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Pakistans HerbsRecent research indicates that many herbs used in Pakistani cuisine have a host of health benefits. So add some spice to your life by making the following five healthy herbs a regular part of your diet.

1. Cinnamon. Cinnamon (daar cheeni) sticks are used in dishes that include biryani, qeema and kabuli chana, while ground cinnamon is used in desserts and even coffee. This fragrant herb contains manganese and alderhyde (a chemical compound) which aids bone, muscle and tissue development. Cinnamon is also prescribed to people suffering from arthritis. Studies have shown that cinnamon helps regulate sugar levels and has     anti-bacterial properties.

2. Fenugreek. Pungent fenugreek (methi) seeds are used as powder in curries and to garnish lentils. Regular intake decreases bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride (harmful fat) levels and reduces blood sugar levels in cardiac and Type 2 diabetes patients. Soaking a gram of methi in water overnight and drinking it early morning is believed to aid weight loss.

3. Fennel. Aromatic and sweet-flavoured, fennel (saunf) is usually sprinkled on breads and cakes before baking, added to sautéed vegetables and used to make pulao. Fennel contains trans-anethole, a compound that prevents retinopathy (vision loss among diabetics) and glaucoma. Fennel tea is believed to improve cognitive function, alleviate depression and delay the onset of dementia due to high potassium content.

4. Cumin. Yellow brown cumin seeds (zeera) spice up curries, while roasted zeera is used in tarkas for daal. Cumin reduces free radicals (compounds that attack healthy cells) in the blood, while daily consumption promotes liver function essential for detoxification. A teaspoon of zeera in a glass of hot water relieves heartburn, aids digestion and eases stomach cramps.

5. Turmeric. Mildly fragrant, turmeric powder (haldi) is traditionally used to add zing to soups and salads, marinate fish, beef and mutton, and used in most curries as well as daal. Turmeric is rich in vitamin C (which boosts immunity), and has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. Turmeric juice has gained popularity globally due to its high     anti-oxidant content that helps prevent cardiovascular disease.

– Saba Gul Hasan
The writer is a nutritionist and a wellness coach.

First published in the Health Section. of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on August 10, 2014.