Spices in India- history, uses and benefits



A spice is a dried part of a plant other than leaves such as fruit, seed, bark, root primarily used for flavouring, colouring, or seasoning a recipe. Spices are not used as the main ingredient but a tiny amount of it can dramatically alter the food. They add a distinctive flavour to otherwise bland ingredients. Spices are different from herbs. Herbs are leaves, flowers, or stems of plants used for garnishing or sometimes for flavouring. The spices in India are of various types and have many properties which are beneficial for health. 

Introduction 

India is famous as the hub of spices. It produces about 2.5 million tons of spices each year. India’s share in exporting spices is 44% in the world which is a lion’s share. International Standards Organization [ISO] has listed 102 spices, out of which 75 spices are produced in India. India holds a formidable position in the world trade of spices. Various climatic conditions here provide abundant provisions to cultivate the production of the spice. Every state produces spices, but ‘Kerala’ is called to be the ‘land of spices’. The total land area of 3.21 million hectares of the country is used to harvest spices. For the last few years priority was given to organic spice farming. Kerala, Gujarat, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh are some northeastern states that became the hub for planting and flowering spices.

In Europe, Arab traders were the first to introduce spices. The land trade was from India and the sea trade was from the Mediterranean.

Production of spices in India and the world

India mainly produces ginger, turmeric, chilli pepper, and cumin. Indonesia produces Vanilla, Nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Cardamom grows majorly in Guatemala, saffron in Iran, and last pepper in Vietnam.

According to the studies from 2011, India is the country that stood first in the production of spices. Bangladesh is in the second position followed by Turkey in the third rank and China in the fourth.

Why Kerala island of spices?

Kerela

The state of Kerala is blessed with suitable geographic conditions to grow spices. Hilly areas and the Western Ghats add a perfect blend with the moderate climatic conditions to grow spices. Since farmers in Kerala do agriculture as their livelihood, they can meet the demand for spices from the entire world. They have a convenient transportation facility for faster and smoother buying and selling provisions through air, land, and sea. This state has enough storage for India as well as the rest of the world.

Kerala backwaters are also famous for its natural beauty and its ride. Click here to know more about Kerala Backwaters

Importance of spices

Spices have major importance in the existence of humans, within a certain time the hunger for spices increases at a very high speed. Most spices in India are used for flavouring, food, perfumes, medicines, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Spices in India salve our senses by their vivid colours, alluring fragrances, and specific flavours. 

Adds taste to the food

Spices in India pep up our dishes. Spices not only give a unique taste to the cuisine, but it also changes the look of food by adding attractive colours. It gives a different flavour and aroma to our plate. Adding to medicinal properties enhances the immunity of our body. Along with helping in detoxifying the gut, spices have a vital role in preserving the food as well. Our rich spices are the secret to the delicious flavours of Indian food. They add the aroma, yummy taste, and vibrant colour to the plate.

As preservatives

In areas where there was no electricity some spices like cloves, cinnamon, and cumin have proven to prevent the food from contamination. It is because of their antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. These spices can easily replace chemical preservatives.

Source of nutrient

With added flavours to our food spices also boosts health. Many spices have a chock full of healthy compounds such as vitamins and minerals. Spices can fight and reduce any kind of damage to our body cells. Food acts as an army.

Some standouts to be added in the next meal can be

Spices of India

Cardamom

It helps in inflammation, soothes an upset stomach, it is the only spice high in magnesium and zinc.

Chilli peppers

It gives a kick to your food. Chilli boosts metabolism and keeps blood vessels healthy.

Cinnamon

It is sweet but it is sugar-free and low in calories. It can be added to tea or coffee for a great taste.

Cocoa

It is a great antioxidant that boosts heart health, lowers cholesterol, and blood pressure. It plays a vital role in keeping heart arteries healthy.

Cumin

It is the key ingredient used worldwide. Rich in iron and helps in reducing weight the spice has got a prime place in Indians kitchen.

Garlic

It has got a superpower when it comes to health. It helps in high cholesterol, heart diseases, high blood pressure, and weight loss.

Turmeric

It gets a lot of hype for all the good reasons. Along with treating Alzheimer’s disease it also eases inflammation and pain. It is also used for various facial and cosmetic purposes.

Be it Indian, continental, or Mediterranean cuisine, everything is incomplete without the addition of spices. They may occupy very little space in the kitchen cabinet but bring the extra value of nutrients in the food. These spices not only carry out the taste and flavour of the dish but also treat a multitude of ailments. A pinch of these spices not only tantalize taste buds but also contributes in maintaining overall health.

Do you know, not just the spices and the food but also the utensils matter?

Read an article on Healthy Eating Habits in India to know more…

History of spices

History of indian spices

History of spices in early times hunters and gatherers accidentally discovered that wrapping meat while cooking enhances the taste with certain nuts, seeds, and berries to it. Some of them were also used to eliminate unpleasant tastes and odours from the food. At that time spices were supposed to be valuable items for trade and exchange. Some of the spices were used to heal the illness and hence considered it as medicine.

