India has a cooking culture that’s widely considered to be healthy. Not only is their traditional diet low in processed foods and rich in whole foods, but many Indian dishes use a wide array of spices that not only taste great but are thought to provide significant health benefits.
But which Indian spices are the healthiest? Are any of them proven to have health benefits in medical studies? And what are the tastiest Indian dishes to make using these spices?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review the health benefits of three Indian spices based on medical studies: turmeric, cloves and black seed.
We'll also share a YouTube video with simple, beautifully-shot breakdowns of tasty Indian dishes you can make at home using some of these spices.
Turmeric Health Benefits
Turmeric is what gives many Indian sauces and dishes their distinctive orange hue. It’s a root that has significant anti-inflammatory properties based on medical research.
The active phytonutrient in turmeric called curcumin was shown in a medical review published in the Foods journal to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The researchers concluded the following: "Research suggests that curcumin can help in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and [high cholesterol]."
A 2019 meta-study found that turmeric had “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anticancer properties.”
We recommend using turmeric in combination with black pepper, as this combination has been clinically shown to increase the bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2,000%, as we documented in our Natures Formula review. Many Indian dishes use both spices.
We recommend Simply Organic Ground Turmeric Root as our top turmeric spice brand, because it was shown in ConsumerLab testing to be toxin-free and accurately labeled.
Interested consumers can check out Simply Organic Ground Turmeric Root at this link to its official Amazon listing.
Cloves Health Benefits
Cloves are a spice made from the flower buds of a tree which is native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. They have been used as a culinary ingredient for thousands of years.
Like turmeric, clove has been shown in medical studies to possess antimicrobial and antioxidant activity. Since antioxidant intake may reduce whole-body inflammation, making cloves a regular part of your cooking regimen can be a healthy decision.
The antimicrobial power of clove is so strong that it has been shown in a 2020 clinical trial to be effective against drug-resistant H. Pylori infection, which affects millions in the developing world. This was an in vitro (test tube) study so the results aren’t as significant as if it were conducted on human subjects, but it's still impressive early data for a whole food ingredient.
Another medical review of clove had impressive results. The researchers found that the Indian spice had potential for diabetes management, because it naturally reduced blood sugar and cholesterol. Animals in the study taking dietary clove powder had lower blood sugar than those not using the spice.
We recommend Simply Organic Clove Powder as our top brand, because it's packaged in glass and free of any questionable additive ingredients.
Interested consumers can check out Simply Organic Clove Powder at this link to its official Amazon listing.
Black Seed Health Benefits
Black seed is one of the most powerful natural compounds for overall health, and has arguably more research-backed health benefits than any spice, as we documented extensively in our black seed oil benefits article.
A medical review published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal analyzed clinical trials on black seed for cancer, and noted anticancer effects in every study reviewed. The study authors stated that the active chemical compound in black seed “plays a great role in affecting all markers of cancer.”
Black seed may be especially beneficial for men, as it appears to have positive effects on fertility in male subjects. A 2014 clinical trial found that black seed oil supplementation improved semen volume, motility and sperm count.
We’re not suggesting that black seed will cure cancer, but this Indian spice may be a useful preventative measure that can be taken daily for overall health. While most of the medical research on black seed involves a concentrated oil standardized for thymoquinone (the active chemical compound), using it as a spice will be more cost-effective.
For those interested in black seed as a culinary spice, we recommend the brand Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Black Seeds because it's organic, cost-effective and free of any additive ingredients.
For those who seek to use a more potent form of black seed, the product we recommend is Amazing Herbs Black Seed Oil. It's one of the only black seed oils standardized for thymoquinone like most of the clinical research on this compound.
How to Make Tasty Meals With Indian Spices
A popular YouTube channel called "Tasty" shared some Indian food recipes using many different spices, including those in this article. The video is only five minutes long and is beautifully shot: