Indian cuisine has incorporated herbs and spices for thousands of years that have a multitude of health benefits. Here are just a few things that are commonly found in Indian recipes, including many used at Ananda, which can help improve the quality – and even the duration – of your life:
Garcinia is a plant, the fruit rind of which is used to make medicine. Garcinia Cambogia extract has recently found its way into the limelight, as the latest research has resulted in the discovery of its apparent fat-blocking and appetite-suppressing capabilities. Although there is some controversy over this, Garcinia has been incorporated into Indian cuisine for centuries. The indigenous plant makes a great additive to many Punjabi dishes.
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. It has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb. It contains a compound called curcumin which carries many of the medicinal properties and is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. However, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. It helps to consume black pepper with it, which contains piperine, a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.
It is believed that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic, Western disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndromes, Alzheimer’s and various degenerative conditions. Therefore, anything that can help fight chronic inflammation is of potential importance in preventing and even treating these diseases.
Curcumin also boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in the brain. Studies have shown that turmeric can reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis (spread of cancer), as well as contributing to the death of cancerous cells. Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to lead to various improvements in the pathological process of Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition to brain disorders and diseases, curcumin can prevent heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in the world. The main benefit of curcumin when it comes to heart disease, is improving the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels.
Given that curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory, it has been used to help relieve symptoms of arthritis. In a study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was even more effective than a prescribed anti-inflammatory drug.
A study showed that curcumin was as effective as prozac in alleviating symptoms of depression.
Tamarind is a rich source of dietary fiber. It binds to toxins in food thereby helping to protect the colon from cancer-causing chemicals. Additionally, dietary fibers in the pulp bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in the colon; thereby help in expulsion of “bad” or LDL cholesterol levels from the body. Tamarind is an excellent source of iron and thiamin, as well as Vitamin C.
Tamarind’s pulp has been used in many traditional medicines as a digestive aid.
Goji berries are an excellent source of antioxidants. They are low in calories, fat-free and are packed with fiber.
Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, is a perennial herb indigenous to India. Tulsi teas are now gaining much deserved recognition in the Western world also. Ananda’s summertime sorbet, Lemon Holy Basil, is a tasty use of the herb.
Tulsi is a powerful adaptogen. In other words it helps the body to resist stress. It is also a natural sleep aid. (Although some Tulsi Teas containing caffeine.) Tulsi boosts the immune system. Regular drinkers report a far lower incidence of succumbing to common illnesses such as colds. It is absolutely packed with free radical fighting anti-oxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, and is therefore beneficial to those suffering from IBS, Chrohn’s disease and digestive disorders. The anti-inflammitants can also improve joint support. Furthermore, Tulsi can help to maintain healthy eye-sight. It helps to increase metabolism and improve levels of stamina. Regular drinkers have a lower than average incidence of gum disease. It also helps to combat bad breath.
The health benefits of cumin include its ability to aid in digestion, improve immunity and treat piles, insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, lactation, anemia, skin disorders, boils and cancer.
Cumin is extremely helpful in relieving digestion-related problems. The very aroma of cumin activates our salivary glands in our mouth, which facilitates the primary digestion of food. Cumin promotes digestion and also gives relief for stomach-aches when taken with hot water.
Early studies report that cumin can have a powerful effect in preventing diabetes by reducing the chances of hypoglycemia.
Cumin is a stimulant as well as a relaxant at the same time. Studies show that the proper intake of vitamins and good digestion help to induce a sound sleep. Cumin helps in both of these factors.
The healing properties of cumin make an ideal anti-congestive combination for those suffering from respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis. It acts as an expectorant, meaning that it loosens up the accumulated phlegm and mucus in the respiratory tracts and makes it easier to eliminate them from the system via sneezing or coughing up and spitting.
The essential oils present in cumin act as disinfectants and help fight viral infections which can cause the common cold. Cumin also suppresses the development of coughs. It is rich in iron and has considerable amounts of Vitamin C, which are essential for a healthy immune system and keeps infections from forming or becoming worse. Vitamin-C is also a natural antioxidant. The high iron content helps prevent anemia as well as improving blood flow. This increased blood flow can improve overall blood circulation, helping to deliver more oxygen to the brain and other vital organs. This can improve concentration and cognitive performance.
Cumin is said to help ease and increase secretion of milk in lactating women. It is even more beneficial if taken with honey.
The high levels of Vitamin E in cumin help the body to maintain beautiful skin.
Cumin itself has detoxifying and chemopreventive properties, and accelerates the secretion of detoxifying and anticarcinogenic enzymes from the glands. Between cumin and turmeric, people who eat Indian food frequently may be less likely to experience cancer!