Spices are ingredients used to provide flavor, color, or shelf life to foods. Most of the spices come from the stems, leaves, or flowers of certain plants.
Spices have many beneficial properties and they are used in several fields including cosmetics, medicine, perfumery, and religious rituals. However, garnishing food remains to be their most common use.Garam masala is a food garnish whose name literally means “hot spice”.
The words “garam masala” describe this seasoning as a substance that heats the body in the Ayurvedic sense. This is due to its content of spices believed to increase the temperature of the body.
This food ingredient is a seasoning consisting of a blend of different spices. Garam masala is commonly used in Indian, Pakistani, and other South Asian cuisines in its powder form.The various spices blend resulting in a frenzy and unique flavor.
The spice can be used along with other seasonings or alone. It is used in a small amount at the end of the recipe of a dish, or fried at the beginning of it for an aromatic effect.
The ingredients of garam masala can vary according to the regional and personal preferences. They include black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, dry chilies, mace, fennel, nutmeg, and other spices.
In the following article, we will read all about the Garam masala in detail.
Health Benefits Of Garam Masala
Garam masala is often made with a mixture containing more than ten different spices. Each
These are some of the health benefits that its main ingredient can provide:
- Cumin: It is a rich source of iron and it promotes oxygenation of the blood. It prevents conditions like anemia, cancer, and improves digestion.
- Cardamom (elaichi): It can help in the treatment of bronchitis, cough, and heartburns.
- Coriander: This herb helps in lowering the cholesterol levels in the body and controlling the levels of sugar in the blood, thus keeping diabetes at bay.
These are some of the benefits that garam masala as a whole provides to your health:
1. It Improves The Digestive Fire
Ayurveda considers garam masala a spice that warms up the system, enhancing the digestive fire “Agni”. This energy is responsible for the proper functioning of digestion processes in the body, and garam masala can help in stabilizing it.
The consequences are an improved digestion, enhanced metabolism, and the prevention of toxin accumulation. In addition, garam masala is considered to provide a dish with all the six tastes or “rasas” which balance the system of the consumer according to Ayurvedic principles.
2. It Prevents Constipation
By improving the digestion process, garam masala decreases the time of the digestive transit. This implies a reduced chance of constipation and a healthier bowel movement. In this way, the body can naturally cleanse itself from unwanted toxins in a regular or daily basis.
3. It Can Prevent Cancer
According to a study, it was found that the consumption of the spices that comprise garam masala could lead to an improvement in the functioning of the detoxifying enzymes.
These enzymes are responsible for the natural detoxification process of the body and they help in preventing cancer. This leads to the conclusion of garam masala probably being a natural anti-carcinogen, or anticancer substance.
Moreover, many of the ingredients used in making garam masala are anti-cancer substances themselves.
4. It Can Fight Diabetes
Cinnamon has been scientifically proven as a beneficial spice for human health. It can lower the level of sugar in the blood and increase the sensitivity to insulin in a natural way, thus preventing diabetes.
The content of cinnamon in garam masala makes it a spice that can keep diabetes at bay.
5. It Can Delay The Aging Symptoms
The effects that time has on our health and appearance can be alleviated with the use of garam masala. The credit goes to spices that form it like cinnamon, pepper, and fennel.
6. It Helps In Controlling Cholesterol
The substances found in cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom have properties that can reduce and regulate the levels of cholesterol in the body. Hence, it can prevent the many diseases that are associated with high cholesterol levels in the blood.
7. It Provides Fiber And Calcium To The Body
The spices that comprise garam masala include high sources of calcium and fiber. This enhances the health of the cardiovascular system and improves immunity and memory.
8. It Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Inflammations can take place due to several reasons, but they can be tackled with the help of garam masala. The spices that compose garam masala not only have a strong taste and smell, but they can also mitigate inflammations in the body, especially cumin.
