Our culture is finally starting to view the food that we eat as a potential medicine chest. Every day, scientists are discovering more and more that certain herbs, spices, and leaves offer curative powers that can help us overcome disease. These spices originated in India, Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia. Indian cuisine often relies on 10–20 spices in just one recipe.
Bharat B. Aggarwal, Ph.D., author of Healing Spices, says, “Sanskrit writings from the India of 3,000 years ago describe the varied, therapeutic uses of spices, and ancient medical texts from China are filled with remedies using spices for hundreds of ailments.” In researching my cookbook, I came to understand and appreciate the value of spices. Today modern medical and nutritional researchers are discovering unimaginable riches of health in spices.
Three spices that I use heavily—garlic, turmeric, and mustard— are loaded with age-defying FoodTrients. Garlic’s power to prevent diseases like stroke, cancer, and heart failure comes from the FoodTrient allicin. Allicin helps keep your blood platelets from sticking together, lowers your cholesterol, and reduces plaque buildup in your arteries.
Turmeric is full of the FoodTrient curcumin, which reduces inflammation in the arteries and joints and helps prevent certain cancers. You can make turmeric juice or add some to a marinade for fish or chicken.
Mustard is made up of sulfur compounds, which support joints and connective tissues, and is a great ingredient to add to salad dressings and marinades, or to use as a condiment for meats and sandwiches. I also include spices like black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves in my recipes for their therapeutic effects and high levels of antioxidants.
I recently found two sources for buying organic spices and I want to share them with you. Spicely packs its organic, non-genetically modified products without adding any artificial colors, MSG, cornstarch, or preservatives. Their products are kosher, vegan, gluten-free, and packed in eco-friendly recycled containers. Red Monkey produces all-natural organic spice blends without any additives. They specialize in interesting spice blends like a mango habanera rub for meats that includes orange peel, turmeric, and natural smoke flavor.
You may not realize it, but salt can have beneficial properties, if you buy the right salt. I like the pink salt mined from the Himalayan Mountains because it contains iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper—minerals that our bodies need to function properly. A company called Himalania imports all-natural Himalayan salt in coarse and fine grinds. It can be found at Whole Foods and Sur La Table nationwide.
Hippocrates, a Greek physician who practiced medicine over 2,000 years ago (and from whom we derived the Hippocratic oath to do no harm to patients), is credited with writing, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” I say: let your spice box be where you begin building your FoodTrients medicine chest.