Garam Masala, The Spice Blend With 7 Health Benefits!
Image Credit: Whole spices for garam masala, Freepik

"O ma, tor ranna ghare gorom masala neyi (Oh my God! Your kitchen doesn't have garam masala); that was the startling expression my aunt gave when she visited my bachelor friend in Kolkata. She wouldn't stop ranting, no matter how much I tried to shut her mouth by elbowing her. I can't blame her. As for Indian culinary enthusiasts like her, a condiment collection in the pantry without this spice blend looks barren or a disaster. I could relate to her as I grew up watching the women and also, at times, men cooking simple to decadent Bengali curries with profuse use of this homemade condiment mix. Garam masala, a popular spice blend in Indian cuisine, not only adds flavour to dishes but also provides numerous health benefits. From improving digestion to fighting cancer, the combination of spices in garam masala has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. In this story, let's discover the powerful health benefits of garam masala, how to make it yourself, and the best ways to use it.

The ingredients of garam masala may vary by region, but the most common mix includes black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, and nutmeg. These are pounded into a powder and used for seasoning and marinades. These spices are all rich in antioxidants and, when mixed together, create a powerful blend that offers numerous health benefits. 7 of which are listed below.

Whole spices and pounded garam masala, Image Source:

Why is it called Garam Masala?

Simply put, "a hot mixture of spices" is what "garam masala" means when it's translated into English. In this context, "hot" refers to the usage of the mixture in Ayurveda treatment, where it is prized for its ability to "heat up" the body. Garam masala is believed to boost "digestive fire." 

Helps with Digestion 

Garam masala has been shown to increase the activity of digestive enzymes, making it easier for the body to process food. Cumin, one of the significant components of the mix, is particularly effective and has even been used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Eating food with garam masala has also been associated with faster digestion time in healthy adults.

Provides Strong Antioxidants 

Each of the spices in garam masala contains powerful antioxidants, but when combined, they create a whole new level of potency. Cinnamon, cardamom, and clove are spices with exceptional antioxidant potential. Antioxidants help protect against free radicals, which can destroy cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases.

A few whole spices for garam masala, Image source: Pexels

Regulates Blood Pressure & Improves Heart Health 

Cardamom has shown promising results in regulating blood pressure levels and improving overall heart health. Coriander has also been known to lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Consuming garam masala, which is low in calories and affordable, can easily incorporate heart-healthy compounds into your diet.

Reduces Inflammation 

Chronic inflammation has been linked to many age-related diseases and can cause significant damage over time. Cardamom in garam masala has been shown to lessen inflammation in the body, helping to alleviate its symptoms.

Lowers Cancer Risk 

The ingredients in garam masala are helpful in cancer prevention. Cloves, in particular, have been found to inhibit tumour growth and even help control the early stages of lung cancer.

Fights Oral Bacteria 

Several components of garam masala have shown the potential to fight oral bacteria and prevent tooth decay. Nutmeg contains macelignan, which can kill many types of bacteria responsible for tooth decay. Cloves and cardamom have also been useful in defending against gum diseases like gingivitis and dental caries.

Enhances Nutrient Absorption 

Adding garam masala to your meals can increase nutritional value. The spices in garam masala have been shown to enhance nutrient absorption, providing an easy and delicious way to improve your diet.

How to Make and Use Garam Masala 

Garam masala can be prepared at home by correctly mixing the spices. The process usually involves mild dry roasting the ingredients. Then, once they cool down, they are pounded into a powder. It can be added to various dishes, including soups, stews, and curries. Experiment with different amounts to find your preferred level of flavours.

Proper Storage Techniques for Preserving the Aroma and Quality of Masalas

The potency and flavour of garam masala can deteriorate over time, especially if not stored correctly. While whole spices last longer than ground, buying smaller quantities is still ideal to ensure freshness. Loose masalas are not hygienic, as they are exposed to external factors such as dust and moisture. To preserve the quality and aroma of masalas, storing them in a suitable container is essential. Although it may be tempting to use colourful boxes that match your kitchen decor, it is better to opt for air-tight opaque jars like glass, metal, or mason jars for easy identification and longer shelf life.