I'm a huge lover of flavours and my favourite meals always contain lots of delicious herbs and spices.
Making sure you're well stocked with spices is so important when making savoury dishes especially - they just add the most wonderful warmth, flavour, scent and taste to your meals and can turn an otherwise bland and boring dish to a meal that makes your tastebuds go crazy!
I love loads of different spices and my cupboard is pretty jam-packed with jars, bottles and pots of powders and seeds but there are a particular 5 that I reach for most often. These 5 spices are used probably every single day in my house, firstly because they make food taste unbelievably yummy but they also are so beneficial to our health.
Turmeric is my favourite spice, without a doubt, and I add it to almost everything! Turmeric is actually part of the ginger family, and is a plant that has been famous for it's health benefits and healing properties for thousands of years. This bright yellow powder contains such a wealth of anti-oxident power and anti-inflammatory goodness, and I truly consider it a superfood.
Curcumin, the active component in turmeric that gives it it's bright yellow/orange colour, is a strong anti-oxidant that helps to fight free radicals in the body that can cause cell membrane damage and even make cells die. The anti-inflammatory levels in this spice are also very high, which is extremely important as long-term inflammation can become a chronic problem, leading to cancer, heart disease and even Alzheimer's. Multiple studies have actually shown turmeric to reduce the growth of new blood vessels in tumours and the spreading of cancer, as well as contributing to the death of cancerous cells. In fact, in one study 44 men with lesions in the colon that had the potential to turn cancerous were given 4 grams of turmeric per day for 30 days, after the 30 days the lesions had reduced in number by 40% - how amazing is that?!
There are so many physical health benefits to turmeric, but I'm moving onto the mental health benefits this spice has because I'm all about boosting those happiness levels. Turmeric is heavily used in Chinese medicine as an antidepressant, this is because studies have shown turmeric to be as effective as medication used to treat depression, such as prozac, but without the side-effects that come with those drugs. This is all down to the anti-inflammatory power of the spice and it's ability to increase the levels of neurotrophic factors in nerve cells in the brain (reduced levels of these are linked to depression). Turmeric doesn't just do amazing things for our mind and body, but it also tastes delicious - try adding it to curry, stews, stir-frys or even porridge.
Cayenne is a very hot and powerful spice that's best known for it's detoxifying properties and how it aids digestion. This super spicy, red powder is amazing at relieving a variety of aliments and it's really tasty in curry, chilli, spicy pasta dishes and even hot salad dressings.
I first bought this spice after I heard about how it could aid digestion. Cayenne stimulates the digestive tract by increasing the flow of enzyme function which really helps the body to metabolise food more easily and eliminate toxins. It also detoxifies the body through stimulating circulation and increasing the lymphatic pulse - so adding cayenne to your morning lemon water is very beneficial.
If you suffer with arthritis or achy joints then cayenne pepper is definitely something to consume more of; it contains lots of capsaicin which acts in a way that relieves joint pain. It's also brilliant for easing upset stomaches, sore throats, diarrhoea, ulcers, etc due to it's anti-irritant properties.
I feel like paprika is something we all own, and probably all use a lot. I know I throw it in to practically everything I make as I love the subtle flavour and it seems to compliment so many dishes. But did you know it has a wealth of health benefits too?
Paprika is absolutely packed full of beta-carotene and iron, which are powerful components for skin health and shiny hair. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body, which promotes a bright complexion and prevents wrinkles too! Paprika boosts your daily intake of vitamin E which promotes healthy blood vessels, healthy cells and also serves as an anti-oxidant.
Paprika is a wonderfully tasty but subtle spice, so it's easy to get more of it! Try sprinkling in pasta dishes, onto of salads or into homemade hummus.
Cumin is a spice that originated in Egypt, and it's an important part of Middle Eastern and Indian cooking. I love cooking with ground cumin, especially when making curries and stews, as I love the warm taste it brings to any dish and find it works well in more hearty, wintery dishes.
Ground cumin is one of my favourite spices not just because of it's taste, but it also hosts an array of health supporting properties. I experience low blood sugar quite a lot, so I like to eat foods that I know are good at supporting blood sugar levels - cumin is one of those. Studies have shown that the consumption of cumin reduces low blood sugar levels and helps to balance everything out, making it especially beneficial to those with diabetes.
Something else I always look out for in food is their effect on digestion, and I'm pleased to say cumin is amazing for that too! Cumin stimulates the production of pancreatic enzymes, and the liver too which aids in digestion. Studies have also shown that the spice helps your body breakdown fats, and absorb nutrients more efficiently.
On top of all this cumin is wonderfully high in magnesium, iron and other vitamins.
I used to hate cinnamon, like really really hate it but I love it now and I have it almost every morning in my porridge. It's also super delicious in biscuits, banana bread and energy balls! Cinnamon, a spice made from the inner bark of trees called Cinnamomum, is bursting with health benefits too, and does wonders for that amazing body of yours.
Cinnamon is absolutely loaded with antioxidants, in fact it's one of the highest anti-oxidising spices in the world! When a food is high in antioxidants it means that food minimises cell damage which can lead to heart disease, cancer and other disease which we want to avoid at all costs!
Cinnamon helps to control blood sugar levels and improve resistance to insulin, which it does by decreasing the amount of glucose that enter your bloodstream after a meal. Fabulous news if you're a diabetic - research has actually confirmed that cinnamon has strong anti-diabetic effects. It's also great if like me you suffer with PCOS and the body's insulin levels can be quite unbalanced.
I use these spices ALL the time, and you'll find them in many of my recipes. I'd definitely recommend buying all 5 if you don't already own them - they're all like magic!