The Magic of Indian Masala: Exploring 5 Most Common Indian Spices and their Health Benefits 

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One of the best things about Indian dishes is the wide array of flavours, thanks to the vibrant tapestry of spices. But, apart from tantalizing the taste buds, the spices are a treasure trove of health benefits, which is why they find such prolific use in both common and exotic Indian dishes. 

The secret, however, lies in judiciously using the magic of masala – the art of using an array of all natural spices just enough so that each one gets its unique flavour profile and a surprising arsenal of health-promoting properties. 

But before using those spices, you need to know about them. This article explores the five most common Indian spices, describes their culinary uses, and unveils their health benefits. 

1. Turmeric (aka Haldi): The Golden Warrior

The different shades of yellow are perhaps the most common thing about any Indian dish and we owe it all to the golden warrior called turmeric, also known as Haldi in the native language. This one has a ubiquitous presence in Indian kitchens. 

Its active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Studies suggest curcumin may improve cognitive function, reduce the risk of heart disease, and alleviate symptoms of arthritis. 

Turmeric adds a warm, earthy touch to curries, dals, and vegetables. It’s also used in beverages like golden milk, known for its soothing properties. 

2. Cumin (Jeera): The Digestive Powerhouse 

Cumin, also known as Jeera, with its earthy aroma, is another common ingredient that sets the base for saute. It’s often the first spice to hit the hot oil, releasing its flavour and making the dishes more aromatic. 

Cumin is a good source of iron and manganese, and research suggests it may aid digestion and boost the immune system. 

Cumin is a key ingredient in curries, dals, raitas, and spice blends like garam masala. Its warming properties make it perfect for winter dishes. 

3. Coriander (Dhania) Seeds: The Flavourful Duo of Jeera 

Coriander, also known as dhania, is considered a versatile spice and is often used in combination with jeera. The two of them are often used together in powdered form for their delightful duality. 

You can either use it in its fresh, leafy form to add a bright, citrusy note or you can use the dried seeds to get that extra hit in your taste buds. 

Coriander is rich in vitamins and minerals, and studies suggest potential benefits for blood sugar control, heart health, and improved gut health. Fresh coriander leaves are used as a garnish and add a burst of freshness to chutneys, salads, and raitas. 

4. Ginger (Adrak): The Healing Root 

Ginger, also known as adrak, is a modified root that finds wide use in Indian cuisines, especially in pure vegetarian dishes. You can grate it, crush it, or make ginger paste. It is also used in its dried form. 

Ginger offers a multitude of health benefits but it is widely used as a natural remedy for nausea, cold and cough, and pain relief. Its anti-inflammatory properties also make it beneficial for managing conditions like arthritis. 

Ginger adds warmth to curries, stir-fries, and beverages like ginger tea. It’s also used in chutneys and pickles for a spicy kick. 

5. Cardamom (Elaichi): The Queen of Spices 

Cardamom, also known as Elaichi, is a highly aromatic spice and is often referred to as the “queen of spices.” It is one of the ingredients of the common Indian spice trio, ‘garam masala’. 

It comes in two varieties – green cardamom, used in savoury dishes, and black cardamom, mostly used in sweets and flavour-rich dishes like biriyani. Cardamom is a good source of fiber and manganese and may aid in digestion, lowering blood pressure, and freshening breath. 

Green cardamom adds fragrance to curries, pulao (spiced rice), and lentil dishes. Black cardamom is used in desserts like kheer, and rich spice blends for spicy Indian dishes (mostly non-vegetarian). 

Beyond the Big Five: Other Common Spices 

The above-mentioned spices are just a few of the many gems in the treasure chest of Indian spices. Here’s a list of other commonly used spices and their health benefits: 

– Cinnamon (Dalchini): Known for its warming sweetness, cinnamon may help regulate blood sugar levels. 

– Cloves (Laung): These aromatic buds have antibacterial and pain-relieving properties, which often come useful in toothache. 

– Fennel Seeds (Saunf): A popular after-meal digestive aid, fennel seeds may also help with respiratory issues. 

– Black Pepper (Kali Mirch): This ubiquitous spice enhances nutrient absorption, especially curcumin from turmeric. 

Some Spicy Tips for Using Spices 

To reap the maximum health benefits of exotic Indian spice varieties, remember the following things: 

– Buy whole spices whenever possible and grind them fresh to use them in their most aromatic form. 

– Store spices in airtight containers as it will help preserve their volatile oils and health benefits. 

– Temper the spices in hot oil as it adds more flavor and aroma to the dish, but be careful not to burn them. 

Try and explore different combinations like coriander and cumin seeds as it will help you create unique flavour profiles. 

Embrace the Culinary Adventure with the Magic of Masala 

In the kaleidoscope of Indian spices, flavour, and health intertwine harmoniously, offering a culinary journey enriched with wellness. From the golden hue of turmeric to the aromatic allure of cardamom, each spice not only offers exquisite taste but also a wealth of therapeutic properties. 

So, let’s spice up our lives and savour the delicious journey to health and wellness, one flavourful dish at a time. 


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