Health and Beauty Benefits Using Common Spices with Kanchan Koya [Episode #425]
Today’s podcast topic is: Health and Beauty Benefits Using Common Spices with Kanchan Koya.
I am so excited to have a very special guest, Kanchan Koya, who is a molecular biologist, integrative nutrition coach, and dedicated mother. Kanchan has a fantastic book out called Spice Spice Baby, which I love, of course and she’s committed to bringing the healing properties of spices and their amazing health benefits to families everywhere. She has so much amazing information for us to share about how we can use spices every day and I can’t wait to pick her brain.
Kanchan shares how being a molecular biologist started her on the road to specializing in spices…
How much spice to ingest on a daily, weekly, or regular basis to really get benefits…
We discuss the concerns surrounding turmeric and where it’s sourced from…
Dosha and body types and which spices to avoid…
Specific therapeutic spices we can apply in a somewhat prescriptive way…
When to introduce spices to children…
We discuss ginger and other spices and the benefits…
Defining what true beauty is and finding your own uniqueness…
About Kanchan Koya
Kanchan Koya has a doctorate in Molecular Biology from Harvard Medical School, training from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and knows that food can be the best and most powerful preventative medicine. While studying DNA repair as a PhD student, Kanchan’s lab began studying the cancer-fighting powers of curcumin, the active compound in the ancient spice, turmeric. This sparked Kanchan’s interest in the science-backed health benefits of spices, which she had grown up enjoying on a daily basis in India.
Kanchan founded Spice Spice Baby, a platform dedicated to shedding light on the healing potential of spices, demystifying them for a global audience, and inspiring their use in food for the whole family. Kanchan recently founded the Momlight platform and podcast dedicated to helping moms find more health and vitality in their busy lives.
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Kimberly: Hey Beauties. Welcome back to our Monday interview podcast and I’m very excited for our guest today. Her name is Kanchan [Koya 00:00:45]. She’s a molecular biologist, a mother and she has a fantastic book out called Spice Spice Baby, which I love, of course and she’s committed to bringing the healing properties of spices and their amazing health benefits to families everywhere. She has so much amazing information for us to share about how we can use spices every day and I can’t wait to pick her brain.
Fan Of The Week
Before we jump in, I just want to give a quick shout out to our fan of the week. His or her name is AnAvidReader31 and he or she writes, Thank you so much for being a bright light in this world sister, I love how you express yourself authentically in the podcast and that you keep your tips simple and real. It feels like I’m talking to a friend while drinking tea while listening to your podcast. I admire your strength and honesty and genuinely appreciate all of your tips. I make sure to start my day with lemon and hot water and I love the GGS too.
Share The Podcast and Leave a Review on Itunes
Kimberly: AnAvidReader31, thank you so much for being our fan of the week, sending you so much love back. Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review and most importantly just being part of our community, sending you a big virtual hug and beauties for your chance to also be shouted out as the fan of the week. Please just take a moment or two out of your day and leave us a review on iTunes. It’s super easy you guys. It could be one sentence, it’s free and it’s just a great way to help other beauties like yourself. Find this information which can really potentially benefit their lives. Huge thank you in advance and please also make sure that you subscribe here to our Feel Good Podcast. That way you don’t miss out on any interviews and our Q&A Thursdays and you just stay connected, which is a really great form of ongoing motivation and self care of course.
Interview with Kanchan Koya
Kimberly: All right, all that being said, we have Kanchan with us on the line. Kanchan Thank you so much for being with us and welcome to our podcast.
Kanchan : Oh Kimberly, it’s such an honor. Thank you for having me.
Kanchan shares how being a molecular biologist started her on the road to specializing in spices
Kimberly: I’m really interested, I know you’re a molecular biologist. How did that interest really start specialize in spices? I mean I know you’re a mama, you probably do a lot of cooking at home. How did it segue there?
Kanchan : Yeah, it’s a good question cause it doesn’t necessarily make sense on paper but you know I grew up in India where of course as you well know, spices are just an integral part of our pantry but also our pharmacy and every Indian household has their own little Ayurvedic specialist, which is usually grandma and she’s concocting all these spiced brews and golden lattes not calling it that and making you drink these kind of elixirs really inspired by the power of nature. I grew up with that wisdom and with those tips and it was really just integrated into my DNA and my blood and then fast forward when I was doing my PhD in the US in molecular biology at Harvard university of all places, my lab started to study the health boosting properties of curcumin, which is the active compound in turmeric.
Kanchan : It was a genuine aha moment for me and I tell this story all the time because it really was a planting of the seed moment that kind of gave me pause and said, “Wow, all this ancient wisdom is now being validated, corroborated by modern science at some of the best institutions in the world. It’s kind of blowing my mind.” And then a few years later when I became a mother, I had dabbled in biotech and pharmaceuticals but I knew my heart was really in the power of food as medicine. Once I became a mother and I started to feed my son solid foods at six months of age and started to spice up his baby food, I felt like there was an opportunity to educate people about how powerful, beautiful these natural ingredients can be and so that’s how this Spice Spice Baby platform was born.
