If you’ve eaten authentic Indian food, you know the dishes are packed with flavor. What you may not know is much of that flavor comes from spices that are beneficial to your digestion. These Indian spices can help people with digestive issues like Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The spices are used in Indian households around the world. They are versatile and can be used in all kinds of dishes. Sometimes I even like to take a spoonful of one and take it like a digestive supplement.
My spice rack is actually a spice box. It was given to me by a close Indian friend. She filled the containers with spices she uses everyday in her kitchen. I labeled them for you to make it easy to understand.
The Digestive Benefits of 7 Indian Spices
Turmeric is what gives curry the orange color. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin which has powerful medicinal benefits including anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin is such a strong anti-inflammatory, it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs. Turmeric has a pungent, bitter flavor. Some common dishes where turmeric is used include curry, soup, salad dressing, vegetables, and tea. I use Starwest Botanicals Organic Turmeric Root Powder and take a daily spoonful of it with cracked pepper and honey. The cracked pepper helps with absorption and the honey makes it taste better.
Cumin is an herb that has been used in India for hundreds of years to treat indigestion. It can help relieve diarrhea, bowel spasms, gas, and stomach aches. The compounds in cumin stimulate digestive enzymes which can be beneficial to people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Cumin can be used as whole seed or ground. Some common dishes with cumin include curry, hummus, chili, meat, and fish. I like to take a handful of cumin seeds after a meal or with warm water.
Garam Masala is my favorite tasting spice in my box. It is a blend of spices native to India. A traditional recipe contains black peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, mace, and cumin. Garam masala is commonly used in Ayurveda to improve digestive fire. It increases your body temperature which raises your metabolism and decreases constipation. It is beneficial for people with slow transit constipation. I like to sprinkle it on starfruit. Trust me, it is delicious!
Ajwain and Fenugreek enhance the flavor of many Indian dishes as it tastes best when cooked. Fenugreek is commonly used in Ulcerative Colitis diet plans because of its anti-inflammatory effects. The seeds have water-soluble fiber which can help soothe an upset stomach, constipation, and inflammation in the stomach. Fenugreek can also increase your appetite which can be useful during an IBD flare-up. Ajwain can be a natural home remedy for curing gas, flatulence, acidity and indigestion. Boil water with a few scoops of ajwain seeds and drink up!
Mustard seeds are an excellent source of magnesium and dietary fiber, so it can help with constipation or irregular stools. Mustard seeds can also stimulate your appetite, soothe an upset stomach, and act as a laxative. Be careful because too much of it can cause irritation. In Indian cooking, black mustard seeds are often fried in oil which makes them sweet and mild. The seeds are also used in Ayurveda healing.
Red chili powder is a big reason why Indian food is so spicy and why many Westerners have to go the bathroom after eating. Even though people associate red chili powder with stomach aches, it actually can prevent acid reflux and kill bacteria that cause stomach ulcers. Red chili powder also has a large amount of fiber which helps ease digestion and prevents constipation. You can use this spice in many cuisines like Tex-Mex, Chinese, Indian, and Thai.
Sesame Seeds are derived from the oldest oilseed crop in the world and have been cultivated for more than 3,500 years. The seeds are packed with fiber which can help reduce constipation and diarrhea. There is also a lot of copper in sesame seeds which reduces inflammation and assists in the intake of iron. One of the most unique digestive benefits of sesame seeds is its oral effect. The oil in the seeds can act as an antibacterial in your mouth which helps maintain proper oral hygiene.
Not pictured in my spice box, but still included in my digestive arsenal…
Fennel seeds taste like black licorice and are one of my favorite digestive friends. The seeds can provide relief from constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and flatulence. Fennel also has an amino acid called histidine that can help treat anemia. I am frequently low on iron from having Crohn’s Disease, so that is super helpful for me. Fennel seeds are used extensively in Indian cooking and as a post-meal digestive. I like to eat a handful of seeds after dinner. I also like to drink it in tea from. My favorite brand is Heather’s Tummy Tea Organic Fennel.
Ginger and cardamom are also essential for gastrointestinal protection. These two plants are similar to turmeric and can help relieve inflammation, nausea, and pain. Ginger tea is one of my favorite drinks before or after a meal.
COMING UP ON THE BLOG…How to use 7 Indian spices in the kitchen! My favorite Indian foods and drinks with digestive benefits.
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