We, as a nation, love ‘foreign’ foods. This is possibly because of their exotic aromas and the fantastic array of spices used to enhance their flavours.
There are over 200 herbs and spices on this planet but on average, we only use about 5 of them in the UK!
Herbs and spices are Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet. In fact, when I worked in the jungles of Belize, the local people used the herbs from the rain forest for their every day needs such as for snakebites, fever, antiseptics, contraceptives, headaches etc – it was fascinating to see first hand how they relied on their surroundings to survive and used their knowledge of the medicinal powers available.
Before I go on, no one is expecting you to go out into the jungle and pick herbs – your local supermarket will do! Even better, you don’t have to be a gourmet chef to know how to use them!
So, over the next couple of months we’ll take a look at a variety of herbs and spices that could have a huge impact on your health but with very little effort!
Since it’s Valentine’s week, let's focus on the bright red chilli pepper. It’s hot and spicy and stimulates the endorphins, which leaves you with the feelings of euphoria. They enhance the immune system and release sex hormones, lifting your mood and you never know, igniting some passion in the process!
Chilli peppers do have many other benefits other than helping your love life! They contain a great source of capsaicin, which gives the pepper its heat. It is this wonderful compound that is used for its anti-inflammatory properties and a natural pain relief. This, together with its rich source of vitamins A, Bs, C and K, as well as potassium, magnesium and iron makes this devilish red gem a necessity in our spice rack.
The heat creates thermogenesis. This means our bodies burn off calories while heating up – great for weight loss! It also triggers a protective mechanism that stimulates the mucus membranes, making our noses run while eating hot foods. In addition, according to Australian researchers, it also reduces the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar levels after a meal. This might be of interest to anyone suffering from diabetes or are pre-diabetic.
Originally from Central and South America, chilli peppers can now be found all over the world in a variety of forms and sizes, from mild to sweet from hot to pungent. Whether they are in a dried powdered form such as paprika and cayenne pepper or fresh like the bell peppers, they all have different degrees of medicinal qualities.
So, with great ease, you can enhance the flavour of your dishes, maximise your nutrient intake and spice up your life all at once! Remember everything in moderation!
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