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The "spice-box" is the focus of an Indian kitchen. The exotic colors and aromas of spices can change an ordinary dish into a divine one.  Most spices have therapeutic properties, so every meal that includes spices can become an experience in enhancing health and well-being.

Ayurveda is the ancient system of healing from India, and has been promoting and praising spices as "wonder-foods" for thousands of years. Spices are ingredients in many ancient Ayurvedic herbal formulations, and an Ayurvedic Doctor or Nutritionist will recommend specific spices to include in your diet as part of the treatment. Ayurvedic cooking involves the six tastes; sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent which are used to prepare a balanced dish. Spices are a convenient, therapeutic, and a flavorful way to keep your diet healthy and healing.










Some general tips for cooking with spices:

  • Most spices are flavorful and strong in taste and aroma, so a little goes a long way. You want the spices in your food to enhance the dish you are preparing rather then overpowering it.
  • Buy a good Ayurvedic cookbook with suggestions for spices especially used for balancing mind and body in each season.
  • Many spices release their flavors and aromas best when sautéed in Ghee (clarified butter) or oil, some can be dry-roasted.  When roasting spices make sure you remove from heat when aromas are released and continue stirring or shaking to prevent burning.
  • Look for organic, non-irradiated spices.
  • Store spices in airtight containers away from heat and light.
  • Here's a brief description of the major Ayurvedic spices and tips on how to use them. As you experiment with combining them with other spices and different foods, you'll find your own favorite ways to use them.

Turmeric is the main spice in Ayurvedic cooking. It contains the flavanoid curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. This spice helps detoxify the liver, balance cholesterol levels, fight allergies, stimulate digestion, boost immunity and enhance the complexion. It is also an antioxidant. Ayurveda recognizes it as a heating spice. Turmeric is a bright yellow-orange spice, and, is used in tiny quantities; this spice imparts a rich color and look to cooked white rice, potatoes or yellow lentils. Add it to the water in which rice or lentils are being cooked. It combines well with other spices such as cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and cinnamon.  Turmeric can also stain clothes and surfaces, so be careful when using it.

Cumin is not just popular in Indian dishes; it is also used in many other cultures (Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisines). According to Ayurveda, it is a cooling spice. When used in recipes, it is supposed to aid digestion and help flush toxins out of the body.  Cumin can be used either as whole seeds or
ground, raw or dry-roasted. Ground raw cumin has a dull brown color, which is enriched by being sautéed in Ghee or oil. Whole dry-roasted cumin is a rich brown in color and is used as a garnish in yogurt. Both sautéing and roasting make the aroma and flavor of cumin come alive. Cumin combines well with a wide range of other spices, including turmeric, ground fennel, ground coriander, ground dry ginger and cinnamon.

Fennel is another cooling spice. According to Ayurveda, fennel is extremely good for digestion. In India and in Indian restaurants, eating a few fennel seeds after a meal is a common practice and aids in digestion. Fennel seeds are sweet tasting and can also be found candy coated.  You can use ground fennel in some dishes such as okra and eggplant. The seeds can also be sautéed in Ghee (clarified butter) and added to vegetable dishes.
Ayurveda diet, food and spices. (1987).

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