3 healing meals that will spice up your life

Spices are among nature’s greatest gifts. It’s no wonder European explorers set out for lengthy, dangerous sea voyages to secure spice trade with Asia. Not only do these aromatic ingredients bring a sumptuous complexity to any meal, they have also been used as a powerful form of medicine in traditional societies for thousands of years.

Spices are abundant with health and vitality-boosting properties and provide safe, cheap ways to prevent illness. Did you know that by simply adding spices into your diet you can strengthen muscles, boost your brain power, lower inflammation, improve your mood and even raise your libido?

Three of my favourite spices to cook with that also boast powerful medicinal properties, are cumin, cinnamon and turmeric.

Cumin is a delicious, earthy spice containing impressive health-improving compounds. The benefits of cumin include fighting asthma, bronchitis, skin disorders, boils, anaemia, respiratory disorders and even insomnia. It’s especially fundamental for improving digestion: the smell of it comes from an active compound known as cuminaldehyde, which activates the salivary glands, facilitating primary digestion. Cumin is also good for lactating mothers thanks to thymol, a compound that increases gland secretions, including mammary glands. It’s also super-high in calcium, a vital constituent of mother’s milk. Add cumin to curries, roast vegies, casseroles and meat dishes.

Cinnamon is another wonderful spice and astonishingly good for you. Within Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, cinnamon has been long revered for its ability to treat colds, indigestion and cramps, and improve energy levels, vitality and circulation. Today, conventional doctors are catching on to the benefits of this age-old medicine, most widely recognised for its blood-sugar-lowering capabilities. Cinnamon is a must-have ingredient for people with type 2 diabetes. Use it in soups and stews or sweet recipes. It combines especially well with stewed fruits.

If you haven’t included this bright yellow, corner-of-the-mouth-staining spice in your cooking already, it’s time to put turmeric on the shopping list. A potent anti-inflammatory spice, it has the ability to protect fats against oxidisation during the cooking process as well as to shield the body against oxidative stress. Studies conducted at the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University found that the curcumin in turmeric increases LDL receptor expression. Poor LDL receptor activity can leave LDL particles open and vulnerable to oxidation from inflammatory responses. These studies reveal the importance of curcumin for its cholesterol-lowering and anti-atherosclerotic effects. Turmeric can be bought fresh or dried as a powder and is a perfect ingredient to add to soups and curries.

There are so many delicious, fragrant, wellness-boosting spices available all year around. If you’re new to the spice scene but would love to reap the benefits a spiced-up meal can bring, your best bet is to follow some simple recipes that use a few different spices. Then, gradually experiment with quantity, heat and variety to master your own original, deliciously medicinal creations. These recipes will be a great way for you to begin your spicy cooking adventure.


Chai Pancakes With Cashew Nut Cream & Blueberries

These delicious pancakes are a great way to use spices at breakfast time. They taste wonderful with blueberries and dairy-free cashew-nut cream, and the added spices have a medicinal effect.

Makes: 6 medium pancakes
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 10 mins

¾ cup chai tea, cooled
3 organic eggs
2 cups almond meal
½ cup almond milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp alcohol-free vanilla essence
6 drops liquid stevia or sweetener of your choice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil, for frying
1 cup fresh blueberries, for serving

Make chai tea and leave to cool.

Beat eggs in a bowl then whisk in the almond meal, almond milk, chai, baking powder, vanilla essence, stevia and cinnamon. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Pour a little of the butter/olive oil into a frying pan and place over medium to high heat.

Spoon a ¼ cup of mixture into the pan. For a neater shape, use egg rings.

When batter has set and is bubbling, about 2–3 minutes, carefully flip pancakes over.

Remove and keep warm.

Serve warm with cashew-nut cream, recipe below, and scatter with blueberries.


Cashew Nut Cream

Makes: 1½ cups

1 cup raw cashew nuts
2/3 cup filtered water
8 drops liquid stevia
1 tsp alcohol-free vanilla essence (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until smooth and creamy.

You may need to add a little more water if necessary, to process until smooth.

Can be stored in the fridge in a covered container for up to one week.



Almond Croquettes

For lunch, a simple, raw, spiced-up almond croquette is a healthy option. Croquettes are a world away from the diminutive, breadcrumbed, deep-fried, old-style versions full of binders and fillers, loitering in counter-top bain-maries at fast-food joints, getting drier by the minute. The fun begins when you vary ingredients, so feel free to add your favourites, such as shredded kale or spinach, and fiddle with the recipe to make it your own.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 20 mins

1 cup almonds, pre-soaked
½ cup cashews, pre-soaked
2 carrots, chopped
1 shallot, roughly chopped
3 tbsp wheat-free tamari
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 knob ginger, finely grated
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped basil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp paprika powder
3 tbsp cooked brown rice (optional)
1 cup almond meal, for coating

Place nuts and carrots into a food processor and process for about 20 seconds.

Add shallot, tamari, garlic, ginger, herbs and spices, and pulse for a few seconds.

Remove mixture and add brown rice, if using, then form into balls.

Coat with almond meal.

Serve over a crunchy green salad.



Spicy Meatballs

Looking for spicy dinner options? These spicy meatballs are delicious and bound to please the whole family, from the little ones to the more mature. Enjoy with a roasted cherry tomato dipping sauce, quinoa pilaf and homemade relish.

Serves: 3
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins

2 tbsp coriander seeds
½ tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp garam masala
Pinch red chilli powder
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 brown onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil for frying
500g organic minced lamb
½ cup chopped nuts (almonds/walnuts/cashews), preferably soaked & dried
1 organic egg
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all spices and herbs in a bowl and mix.

Lightly fry onions and garlic in coconut oil then set aside.

Using your hands, mix lamb, nuts, spices, herbs and egg together and then add onions and garlic. Season to taste.

Shape mixture into balls and, over a medium stovetop, heat coconut oil in a frying pan.

Add meatballs and sear on each side. Transfer to an oven, pre-heated to 180°C, for 20 mins or until cooked.

Drain meatballs on paper towel. Serve by themselves or accompanied by quinoa pilaf or a crispy, green side salad.

3 healing meals that will spice up your life

By: Lee Holmes

Discover three delicious, wellness-boosting spice recipes and learn why you should cook with more spice!


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Tried this recipe? Mention @wellbeing_magazine or tag #wbrecipe!

Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes is a nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef, Lifestyle Food Channel’s Healthy Eating Expert, blogger and author of the best-selling books Supercharged Food: Eat Your Way to Health, Supercharged Food: Eat Yourself Beautiful, Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian, Heal your Gut, Eat Right for Your Shape and Supercharged Food for Kids.

Lee’s food philosophy is all about S.O.L.E. food: sustainable, organic, local and ethical. Her main goal is to alter the perception that cooking fresh, wholesome, nutrient-rich meals is difficult, complicated and time-consuming. From posting recipes, her passion to share her autoimmune disease story and help others has snowballed and the blog has recently taken home the overall prize at the Bupa Health Influencer Awards as well as the best blog in the Healthy Eating category. She also runs a four-week online Heal Your Gut program.

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