Food

Jasmine Hemsley on the 7 spices that will instantly boost your health

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Jasmine Hemsley is renowned for her delicious, but healthy, approach to food. Here, she shares her guide to the health benefits of some of her favourite spices.

Turmeric 

This vivid bright yellow spice is one that demands to be seen! You’ll have noticed the appearance of turmeric lattes in all the hip cafes, but did you know that this spice is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, or that it is hugely beneficial for liver cleansing? To top it all off, tumeric can also aid digestion and boost immunity. Try it in a delicious Golden Milk drink (above) - an Ayurvedic classic - and replace your morning coffee with this nutritious, warming hug in a mug. 

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Fennel

With their slightly sweet flavour, fennel seeds are a fantastic spice. They’re the perfect go-to at mealtimes because they stimulate appetite, aid digestion and even freshen breath afterwards - as well as helping to get you ready for a good night’s sleep. Simply munch on some toasted fennel seeds as an appetiser, cook them up in your favourite dishes or end a meal with a home-brewed fennel tisane.

Cumin 

Cumin is an amazing digestive aid that helps with gas, bloating, sluggish digestion and poor absorption of nutrients. It’s popular in many Indian and Sri Lankan curries, as well as Middle eastern and Mediterranean dishes. You can get in on the action by gently toasting it in a pan until fragrant and sprinkling it onto soft boiled eggs, to add some oomph at breakfast.

Cinnamon 

Cinnamon is an easy-to-use spice that you probably already have in your kitchen cupboards. Loved by everyone, it has travelled into Western cooking as synonymously as black pepper. Particularly nostalgic in pumpkin and apple pies, it helps to settle the stomach, balance digestion and bring some much-needed belly warmth on cold days. Cinnamon is great for adding natural sweetness to a dish without the blood-sugar spike, while also helping to metabolise fats and sugar. Add it to your Golden Milk or sprinkle it onto porridges. Alternatively, for a quick and easy way to start the day, try a hot bowl of stewed apples cooked with cloves and a star anise, topped with a good dusting of cinnamon for another Ayurveda classic.

Pink Peppercorns

Not actually a peppercorn in the true sense, this fragrant red and pink berry has antiseptic, disinfectant and diuretic properties that can help with menstrual cramps and urinary infections. Delicious with both fish and seafood, I use it to great effect in my Pink peppercorn lamb hot pot with a butternut top.

Asafoetida

This little known ground spice, derived from a special variety of giant fennel, is considered a superpower ingredient in Ayurveda. A little goes a long way, and it’s pungency adds big flavour to savoury dishes. It also aids the digestion of lentils and beans, so you’ll find it in all my dal recipes. Plus, asafoetida has anti-viral properties and can help with chest congestion - it was even used to treat the flu by those clever nurses in World War I.

Ginger

Wonderfully flavoursome, ginger is a signature healing ingredient in Ayurveda that is renowned for its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Thankfully it’s also delicious and works in so many dishes - keep it simple with hot water in a mug, or step it up with my Chestnut, Carrot and Ginger Muffins for a sweet treat with the warming effects of the fresh ginger. 

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Honey

Although it’s technically not a spice, honey is a golden nectar that is brimming with medicinal and nutritional properties. It’s considered to be an all-purpose medicine because it is antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial. In Ayurveda it’s very important that honey is consumed raw, so do not use it in hot drinks - instead, wait until your drink is at room temperature before you add it in. I love drizzling honey over my teff waffles recipe or using it to make an old-fashioned honey and onion cough-syrup, which is also featured in East by West - a real essential at this time of year! 

Jasmine Hemsley’s latest cookbook, East by West, is available to buy from Amazon here

Image: Jennifer Pallian