Spices are enjoyed for their contributions to flavor and beautiful colors, but they also impart many health benefits. Spices have been used traditionally to help preserve foods due to their high levels of antioxidants and antimicrobial properties. These properties also make them powerful resources for supporting our immune system by including them in our cooking.
In the fall and winter here in Vancouver, the cold weather and dampness we experience in our external environment, affects our internal environment. In a damp environment, bacteria can proliferate (the bad kind), and inflammation can result. Some ways our bodies outwardly show inflammation is through pain, acne, food sensitivities, and brain fog. The cold temperatures also slow our blood circulation, affecting our ability to both bring nutrients to all the different cells in the body, as well as clear wastes from these same cells. For these reasons, spices that warm the body and have a drying effect are very beneficial for our circulation and immune systems on the whole.
Here are a few spices to enjoy this season:
The leafy spices: Oregano, basil, thyme, and bay leaves are great to add to pasta dishes and soups. They lighten up dark beans or heavy sauces. Bay leaves, and oregano help boost immune function and support oral health with anti-microbial effects. These spices help to improve the body’s ability to breakdown and absorb all the nutrients in these dishes.
Cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper and cardamom all have warming and drying qualities. They complement sweet foods, such as baked carrots, apples, sweet potato or a yummy turmeric latte, which are damp and cooling in their nature. These spices reduce the moistening and dampening effects of sweet foods. They also reduce mucus forming effects of cold/damp foods such as milk, yogurt, kefir, sour cream, and other dairy products, which tend to cause inflammation in the body. They are all carminatives, which means that they improve digestion and reduce bloating and gas. AND all of these spices (except for coriander) are known to be natural aphrodisiacs.
Coriander, cumin, and ginger improve digestion. They are great spices to add to bean dishes, to reduce bloating and gas. Fresh ginger helps to breakdown protein such as meats and beans, and diminishes the effects on the body. Whether fresh or dried, ginger is excellent for nausea and vomiting, morning sickness. Its warming effects help to improve circulation and reduce menstrual cramps, and other body aches, and spasms.
Garlic, mustard seed and cayenne are amazing for supporting our immune function. Great for constant exposure to colds and flus! They are very warming for the body, and possess antiviral, antibiotic, and help to break a fever through inducing sweating. Cayenne is also a potent source of Vitamin C. Mustard seed are rich in B-vitamins, help reduce cholesterol levels, and boost circulation. If you add some mustard seeds or cayenne to a foot bath after a cold day in the rain or snow, you will experience how powerful these spices up in their ability to warm our bodies.
Turmeric. A well-known Indian spice, containing the active constituent. Curcumin gives turmeric its yellow color, and carries the anti-inflammatory effects that are often talked about. Inflammation is what most often causes pain in the body (sport injuries, menstrual cramps, etc), and is also associated with a large number of chronic illnesses including arthritis, IBS, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. It is extremely important to do what we can to keep inflammation at bay in the body. Curcumin is also a great antioxidant, is very supportive for liver function, and helps to lower cholesterol levels. Last but not least, it is warming and it’s bitter taste stimulates and improves digestion.
Spices can be a really inexpensive way of adding a completely different dimension to your regular dishes. That being said, for the medicinal properties to be enjoyed, you must invest in good quality spices. Luckily they will last! These beautiful spices are a great investment, to enjoy improved digestion and immune function this winter season… especially moving into the holidays!
Book in for a consultation with Dr. Brett Simpson to learn more about how to support your digestion and immune system over the holiday and winter season! Call The IV Wellness Boutique at 604-974-8999.