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Nutritional aspects of Indian spices - cardamom, cloves, pepper, nutmeg
Monday, 27 May, 2013, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Dr Punita Puri
From ancient times, India has been considered the "Spice Bowl of the World."

Indian Spices have been known for their flavouring effect on Indian curries but little may we know about the nutritional value of these spices and the medicinal effect they have.

As spices are used in minimal quantities they hardly contribute to calories or proteins. Their major contribution is towards providing minerals, vitamins and trace minerals in the diet.

Cardamom is considered an exotic spice to add flavor to mainly Indian delicacies which have a sweet taste. This exotic spice contains many plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties.
It contains essential volatile oils that have antiseptic, antispasmodic properties. A pod of cardamom chewn after meals works as a digestive and a diuretic and helps in relieving gas and inflammation.
Also Cardamom is a good source of minerals like potassium, copper, and magnesium.  Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells.

Additionally, it is also an excellent source of iron and manganese. Iron is required for red blood cell formation and cellular metabolism. Manganese is a co-factor for the enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which is a very powerful free radical scavenger.

Further, these aromatic pods are rich in many vital vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-C which are essential for optimum health. The therapeutic properties of cardamom oil have found application in many traditional medicines as antiseptic and local anesthetic.

Cardamom, Nutritional value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA

Thiamin 0.198 mg 16.50%
Vitamin C 21 mg 35%

Sodium 18 mg 1%
Potassium 1119 mg 24%

Calcium 383 mg 38%
Copper 0.383 mg 42.50%
Iron 13.97 mg 175%
Magnesium 229 mg 57%
Manganese 28 mg 1217%
Phosphorus 178 mg 25%
Zinc 7.47 mg 68%

Cloves are one of the highly prized spices, widely recognized all over the world for their medicinal and culinary qualities.

The active principles in the clove are known to have antioxidant, anti-septic, local anesthetic, anti-inflammatory and anti-flatulent properties.

The spice contains health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol.  Eugenol has local anesthetic and antiseptic properties, and is used for relieving pain and causing numbness during dental care.

The essential volatile oils functions as a rubefacient, which means that  expands the blood vessels, increasing the flow of blood to make the skin feel warmer, making it a popular home remedy for arthritis and sore muscles, used either as a poultice or in hot baths.
Clove oil is also used in aromatherapy.

The active principles in the clove may increase gut motility as well as improve the digestion power by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions. Thus, relieving indigestion and constipation problems.

The spice also contains a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and magnesium. Potassium is an important electrolyte of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.
The spice buds also contain very good amounts of vitamin A and beta-carotene . These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is also required by the body for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is essential for good vision. Consumption of natural foods rich in flavonoids helps to protect the body from lung and oral cavity cancers.

Additionally, this spice is a good source of vitamin-K, vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), vitamin-C and riboflavin. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.

Cloves (Sygizium aromaticum),  Nutritive Value per 100 g
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)



Nutrient Value

Percentage of RDA









68 µg





1.046 mg



Pantothenic acid


0.338 mg





0.116 mg





0.066 mg





0.072 mg



Vitamin A


13 IU



Vitamin C


11.7 mg



Vitamin E


0.19 mg



Vitamin K


14.8 µg










94 mg





370 mg










44 mg





0.231 mg





1.28 mg





60 mg





0.256 mg





90 mg





7.2 µg





2.32 mg



The aromatic spice, Nutmeg and its oil are being used in for illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems since olden times.

It helps improve  appetite, curing digestive problems, reducing flatulence, relaxing the muscles, controlling asthma, etc. Nutmeg contains active compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant. Nutmeg has many therapeutic applications  as anti-fungal, and anti-depressant. It contains minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc and magnesium
The nutmeg oil is used as a local massage to reduce muscular pain and rheumatic pain of joints.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans), Ground form,  Nutritional value per 100 g.  (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Folates 76 µg 19%
Niacin 1.299 mg 8%
Pyridoxine 0.160 mg 12%
Riboflavin 0.057 mg 4%
Thiamin 0.346 mg 29%
Vitamin-A 102 IU
Vitamin C 3 mg 5%
Sodium 16 mg 1%
Potassium 350 mg 7.50%

Calcium 184 mg 18%
Copper 1.027 mg 114%
Iron 3.04 mg 38%
Magnesium 183 mg 46%
Manganese 2.900 mg 126%
Phosphorus 213 mg 30%
Zinc 2.15 mg 20%

Black pepper
Peppers have been in use since ancient times for its anti-inflammatory and anti-flatulent properties. They contain essential oil piperine, an amine alkaloid, which gives strong spicy pungent character to the pepper.
The active principles in the pepper may increase the gut motility as well as the digestion power by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions. It has also been found that piperine can increase absorption of selenium, B-complex vitamins, beta-carotene, as well as other nutrients from the food.

Black peppercorns contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, and magnesium.

They are also an excellent source of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as Pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin.

Peppercorns are a good source of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C and vitamin-A. They are also rich in flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants like carotenes, cryptoxanthin, zea-xanthin and lycopene. These compounds help the body remove harmful free radicals and help protect from cancers and diseases. Peppers have been used therapeutically in dentistry as an antiseptic for tooth-decay and gum swellings.

Black peppers (Piper nigrum), Nutritional value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA

Choline 11.3 mg 2%
Folic acid 10 mcg 2.50%
Niacin 1.142 mg 7%
Pyridoxine 0.340 mg 26%
Riboflavin 0.240 mg 18%
Thiamin 0.109 mg 9%
Vitamin A 299 IU 10%
Vitamin C 21 mg 35%
Vitamin E-? 4.56 mg 30%
Vitamin K 163.7 mcg 136%

Sodium 44 mg 3%
Potassium 1259 mg 27%

Calcium 437 mg 44%
Copper 1.127 mg 122%
Iron 28.86 mg 360%
Magnesium 194 mg 48.50%
Manganese 5.625 mg 244.50%
Phosphorus 173 mg 25%
Zinc 1.42 mg 13%

It's one of the oldest known spices. The bark of the cinnamon tree is dried and rolled into cinnamon sticks, also called quills. Cinnamon can also be dried and ground into a powder.

The characteristic flavor and aroma of cinnamon comes from a compound in the essential oil of the bark called cinnamonaldehyde.

Cinnamon has long been used to cure indigestion and to stop bacterial growth. It was mixed with cloves and warm water to treat infections.

Recent research on cinnamon shows that it has positive effect on brain function and memory. Studies also show that cinnamon even helps prevent ulcers. And cure yeast infections.
Latest research shows that cinnamon helps reduce Blood sugar levels and increases natural production of insulin, and lowers blood cholesterol as well.

This is good news for the more than 50 million Americans who suffer from diabetes and/or heart disease. All the patients in the study showed better glucose metabolism and natural insulin production when they took cinnamon capsules that delivered less than two teaspoons a day of the spice.

Specifically, their blood cholesterol levels were lowered in the range of 10 to 26 percent, affecting overall cholesterol levels and reducing the LDL (known as the “bad” cholesterol) but not reducing levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol.

In addition, addressing elevated blood sugar levels and helping to combat insulin resistance it also helps you lose weight

So, go ahead and add a little spice to your meal. Adding a bit of spice to your life may actually help you increase your lifespan!

(The author is nutrition consultant at Dr Bhandari’s Clinic, Mumbai)
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