Kimberly: Thank you for bringing that up. I always wonder about that because I studied Ayurveda as well. I didn’t grow up with it but I’m really interested in it and people always talk about turmeric because of all the research on the curcumin but then I think about all the other spices that are part of Ayurveda and just in general in the world, they don’t have the funding or the research, the backing, the scientific studies behind them but still may have potentially incredible benefits. I mean, some are more studied than others but there’s so many out there.
Kanchan : Yeah, absolutely. My big mission with the book was really to demystify this world of [inaudible 00:05:36]. I took 15 spices that I felt are accessible to the home cook across the globe. Kind of relatively easy to find and I dove deep into what the science says about them. That’s what you’ll find in the first half of the book and some of the science is stronger than others. I’m really kind of honest about what we can and can’t conclude and just because we don’t have evidence doesn’t mean the ancient wisdom is wrong. It just means maybe it hasn’t caught up to it yet and there’s so many issues that go into whether something is studied or not. Funding and like patterns and all this stuff. I just think it’s very powerful when you combine that ancient knowledge and that intuition with the modern science and then leverage the power of these wonderful ingredients daily in your kitchen. That’s really my motivation and mission.
Kimberly: Kanchan, especially as Westerners, there’s a huge emphasis on food obviously. I mean, most people, unfortunately in the West don’t eat necessarily healthy but have heard the food that you’re eating is important, eat your veggies so on and so forth but then when we think about spices, which are such a small amount that you add into food, I think this is a really new concept to Westerners that, Oh, this little thing can do a lot, right? We think, Oh, I’ve got to eat my broccoli. Kales is really good for us. Carrots so on and so forth. How much … and I know it does vary from spice to spice but how much of a spice would we have to ingest on a daily, on a weekly, on a regular basis to really get benefits?
How much spice to ingest on a daily, weekly, or regular basis to really get benefits
Kanchan : Yeah, it’s an absolutely great question. I would say we don’t have a blanket answer to that. We don’t know exactly the amount and really depends on the goal and the spice, like you said. In the case of some spaces like cinnamon and cumin, there is evidence, albeit small scale but still very provocative that even culinary amounts of those spices can have beneficial effects even in a disease context. Cinnamon has been studied most widely as blood sugar regulator and it tends to boost insulin function. You’ll see a lot of diabetics or prediabetes, people kind of embrace cinnamon in their lives and I hope we can get to the two kinds of cinnamon because it’s something I talk about all the time and how if you are using cinnamon in large amounts, you really want to try to find the true cinnamon or a sale on cinnamon but cinnamon is an example where studies have shown that even half a teaspoon a day for three months can help improve blood sugar levels. That’s very achievable in a dietary format. Whether you added to a smoothie or sprinkle it on your fruit in your oatmeal, it’s easy to get to half a teaspoon. Same with cumin, which is a powerful digestion aid.
Kanchan : Even a teaspoon of cumin a day can help boost digestive enzyme function, reduce fat flatulence and just even may help with weight loss, which is a really random study that people get really excited about but those are examples where culinary amounts could have effects and then when we talk about turmeric, which is probably the most hyped up and celebrate its base and rightfully so, it is actually hard to reach a therapeutic dose using turmeric in culinary amount. I see those kinds of spices more as prevention as just adding those antioxidants, those flavonoids, polyphenols, all those beneficial plant-based compounds on a regular basis to keep your kind of innate detoxification mechanisms kind of in full swing but if you are suffering from say, some kind of autoimmune condition and you want to leverage the power of turmeric, you might want to talk to a physician about a supplement where it’s more concentrated. I think it really depends on the space and the condition that you’re trying to treat and what your overall goals are.
We discuss the concerns surrounding turmeric and where it’s sourced from
Kimberly: We had a lot of questions recently, Kanchan, about turmeric because I’ve been talking about it and cooking with it first for years and I know there’s some that grows in India, there’s some that grows in places like Hawaii and then there were some recent concerns, which I’m sure you were asked about as well, about the heavy metals and turmeric and just some of the contaminants and lead, can you speak a little bit to that and sourcing because some people got really scared about turmeric in general.
Kanchan : Yeah. I mean sourcing is huge. Like anything that comes from the earth, anything that comes from the plant kingdom sourcing matters hugely, how has it been treated, what has it been sprayed with, what’s happened to it after it was harvested, right? Was it irradiated? How long did it spend on a truck? I think fortunately a lot of very conscious spice companies are now emerging that are working with single origin organic farmers and bringing their incredible crops to us. There’s a few of those that I love but yes, organic spices I think are really important because spices are difficult to grow, difficult to harvest and often heavily, heavily sprayed and so you’re ingesting all this goodness kind of also ingesting potentially all these toxins that are going to disrupt your microbiome and cause inflammation and all those other deleterious things. If you can, organic is the way to go. The lead thing is huge. In fact, what they’ve found through the New York department of public health was at South Asians in the New York city area happened to have higher blood levels because of consumption of some of these ethnic spices.
