Most fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, which protect body’s cells from oxidative free radical damage that cause of age-related diseases. The free radicals are generated when the nutrients in the food gets metabolized by mitochondria in the cells to produce energy for the body’s needs. The by-products of these chemical reactions are ‘reactive oxygen species’ — oxygen ions and peroxides — which are short of electrons in their outermost orbits. These are called free radicals and cause damage to the body by stealing electrons from various tissues. Antioxidants in food donate electrons to the free radicals, thereby converting free radicals to harmless waste products that are eliminated from the body before any damage is done to the body.
The spices we use in cooking such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger and turmeric, and herbs such as basil, cilantro and parsley contain phytonutrients that are better source of antioxidants than even the fruits and vegetables.
One notable spice is cumin, which is very widely used in Asian and Mediterranean and Mexican cooking. Spices also contain a particularly wide variety of antioxidants as well, making them the top antioxidant foods. Since antioxidants work synergistically, getting the widest variety of antioxidants is beneficial.
How To Use Cumin
You can obtain cumin as a seed or as a powder in all Asian shops. Cumin combines well with a wide range of other spices, including turmeric, ground fennel, ground coriander, ground dry ginger and cinnamon.
You can dry-roast cumin and grind it to a powder. Both sautéing and roasting make the aroma and flavor of cumin come alive. You can sautée cumin seeds in oil and add it to soups. In India, people drink butter milk or “lassi” which is made by blending yogurt and water with ground, dry-roasted cumin and salt. This drink is very cooling in summer and is great for digestion round the year.
Sprinkle ground, dry-roasted cumin on fresh yogurt or on salad dressings. You may combine cumin with minced ginger, lemon juice, salt and black pepper to make a dressing for a warm salad of cooked white beans or lightly steamed shredded carrots. Sautée cumin seeds in oil along with other vegetables for making a tasty soup. Typical Indian lentil and legume soups (’dals’) are made this way.