Although herbs and spices have long been a part of our history, most of us do not use them anywhere near enough. We also tend to leave them looking pretty on our kitchen bench top and do not turn them over once they are past their us-by dates. We all need to get back into the habit of adding them into our foods. Not only do herbs and spices impart a wide range of flavours, aromas and textures to foods, which is very useful if the taste buds need a bit of a kick, they are in fact the most concentrated sources of antioxidants and other phyto (fight o)-chemicals that have been shown to be important health as well as in the cancer fight.
One which has been in the spotlight is curcumin, the active component of tumeric. It is a powerful antioxidant with a similar potency to Vitamin C and E. It also has wide-raging effects on the body’s immune system, acting on lympocytes and other immune cells as well as enhancing wound healing. Additionally some studies have shown found that curcmin can help prevent tumour growth, kill cancerous cells, arrest the spread of cancer and disrupt the tumour’s blood supply. Tumeric is a very versaltile flavour which works well in a mild chicken type curry, sprinkled on roasted vegetables or added into soups. When mixed with a little oil and black pepper, the potent nutrients are absorbed over a thousand times better than if taken in a capsule form.
Try this simple but delicious tumeric containing chicken curry recipe, minced chicken can also be used if a softer texture is needed.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 large chicken breast fillets, skinned and cut into chunks
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large onion, sliced and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (optional and best to leave if the mouth is a little raw)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 250g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons chicken stock
- 2 tablespoon ground almonds
- 4 tablespoons double cream
- 4 tablespoons plain yoghurt
- Prep: 5 mins | Cook: 45 mins
- Heat oil in a frying pan and fry chicken, garlic and onion until chicken is cooked through. Cut open a small piece to test that it is no longer pink.
- Season with ginger, chilli powder, cinnamon, turmeric and white pepper and set the heat to medium. Mix in the tomatoes and chicken stock. Return to a simmer, and then stir in the almonds.
- Stir in cream and yoghurt, and then cook gently for 2 to 4 minutes, before serving on a bed of rice.
Ginger is another helpful spice as it also may offer a range of anti-cancer and therapeutic properties. There are at least 50 anti-oxidants from the rhizome of ginger. One of these, the active component gingerol, has supressed tumor growth, tumor blood supply and killed cancerous cells in several human lab experiments. Ginger is also known for its anti-nausea properties. The key to harnessing the benefits from herbs and spices is to use them in their whole form, added to food, rather than taking a supplement form. Herbs and spices are also great to give a health boost for individuals who are not managing to eat quite the variety of foods that they might normally manage. They can be added to all textures of food and spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg can be added to smoothies and milk drinks.
Some of the other herbs and spices that you can try to incorporate in food and cooking should include:
This is just a starter list and I would recommend Jekka McVicars book for further ideas on the tastes and use of the vast array of herbs and spices in cooking.