9. It Protects The Buccal Health
The content of cloves in garam masala makes it an excellent remedy to prevent diseases associated with dental and oral health. Cloves can prevent cancer and provide calcium, vitamin, and omega 6. In addition, they are popularly known to ease toothaches and cavities.
10. It Improves The Taste Buds
Garam masala is made of a blend of several spices. Due to its complex and complete composition, garam masala can provide the sweetness of fennel and the spice of pepper at the same time. This property alerts the taste buds and keeps them awake and healthy.
11. It Boosts The Health Overall
Garam masala is known to be an anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anti-carcinogen, antioxidant, anticholesterol, and much more. The large number of remedial properties it has is attributed to the numerous different spices that comprise it.
These include cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and cumin, which are popularly known as health-boosters. When blended, the therapeutic features of these spices are combined and enhanced.
In fact, garam masala has been reported to help in fighting neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Precautions Of Garam Masala Use
Keep in mind the ingredients used in the garam masala mix and identify whether you are allergic to any of them. In an affirmative case, avoid the use of such ingredient while making garam masala at home or buy garam masala with a different ingredient composition.
Side Effects Of Garam Masala
Not all the people are accustomed to the consumption of spices. Garam masala is considered a heat-producing spice for those who are familiar with it. As such, it could possibly cause undesirable side effects. They have a higher chance of occurring in the hot summer season of the year. They include:
This is a common health disorder also known as acid dyspepsia. It consists in the excessive secretion of the acids of the stomach. It can lead to stomach pain, appetite loss, flatulence, vomiting, and heartburn. If it aggravates, it may even cause chronic indigestion, gastric ulcers, respiratory problems, chest pain, bloating, ear pain, and gastroesophageal reflux.
ii. Sore Throat
This condition is commonly caused by viruses or injuries. However, allergies and overly spicy or hot foot items can also lead to irritation and inflammation of throat, producing a sore sensation. The symptoms include pain, difficulty in swallowing, neck tenderness, coughing, sneezing, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.
iii. Sore Tongue
It is a symptom of the burning mouth syndrome. This mainly affects the tongue, but it can also cause discomfort in the lips, gums, throat, palate, and the mouth overall. It is accompanied by an excessive thirst, changes in the taste buds, and a metallic sensation in the mouth.
This is caused by inflammation and irritation of the esophagus. Unlike the stomach, the esophagus does not count with special protective cells in its lining to prevent irritation due to gastric acids. The excessive secretion of these acids due to spicy foods and other factors can affect the esophagus and lead to an irritating and burning sensation.
The blood vessels located at the front and back surface of the nose are very delicate and can rupture and bleed easily when triggered by different factors. Infants are more susceptible to this condition. The sensation of excessive heat due to different reasons can easily be a cause of bleeding from the nose.
vi. Burning Sensation While Urination
An uncomfortable, burning sensation while urination can originate in either the perineum, the urethra, or the bladder. It can be caused by different factors including the excess of heat or spice in the consumed food items.
vii. Burning Sensation While Bowel Movement
Irritation in the anus while bowel movement can be caused due to inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. This may be triggered by different types of reasons, including spicy foods.
viii. Allergic Reactions And Contact Dermatitis
It consists in skin tenderness, redness, and inflammation. It is usually triggered by an allergic reaction to different factors, including food items.
ix. Mouth Or Tongue Irritation
Also termed as stomatitis, this condition is defined by inflammation and soreness in the mouth. It can bring difficulties in the processes of eating talking, and sleeping. The condition affects any part of the mouth including cheeks, gums, tongue, palate, and lips.
x. Anaphylactic Shock
Though it is rare, the excessive consumption of clove oil could cause anaphylaxis. This condition is caused due to the release of substances by the immune system to fight an allergen or a potentially dangerous factor.
It can lead to a sudden drop in the blood pressure, narrowing of the airways, and respiratory problems. It is considered a medical emergency and it should be treated immediately.
Although spices are used to flavor dishes all over the world, their properties and quantities vary considerably among regions.
