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Garam masala provides a healthy way to spice up your dishes

01/06/2014 2:14 PM

01/06/2014 2:15 PM

Everyone knows Indian spices not only add an invigorating kick to the senses, but are also the staple for any South Asian dish. However, many people have no idea that Indian spices can actually help make you healthy.

Growing up on a farm, my mom always used various spices in her cooking. Now that I know the spices that go into garam masala, I realize she made her own version of garam masala way back when and the benefits of eating foods with the spices in them. She wouldn’t tell us what she was using — she just made wonderful homemade meals with the spices in a milder form.

Some benefits of garam masala is that it slows down the aging process and helps promote weight loss. Yes, that’s right, eating foods with garam masala can actually help shed some pounds.

Garam masala is a popular South Asian blend of dry spices. The literal translation of the spice’s name is “heat spice” or “hot spice.”

The spice traditionally is a mixture of cinnamon, cardamom, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, star anise and nutmeg. Homemade masala is simply all the ingredients listed above, toasted in a pan on your stove top and then finely blended to a powder. Mom would make her own spice blend and black pepper and nutmeg were the dominate spice.

The healthy ingredients of Garam Masala:

Cinnamon

— An anti-microbial as well as anti-inflammatory. It’s high in calcium and fiber and helps control blood sugar by helping to increase insulin production while lowering blood sugar levels.

Cumin

— Helps stimulate digestion, helps relieve nausea and indigestion, enriches with iron and can act as a property to fight against cancer.

Coriander

— An ingredient used to control blood sugar levels and to lower cholesterol. It helps stimulate digestion.

Black Pepper

— Increases the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, minerals and proteins. It’s high in fiber content, which reduces calorie intake, and it’s a natural metabolism booster. It helps break down fat cells, and is high in vitamin K and manganese, which also helps break down fats and carbs. Black pepper also fights against skin cancer and helps improve skin complexion.

Cardamom —

An anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-carcinogenic. It helps to flush out toxins from the body, relieves heart burn, reduces the formation of blood clots, lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation, relieves gas, and soothes upset stomachs.

Cloves

— Contain a purifying property that helps support the immune system. Relieves tooth aches, boosts the metabolism, removes toxins from the blood stream, helps prevent the formation of blood clots and regulates blood sugar levels.You might not guess, but cloves are higher than any other food in antioxidant content. They provide an excellent source of calcium, omega 3, and vitamin K.

Fennel

— Relieves indigestion, diarrhea, heartburn, intestinal gas, and bloating.

Bay Leaves

— A powerful anti-oxidant that helps prevent cancer, arthritis, and ulcers. It also helps in healing wounds and mosquito bites.

Garam masala is a multipurpose spice that helps promote health in almost all aspects of our body. So the next time you cook, add some extra kick to your recipes with this health promoting Indian spice.

Donna Cook is the owner of Rabbit Creek Gourmet Foods in Louisburg, Kan. She is also a Master Gardener, Master Food Volunteer and on the board of directors of the Home Baking Association.

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