To get even more depth of flavor from each spice, chef Akhtar Nawab, suggests to toast them before cooking. “All spices have essential oils inside them, and one way we can release them, is to activate them with heat,” he reveals in his book “Good for You.” When spices are warmed while being toasted, that’s when their oils get released, making the aroma and flavor come alive.
When to add spices for nutrition
When it comes to nutrition, a certain level of heat can activate specific compounds but deactivate others. This is why it’s crucial to add spices at both the beginning and the end of the cooking process, Koya explains. Turmeric has many scientifically-proven health benefits as it contains a powerful compound called curcumin, which has been celebrated for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, curcumin is not well absorbed by the body. To make these properties more bioavailable, they need to be activated by heat and fat. In other words, adding turmeric to the oil at the beginning of the cooking process is the best way to ensure optimal nutrition.
Cloves and cinnamon were ready to keep their antioxidant properties when heated to 365 degrees Fahrenheit. This means we can add these ingredients at the beginning or even during the middle of the cooking process, just make sure that the temperature does not exceed 365 degrees. In the same study, nutmeg showed an increase in its ability to fight free radical activity when it was heated to 365 degrees. Heat has also been shown to release specific vitamins, minerals, and even antioxidants in the cooking process. Incorporating spices to the beginning, middle, and end of the cooking process is the safest option. Based on what we know, it’s essential to add some in the cooking process, and still sprinkle dry powdered spices on at the end for optimal benefits. Toasting some spices before the cooking process can release their essential oils and assists in optimizing flavor. Adding different seasonings at different stages of the cooking process is another excellent way to ascertain an evenly balanced dish every time. In terms of nutrition, different types of spices will react differently to heat. Cinnamon and cloves can withstand high temperatures without losing nutrients. At the same time, turmeric and nutmeg can become more beneficial with heat since there is not enough research to determine which spices lose value with heat, sprinkling, or garnishing them as the final step may be the safest choice.