This is a guest post by Fern Ho. When Fern was in her late 20s, she developed a nasty rash, head to toe that took weeks to diagnose. She was told to she has to just “live with it”. Doing her own research and with advice from trusted health professionals, she came to realise the power and potential of natural whole foods and the benefits to the immune system.
Her journey inspired her to create Flovour Pop products to help reduce inflammation and boost immunity.
Throughout October 2021, we will be including samples of her yummy seasonings with all Euclove product orders!www.tasteflavourpop.com/pages/my-story
Healthy eating has long been associated with “boring” foods that squashes the pleasure or joy of eating. There’s often the expectation that a healthy meal has little or no flavour, such as eating a tasteless salad without dressing or “rabbit-food”, because bland food is commonly perceived to be healthier.
In fact, after interviewing many Nutritionists and Dietitians, I’ve learnt that the opposite is true. Instead, eating a wide variety of wholefoods that are generously seasoned with different herbs and spices is the key to a healthy and well balanced diet.
Our fast-paced modern lives makes the convenience of eating fast-foods and pre-packaged snack foods hard to avoid. It’s well recognised that many pre-packaged and takeaway fast foods have higher amounts of salt, fat and sugar both natural and artificial that make them great tasting, but aren’t actually great for our bodies. Although it may be hard not to crave these flavours there are other equally flavourful alternatives we can introduce into our diets that are great for our both taste buds and our health!
Spices have been used for centuries, since ancient civilisation, to season our foods. Many well-loved home-cooked meals and traditional recipes make delicious use of these spices and herbs. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring, bland or plain – in fact adding herbs and spices to our meals not only makes them more palatable and enjoyable but brings many health benefits.
The health benefits of common spices
There’s no need to go hunting for exotic spices in speciality shops. Some of the most common spices that you can find in the supermarket or your local grocery store have wonderful health benefits, such as black peppercorns and ginger.
Black Peppercorn – an ancient and highly valuable spice
A prized spice in ancient Greece, Rome and the Middle Ages, black pepper is well known for its use in both flavouring and preserving food.
It has also been used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine to aid digestive problems by stimulating “agni” and “chi”, the energy/fires associated with our digestive system.
Modern research has found black pepper contains many beneficial bioactive compounds. The most well researched being piperine which offers antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and gastro-protective properties.
Research has also shown that piperine can enhance absorption of certain nutrients with low bioavailability. One of these is the bioactive compound, curcumin, found in turmeric, hence the common pairing of turmeric and black pepper. Normally enzymes through our gastro-intenstinal tract breakdown bioactive compounds, such as curcumin, before our body can absorb them, but piperine has been found to inhibit these enzymes thus allowing greater absorption of these beneficial compounds.
The use of black pepper dates back over 4,000 years ago, where it has been traded as a valuable ingredient, referred to as black gold, and used as a form of trading currency. Folklore has it that Attila the Hun demanded black peppercorns as ransom from Rome!
Ginger – a warming digestive aid
Ginger is another easily found spice that has long been used to aid digestion, as well as support immune health and to fight colds and the flu. Gingerol is the bioactive compound in ginger which offers anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits. It helps to stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes to support digestion as well as reduce bloating and gas. It also contains the enzyme, zingibain, which breaks down protein, including casein found in milk and dairy.
Ginger is a warming ingredient that stimulates circulation and helps with digestion, by aiding stomach muscle movement and nutrient absorption.
The botanical name for Ginger comes from the Sanskrit word meaning horn-shaped, in reference to the shape of the ginger nodules that grow from its roots.
Turmeric – a powerful anti-inflammatory spice
Turmeric is from the same family as ginger, and is now increasingly common to find in supermarkets and grocery stores.
It is a highly valued spice in Indian Ayurvedic medicine and has long been used for digestive problems. It aids digestion by increasing the output of digestive enzymes, including the production of bile for the digestion of fats.
Curcumin, the antioxidant compound in turmeric, which gives it its striking orangey-yellow colour, offers many anti-inflammatory health benefits. This includes increasing the secretion of stomach mucus to help protect our stomach lining from gastric acid, as well as helping to prevent gas and bloating as food is being digested in our intestines. It can also help support our gut microbiome by encouraging the growth of good gut bacteria and increase our ability to absorb nutrients by healing damaged colon walls due to bad bacteria. As an antioxidant it helps support the liver in its detoxification processes.
So the good news is that you’ll likely have some of these common spices in your pantry and already use them regularly, such as cracked black pepper, to season your meals.
The health benefits of seed spices
Other seed spices, such as cumin, fennel and coriander seeds have been commonly used in many cuisines to make traditional curries, stews and other dishes. These traditional spices also offer many health benefits, with research showing that mixing spices in simple home cooking can offer prebiotic effects.
