Indian spices are key to healthy, flavorful meals

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A health expert weighs in on the health and flavor benefits of using Indian spices in everyday meals. (KABC)

Some of the most flavorful and healthy spices come from India, such as turmeric, cumin and saffron. The spices, either dried or raw, can perk up any plate if used correctly.

Akasha Richmond has done extensive research for Sambar, her Culver City-based restaurant.

With a motto of quality ingredients, good taste and health properties, she uses Indian spices to help make magic in meals and beverages.

Think of what can be created with red currant, tamarind, rose petal, chai or even beet syrup.

"Some things are steeped. Some things are boiled. Some things are fresh like the ginger and turmeric for the lemonade," Richmond said.

Fresh turmeric root can be grated into rice and a bread called naan or used in juices. Dried spices and fruit work well for chutneys and dressings.

But in order to receive the health benefits from the dried or raw versions of the spices, they need to be fresh.

Richmond said spices should not be older than six months and should be kept fresh.

Turmeric, saffron, cumin, fennel and ginger have cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory properties. But in order to bring out some of those properties spices like turmeric should be cooked first.

The more the spice is incorporated, the less seasoning will be needed for the meal.

For example, try a farmer's bowl:

"Tandoori roasted chicken, a slaw that has Indian spices, a salad called kachumber," Richmond said.

It's topped with avocado, mango, jalapeno guacamole, and a cucumber yogurt raita served with a lentil flour cracker called papadum.

"There's a lot of ways to work with these spices," Richmond said.

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