Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Spice up your life!

No it's not another Spice Girls comeback, thank goodness, but the follow-on to last weeks blog on beneficial herbs.

Adding spices to your food is an easy way to add some powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and all round health boosters to your diet whilst adding flavour.

Here are my favourites spices and some ideas on how to use them:

Ginger - a warming antioxidant spice with anti-inflammatory and blood thinning properties. A great addition to stir fries, and included in Mondays soy chicken recipe. I also like to put it through the juicer when making veg juices and blend into smoothies - see recipe below.

Turmeric - from the same family as ginger so has similar health properties. Is traditionally used in curries but also works well with sweet foods. I like it stirred into porridge, muesli or fruit salad and blended into fruit smoothies (see recipe below).

Cinnamon - helps balance blood sugar levels and keep sugar-cravings at bay. Cinnamon gives foods the illusion of sweetness without having to add sugar so is a good addition to porridge or sugar-free muesli, and if you haven't kicked the coffee habit sprinkle on your cappuccino!

Chillies - a very warming spice! Boosts the metabolism and the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties. However be careful not to start adding chillies to everything as they can be harsh on the stomach. Add fresh chillies or chilli flakes to casseroles to liven them up and have a medium to hot curry to help fight off a cold. If, like me, you unfortunately can't eat (or don't like) chillies then curcumin (pimento) has very similar properties.

Garlic - lots of research has shown the cardiovascular health benefits of eating garlic - lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels whilst boosting circulation. Garlic is also great for the immune system and a tasty addition to most recipes, particularly tomato based sauces/casseroles and vegetable dishes. Blend one clove with three fresh tomatoes, a little salt, pepper and olive oil, and serve on (or dip in) toasted rye or spelt bread as a healthy alternative to bruschetta.

Breakfast smoothie:
Adapted from 'The source' by Dr Woodon Merrell:
100g mixed frozen berries
120ml pomegranate or cherry juice
60ml water
90ml soya or rice milk (unsweetened)
Half tsp finely grated/chopped fresh ginger root
Quarter teaspoon each of cinnamon and turmeric
Half tbsp of ground flax seed

Blend ingredients til smooth and enjoy.

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