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Make your winter more spicy with these 5 spices

With a moderately hot and spicy flavour, cayenne pepper is also surprisingly nutritious. Picture: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

With a moderately hot and spicy flavour, cayenne pepper is also surprisingly nutritious. Picture: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

Published Jun 13, 2022

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Using ingredients that are in season is sensible and an inexpensive way to cook. This goes for spices too.

Cookbook author Chantal Lascaris says spices have long had their own role to play as a friend of physicians and the pride of cooks.

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Lascaris says aside from adding tons of delicious and sophisticated flavour, spices also offer an array of benefits for your health and wellbeing – making them a must in your cooking during the cold winter months.

“Spices don’t only transform your food; they can also transform your body. In winter, as a result of the cold and our all-too-human tendency to be less active, our metabolism tends to slow down. We are also more prone to craving foods that are high in carbohydrates and fats, as we seek sources of comfort and warmth.

“Fortunately, there are ways of including spices in wholesome, healthy foods, that will also ensure you don’t end up feeling worse when the time comes to lose the layers. And by using certain spices, in fact, you can even give your metabolism a boost, enhance its natural fat burning processes, and promote a feeling of fullness, so you don’t eat more than you ought to,” she says.

To get you inspired, Lascaris shared five of her favourite spices to cook with in winter, as well as their reported health benefits, and gave a few ideas of the dishes you can try to use them in.

Cayenne pepper

With a moderately hot and spicy flavour, cayenne pepper is also surprisingly nutritious. The heat in cayenne pepper comes from a compound called capsaicin, which is known to increase the body’s temperature and increase your metabolism.

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For actual dishes, cayenne pepper can add flavour without the need for added salt, which itself is a huge health plus. My personal favourites for cooking with cayenne pepper are dishes that feature chicken or fish.

It may be a surprise to you to see cinnamon listed alongside more common savoury spices, but the value of cinnamon extends far beyond pancakes. Picture: Pexels

Cinnamon

It may be a surprise to you to see cinnamon listed alongside more common savoury spices, but the value of cinnamon extends far beyond pancakes.

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Made from the inner bark of trees, it’s been used throughout history, dating back as far as Ancient Egypt, and its inclusion in savoury dishes can have a positive impact on your health.

From protecting your body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals to helping your body fight infections, reducing the risk of heart disease to lowering blood sugar levels, the list of the health benefits of cinnamon, which are backed by scientific data, is a long one.

Native to Asia, Africa, and Europe, cumin is used all over the world, not only to add flavour to dishes but also in a medicinal role. Picture: Pexels/Alina Vilchenko

Cumin

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Native to Asia, Africa, and Europe, cumin is used all over the world, not only to add flavour to dishes but also in a medicinal role.

New research has shown that cumin can have a positive effect on your metabolism and also help to reduce bad cholesterol, as a result of the plant compound it contains called phytosterols, which are known to inhibit cholesterol from being absorbed by the body.

I usually use cumin to accentuate the sweetness of root vegetables, like carrots, and to add complex flavours to vegetarian dishes, like bean stews and grilled tofu. For meat-lovers, it's also the perfect spice to enhance the flavours of beef and lamb.

Ginger has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine for its wide range of health-promoting properties, including as a remedy for menstrual cramping. Picture: Pexels

Ginger

The use of ginger in both cooking and medicine has been around since antiquity. And to this day, it’s a popular home remedy for nausea and stomach pain.

Research has shown that ginger can have a positive impact on the reduction of uncomfortable gases in the intestinal tract during digestion, providing relief from abdominal discomfort.

A study from 2017 also showed that daily ginger consumption could support the immune system – which is important during colder months – while its ability to enhance thermogenesis can reduce feelings of hunger and play a role in improved weight management.

An ingredient most commonly associated with Indian cuisine, turmeric is a common ingredient in curry powders. Picture: Pexels/Karl Solano

Turmeric

An ingredient most commonly associated with Indian cuisine, turmeric is a common ingredient in curry powders. Many of the health benefits of turmeric come from its main active ingredient, curcumin which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects, and functions as a strong antioxidant.

With recent research showing that the spice can have a positive impact on your metabolism, it’s also worth noting curcumin’s benefits against depression.

And at a time of year when the cold can wreak havoc with more than just our diet and levels of activity, it’s good to know that there are spices that can boost our mood while helping us stay healthy in the long run.

Have you read the latest IOL Food digital magazine? Read it here.

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