Archive for the ‘Spices’ Category

Paprika’s Health Benefits   Leave a comment

Paprika is a carotenoid that is often used to add color and flavor to food. Carotenoids are red, orange and yellow  pigments synthesized by plants. Several forms of carotenoids exist, but the most common ones in Western diets are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. Carotenoid pigments can be found in many fruits and vegetables including spinach, tomato, squash, pumpkin, broccoli, corn, kale, watermelon and grapefruit.

Paprika is derived from Capsicum annuum, which includes bell peppers and chili peppers. This popular and fragrant spice has been used for centuries, though its exact origins are not entirely clear. Some reports link paprika to a Hindu figure named Rysh Paprike, however, modern-day historians associate the spice with the Serbian word, “paprena”, which means “fiery”.  Most of the world’s best paprika is produced in Hungary where it is commonly used in many dishes such as goulash and chicken papirkash. Many Portugese, Spanish and Turkish recipes use paprika in casseroles, soups and stews. Various Indian dishes such as tandoori chicken and several vegetable dishes use paprika for food coloring as well as a garnish.

Dried red bell pepper as source of sweet paprika

Studies have shown that diets that are rich in natural carotenoids (as opposed to supplements) can decrease mortality from several chronic illnesses. They are also involved in the disruption of cancer pathways and inflammation. Carotenoid pigments act as antioxidants which promote immune function, quench free radicals and protect against oxidative damage to cells. Individuals with high concentrations of carotenoids in their blood have a decreased risk of cancer and heart disease.

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Paprika on Wikipedia
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Photograph of red bell pepper courtesyof  Wikia Recipes


Posted July 30, 2011 by lipiroy in Spices

Coriander’s Health Benefits   Leave a comment

Ground coriander spice

Coriander, also known as Coriandrum sativum, derives from a plant native to Asia to North Africa, and southern Europe. While all parts of the plant are edible, the fresh coriander leaves and dried seeds are most commonly used in cooking. The fresh leaves are often used in many South Asian dishes including chutney, daal (lentils), vegetable medleys and chicken, as well as Chinese recipes and Russian salads. In Mexico, the fresh leaves are used as a garnish in guacamole and salsa. The essential oil of the coriander seed is thought to counteract overly spicy foods, making it a popular additive to curried dishes and spicy Mexican foods.  References to coriander date back to ancient civilizations, where medicinal properties were documented in Sanskrit and Greek writings.

Coriander seed and leaves.

Coriander is associated with many health benefits, possessing anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, analgesic, anxiolytic, anti-oxidant, lipid-lowering and digestive properties, as well as many others. It may have beneficial effects in diabetes, as shown by a UK study in mice whereby coriander decreased blood glucose levels, in addition to having insulin-releasing and insulin-like activity. Coriander seeds have also been shown to increase lipid metabolism in rats that were fed a high-fat diet with added cholesterol. The cholesterol-lowering effects were thought to be related to increased activity of plasma LCAT (an enzyme that transports cholesterol from peripheral tissues to the liver where it is metabolized), enhanced synthesis of hepatic bile acid, and increased degradation of cholesterol to fecal bile acids neutral sterols. Coriander has also been used to treat anxiety and insomnia for centuries in the Middle East. Recent studies in mice have shown that the aqueous extract of coriander can reduce spontaneous activity and improve neuromuscular coordination, suggesting anxiolytic, sedative and muscle relaxant effects. The fresh leaves of coriander were found to have a bactericidal effect against the food-borne bacterium, Salmonella choleraesuis


Wikipedia – Coriander
Antibacterial activity
Anxiety, Insomnia
Coriander home remedies (photo of coriander seed and leaves)
Anti-Diabetic effect
Cholesterol-lowering effect
Cholesterol metabolism by LCAT

Posted February 6, 2011 by lipiroy in Spices

Black Cumin’s Health Benefits   2 comments

Black cumin (Nigella sativa) has been used as a spice, food preservative and traditional medicine for thousands of years. Native to southwest Asia (though seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs), black cumin seeds have multiple names, including fennel flower, blackseed, black caraway, “kaljeera” in Assamese, “karum cheerakam” in Tamil, “kalonji” in Hindi and “chernushka” in Russian. It has a bitter, pungent smell and taste, but this has not prevented its use in many culinary dishes, ranging from Indian naan bread, Turkish çörek buns, Bosnian pastries and simply as condiments with salads and stir fry dishes.

Many scientific studies have investigated the therapeutic properties of black cumin. Its active ingredient and most abundant component, thymoquinone (TQ), has reproducible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive effects. TQ exerts its anti-inflammatory effects by suppressing immunomodulators such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes, and has been shown to play an anti-inflammatory role in experimental models of peritonitis, colitis, encephalomyelitis and arthritis. TQ has also been shown to decrease the proliferation of different tumor cells, including breast adenocarcinoma, pancreatic carcinoma, colorectal carcinoma, ovarian carcinoma, leukemia and osteosarcoma. The exact mechanism of the aforementioned effects is not completely understood, but TQ in black cumin has been shown to downregulate the expression of several biochemical messenger molecules (Bcl-xL, COX-2, iNOS, TNF and cyclin D1), all regulated by NF-kB. Thus, a large body of data has shown that black cumin has many beneficial health effects including the ability to fight infections (bacterial, fungal, viral, parasitic), many different types of cancers, as well as digestive disorders, headaches and skin diseases!

Stay tuned for a delicious recipe that uses black cumin…

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Posted November 28, 2010 by lipiroy in Spices

Turmeric’s Health Benefits   10 comments

Turmeric (Curcuma longa), also known as “the golden spice of life,” is a highly popular spice. Originating in India nearly 4000 years ago, turmeric is used throughout Asia and the Western world. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Turmeric is a major component of “curry powder” and it imparts the famous yellow coloring for which curry is known.   In addition to its use in Indian dishes for color and as a preservative, turmeric is used in Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) to treat various common ailments including stomach upset, dysentery, ulcers, jaundice, flatulence, arthritis, sprains, wounds, acne and skin and eye infections.

From a clinical standpoint, turmeric has been extensively investigated. It is remarkably safe. Scientific studies have shown that turmeric has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It is a promising chemopreventive and disease-modifying agent. Turmeric is currently being studied in human clinical trials for several diseases including pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple myeloma and psoriasis.

Stay tuned for a tasty recipe that uses turmeric…

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Posted August 29, 2010 by lipiroy in Spices

Spices for a healthy life!   1 comment

Hello there, and welcome to my blog!

My name is Lipi Roy and I’m a doctor who specializes in Internal Medicine. One of my many passions is cooking healthy, tasty dishes using spices with known health benefits. I was raised on a wide variety of cuisines, most commonly Indian. My mother is truly the world’s best cook (I realize that I’m a tad biased ;)), but she has an uncanny ability to create all types of food: ‘aloo gobi’ (potato & cauliflower), aloo pyaj coli (potato & scallions), Bengali-styled curried chicken, as well as various Western dishes such as french toast, pancakes, lasagna, pizza and roasted chicken…and the list goes on.

The aim of this blog is to share with you the wide, wonderful and exotic world of spices! I then plan to share evidence-based health benefits associated with each spice. In addition, each spice will have at least one recipe (with color photos!) associated with it. So stay tuned, and I will share with you my passion for cooking which, I hope, will not only improve your health but also educate you and spice up your life!

Please feel free to add comments to any of the entries/posts. Alternatively, feel free to email me at You can also find me on Twitter!/lipiroy.

Posted June 15, 2010 by lipiroy in Spices