Spices are plant-based substances that are used to add flavor, aroma, and color to food. They are usually derived from the seeds, fruits, roots, bark, or other parts of plants and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes
They help add taste and flavour to your food. They work in different ways, with some enhancing the aroma while some make the food taste better.
Spices are a common ingredient for meals and some dishes could require two or more spices.
Most of these spices are gotten naturally, from parts of trees and plants, such as the roots, leaves, bark, and so on. Besides improving the taste and aroma of the food, spices are also loaded with nutrients that benefit the body in many ways.
In this article, we would be looking at 15 healthy Nigerian spices. Keep in mind that our focus here would be on spices that are natural rather than seasoning products manufactured by companies.
So here are 15 healthy spices in Nigeria.
Nigerians love pepper. Although there is this thought that only people from the South Western part of the country enjoy using pepper, the truth is most Nigerian dishes, from various tribes and cultures, require good use of pepper.
Pepper enhances the taste of good, making it spicy and giving it a delectable aroma.
Pepper is rich in vitamins A, B, C and E, and other nutrients like iron, phosphorous, and magnesium.
It is good for the digestive tract and helps keep your heart healthier. Black peppers are also rich in antioxidants.
Onion is also another popular spice that is used for cooking here in Nigeria. Whichever way you use it, onion brings out the best in your delicacy.
The good thing about onions is that they have a lot of health benefits to the body. It is packed with antioxidants, which fights free radicals in the body and it also contains cancer-fighting compounds.
Onions helps control blood sugar and also boost immunity. If you don’t want to use onions to spice your foods, you can use some healthy alternatives to onions.
Ginger is what adds that extra flavour to your food. Although not all dishes require ginger, for the few that do, like stews, adding ginger makes all the difference.
Ginger has a way of making your food more flavourful, which you can tell by the aroma and taste.
One reason why ginger is commonly used is because it has health benefits, which is why it is often used to make herbs.
Ginger is good for digestive problems and is also good for treating cold and cough.
Garlic is also another wonderful enhancer that is used for some specific dishes.
Garlic, which belongs to the onion family, is blended with other ingredients and added to the cooking. It is quite medicinal and contains antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.
It also helps to reduce blood pressure and promotes brain health.
Although most people associate nutmeg with confectionery, it can also be used to enhance the taste of dishes.
Nutmeg, which is used in powder form, has a lot of health benefits and is used in the treatment of asthma, bad breath, and other health problems.
You can find out more about the health benefits of nutmegs.
6. Bay Leaf
Most people only remember bay leaf for cooking jollof rice, although it can be used for cooking other dishes as well.
Bay leaf is added to food for the flavour it gives off, although the leaf itself is not usually eaten.
Bay leaf is loaded with antifungal and antibacterial properties. It contains vitamins A which promotes eye health and vitamin C for the proper functioning of the body.
7. Scent Leaf
This spice is appropriately named. Scent leaf takes the aroma of the food to another level and also improves the taste of the food as well.
What makes scent leaf such a great spice is its health benefits. It is often used in the treatment of constipation, oral infection, and cold.
You find out all about the health benefits of scent leaves.
8. Uziza Leaf
This one is commonly enjoyed in the Eastern part of the country where it is used in the preparation of soups and other dishes.
It has a very sweet smell which it adds to any dish it is added into. Uziza leaves aid digestion and treats gastrointestinal issues.
This one is also popular among the Easterners and is added to a lot of their dishes.
Although the smell is not something most people enjoy, no one can deny how well it sits in the food and enhances the taste of the food.
Ogiri okpei is made from fermented melon seeds. This healthy Nigerian spice is good for the digestive system and helps in relieving constipation.
10. Locust Beans
Popularly called ‘iru’ by people from the South West, locust beans add that extra rich flavour to food. It is mostly used for soup but is often used for preparing stew.
It is rich in protein, fibre, and other nutrients. It helps to treat diarrhoea and fights hypertension and other heart conditions.
Thyme is an herb from the mint family that is used as a spice for many foods. Thyme is used to season all kinds of dishes, and has a very nice smell. It has a strong, earthy flavor with hints of mint and citrus, and is often used in savory dishes such as stews, soups, beans, and roasted meats.
Thyme contains several beneficial compounds, including thymol, carvacrol, and rosmarinic acid, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
These compounds may help to improve digestion, boost the immune system, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases
This healthy Nigerian spice is good for the heart and can boost immunity.
12. Nigerian curry leaf
The Nigerian curry leaf, also known as lemon basil, is a tropical to sub-tropical tree in the family Rutaceae. It is a flowering plant, with a rich, sweet, pungent aroma. The plant produces flowers and emits a fragrance that is sweet and pungent.
The leaves are commonly incorporated in the cooking of fried or jollof rice to impart a unique taste to the dish. These leaves contain various essential nutrients including calcium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins A, B, C, and E.
13. Anise seeds
Anise seeds are one of most nutrient-dense spices in Nigeria.
They are the small, oval-shaped seeds of the anise plant, scientifically known as Pimpinella anisum. The seeds have a licorice-like flavor and are commonly used as a culinary spice in a few Nigerian dishes.
Anise seeds are a rich source of essential oils, including anethole, estragole, and fenchone, which give them their characteristic flavor and aroma.
Cumin is one of the healthiest Nigerian spices you can find. It is a spice that comes from the seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant, a member of the parsley family.
The spice is widely used in some cuisines such as jollof rice, stew, and fried rice. It has a warm, earthy flavor with a slightly bitter edge.
Cumin seeds are rich in essential oils, including cuminaldehyde, which is responsible for the distinctive flavor and aroma of cumin.
These oils are also believed to have various health benefits, such as aiding digestion, improving immunity, and reducing inflammation.
Paprika is a spice that comes from grinding dried peppers from the Capsicum annuum family. It is commonly used preparinh in stews, soups, and sauces in Nigeria. It has a sweet, slightly spicy flavor with a vibrant red color.
Paprika contains several beneficial compounds, including carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein, which give it its distinctive red color.
These compounds have antioxidant properties that may help protect against cellular damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and eye diseases.