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FOOD: Winter Spices that Will Bring You Clarity

by / February 17, 2016 Food No Comments

Chef Uma Naidoo, MD

Chef Uma Naidoo, MD

Dr. Uma Naidoo is a Harvard-trained Psychiatrist, Instructor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a Professional Chef and culinary Instructor at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Known as Chef Uma, MD, she blends her professional acumen in medicine, human psychology and cooking to offer clients holistic advice at the intersection of food and health.

Many of us were riveted by the Superbowl 50 and the sometimes amazing feats of these modern-day gladiators. One of the recently discovered secrets of their peak performance is the focus on mind-body training among the elite trainers for these professional athletes. While you may not be asked to leap over a defensive line to score a touchdown, you certainly can benefit from the same alertness and clarity of mind  to help reach your goals. One of your best allies is an assortment of spices. Some spices that go well in more wintry dishes include cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. However, after learning more about their possible benefits, you may find other ways to use these three spices throughout the year!

Clove - Winter Spice


You may not realize that it’s an ingredient in pumpkin pie spice, some apple pie spice recipes and cloves are that magic ingredient that add a sweet but somewhat piquant flavor to gingerbread and eggnog, rescuing them from flatness and the feeling that something is missing. Cloves possess antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. In animals, clove oil can reverse short-and long-term memory deficits. Also, like nutmeg and cinnamon too, cloves may act as a metabolic precursor of amphetamines (aka “speed”) thereby uplifting negative moods in the winter.  Also, like nutmeg, they can make you cuddle up to your loved one, because they have been shown to increase mating behaviors in animals. In humans, some preliminary evidence also shows that they may be protective against inflammation, and especially inflammation in the brain and in so doing, may protect you against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Winter Spice Cinnamon


Cinnamon is that tree-bark like magic flavor enhancer that adds that oh-so-delicious taste to snicker doodle and ginger snap cookies, sweet potato casserole. Cinnamon is an antioxidant and actually helps to lower lipids, fight cancer and inflammation and lower lipids as well.  It can also really help Type 2 Diabetes.



Winter Spice nutmeg


Nutmeg is one of those ingredients that lends itself well to doctoring up a New Year Resolution cocktail or mocktail if you are so inclined. In animals, nutmeg can act as an antidepressant. Also, like cloves, nutmeg can also increase your libido, although in high doses, it can also produce hallucinations. In some cultures, nutmeg is also used to promote sleep.

Winter spices can therefore be a gift all in themselves. While we need much more research for any of these findings to be conclusive, know that the spices you use and eat during the winter carry significant potential to decrease inflammation, prevent cellular toxicity and help regulate cell turnover so that various organs in your body can be protected.

Get back on a healthy eating track by starting your day with a delicious Chai Tea Protein Smoothie using the spices above for flavor.

CHAI TEA SMOOTHIE:chai-tea-smoothie recipe

  • 2 tablespoons protein powder
  • 1 cup of brewed chai tea using loose leaf tea or a tea bag, chilled (e.g Tazo Black Chai Tea)
  • 1 tablespoon Almond Butter
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cardamon spice
  • 1 teaspoon organic honey
  • Ice

Add to your blender, and enjoy. Add water or almond milk if consistency is too thick for you.

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Uma Naidoo

Uma Naidoo

Harvard psychiatrist, professional Chef & Culinary Instructor. Her mission is to educate the world on the positive benefits of spices and food on your mood and well-being.