The symptoms associated with the consumption of garam masala are more likely to be experienced by those that are not of Indian origin.
According to health studies, people of Indian origin have an advantage when it comes to the safe consumption of hot spices and food items. This is due to a shorter intestinal transit time and a larger weight of stools on the same amount of fiber intake as people from other continents, like Europe.
Ingredients Of Garam Masala
Garam masala is basically made of a mixture consisting of black peppercorns, cinnamon, mace, cloves, nutmeg, black and green cardamom. However, the contents might slightly change influenced under the regional and personal taste.
These may include white peppercorns, bay leaf, cumin, nuts, onion, garlic, star anise, asafetida, chili, or stone flower, and cubeb.
The different composing spices can be blended with herbs or ground with water, coconut milk, or vinegar in order to make a paste.
Some people prefer to emphasize a particular spice while others prefer a balanced result in the taste.
The masala can be roasted before adding it to the dish to release and enhance its flavor or aroma.
Recipe & Preparation
Although garam masala can be easily availed from a food store, making it at home in small batches can provide a unique and freshly made flavor characteristic of homemade food.
The recipe for the preparation of garam masala can have many variants depending on the taste of each region or person.
However, this is the example of a basic and simple method to make garam masala at home:
The ingredients to be used for a standard quantity are:
- Cumin seeds (jeera): half a cup
- Cardamom (elaichi): half a cup
- Black peppercorns (kali mirchi): a quarter of a cup
- Coriander seeds (dhania): a quarter of a cup
- Fennel seeds (saunf): three tablespoons
- Cloves (lavang): two tablespoons
- Cinnamon sticks (dalchini): ten sticks of approximately two inches each
- Bayleaves (tejpatta): a quarter of a cup
- Dried ginger (soonth): one tablespoon
- Nutmeg powder (jaiphal): one tablespoon
- Mix all the above-mentioned ingredients except the dried ginger in a non-stick pan.
- Roast them dry for two to three minutes keeping a medium flame while stirring continuously.
- When it is completely heated and smoking slightly turn off the flame.
- The spices should smell toasted and lightly darker.
- Let it cool down.
- Grind the cooled mixture in a mixer till it forms a fine and smooth powder.
- Add the ginger powder to the mixture after transferring it into a bowl. Mix it well.
- Sieve the powder and discard or regrind the coarse powder that is left out.
- Store the garam masala powder in an air-tight container and use it to flavor your dishes as required.
Garam masala is popularly used in vegetable sabzis, soups, lentils, curries, poultry, and meat recipes but it can be used in practically any dish to provide it with a warm, rich, and exotic taste.
The spice is usually added at the end of cooking a dish or sprinkled on it while serving.
Buying Garam Masala
Not everyone has the time to prepare this seasoning made up of a complex and rich mixture of spices. This is not a reason for worry as garam masala is a popular spice and hence it can be easily found in food stores, supermarkets, and online food supplying websites.
Once you open the packet of garam masala, store it for a maximum of six months in a cool and dry place.
Garam masala is commercially available ready made, with all the spices ground in its powder form.
But, it is also offered as a pre-ground mixture in which the spices will be in its whole seed form and combined in the right proportions to be ground resulting in garam masala powder ready to be used.
Sometimes the garam masala recipe indicates that the spices are ground along with water, coconut milk, or vinegar into a homogenous paste.
Just like any other spice, garam masala should be stored in a dry and cool place. An airtight container is recommendable to avoid the loss of aroma or taste due to the contact with air or moisture. It should be preferably consumed within six months of its preparation or manufacture.
The Garam Masala Secret
Garam masala is an exquisite seasoning made with the blend of different spices like cardamom, clove, bay leaf and cinnamon. Its use results in the addition of taste and depth into your Indian recipes.
Those who are experienced in Indian cuisine prefer to add garam masala in its powder form usually at the end. This secret not only conserves the taste and aroma of the warm spices that comprise it, but it also enhances the flavor of the dish while serving.
