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Cardamom

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For centuries people have been using spices of which cardamom is unique as it is used in cooking and as a medicine. Originally a common ingredient in Middle Eastern and Arabic foods, cardamom has also gained popularity in the west.

Cardamom pods come in three colors: black, green and white. Flavor-wise each color has a distinct personality. By and large green cardamom is the one prominently sold in grocery stores and many spice shops while white cardamom is simply a lightened version of the green one. Apparently, the thought behind this is that you can still impart the subtle cardamom flavor into baked goods or cream-based desserts without adding any color. And according to Cook's Illustrated, black cardamom isn't cardamom at all but a close relative.

Cardamom comes from the seeds of several different plants that belong to the same family as ginger. It has a distinctive flavor that complements both sweet and savory dishes. People may use cardamom seeds and pods in curries, desserts, and meat dishes, as well as in beverages, such as coffee and chai tea.

Flavor is the essential consideration in choosing cardamom and so a team did a taste test using the spice in a simple sugar cookie and in the cooking water for chicken biryani. Green cardamom ground from the pod was the "most vibrant and balanced" whereas the white cardamom was a noteworthy letdown. The black cardamom tasted smokier, so it'd be nice in more savory dishes but in the cookies it came across as a bit schizophrenic. Therefore green is the best.

People may also take cardamom as a supplement for its health benefits. Cardamom contains phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Researchers have conducted several small studies on cardamom, the findings of which suggest that it has some health benefits. Although these studies are promising, large and controlled human studies are necessary before healthcare professionals can recommend cardamom to treat medical problems.

Antimicrobial ability

The oil from cardamom seeds may be able to kill bacteria and fungi. The researchers suggested that the oil's antibacterial activity may be due to its ability to damage the cell membrane of certain bacteria.

Cardamom essential oil showed "antimicrobial activity against almost all test microorganisms" while, another study concluded that this oil could be a component in new antimicrobial drugs. Cardamom essential oil should not be ingested, however, they can use it after consulting a doctor.

Metabolic syndrome and diabetes

Some studies suggest that cardamom could help with some aspects of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of health conditions that can lead to heart disease and type2 diabetes. It includes:

  • obesity
  • high blood sugar
  • hypertension
  • high triglycerides
  • high cholesterol
  • low levels of "good" cholesterol

A double-blind trial found that cardamom could help improve certain biomarkers that can cause inflammation and disease. Cardamom can lower levels of C-reactive protein, inflammatory proteins, and other markers including improved hemoglobin A1 c and insulin levels.

Heart health

The antioxidant activities could help improve heart function and cardamom oil could help improve cholesterol levels.

Oral health

While many people may think of mint and cinnamon as breath fresheners, people have used cardamom for this purpose for centuries.

They have done so not just because of its flavor. Cardamom may help fight bacteria in the mouth, a common cause of bad breath, cavities, and gum disease.

A recent study found that cardamom seeds and fruit could help improve oral health due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The findings showed that the cardamom extract was effective in disrupting bacteria that can lead to gum disease or infections.

In a randomized trial, researchers asked the participants to chew either fennel or cardamom seeds for 5 minutes. The researchers found that chewing either type of seed was effective in balancing the pH in the mouth, which may help prevent the development of cavities.

Liver health

In Ayurvedic medicine, people use cardamom for its detoxifying properties. cardamom does appear to have some helpful effects on the liver, which plays a crucial role in removing toxins from the body and could help protect the liver from certain types of damage.

Anticancer properties

Cardamom contains natural phytochemicals that may be able to fight cancer. It cannot take the place of cancer treatment, but some studies suggest that the spice could have cancer-fighting properties.

Ulcer prevention

Like ginger, its cousin, cardamom could help with digestive ailments. Some people use the spice to make a stomach-soothing tea. It may also be useful in protecting the stomach from ulcers.

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Nutritional value of cardamom

Cardamom contains several vitamins and minerals, as well as some fiber. It is also very low in carbohydrates and calories.

According to the Department of Agriculture, one tablespoon of ground cardamom contains the following nutrients:

  • calories: 18
  • total fat: 0.4 grams (g)
  • carbohydrates: 4.0 g
  • fiber: 1.6 g
  • protein: 0.6 g

It also contains the following quantities of vitamins and minerals:

  • potassium: 64.9 milligrams (mg)
  • calcium: 22.2 mg
  • iron: 0.81 mg
  • magnesium: 13.3 mg
  • phosphorus: 10.3 mg

Risks and side effects

There are no reported risks of using cardamom in cooking or any known adverse side effects. Using cardamom as a spice and flavor agent is safe for most people.

There is no established dosage for taking cardamom as a supplement. Many cardamom capsules or tablets list a dosage of 400-500 mg of dried herb per pill. Before taking cardamom pills or any other natural supplements, a person should have a discussion with a healthcare professional.

Summary

Although many of its health benefits need further study, cardamom is safe for most people to take in moderate amounts.

Cardamom's natural phytochemicals have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities that could improve health. However, it is too early to say whether this spice can treat any health conditions.

Shop for Cardamom

Cardamom is available in a range of forms, and the best type to purchase depends on a person's preferred method of use. People can find cardamom in some drugstores and supermarkets or purchase it online:

  • Cardamom pods
  • Cardamom spice powder
  • Cardamom essential oil
  • Cardamom herbal supplements

Recipe - CARDAMOM CAFÉ AU LAIT

In India and the Middle East, coffee and cardamom are a classic combination.

Ingredients

  • Ground coffee, espresso style
  • 2 tsp cardamom, ground
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half or cream
  • Sugar, to taste

Preparation

  1. Mix ground coffee with cardamom then brew a concentrated, strong cup.
  2. Heat milk, coffee cream and sugar in a pot. Beat the mixture using a whisk until foamy. Stop when the mixture is about to boil.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into a large glass then add the coffee.

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