|May 23, 2023


Does the aroma of masala wafting from your kitchen make you instantly hungry? 

Well, you’re not alone!!

Masala mixes or spice blends are an important part of Indian cooking and infuse incredible flavors and aromas into your food. Apart from tingling your taste buds, Indian spice mixes are packed with nutrients and provide loads of goodness for both adults and kids.

Indian cuisine generally uses a variety of spice powders. The term “Masala” means “spice mixture” and a spice powder is the ground powder of the entire spice mixture. As per Ayurvedic texts, these powders are believed to raise body temperature.

The distinct qualities of each masala mix can be attributed to the specific ingredients it contains and the proportions in which these spices are used in the mix. Each region of India has its own distinct masala mixes. Aromatic spice blends like sambar masala, roasted curry powder, cumin seed powder, and rasam powder from South India, chhole masala, garam masala, or chicken pepper masala from North India, the Goda masala from Maharashtra, and Paanch Phoran from Eastern India not only give a unique taste to traditional dishes but also have many health benefits.

Then there are the not-so-common masalas like the fruit salad masala, fruit chaat masala, or even the cheese butter masala, which have their own unique flavor and taste and their own health benefits.

Each kind of masala powder has a special ingredient that gives a unique flavor to the dish in which it is used. To prepare a spice powder, the ingredients are lightly toasted in a pan with or without oil or ghee, cooled, and then roasted and finally ground to a fine powder in a blender or mixer. 

Did you know?

  • Garam masala is made from both green and black cardamom, coriander seeds, cumin seed powder, cinnamon, bay leaves, nutmeg, mace, and black pepper.
  • Sambar masala powder is made by roasting and grinding red chilies, asafetida, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, chana dal, urad dal, black pepper, fenugreek seeds, and turmeric.
  • Curry powder (or Madras curry powder) is made from spices like curry leaves, turmeric, fenugreek, and red chilies.
  • Rasam powder is a mixture of red chilies, toor dal, coriander seeds, turmeric, cumin seed powder, peppercorns, and dried curry leaves.
  • The Paanch Phoron or five-spice mix from East Indian states uses nigella (onion seeds), fennel, fenugreek, cumin seeds, and black mustard.
  • Chhole masala is made by mixing coriander seeds, bay leaves, red chilies, turmeric, cumin seed powder, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, cloves, peppercorns, dried garlic, ginger powder, sesame, star anise, and fennel seeds.
  • Goda masala, which is the base for most Maharashtrian curries, includes cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, coriander seeds, white sesame seeds, coconut flakes, black stone flower (i.e., dagad phool), and black peppercorns.

Now that we know this, let’s get to know the main health benefits of Indian masalas

Benefits of Indian Masala Powders

Benefits of Indian masala

Masalas give you invaluable nutrients

Indian masala powders contain a variety of pulses, cereals, and spices, that give them nutritional value. For instance, sambar powder and rasam powder are pure Indian spices that are rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium as well as folate, and carotene. 

Indian masala powders are rich in pulses, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Masala powders like garam masala, Goda masala, and panch phoron are mixed with spices like asafetida, coriander seeds, cumin, mace, and turmeric which are all rich in iron and calcium. Thus, each spice mixture can be called a virtual nutrient bomb! 

They have antimicrobial and antifungal properties

Do you suffer from frequent food poisoning?

If the answer is yes, then you need to know this – Food poisoning is caused by microorganisms and can pose a grave threat to your health. Mostly, these are various bacteria and pathogens. 

Most Indian masalas contain spices such as cinnamon, clove, and cumin, which contain significant antibacterial and antifungal properties against such food-spoiling bacteria, pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus, and other harmful fungi. Therefore, Indian masala powders in effect act like anti-microbial agents that can kill microorganisms and stop their growth. 

They boost body metabolism

Daily-use ingredients like ginger, garlic, turmeric, fenugreek, and red pepper are effective cholesterol-lowering agents. Several other indigenous Indian spices have heart-healthy, anti-diabetic, and even anti-obesity properties when consumed regularly. 

Spice mixes have anti-inflammatory properties

Most Indian masala powders containing spices like bay leaves, red chilies, black pepper, and nutmeg have high anti-inflammatory properties. So, including these spices in your daily diet becomes very beneficial to the reduction of the body’s natural inflammatory response in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and atherosclerosis.

They contain antioxidants

The various spices used in Indian masala mixes are rich in antioxidants such as polyphenols, lignans, and flavonoids. Antioxidants are proven to reduce oxidative stress. 

Oxidative stress happens when there is a high concentration of free radicals in the cells and tissues of the human body. These free radicals are caused due to mental or physical stress, contaminated food, physical exertion, adverse environmental conditions, smoking, alcoholism, drug addiction, and even radiation!  

High oxidative stress leads to a variety of diseases, including cardiac ailments, rapid aging, and even cancer. Therefore, the inclusion of various masalas in your daily diet will help in reducing stress and may even slow down aging.

Masalas are excellent for dental health

Were you aware that spices like cloves and cinnamon have been used to treat both minor and major dental issues, since very ancient times?! Why? Because these spices contain phytochemicals, which act against oral microorganisms and treat dental conditions like plaque, staining, pain and swelling, gingivitis, and periodontics. So, masala mixes that have these spices included in them automatically become beneficial for dental health. 

And they can even help in fighting cancer! 

Do you know that many spices can modify your immune responses or even the basic functioning of the immune system itself? This is known as the “immunomodulatory effect”. 

Many research studies have concluded that apart from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, many spices also have immunomodulatory effects. This makes them very effective in the prevention and treatment of many types of cancers, including breast, liver, stomach lung, colon, rectum, cervix, and prostate cancer. 

Several spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, cumin, saffron, red chilies, and black pepper contain anti-cancer bioactive compounds like thymoquinone, capsaicin, curcumin, and piperine. In fact, a study published in July 2016, in the Pharmacognosy magazine called “Sambar, an Indian Dish Prevents the Development of Dimethyl Hydrazine-Induced Colon Cancer: A Preclinical Study”, reveals that the humble Indian sambar curry can prevent colon cancer as the spices added in its curry powder have anti-cancerous properties.

To conclude…

So, next time you make that pot of delicious sambar or sprinkle garam masala powder generously in your food, remember that you’re not just adding flavor and fragrance to your foods, but you’re also helping your family stay healthy and safe!

frequently asked questions

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