Being raised in a Polish household, my mother made some fantastic food, but didn’t use too many spices in cooking, other than salt and pepper. Even the food in college was pretty bland. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I tried new foods with many different flavors and spices such as Thai, Mexican, Spanish, Indian and even Ethiopian dishes. And guess what I discovered?…VARIETY is the SPICE of LIFE!
Many Westerners are not raised on a diet with a variety of spices. Unfortunately, they are missing out on some wonderful tastes as well as the medicinal (healing) benefits of a myriad of spices. Regularly using spices in your food/diet can have positive transforming affects on your health. And the spices your body needs (more of) can vary by your dosha (Ayurvedic body type). So opt to incorporate some new spices (such as turmeric, ginger, parsley, chili pepper, anise, cardamom or garam masala) into your daily/weekly meals. Your palate expands as you experiment with new spices and tastes. SPICE up your LIFE! Your body will begin to crave sugar and salts LESS as it is nourished with the powerful nutritional energy of other spices. Let me share more information with you from my friend and co-contributor, Aparna Khanolkar, who is known to some as the Mistress of Spice!
SPICES ARE MEDICINE by Aparna Khanolkar
You are eating healthy and clean. You are avoiding sugar and sodas. Still you don’t feel vibrant and energized. What you might be missing is some spice in your diet. By spice I don’t mean hot chilies and cayenne. There are a wide range of spices that support digestion and health. Digestion is key to proper immune function and longevity. Spices are concentrated form of intelligence from Nature that supports digestion, balance and immune function.
Spices have been used for thousands of years in many cultures. In fact, they are mentioned in ancient texts from India as well as Egypt and Greece. Today we are part of a global society and have easy access to spices from lands far and wide.
How can spices help you? Ayurveda, the 5,000 year old Indian science of longevity has vast knowledge about the healing and balancing benefits of spices. If you use only salt and black pepper in your cooking, expand your repertoire by using the spice blend recipe below.
Only when you first understand your tendencies you can apply the innate benefits of spices to your diet. Vata folks benefit from warming spices but use chilies and cayenne in moderation. Pitta people must use cooling spices. Kaphas need stimulation so they do well with warming spices.
For instance, if you have cold extremities then you could add warming spices to your cooking. Warming spices include: mustard seeds, cumin, black pepper, clove, cayenne, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. These spices have a de-toxifying effect on the body.
On the other hand, if you tend to be hot-headed, irritable and tend to have rashes and inflammation, favor cooling spices such as coriander, turmeric and fennel with small amounts of cumin and fresh ginger.
Spices are rich in nutrients so buy organic whenever possible. Buy in small amounts and store in a cool dark place in your kitchen. Light and air will make your spices stale. If you have spices in your cabinet that is more than six months old, discard it and buy fresh.
Spices must be cooked in a small amount of warm oil for their medicinal benefits to be released. Whole spices should be cooked first and then the powdered spices are added in so the powders don’t burn. Spices only need about 30—45 seconds in warm oil for their medicinal benefits and flavor to be released.
You only need to consume small amounts of spices to receive the benefits. Turmeric is one spice everyone should consume. I hear from many clients that they have been putting turmeric in their smoothies. Do not put a capsule of turmeric in your smoothie or vegetable juice. For maximum absorption, cook it in a small amount of oil. To that, add vegetables, grain or meat.
Spices can be used with grains, vegetables, eggs, fish and meat. They aid digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Use cooling spices in the summer and early spring months. Stick to warming spices in the fall, spring and winter months.
Ayurvedic knowledge can benefit your health and well-being regardless of your culture and culinary habits. Ayurveda is universal science. It’s fundamental premise is that we are microcosms of the Universe and hence we must stay aligned with the rhythms of the cosmos. To do that, we only need to stay close to the rhythms of Nature and experience the balance and harmony that is our intrinsic nature.
Food is for pleasure, fuel and is medicine. If we eat wholesome, densely nutritious foods infused with the intelligence of spices, we will experience balance in the body and mind.
A simple balancing spice blend for you:
In a dry skillet on medium heat, toast the following spices. Do not add oil. Stir constantly.
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
Toast these spices till they change color and are fragrant. Add 1 tbsp of turmeric to the spices in the skillet when you turn the heat off and mix well. When the spices cool down, grind in a spice grinder to a fine powder and store in a stainless steel container. Use this spice blend with eggs, vegetables, lentils, fish or chicken.
If you are interested in bringing in more Ayurveda into your life, please take a look at my immersion course called “Beauty . Balance . Bliss.” It will help you cultivate beauty…inside and out!
More about co-contributor, Aparna Khanolkar
Aparna is an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor. Ayurvedic ritual and medicine has been part of her life since the beginning. Born and raised in India, she was immersed in the world of Ayurveda through food, herbs, yoga and meditation. She was also a seeker of deep wisdom and meaning in her ancient culture. She has lived in the U.S for over 20 years and serves Westerners with ancient Eastern ways of being.
Aparna is the former head chef of the Chopra Center. As a speaker and author, she has published three books: A Mother’s Blessing – Ayurvedic Postpartum Care For New Mothers, Happy Belly Happy Soul – 108 Vedic Recipes and Spice – Decadent Indian Recipes. She is the co-creator of The Radiant Wellness Cleanse and the co-founder of “re-New” – Modern Healing Infused with Ancient Wisdom. You can learn more from Aparna by visiting her website and other social media platforms: