as a seasoning.

Thyme (Tomillo) – It has a strong aroma and is used as a seasoning in conventional Mexican cuisine. It is used in a range of different dishes like sauces, pickles and in marinades also.

Cayenne Pepper Cayenne pepper has a gentle smell but a very hot taste so while using it in cooking it should be used in moderation. It is extensively used in Mexican cooking. It is used in Tabasco sauce.

Chilli PowderIt is the main ingredient in a lot of Mexican dishes and is a mixture of  dried chillies powdered, cumin powdered and oregano.

Garlic – It is used as a main ingredient in many dishes not only for its medicinal value but also for its taste and flavour.

Cinnamon – It is used in a number of sweet as well as salty dishes. It is a very popular spice in Mexico.

Try some of these spices to season your dishes at home like grilled or baked food, it gives a different yummy taste.

Herbs and Spices to Reduce the Inflammation of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Across the world arthritis is spreading at an alarming rate. Millions of people are suffering from the disease and billions of rupees are spent every year on drugs for its treatment. But these drugs have their own side effects, as a result many people are opting for alternate medication.

What is Arthritis?

The blood carries nutrition and oxygen to the joints. When the blood supply to joints is reduced due to different reasons, the bones of the joints are not repaired and cause pain in the joints, stiffness, inflamed bones, and tiredness.

The National Institute of Health offer a range of alternative therapies using herbs, spices and dietary supplements. Some of the herbs and spices have anti inflammatory properties which help to reduce the inflammation in the joints.

reduce the inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Herbs and spices that help to reduce the inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Ginger– The inflammation of joints in rheumatoid arthritis is caused due to ‘imbalance’ in a person and also due to high acidic (animal) protein food intake. When a person adds foods containing alkaline foods of vegetable origin, or vegetable proteins, the actual cause of the inflammation is reversed.

Ginger contains ‘Gingerol’ which has anti inflammatory properties and it helps to avert the inflammation in joints.

Turmeric – Turmeric is a wonder spice that contains Curcumin which has anti-inflammatory and anti arthritic properties. Curcumin taken in the natural form, by including turmeric in the diet, or as a supplement, is more effective than taking drugs for treatment.

In a study conducted, it was found that patients taking Curcumin treatment had no side effects as compared to those taking regular treatment. The anti-inflammatory properties of Curcumin restrain the synthesis of certain enzymes that cause inflammation.

For therapeutic purpose, put one table spoon of turmeric powder in boiling water and mix. Drink this after cooling.

Cinnamon – Cinnamon bark is used as a spice in Indian cuisine, tea and also to make medicinal powders. In 2012, a study was published in a journal which stated that the extract of cinnamon had properties to lessen the substances that were responsible for causing inflammation and damage to the tissues.

For Rheumatoid Arthritis, Cinnamon can be taken in limited form, not more than 6 grams a day.

Garlic – Garlic when taken fresh has anti-inflammatory properties which reduce the swelling and pain in rheumatoid arthritis. When heated the anti-inflammatory properties are reduced. Garlic reduces the production of cytokines, a substance that causes inflammation.

spices

Black Pepper – Commonly used in natural therapy, Black Pepper is known to reduce swelling and pain. Gels and creams used in treatment of arthritis contain ‘capsaicin’ found in hot peppers. The properties of black pepper powder are same as that of capsaicin. So, black pepper can be included in the diet for its anti-inflammatory properties and get relief from swelling and pain.

Tulsi or Holy Basil – Tulsi is a very rich source of anti-oxidants, and its anti-inflammatory properties make it very effective in controlling inflammation of joints.

In order to prevent or get relief from the pain, stiffness and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis include the above herbs and spices in your daily diet. If you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis you may also need to avoid certain foods like dairy products, meat, refined sugar and sweets, as these deteriorate the symptoms.

The Spices You Buy May be Adulterated

Turmeric (Haldi) is one of the most basic ingredient that is used in every Indian household. Not just in our dishes but for its medicinal properties as well. No Indian dish is complete without it. But before you step out to buy your next ration of this spice, be careful of what you are about to buy. What you are about to buy might be adulterated with lead chromate (Lead chromate adds color as well as weight to the turmeric powder.), starch based things like rice powder or flour, industrial starch and metanil yellow dye.

Adulterants used in Food items

Rice powder and flour might not pose a health hazard but all the other adulterants do. These adulterants cause serious and irreparable damage to our system when consumed at regular intervals for a long period of time.

  • Lead chromate, for instance is one of the most toxic salts of lead, which can cause mental retardation, anemia, brain damage in children, abortion in pregnant women and paralyses.
  • Another non-permissible toxic colorant is metanil yellow dye. Metanil yellow dye is used mostly to color gram flour (besan), pulses, miscellaneous cooked foods, namely sweetmeats like jelabi, ladoos, dalmoth, burfi, papad, etc to get an attractive deep yellow color.

Food grade colors are available in the market, but are a lot more expensive. Traders take advantage of the apathetic approach of the law enforcing authorities and substitute these food grade colors with cheap and non-permissible colors and dyes which cause damage to our health and systems.

  • Coriander powder and chili powder are adulterated with rice bran, sand and sawdust. But this is not the end if it. Some of the adulterants that are used by these traders are unfathomable.
  • Traders are known to adulterate spices food with horse dung and cow dung. Using horse dung and cow dung is not only unethical, from the business point of view, but a crime committed against the society at large.
  • Dried seeds of volatile oils are added to spices like cloves, while mineral acids are added to vinegar and papaya seeds are added to black pepper.
  • Sauf or aniseed that is usually used as a mouth freshener is dyed with malachite green dye for the bright green color. Extraneous matter like foreign seeds stems and stalks are added to food grains and whole spices.
Ramdev Masala

Any trader that is caught resorting to such means of adulteration should be dealt with very strongly. We all should try as far as possible to buy spices as whole and grind them ourselves at home or buy properly packed and sealed packets of spices food with proper information labels and with certificates from standard companies like AGMARK, ISI and FPO. One such company is Ramdev Masala.

The government or the concerned authorities cannot completely solve the problem of food adulteration and contamination unless we the consumers ourselves become conscious of the health hazards of such contaminations. We also need to be aware of the law which is protecting us under such circumstances. Consumers should be aware of the provisions of the food laws and regulations and how they are protected under the above mentioned law.