The ability of being able to match spices to dishes is really important. Unfortunately, this matter seems to be usually omitted, or it is described in an unreliable and uncommunicative way. As a result, many people remove spices from their menu unnecessarily (and make their dishes less attractive from the culinary point of view, and less valuable in precious substances), or they use versions rich in unwanted ingredients. In this article, I will try to pay attention to the factors which allow to differentiate the “good” spices from the “bad” ones.
Adding salt to dishes is commonly thought as “harmful”. I mean, excess amount of sodium in diet is a risk factor for the development of high blood pressure. It's a fact, that many Poles overuse salt and cause harm to themselves. On the other hand, sodium is an indispensable element of our diet. What's important, regular physical activity increases the body's demand for this element. Therefore, sports people and people with large physical effort should supply more of this compound, and also use small amount of kitchen salt, as long as they base their menu on low-processed food every day. However, if highly-processed food is an important part of a person's menu, the addition of salt is unnecessary even in case of sports people, because the producers add this spice in large amount during processing food.
Ready-made spice mix
The current “world of spices” has been dominated by ready-made mixes of herbs, salt and additives, such as sugar and monosodium glutamate. They are quite popular because they contain ingredients which work well with particular dishes. Unfortunately, these products also have disadvantages which make it an unwanted addition to diet. You should know that thanks to these compounds you can supply a lot of monosodium glutamate to your body (sometimes unconsciously – as not every person looks at the label), and often – sugar. The connection of salt, saccharose and monosodium glutamate make that dishes are tasty, which is an advantage, but the mixture of the ingredients mentioned above starts the hunger mechanisms to work, what causes the energy supply harder to keep and the home-made dishes start to resemble fast food meals to some extent. Therefore, you should be careful with such spices and read the labels thoroughly before buying them, and avoid products rich in salt, added sugar and monosodium glutamate.
Herbal spices and other – natural ones
The situation is totally different, than in case of salt and universal spices, with root spices and other spices based on natural plant components. Products of this type are the source of precious substances with pro-health action, and, when added to the right dishes, they can make food attractive when it comes to taste and aroma. Each person, who has added rosemary to the steamed or baked salmon, knows what I am talking about. The same situation is with the addition of basil to tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and olive oil. Additives, such as lovage, oregano, coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, herbes de Provence, cumin, curcuma, cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, juniper, or the mentioned: rosemary and basil, not only improve the culinary value of different dishes, but also provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-aggregation and anti-cancer action.
Using spices is not a necessity, but when you exclude them from the menu permanently, you have less tasty food, and – you deprive yourself from the access to many valuable substances with pro-health action. On the other hand, you should know that majority of spices available in shops is of poor quality – I have ready-made mixes on my mind, which are composed mainly with salt, monosodium glutamate and sugar. However, herbal spices are a really precious addition to meals. In the next article I will list and describe the spices that are the most wanted elements of a healthy diet.