Spices, derived from various parts of plants such as seeds, fruits, roots, or bark, are used to add flavor, aroma, and color to food. These plant-based substances are versatile and can be used in sweet and savory dishes, and some enhance aroma while others improve the taste of the food.
Spices are a common ingredient in meals, and some recipes may require multiple spices. Obtained naturally from trees and plants, such as roots, leaves, and bark, spices not only improve taste and aroma but also contain essential nutrients that benefit the body.
This article will focus on 12 healthy Nigerian spices, all of which are natural and not manufactured seasoning products.
Healthy Nigerian Spices For Your Dishes
Onion is a commonly used spice in Nigerian cooking and can enhance the flavor of your dishes in various ways.
Onions offer numerous health benefits as well. They are rich in antioxidants that help fight harmful free radicals in the body, and contain compounds that may help prevent cancer.
Onions are also beneficial for managing blood sugar levels and boosting immunity.
Ginger is a flavorful spice that can enhance the taste of certain dishes, particularly stews. Its distinct aroma and taste can make a noticeable difference in the food’s flavor.
Aside from its culinary uses, ginger is also known for its health benefits, which is why it is often used in herbal remedies. Ginger is especially beneficial for digestive issues and is also helpful in treating colds and coughs.
Nigerians have a strong liking for spicy food, and while it is often thought that only those from the southwestern region of the country enjoy it, the reality is that many Nigerian dishes, regardless of tribe or culture, require the use of pepper.
Pepper adds a spicy taste to food, improving its flavor and aroma.
It is beneficial to the digestive system and can contribute to heart health. Black pepper, in particular, is high in antioxidants.
4. Curry leaf
The curry leaf, also called lemon basil, is a flowering plant belonging to the Rutaceae family, commonly found in tropical to sub-tropical regions. It has a strong, sweet, and pungent scent, and its flowers emit a pleasant aroma.
In Nigerian cuisine, the curry leaf is used to add a distinct flavor to dishes such as fried or jollof rice. These leaves are a rich source of essential nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins A, B, C, and E.
Garlic is a versatile spice used in specific dishes for its medicinal properties, such as its anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, as well as its ability to reduce blood pressure and promote brain health.
7. Bay leaf
Bay leaf is commonly used in cooking, especially in jollof rice. It has antifungal and antibacterial properties and is loaded with vitamins A and C, which promotes eye health and proper body function.
8. Scent leaf
Scent leaf has a distinct aroma that enhances the taste of food. It is used to treat constipation, oral infections, and colds.
9. Uziza leaf
Uziza leaf, popular in the Eastern region, has a sweet smell and aids digestion and gastrointestinal issues.
Ogiri is made from fermented melon seeds and is popular in Eastern cuisine. Although its smell may not be appealing, it adds a great taste to the food and is good for the digestive system, helping to relieve constipation.
11. Locust beans
Locust beans, also known as “iru,” adds a rich flavor to soup and stew. It is rich in protein, fiber, and other nutrients, and has health benefits like treating diarrhea and fighting hypertension and other heart conditions.
Thyme is a type of herb that belongs to the mint family, which is commonly used as a seasoning for a variety of foods. It has a delightful scent and flavor that is reminiscent of earthy tones with a minty and citrusy twist. It is a popular spice used to enhance the taste of dishes such as stews, soups, beans, and roasted meats.
In addition to its culinary uses, thyme has numerous health benefits due to its high content of thymol, carvacrol, and rosmarinic acid, which are natural antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and antimicrobials. These properties can aid in digestion, strengthen the immune system, and lower the risk of chronic illnesses.
As a Nigerian spice, thyme is good for the heart and can also boost immunity.