The history of spices is as old as the human civilization of spices. It’s in the written records the earliest spices were found in the Vedas like Rig Vedas, Yujarveda, Ashwamedha, and Samaveda. 

 Egyptians, Chinese, Arabians, Roman, British, and the Portuguese have the only motive to breach India to take advantage of the natural rich wealth and spices in India. For thousands of years, India has been known as the ‘’Spice Bowl of the World’’. spices in India have a specific place from the ancient and medieval ages. With time, the spice trade took a jump and the spice board of India was set up to carry out spice trading.

Spice and Herb Garden- Munnar, Kerala, India

Spices and hebs of kerela

 It is a place with a vast variety of spices and herbs. Which provides the ingrown spices and herbs at very reasonable rates. They also offer small size packages as a gift to the visitors.

Some interesting facts

interesting facts about indian spices

  • Cinnamon is the oldest spice man knows
  • Saffron is the most expensive and rare spice in the world
  • Ginger is the cheapest and easily available spice in the world
  • Pepper and mustard are the two top main selling spices in the world
  • Cumin is the most popular spice in the world
  • Black pepper and cardamom are the king and queen of the spices respectively
  • Coriander is used as an alternative to salt
  • Black pepper is known as ‘black gold’ since the 4th century BC
  • Black pepper is the most traded and common spice added to cuisines around the world
  • Red chilli powder was introduced by the Portuguese to Indians
  • Salt is not a spice, it is an essential mineral
  • Salt has been produced for over 5000 years in India
  • Spices represent India on a global level
  • In the first century, cinnamon was about fifteen times the value of silver per weight
  • In the 17th and 18th century cloves were as equal as the worth of gold
  • Nutmeg is high in neurotoxin for dogs causing them some disorders which can be even fatal
  • The earliest written records of spices arrived from ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Indian cultures
  • In the middle ages, spices were the most expensive and demanded products available in Europe
  • The United States is the largest importer and consumer in the world
  • Indian spices are not spicy but smoky

TIPS FOR COOKING WITH SPICES

cooking tips with spices

One of the most useful tips to keep in mind is whenever it is possible to grind spices at home instead of the readymade. The flavours and aroma are less in later although the freshly grounded spices have an aromatic flavour and delicious taste. Also, what is healthier than a home-cooked meal right?

Storage Tips

When stored in a dry and cool place, spices last longer. Store them in an opaque container to keep their flavour intact and longer.

Shelf Life

Spices don’t rot or spoil but eventually, they will lose their flavour. Precisely, spices are added to give flavour and taste to the food. It is better to use them in a certain amount of time to keep them fresh and aromatic. Studies proved that freshly grounded spices last up to three years if stored properly.

Indian spices to avoid during pregnancy

The arrival of the new one in the family brings joy and happiness to everyone’s life. It demands many precautions and care from mom to be. The most important of all is the diet. Which ensures that the little one gets the best nutrition and proper healthy portion. Mom also has to be careful about what not to eat as some of the foods and spices are bad for the fetus. She must be aware of the spices she is eating in her food. Below are the spices which a pregnant woman should avoid-

Fenugreek

Fenugreek seeds create a reverse effect on the uterus hence it is not appropriate for a mom to be. These seeds cause gas problems, acidity difficulty, diarrhoea, and bloating. These can also cause retardation in babies if taken in excess.

Fennel seeds

The overabundance of fennel seeds can cause damage to a pregnant woman. It stimulates uterine contractions. Although, these seeds are advisable for treating hormonal disorders and increasing lactation after delivery. These seeds are quite risky to be taken during childbearing.

Peppermint

Peppermint in any form is bad for mom to be. Either it’s peppermint tea for drinking or peppermint oil for applying both have the reverse effect. An expecting mom has to be more cautious before taking it.

Garlic

Garlic is probably highly toxic and could cause harm to both baby and the mother. It causes bleeding and heartburn.

Capers

It is a very commonly used spice. One must avoid it during the period of pregnancy as it is known to induce menstruation.

Asafetida or Hing

An easily available in the market but then also a strict no for the expecting mother. Hing can lead to miscarriage also may lead to blood loss. Though, it is the spice used regularly in Indian kitchens.

Liquorice

It has the component glycyrrhizin which destroys the placenta and allows stress hormones to enter the baby’s system.

Angelica

This spice is known for thinning of blood hence it can’t be taken by an expecting mother.

Sesame Seeds

The seeds cannot harm the mother to be or the baby. But it is said to be avoided during the first trimester of the pregnancy period. Because of the belief that these seeds are heat-generating food which may increase body heat and can upset the natural balance.

These all the spices should be avoided by pregnant women to get safe and healthy pregnancy. Therefore, she must stay away from the spices which are harmful to the unborn. If then also anyone wants to have the above food should consult her doctor before consuming the same.