Cumin seeds – a global spice used on many continents
Cumin has traditionally been used to help indigestion and is a recognised carminative that relieves bloating and gas. Scientific research has shown that cumin contains the bioactive compound, thymol, which aids in the digestive process: first, stimulating the salivary gland in our mouths as we chew food and then promoting the secretion of enzymes and bile as food digests in our gastrointestinal tract. A pilot study has shown it can help reduce symptoms from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Other research has also reported beneficial phytochemical compounds in cumin that offer an array of properties such as antioxidant, antimicrobial and antidiabetic activity.
Similar to coriander seeds, cumin has long been used as a spice all over the world from Indian to Middle Eastern, North African and Latin American cuisines.
Coriander seeds – a spice rich in antioxidants
Coriander seeds have been used in traditional Ayurvedic practice for many benefits. From relieving fevers, coughs and colds, to quenching excessive thirst, urinary disorders and as a heart tonic. It is often taken as a tea to aid digestive problems, either alone or in combination with fennel and cumin, to help with bloating, cramping and flatulence.
Scientific research has found that coriander seeds are rich in antioxidants. In particular, the bioactive compound, linalool, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, potentially offering anticancer and neuroprotective properties. The active compounds in coriander seeds can help lower blood sugar levels and support heart-health by lowering bad cholesterol while increasing the good.
The coriander plant, also known as cilantro in the Americas, has been widely used in many cuisines, from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines to Mexican, Indian and Chinese. Coriander is related to the parsley, carrot and celery family of plants.
Fennel seeds – a “cooling” spice
Fennel seeds were known to be consumed in honey by early olympians for strength and endurance. This ancient herb has been long used to help with a variety of digestive and respiratory ailments from indigestion, gas and constipation to bronchitis and sinus problems.
Research has shown that the bioactive compounds in fennel seeds, such as anethole, offer anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties which would explain its traditional use to treat indigestion, gas and bloating. These active compounds also offer antispasmodic properties, which help to relax the smooth muscles in our respiratory and digestive systems to alleviate constipation and bronchitis.
In Ayurvedic medicine, fennel seeds are often prepared as a tea and taken as a detoxifier, with a “cooling” effect on the body.
Nutrient dense seeds and nuts
Apart from spice seeds helping to make our meals more flavourful, seeds together with nuts are known to be one of nature’s most nutrient dense foods, which is no surprise as the seed of a plant is where all the necessary nutrients are packed in and stored for a new plant to grow. Some seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts are particularly high in certain essential minerals that we often lack in our modern diets.
Sunflower seeds – a good source of essential minerals
Sunflower seeds, like pumpkin seeds, are a good source of healthy poly and monounsaturated fats which are better for heart health, and can help lower the potential for high blood pressure.
They’re a great source of Vitamin E and Selenium which act as antioxidants to protect against free radical compounds in our body that cause illness and ageing. Research has shown that Selenium can help lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers.
Sunflower seeds are also a good source of zinc, a quarter cup of dry roasted sunflower seeds will give you 10% of your daily Recommended Dietary Intake. Zinc together with Selenium offer anti-inflammatory properties to help support our immune system and fight infections.
It’s also good for skin health with its combination of omega 3 fatty acids (polyunsatured fats), zinc, and vitamin E.
Sunflowers are native to North America, where Native Americans used sunflower seeds as a grounded flour as well as a purple dye, while the dry stalks were used as a building material.
Pumpkin seeds – for rest and relaxation
Pumpkin seeds, also sometimes called pepitas, are a rich source of minerals, healthy poly and monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and protein.
Pepitas are a rich source of Magnesium, which our body uses to regulate sleep and so it can help with better sleep and insomnia prevention. It also has high levels of the amino acid tryptophan which is used in our body to produce serotonin and melatonin to relax and promote sleep.
Not only is the Magnesium important for regulating sleep, it also helps regulate blood sugar levels. This together with the high fibre and protein content of Pepitas make them a good source of nutrition and contribute to a feeling of satiety. Research has also shown that the fibre and good omega-3 fatty acids in pepitas can help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and heart disease.
Overall, pepitas can help support immune health and wellbeing with its high Zinc and Vitamin E content.
Brazil nuts – for good immune health
Brazil nuts are one of the larger nuts, and like other nuts are still energy and nutrient dense.
It’s best known for its high levels of selenium, an essential mineral that helps to strengthen your immune system by reducing inflammation in your immune cells. It also plays a role in supporting healthy thyroid and cardiovascular function.
Brazil nuts also contain other antioxidants such as ellagic acid, which offers neuroprotective and anti-depressant properties for the brain, and can help support mood-disorders.
Native to South America, Brazil nuts can be found in the Amazonian forests of its moniker Brazil, as well as Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.
Adding a Flavour Pop!
Knowing that our modern lives are always going to be busy, I wanted an easy way to incorporate all these health giving spices and ingredients into my everyday meals and snacks. That’s how I started Flavour Pop, where I’ve blended these “superfood” ingredients into easy to use non-cook spice shakers that can be shaken onto any meal from avocado on toast to soups, salads and veggies, as well as meats and seafood, for a real pop of natural flavour!