5 Healing Spices from Indian Cuisine to Put into Regular Rotation

Indian cuisine gets its bold, complex flavors from an array of spices, many of which are linked to powerful health benefits. Discover which five belong in your cabinet.
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Indian cuisine gets its bold, complex flavors from an array of spices, many of which are linked to powerful health benefits. Discover which five belong in your cabinet.

Indian cuisine gets its bold, complex flavors from an array of spices, many of which are linked to powerful health benefits. Discover which five belong in your cabinet, plus sample four delicious recipes that will help you enjoy them often.

There’s so much about Indian food that makes it crave-worthy—the sweet fragrance of basmati rice, the creaminess of curries. But above all, it’s the spices. It’s common to find almost a dozen in just one dish, seemingly custom-blended to please your taste buds. In fact, that may not be far from the truth: We may be genetically programmed to love the spices in Indian (and other) dishes because they contain health-promoting compounds like cancer-fighting curcumin in turmeric and heart-protective capsaicin in chili powder, according to an article in the European Molecular Biology Organization’s journal EMBO Reports. Researchers speculate that when our ancestors were sorting safe from poisonous foods, they figured out spices were A-OK; and that spice-lovers were subsequently healthier, lived longer, and had more offspring who also loved spices.
To help you get your flavor fix and support good health, we homed in on five spices common to Indian dishes that are generating excitement among scientists worldwide. Learn each one’s unique healing properties, the ideal amount to consume daily, and a few basic ideas for incorporating it into your repertoire. Then put them on your plate with simple, delicious recipes from Monisha Bharadwaj, author of The Indian Cooking Course.

See also Q+A: What Are the Best Spices to Have in My Kitchen, According to Ayurveda?

Get the Recipes

Tamater Aur Dal Ka Shorba (Tomato-Lentil Soup)
Bengali Dal (Chana Dal With Raisins)
Malvani Shrimp Rassa (Shrimp Curry)
Masala Chai Ice Cream (Spiced-Tea Ice Cream)

About Our Experts
Janis Jibrin is a writer and registered dietitian based in Washington, DC, as well as an adjunct professor of nutrition at American University. Monisha Bharadwaj, author of The Indian Cooking Course, runs an Indian cooking school in London called Cooking with Monisha.