On the other hand, adding garam masala powder at the beginning of a sauce or curry would muffle its taste.
If garam masala has to be added in the beginning of a recipe, it is recommended that the spices that comprise it be in its whole form instead of powder. Roast them or fry them and let them soften as the dish is gradually cooked.
Nonetheless, if garam masala is sprinkled on dishes as a finishing spice, it can be used at any point of the cooking process without harm.
Uses Of Garam Masala
Garam masala has several culinary uses that commonly include:
- Being the base or the finishing spice for curries
- Garnishing white rice
- Garnishing fresh fruit salads
- Spicing up different types of snacks
of them has its own therapeutic properties, and this makes garam masala highly beneficial for health. It helps in preventing and healing various diseases and promoting detoxification of the body up to the extent of preventing cancer.
Garam Masala Substitute
If the circumstances call for a substitute of garam masala, you can use a mixture of cumin and allspice combined in the ratio 4:1. If you have curry powder, try using it instead of garam masala. This powder also provides a warm flavor that suits the Indian dishes extremely well.
As its name suggests, garam masala can be a source of heat for the body when it is consumed in dishes. This effect can lead to heartburn, acidity, dark urine, nose bleeding, and burning sensation in the digestive and excretory system.
This can be prevented without having to sacrifice the taste of this delightful spice. By using the base ingredients like coriander and cumin in the garam masala recipe, you can preserve its taste and avoid the heat-related side effects that it may cause.
Use these substitute ingredients for getting an enhanced taste and improving the health:
1. Peppermint Dry Leaves
This herb soothes the digestive system and it helps in treating stomachache, morning sickness, motion sickness, and uneasiness. In addition, it prevents in the onset of gas, indigestion, and heartburn. The herb also improves blood circulation by relaxing the nerves.
2. Basil Dry Leaves
Basil is a soothing herb with refreshing properties that is used in sauces, salads, sandwiches, and other recipes. Since the herb is season-characteristic, it is a good option to dry it and store it for using it in winter.
Basil has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-aging properties. It is also known to reduce inflammation and swelling, and it prevents toxin accumulation.
3. Thyme Dry Leaves
This ornamental herb of the genus Thymus is also has culinary and therapeutic uses. The flowers, leaves, and oil of thyme have therapeutic properties that help in combatting diarrhea, bedwetting, stomach pain, colic, throat soreness, arthritis, cough, bronchitis, diuretic, high blood pressure, and flatulence. It can also treat acne due to its antibacterial properties.
This ingredient has several oils and substances that are beneficial for health. Its volatile compounds include limonene, carveol, pinene, carvone, cumuninic aldehyde, thujone, and furfural. These active principles make the seeds of caraway a powerful antioxidant that has carminative properties and helps in digestion processes.
It is derived from trees of the genus Myristica along with mace, this spice is an egg-shaped seed that is commonly sold in its powder form. Its health benefits include the prevention and treatment of pain, indigestion, bad breath, skin diseases, sleep disorders, and kidney and liver problems. This ingredient is also used as a brain tonic.
The name of this spice is attributed to its flavor, which is considered a combination of the taste of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. However, it is also known as Jamaica pepper, myrtle pepper, English pepper, pimento, pimenta, and newspice.
It originates from the dried unripe berries of the tree Pimentadioica. Allspice helps in relieving digestive disorders like diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and nausea. It also reduces bloating, cramps, excessive flatulence, and inflammation.
The addition of garam masala to a dish makes it more appetizing, exotic, and tasty. Garam masala is a versatile spice that can be added to a number of dishes and recipes to enhance and improve their flavor.
Moreover, this blend of spices also implies several health benefits that make it a perfect therapeutic and tasty ingredient to be added in delicacies.
However, keep in mind that garam masala is a health wise beneficial ingredient only when it is used in the right amount with the dish. An excessive dose could cause harm while the correct proportion can improve the digestion system and the overall health. Just as many other substances, garam masala is hazardous only in excess.