Discover how these warming spices help keep you feeling youthful from top to toe, plus some great ways to use them. Words: Katherine Watt.
Many of us own an array of little jars and spices, but there’s more to them than meets the eye – and the nose! ‘All spices have health properties, but some are superior to others,’ says TV nutritionist Tonia Buxton. ‘I’m fascinated with their incredible anti-ageing benefits.’ Here’s how these five special spices can do wonders for your health and your looks too!
Help your heart with cayenne
Cayenne, like all types of chilli, contains capsaicin, a powerful antioxidant. ‘It helps dilate your blood vessels,’ says Tonia. This increases blood flow to all parts of your body, preventing clots and lowering blood pressure – all great news for heart health. ‘What’s more, capsaicin helps reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, which are two of the major risk factors for heart disease,’ she says.
Try this: Hot chocolate kicker
‘I love to make chilli hot chocolate,’ says Tonia. ‘For two delicious mugs, gently heat 700ml milk, 2 tbsp cacao powder, 2 tsp Manuka honey, 1 small, scored red chilli and 1 tsp coconut oil in a pan, stirring until smooth and without letting it boil. Discard the chilli before drinking.
Soothe the skin with turmeric
Turmeric has been in the limelight for a while now, and with good reason. This bright yellow spice has been used for both health and cuisine for eons. ‘It has so many amazing properties, particularly when it comes to inflammation, which is what causes your body to ache and your skin to age,’ says Tonia. In addition, turmeric is one of the highest-rated spices on the ORAC scale. Standing for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, ORAC is a measure of the amount of antioxidants in foods, meaning turmeric is particularly good at getting rid of age-accelerating toxins. For maximum absorption, try BetterYou’s Turmeric Oral Spray (£17.95, betteryou.com).
Try this: Youth-boosting face mask
As well as reducing inflammation, turmeric helps to even out skin tone, and its antioxidants slow down age-related cell damage. Make a paste from 1 tsp turmeric, 2 tbsp ground oats, 3 tbsp yoghurt and a drizzle of honey. Apply to your face then gently scrub off after 15-20 minutes before applying oil or a moisturiser.
Tend your tresses with coriander
You may know coriander best as a leafy green garnish, but its seeds, and their powder, are classed as spices. ‘Many people don’t realise that coriander is extremely effective for improving hair growth,’ says Tonia. This is due to the combination of proteins and nutrients contained in the seeds, including vitamin K and calcium, which work together to improve circulation to your hair follicles. ‘When I’m cooking with coriander I get the seeds and grind them myself to get the best benefits and flavour,’ says Tonia.
Try this: Restorative hair oil
To give locks a surge of goodness, take your regular hair oil, or even just some olive oil, and boost it with coriander. ‘Add a teaspoon of the powder to a palmful of oil and massage your hair and scalp with it for lustrous hair,’ says Tonia.
Whittle your waistline with cinnamon
This typically autumnal spice is loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants, but that’s not all. ‘It has a powerful anti-diabetic effect because it improves sensitivity to insulin, thereby helping to lower blood sugar levels,’ says Tonia. ‘This is why it’s so wonderful for keeping your weight down as you get older, as it prevents sugar spikes and cravings,’ she says.
Try this: Spiced overnight oats
Mix ½ tsp cinnamon powder, 40g porridge oats, 150mil of milk, a small handful of chopped pecans and half a grated apple in a jar, then seal it and put it into the fridge overnight. In the morning, eat cold or gently heat if preferred.
Protect your joints with cumin
Cumin has a distinct aromatic flavour and is the hero of many South Asian and Mediterranean dishes. ‘The active ingredients in black cumin include thymoquinone, dithymoquinone and thymol. These elements combined help to reduce inflammation associated with joint diseases,’ says Tonia.
Try this: Cumin and greens broth
For a joint boost, make a broth by simmering 1.5kg of beef bones with the lid on the pot, in three litres of water and 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar for five to eight hours. This will release the cartilage-strengthening collagen from the bones. Discard the bones and re-boil the broth with 1kg shredded mixed greens, 2 chopped and fried garlic cloves, and 1 tsp of cumin for 20 minutes, blend and top with crispy bacon.