Cinnamon regulates blood cholesterol levels
Cinnamon regulates blood cholesterol levels

Small wonders

Add-ons like ketchup and spices not only add flavour to food but also a significant dollop of nutrition

They are typically used to add a dash of colour or enhance the flavour of a dish. When they are there, we hardly notice them. But when they are not, things can get frustrating. We are talking about sauces and condiments here, and you know what I mean when you are sitting with a lovely multigrain club sandwich, but the bottle of ketchup or the jar of mustard is nowhere to be found.

But these add-ons are not just about flavour, they also bring to the plate a small but significant dollop of nutrition. The same goes for spices—cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, peppercorns, or cloves—which add much more than just flavour; they are in fact powerhouses of nutrition and contribute several vital anti-oxidants, vitamins, polyphenols, plant-based nutrients and healthy oils. Turmeric, for example, has active therapeutic ingredients that help control inflammation and act as nature’s own antibiotics. A common condiment, chillies have the active ingredient capsaicin that helps control appetite and aids weight loss.

Unfortunately, commercial bottled sauces contain too much added sodium and sugars, which could be a cause of concern for overall health. However, if used with discretion, and if other sources of salt and sugars are controlled in the diet, then consuming half a tablespoon or so of sauces or chutneys won’t do you any harm—in fact, they would do you some good. And for someone on a strict low-calorie, weight-loss diet plan that includes somewhat repetitive and bland food choices, sauces and other accompaniments could well be the difference between adhering to the diet plan or giving up out of the sheer boredom of eating insipid food.

Here is a list of the six best condiments and spices to include as part of your healthy diet:

uTomato ketchup: Tomato ketchup, especially home-made chutney, is rich in the antioxidant lycopene. This is because cooked tomatoes provide six times more lycopene than raw tomatoes. Home-made tomato chutney is a great source of lycopene, helps boost immunity and improve skin health and prevent cancers.

uMint chutney: The cooling menthol that mint leaves or pudina contain have a calming effect on the smooth muscles of the digestive system and helps prevent flatulence and acidity. Mint leaves, like other greens, are a great source of the vitamin B9 (folate) which helps improve cell regeneration.

uMustard sauce: Mustard seeds contain glucosinolates that inhibit the growth of cancer cells. These tiny seeds also contain the antioxidants selenium and magnesium that prevent the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, alleviate chest congestion and migraines. When mustard seeds are cooked with seafood they tend to enhance the omega-3 contained in fish.

uChillies and hot sauces or chutneys: Chillies, both red and green, are a rich source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that can improve immunity, prevent colds and cancer and produce collagen, which is required to strengthen the skin. Chillies also contain the active ingredient capsaicin that reduces inflammation and is often used as an ingredient in muscle-relaxant creams.

uCinnamon: This flavourful spice, added to a wide array of foods from pulaos to raitas and cereals, helps to regulate fluctuating blood sugars that people with type 2 diabetes usually experience. In addition, using a half a teaspoon of this powder on a daily basis also helps to regulate blood cholesterol levels and lower serum triglycerides. The active ingredient in cinnamon is cinnamomum and with its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, regular intake of cinnamon can protect the body from arthritic pain and keep joints pain-free.

uCardamom: This is another small yet powerful nutrient and just chewing on two or three cardamoms can help overcome nausea, acidity, heartburn and constipation. Cardamom helps to eliminate waste through the kidneys as well as relieve symptoms of cold and flu. Cardamom also helps improve oral health, prevents mouth ulcers, acts as a mouth-freshener, and is an antispasmodic that can curb hiccups.

Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.

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