Indian spices to lose weight

 spices to lose weight

Too much of anything is good for nothing, we all know that. It’s not a secret anymore that what we put on the plate plays a central role in our health. Our spice cabinet is full of those precious herbs which fight cravings and boost fat burning weight loss. Here are some amazing spices that you should stock up to lose weight. Below is the list of some spices the weight aids lose and can make you slim in no time if taken correctly.

Fennel Seeds

It is rich in fibre, antioxidants, and minerals. These little green like seeds can manage weight and another array of health problems. Someone out there wants to cut that extra flab then fennel seeds are the way to go. It is an effective remedy for obesity. Ayurveda has also believed that fennel besides providing fresh and pleasant curries it can also solve many digestive issues. Researchers from the University of Minnesota proved that taking a small amount of fennel daily can end up feeling full and less hungry.

Cardamom

Most of the effective spice for digestion and fat burn cardamom also boosts metabolism. A staple spice used in most curries, rice, and desserts that also possess antibiotic and antioxidant qualities. As it is loaded with health benefiting properties, cardamom is widely used in Indian kitchens to add aroma to the food. It has the power of managing conditions like water retention, constipation, bloating, and indigestion. The active compound in cardamom fights bacteria and balances the gut flora. Consuming it regularly cuts the extra bulge and stops fat from getting accumulated.

Green Coffee Bean

The only spice that contains the maximum chlorogenic acid content which is a polyphone antioxidant that can prop up weight loss by reducing the inclusion of fat and glucose in the gut. Also lowers insulin levels to perk up metabolic function. Though the origins of green coffee beans and roasted coffee are the same, the chemical compounds of the two of them are totally different. The extract in green coffee is popular as a dietary supplement.

Fenugreek

This spice is considered a wonder spice that effectively burns belly fat and lowers cholesterol levels. Also protects the heart, controls diabetes, and fixes stomach disorders. Due to the high content in fibre, it curbs constipation and eases digestion. Packed with a host of essential nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, and soluble and insoluble fibres, these seeds can fight a wide range of battles of common ailments. Consumption of these seeds leaves you feeling full for longer and restricts you from binge eating.

Cumin Seeds

A rich source of iron, cumin seeds aids digestion by increasing the activity of digestive enzymes in the gut. Suppressing hunger and keeping you fuller is the first job of cumin seeds. Along with that, it removes toxins from the gut. These brown seeds secrete enzymes, which helps in breaking down sugars, fats, and carbohydrates in the body. It is packed with compounds that accelerate the weight loss process. A very good source of vitamins A, C, manganese, and copper this spice removes harmful radicals from the body.

Ginger

Ginger

A must-have ingredient in the kitchen for many years, ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, stimulating digestion, and suppressing appetite. These properties lead people to believe in the fact that ginger can contribute to weight loss. The medical literature indicates that ginger is rich in natural chemicals that promote health and wellness. If combined with an accurate diet and exercise ginger can do wonders by helping a person in getting rid of extra weight. Detox rituals aim at flushing out the toxins from the body. Ginger when mixed with lemon and hot water aims at best detoxification.

Turmeric

In the study of Tufts University, turmeric is known to be the best spice for weight loss. It is because this magical spice increases the body heat which in return boosts the metabolism and provides other health benefits also. Though it suppresses fat tissue growth and contributes to weight loss. It works as a support for improving overall health. Turmeric has very positive implications on the whole process of weight loss.

Garlic

Garlic forms an indispensable part of the Indian kitchen. Along with adding extra flavour to the food garlic is known to be a nutritional powerhouse when it comes to weight loss. As per the study, it has some promising components which are responsible for body fat and making the body fitter. This staple plant controls a major part of weight loss management. A study in the Journal of Nutrition proved that there is a close association between garlic and the fat loss process. It is known to stimulate the process of burning fat and flush out the toxins which hinder the digestive system. Including garlic in the diet can keep a check on the gut.

Black pepper

Because of piperine (a compound that helps to enhance metabolic performance and prevent the accumulation of fat in the body), this spice gets all the attention in terms of weight loss or burn calories. This round spice increases the concentration of good cholesterol and speeds up the metabolic process. This low-calorie seasoning is packed with calcium, sodium, potassium, minerals, and many vitamins. Found in every kitchen the spice always surprised the user with its benefits and distinct flavour to the dishes. Black pepper also facilitates digestion and metabolic performance.

Cinnamon

When it comes to achieving a healthy weight this bitter-sweet spice is a quick fix for the same. This flavorful spice has topped the list for fighting stubborn fat. According to a Japanese study, this aromatic is essential to add to your daily diet to aid metabolism, improve insulin function, and regulate blood sugar levels which collectively helps in weight loss plans.

After all the mindless eating and uninvited weight gain one must be thankful for these above natural ways to eliminate those extra kilos that are breaking out from the clothes. Adding spices to your daily routine is a simple and easy way to enhance weight loss with minimal effort. Besides, adding a punch of these flavorful spices, one must be sure to keep a strict eye on their lifestyle by adopting healthy eating habits and be more active.

Read an article on Fasting health benefits to promote your lifestyle more healthily.

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