Right now it's cold in Canada, everywhere in Canada, from the blustery, blanketed Atlantic coast, through every central provinces and all the territories, all the way to the wet and icy Pacific Coast, where only the wooliest of sweaters and toques will keep the salty crisp air from penetrating you bones.
So on this crisp winter day, while I'm writing this and feeling a draft, I'll share with you my favourite warming spices, their benefits and how you can use them all winter long.
My number 1 near and dear all year round but definitely taking a front seat in winter; the beloved ginger. For use in both savoury and sweet dishes, ginger is a wonderful all-rounder. Grate the fresh stuff into stir fries, add it to creamy carrot soup, or steep in hot water with fresh lemon for a tasty drink. If you prefer the dry versions, add it into your healthy baking. Ginger, and more importantly its active compounds; gingerols, assists with digestion and supports immunity.
My taste buds put turmeric at a high second spot. I purchase it in different combinations of curries as well as by itself to use in sauteed tumeric tofu and for golden coconut milk. Part of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae , Tumeric has a high amount of curcumin, the active Plant Phenolic Compound. These Phenolic compounds from medicinal herbs and dietary plants have more recognizable names including flavonoids, tannins, stilbenes, curcuminoids, coumarins, lignans, quinones, among others.
Tumeric has been use for thousands of years as an Ayurvedic medicine and now there are countless studies showing its effects against inflammation(1), it's influence on gene expression as well as epigenetic mechanisms important in cancer treatments,(2,3) and inducing endogenous antioxidant defense mechanism.(4)
Accumulative research does point to curcumins low bioavalability, being a fat soluble compound, mixing tumeric with fatty foods such as coconut milk, olive oil, or traditionally ghee, will help with getting the active ingredients where it needs to be. The next up on my list of favs also has been shown to have a synergistic effect on absorption of curcumin and so delicious....
A great addition to almost any dish, I love to crack fresh black peppercorn over any turmeric containing curry, its lovely on soups, pastas, a ripe avocado, yumm! Because of its antibacterial properties, pepper is also used to preserve food. It is a rich source of manganese, iron, potassium, vitamin-C, vitamin K, and dietary fiber. Black pepper is also a very good anti-inflammatory agent.
Following a close and final fifth is paprika! easily added to curries, stews, chilli, and even chocolate, it's warming heat will get the chills out. Paprika is made from dried capsicums and is graded according to heat, which ranges from sweet, to mild, to hot. Just 1 teaspoon delivers a hit of antioxidants and nutrients, such as Vitamin C and Iron. Try my favorite sweet warm up drink of water, lemon juice, a pinch of paprika, and a tsp of maple syrup. Great in a thermos for outdoor activities.
If you like these ideas and are looking for a few more, check out this article on ramping up your circulation through winter..
Happiest of Holidays and a Healthy Start to the New Year!