Best Herbs And Spices For Digestion
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Your gut plays a large role in your general health and wellbeing, and the foods you eat can have a direct impact on your gut’s bacteria, or microbiome. Good bacteria aids digestion and maintains a healthy immune system. This is why it’s important to consume foods that are good for your gut health.
A great way of doing so is by adding herbs and spices to your meals. Many herbs and spices have been used throughout history as digestive stimulants and improve food transit time in the gut. We’ve put together some of the best herbs and spices that not only taste good, but support a healthy digestive system.
Ginger is a superstar spice when it comes to digestion. It’s a carminative, a substance that prevents the formation of gas or helps to eliminate excess gas from the digestive system. Ginger is known to reduce nausea, gas and bloating, as well as stimulate saliva and bile production. Ginger can also reduce contractions in the intestine by relaxing the intestinal muscles and allowing food to pass more easily.
The great thing about ginger is that it is so versatile, and you can add it to curries, soups, stir fries, or simply steeped in hot water and enjoy it as a tea. Try it in our recipe for chicken tagine with apricots, ginger and ras-el-hanout.
Part of the ginger family, it comes as no surprise that cardamom is also good for digestion. This aromatic spice has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and its health benefits are plentiful. As well as helping to relieve bloating, gas and indigestion, it can also slow down the rate of stomach muscle cramping. Cardamom pods contain a substance called limonene which is also found in citrus peels. Limonene is effective in relieving heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), as well as dissolving cholesterol-filled gallstones.
Cardamom can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Add it to curries, red meat, lamb, poultry, rice and lentil dishes, or pair with other warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Try our healthy spiced banana and mango smoothie.
Not only is cinnamon delicious, but it’s also fantastic for your digestive health. Cinnamon is anti-inflammatory, and can help lower gut inflammation. The spice also has prebiotic properties which promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and alleviate any digestive issues. Cinnamon also helps to decrease stomach acid and the enzyme pepsin after eating, which in turn lowers metabolic heat and cools your stomach down, as well as reducing CO2 production.
Cinnamon is another versatile spice, and you can add it to both sweet and savoury dishes. Add a pinch to stews, curries and sauces for a more rounded flavour. Bake it into cakes, cookies and puddings, and sprinkle some on top of lattes or toast. Try our cinnamon and vanilla fried bananas, a traditional Indonesian street snack.
Turmeric has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Not only does this spice give curries their yellow colour, but it’s also packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is the main compound which is responsible for turmeric’s health benefits. It helps to aid digestion, soothe your digestive tract, reduce stomach pain, relieve heartburn and reduce gas. By keeping inflammation at bay, this spice helps to keep your digestive system running smoothly.
You can add turmeric to all kinds of dishes. Add it to soups, curries and stews, cook into rice for a lovely aroma, toss with roast vegetables, or sprinkle over scrambled eggs. You can even add a pinch to drinks such as lattes, teas and smoothies. Try it in our recipe for spicy beans.
Cumin is a super-powered spice when it comes to digestion. You can find white and black cumin, with the latter having a stronger and more bitter taste. Although both have their health benefits, black cumin in particular contains thymoquinone, which has gastro-protective properties. This compound stimulates your salivary glands, enzymes and bile, which are all essential in the breakdown of your food. Cumin also relieves gas in the stomach and intestines, and helps reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Cumin is an essential spice in Indian curries and chutneys. The spice also works well in stews, soups, rice dishes, breads, pickles and sauces. Try it in our recipe for South American chicken and rice.
Oregano is a staple herb in many different cuisines. It has a strong flavour and subtle sweetness, with a wonderful aroma. It’s also packed with health benefits, including antibacterial, antioxidant, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Oregano’s strong antimicrobial effects can help to cleanse the intestines and clear out any bacterial or fungal infections which cause problems in the gut. Oregano is an excellent source of fibre which is essential for a healthy gut.
Oregano is versatile and you can use it to add a Mediterranean flavour to all kinds of dishes. It pairs well with tomatoes and is common in pasta sauces and pizzas. You can also add it to baked dishes, vegetables, legumes like chickpeas or lentils, fish and meat dishes, marinades and salads. Add oregano to this Mexican fish rub for a bold and earthy twist.
Fennel seeds can help to promote the production of gastric juices, and are often used as an after-dinner digestive aid. Fennel seeds contain high amounts of fibre which protect the colon and ease constipation. Their anti-inflammatory properties help to soothe swelling or irritation in the intestine. Additionally, fennel seeds are rich in iron, calcium and magnesium which makes it a good cure for bloating, gas and stomach cramps.
Fennel seeds can be used to flavour fish, meat and vegetable dishes. Bake them into Italian breads like focaccia, add to sauerkraut, or make a simple tea by steeping the seeds in hot water. Try our recipe for couscous with roasted fennel butter.
Peppermint is another nutrient-packed herb which is great for your digestive health. This sweet, fresh and minty plant is an antispasmodic, a medicine that helps calm the muscles of the stomach and relieves cramps and bloating. Peppermint also helps to improve the flow of bile, which is important in digesting fats. This helps to pass food through the stomach more quickly.
You can use fresh peppermint leaves to cool down fiery curries, or add a few into a fresh fruit salad for a minty hint. You can also steep the leaves in hot water to make a peppermint tea. Drinking this after a big meal can help to aid digestion and reduce the feeling of being ‘uncomfortably full’.