Who doesn’t love pasta with garlic and olive oil or a cumin-scented arroz con pollo? While spices have been long revered for adding flavor to cuisine, they have also been used as an aid in digestion for centuries around the globe. Spices are not only a must-have in the kitchen, but also a great health aid containing powerful antioxidants packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Their anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties are powerful tools not only for digestion, but also in soothing stomach ailments.
Poor digestion is at the root of most health conditions (with your gut playing a vital role in your immunity and mood) so having a healthy digestion is an absolute must, especially for us women. You can eat the healthiest diet in the world, but if your body can’t absorb and use the nutrients from the foods you consume, then it’s all for nothing!
The ancient Indian medicine system of Ayurveda provides wonderfully effective practices for using spices in improving digestion. Stemming from two root words: “Ayush,” meaning “life,” and “Veda,” which means “study or knowledge of,” Ayurveda teaches that the body must be balanced in order for us to experience good health. For the millions who suffer from common stomach ailments – like bloating and constipation – experts say that Ayurvedic spices (when used liberally and daily) can restore your body back to health and often work better than prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
So, if the summer asados have you feeling the effects of overindulging in choripán and churrasco, don’t fret! It’s easy to use your kitchen’s spice rack like your own personal pharmacy to beat bloating, combat constipation, and improve digestion. Read on for the lowdown on 5 key spices that can aid your belly, and how to incorporate them into your diet in everything from stir-fries to smoothies.
Called the “King of Spices”, Turmeric is a rusty orange-colored spice most commonly found in Indian and Thai curry dishes. Often used as an anti-inflammatory agent, Turmeric calms the upper digestive system by getting rid of gas and increases absorption in the intestines, promoting good intestinal flora. Think of it as the “probiotic” of the spice world!
Try it in: smoothies, soups, or tossed with roasted veggies
Undoubtedly one of the most important spices to have in a Latina’s pantry (black beans wouldn’t be the same without it), cumin is also a cure-all for any belly woes that you may have. If you have a sluggish digestive system (*ahem*, constipation), cumin can help reduce bloating and embarrassing belching/gas, and it also contains an essential oil that helps stimulate the salivary glands, which is where digestion begins.
Try it in: fajitas, chili, or chifrijo.
Highly respected in Ayurvedic medicine, Ginger is said to universally treat all diseases. Not only does this powerful spice help to cleanse the body of toxins, increase the secretion of digestive enzymes and promote healthy circulation, it is also very effective in warding off nausea. Most mamis can agree that some sort of ginger ale/ginger tea/ginger candy got them through that icky first trimester!
Try it in: hot tea, in marinades, or stir-fry.
Often mistakenly believed to cause digestive upset because of its intense spicy flavor, cayenne pepper is actually a great tummy soother. Not only does it help stimulate the digestive process by promoting healthy muscle movement in the digestive tract, but it also helps regulate the proper production of digestive acids – which can lead to more consistency in the ladies room!
Try it in: seafood dishes, grilled corn, or a part of your salad dressing (a little bit goes a long way!).
Consider this powerful little spice as a woman’s BFF! Known for its licorice-type flavor, fennel is particularly beneficial for women suffering from menstrual pains (natural relief from mind-numbing cramps? Yes, please!) If you’re still not sold, it’s anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and other powerful nutrients can also help ease abdominal pain in babies suffering from colic.
Try it in: pork dishes, stews, and many baked goods.