7 Gut-Healing Spices
From a teaspoon of turmeric to a pinch of black pepper, don’t let the number of spices fool you. They pack a powerful healing punch. Whether it’s rebalancing hormones, addressing heart disease, managing an autoimmune disorder or combating anxiety, healing begins in the gut. Recent studies demonstrate that the digestive system goes beyond providing nutrients and energy for our everyday needs. The gut is actually home to the majority of our immune system and regulates a diverse array of hormones impacting our state of mind.
Happy gut = Happy mind = Happy well-being.
Here are seven spices, known for their medicinal and gut nurturing qualities, to begin incorporating into your cooking.
Ginger is a powerhouse of anti-inflammatory and healing qualities. Ginger helps relax the intestines, lessen the onset of gas and bloating, alleviate heartburn, and ease nausea. Use fresh ginger over dried whenever possible. Make a tea adding a squeeze of lemon and raw honey. Add a tablespoon or two in a stir-fry or to the water when cooking grains/beans. Put in a dipping sauce or add in a soup spice profile. Ginger pairs well with garlic, cumin, coriander, coconut, and mustard seed.
Turmeric’s healing properties come from its active ingredient—curcumin. Curcumin is an immunity booster and calming digestive aid especially helpful to those with inflammatory bowel disease. Its healing effect increases when in the company of black pepper so use them as a pair. Consider fresh turmeric over dried whenever possible. Buy whole black peppercorns and grind at time of use to maintain potency and fragrance. Add when cooking oats, quinoa or lentils. Steep and make a tea.
Caraway seeds are known as nature’s antacid. These seeds are loaded with healing compounds that help alleviate heartburn, indigestion, and constipation. Consider sautéing sliced apples and pears with caraway seeds, add to naturally fermented sauerkraut or a white bean cabbage stew. I like to add caraway seeds to my tempeh marinade along with turmeric and black pepper. They have a strong flavor so choose a pinch over a heap!
Cumin has been a worldwide staple spice in the kitchen for thousands of years. It’s known for its immunity boosting, blood sugar regulating, and calming effect on the digestive tract. Add cumin when cooking beans, roasting vegetables, making a curry or hearty chili. It pairs well with allspice, coriander, chili powder, ginger, and paprika.
Cinnamon helps manage heartburn and indigestion along with being an effective blood sugar regulator. Healthy blood sugar levels impact metabolism, heart health, and cognitive abilities. Add to an oatmeal/millet porridge, mashed sweet potatoes, drop a cinnamon stick in a vegetable root stew, or make a ginger-clove-cinnamon tea. Cinnamon also pairs well with star anise, cardamom, coriander, and citrus.
Cardamom has been known for ages for its stomach calming abilities. This includes relieving gas, bloating, cramping, indigestion, and nausea. With its additional action as a powerful anti-inflammatory, this spice is essential to health. Choose the pods or seeds over the ground cardamom. Bruise a pod or two and drop it in your cooking liquid for rice. Ground and use in a curry dish. Sprinkle into your oatmeal. Cardamom pairs well with cumin, cinnamon, chili, coriander, mango, and citrus fruits.
Fennel is a medicinal powerhouse through its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and post-digestive support. Fennel’s oils are delicate so buy as whole seeds. Steep in a tea with cardamom and orange peel. Grind and add to soups, stews, or roasting marinades. Fennel pairs well with garlic, ginger, rosemary, cloves, mushrooms, and tomatoes. You can even chew on a fennel seed after dinner to aid digestion.
Each health-supportive ingredient you add to your meals is bringing you closer to a healthier and happier you. Keep diversifying your diet. As you do so, you’re also diversifying your life. That’s an added perk to expanding your relationship with food!
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