The Cooking of India

The Cooking of India

Unlike much western cooking, the foods and recipes of India have a long tradition of respect for health. Cooking, for many, is interwoven with Ayurveda – an ancient medical practice which aims to prevent illness, but also to treat it when necessary. Besides lifestyle changes, use of meditation, and consideration of energy patterns, many herbs are used in the cooking of India, as well as in medical treatments. Today, science has discovered that these herbs are indeed effective.

Westerners like me can’t hope to encompass all the many and diverse regional dishes of India; indeed, we can’t always find all of the ingredients. But you will find recipes here that include some of the wonderful ingredients and herbs used in Indian cooking.

Here is a brief discussion of a few of the many wonderful herbs of India and their benefits.

See “Turmeric and Parkinson’s Disease”

Coriander seeds / powder
These seeds are high in healthful phytochemicals; the powder has been traditionally used for managing cholesterol, for anti-inflammatory effects, and for lowering blood glucose and decreasing insulin resistance in people with diabetes. Cell studies and research using animals have supported these uses.

Cumin seeds / powder
Cumin has been used as a digestive aid, antioxidant, an antibacterial and anticancer agent; appears to help protect against cancer, and for blood glucose control.

This common plant boosts the immune system and helps prevent cancer.

There are two main forms of cinnamon found in the western world – Ceylon (true) cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is most commonly found in the west, and is fine for cooking generally. However, it contains substances called coumarins, which in theory could cause liver damage if used in large amounts. In this case Ceylon cinnamon may be the preferred choice.

Studies have shown that cinnamon has antioxidant effects; is anti-inflammatory; may lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides. In an animal study, sodium benzoate, a cinnamon metabolite, was found protective against Parkinson’s disease.

Fennel seeds
Used throughout Asia, fennel seeds contain antioxidants and phenolic compounds that are associated with prevention of heart disease, cancer, and inflammation. It may act as a natural antidepressant; and in animal studies, boosted memory.

This is a plant whose rhizome (root) has many health-protective properties. It is anti-inflammatory, has antioxidant components, and is under study for possible protection against Alzheimer’s disease.

Not everyone can tolerate hot peppers, but for those who can, the benefits are many. They contain capsaicin, the heat-producing part of the pepper. Capsaicin helps fight the pain of arthritis, helps control cholesterol and triglycerides, and fight free radical damage. It helps prevent stomach ulcers and the spread of prostate cancer, and lowers risk for diabetes.

The seeds of this plant have been used medicinally for centuries, and modern science has discovered its potential benefits for preventing or treating high cholesterol, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and possibly cancer.

As you search the recipes here, you’ll find that some of them contain these valuable herbs. I hope you’ll give them a try.

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