5 Popular Christmas Spices & Their Benefits

by Shelina Ajit Assomull
FOOD  |  December 15, 2017
  • These five spices are so good for you
    1 / 6 These five spices are so good for you

    Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger and star anise are synonymous with Christmas – whether you find them in your meats and sweet treats, or mulled wine and eggnog, they are hard to miss.

    All spices have antimicrobial activities due to their phenolic compounds, and anti-cancer properties due to their terpene-derived compounds, according to Professor William Chen, director of the Food Science and Technology Programme at Nanyang Technological University.

    Click right to view their uses and benefits.

    Photos: 123rf.com

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    2 / 6 CINNAMON

    Found in: Mulled wine, fruit cake, stollen

    Keeping all your holiday food fresh is a hard task when there is so much of it to store, but who ever knew that cinnamon could help?

    According to Prof Chen, cinnamon was traditionally used to cover up the smell of bad meat and to delay spoilage. “Its phenolic compounds mean that it can inhibit the growth of meat spoilage bacteria.”

    Cinnamon is also known to alleviate nausea and indigestion.

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    3 / 6 CLOVES

    Found in: Mulled wine, glazed ham

    Cloves are flower buds from the Syzygium aromaticum tree. Like other spices, clove has anticarcinogenic, antioxidant, and anti-parasitic properties, and clove oil contains compounds that make it especially helpful for anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial action.

    It’s also great for digestion and helps to reduce flatulence.

    (Also read: Roast Turkey Or Ham? Eat Smart This Christmas to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain)

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    4 / 6 NUTMEG

    Found in: Eggnog, mince pie

    Flavoursome nutmeg could also be the cure for turkey breath this Christmas.

    Prof Chen said that “it contains a variety of phytochemicals, such as vitamins, carotenoids and flavonoids, which are effective antimicrobials to treat bad breath by inhibiting the growth of bacteria in the mouth”.

    Several studies have also found nutmeg to contain blood pressure-reducing properties.

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    5 / 6 GINGER

    Found in: Gingerbread, festive punch and cocktails

    The extra kick in ginger comes from gingerols – a molecule responsible for its hot and pungent sensation. Gingerols are the major active component of fresh ginger, said Prof Chen.

    It turns out ginger and chilli are related. “The gingerol molecule in ginger is a relative of capsaicin, which is the component in chilli that makes it so pungent,” added Prof Chen.

    Spice level aside, ginger is often used to relieve nausea and aid digestion.

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    6 / 6 STAR ANISE

    Found in: Roast meats

    According to Prof Chen, the polyphenol compounds it produces make it anti-fungal, antibacterial, analgesic, sedative, anti-carcinogenic, and antioxidant.

    “Similarly to the human body’s immune system, the polyphenol molecules are produced to respond to pathogen attack, among other things,” he said.

    (Also read: 12 Christmas Markets in Singapore to Check Out Before Christmas 2017)

    A version of this article first appeared on www.straitstimes.com on December 14, 2017, with the headline “The Science of Christmas: Spice and everything nice”.

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