Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tap Into Your Spice Rack

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

I moved around a lot in my twenties and spent the decade adapting to different kitchens. The high point was a galley way with sublimely stained wooden cupboards. More often though, I occupied new construction where cabinet doors slouched on loosey-goosey hinges. My spice jars accompanied me into every new space, offering a sense of order and a continuity linked my childhood. Like other Indian-Americans, spices form the cornerstone of my cooking. Over the years, I've also learned how they play a vital role in regulating my diet.

I'm a big fan of fat and sugar. (If they are combined in a cookie, even better.) But over time, I've noticed how they stick to my bones. To cut back on these common flavor boosters, I have relied even more heavily on my spice rack. Spices contain minimal amounts of fat and make my efforts to control calories incredibly tasty. Combine chickpeas with a pinch of coriander and cumin, and I am perfectly happy to pass on the red meat. Saute a quartered pear with a quill of cinnamon, and I forget about the milk chocolate hiding in a drawer.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

Research shows that there are other dietary benefits to using spices. Apparently, the amount we eat is controlled by the brain's satiety center. The more aromatic a dish, the stronger the message the brain receives that we've had enough. Spices, which produce alluring tastes and smells, help to tell the brain when we're full. In addition, ginger, garlic, and fenugreek all lower the absorption of fat. Chili speeds up the rate at which fat gets burned. Spices also contain dietary antioxidants. A half teaspoon of cloves, for example, contains more antioxidants that a half cup of blueberries. Allspice, cinnamon, and saffron are also high in antioxidants.

The good news is that once you get hooked on spices, you won't get bored. Every culture incorporates them and, the combinations used in India alone (at breakfast, lunch, and dinner) are endless.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)
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