Kanchan : What I will say about turmeric and lead is that turmeric is often laced with lead chromate to make it look brighter and more vibrant and this is where the lead problem comes in. This often happens through kind of no name brands. Like, if you walk into an ethnic shop and I love my little Indian ethnic shop, I don’t mean to throw it under the bus but sometimes these no name like no brand packets that have this bright, vibrant, almost like reddish turmeric, that’s suspicious. If you go with a reputable brand and if you take the responsibility, you can ask brands now for their lead level testing and they will send you that information. You can ask for it through social media or just email them. There are several reputable brands now that will provide that information for you to show that the lead levels are safe, well below the norm but yes, it is an issue and I would recommend you don’t buy sort of a no-name branded turmeric, especially for that reason.
Kimberly: Do you recommend asking for lead levels even if a brand is organic? Does organic not … it may not be sprayed but it may be grown in a place where they are higher than normal lead levels or arsenic or whatever, like things in the environment.
Kanchan : Yes
Kimberly: It doesn’t guarantee that it’s not lead free.
Kimberly: Now, in Ayurveda as you know well, Kanchan, there is a lot about dosha and body type. I’m very [inaudible 00:14:27], this podcast can’t go into all that. We’d be here for 10 years talking about it but just in general, there’s different body types that do best with certain types of … within larger structures but do certain foods pair best, we’re supposed to favor certain things here and there and I know you’re coming from the scientific, do you teach that a lot? Like if somebody has a lot of you know, a fiery nature to avoid some of the more pungent spices like cayenne pepper or what approach are you coming at it from?
Dosha and body types and which spices to avoid
Kanchan : Yeah. I can’t get it away from the Ayurveda stuff. I don’t want to. Either because it’s so integrated into my blood and the way I think and yeah, I mean, I think the science hasn’t really caught up to the energetics of food and I think Ayurveda was ahead of its time. It’s over 5,000 years old. Same for traditional Chinese medicine. The energetics of food is so powerful and I know something you talk about a lot. I do infuse my kind of scientific lens with that perspective as well because I have found for myself, I am predominantly [inaudible 00:15:43], which was [inaudible 00:15:44], and for me, overdoing the pungent kind of spicy spices, which I happen to love because sometimes we love the things that aren’t [crosstalk 00:15:52], for us. Don’t serve me well.
Kanchan : I will talk about it on occasion. It’s not the focal point because I am coming at it more from like what the science says because I think somehow that gets people to sit up and really pay attention. We live in a world where we want evidence, we want to know that this study showed this and this study showed that and so sometimes if I lead with that, I can get people to sit up and pay attention to how powerful these ingredients can be and then I will kind of pepper in, pun intended, the little relevant kind of perspectives regarding the ancient wisdom and the doshas and the individuality of some of these ingredients.
Kimberly: Mm-hmm (affirmative) and in general, people are used to hearing that they could use a consumer, a wide variety of foods and mix up their veggies. I suppose in a sense and when you say, oh, make sure you use a wide variety of spices. If someone has a certain dosha, they would get a variety anyway without overdoing one per se.
Kanchan : Yeah, I mean I have a tendency to carry hot sauce in my bag.
Kimberly: [inaudible 00:16:57].
Kanchan : Totally. I really need to dial that back but mostly I feel like if you’re doing a variety, you’re getting a nice balance and if you really feel like you’re overdoing one, you might want to ask yourself why. Yeah.
Kimberly: Let’s talk this for a moment here about some specific therapeutic spices we can apply in a somewhat prescriptive way. I’ve always or I started off talking about food this way with my second book, Kanchan, which is Beauty Detox Foods from someone that had a lot of acne that had hair problems, that had bloating. Applying this to the lens of spices, let’s say we’re all looking to boost our skin health and glow and just have our skin look the best it can be, which of course is so highly correlated with good digestion and good circulation. What are some of the best spices you would recommend besides turmeric of course which we always talk about.
Specific therapeutic spices we can apply in a somewhat prescriptive way
Kanchan : Yeah. You just hit the nail on the head when you said skin health and digestion. I was literally going to say they’re so intricately linked and it’s like Ayurveda said thousands of years ago, every disease begins in the gut and of course now we’re all focused on gut health. I like to start by recommending the spices that can help with gut health and when I think about that, the three that come to mind first and foremost are cumin, coriander and fennel. In fact, there is an Ayurveda tea called the CCF tea, which funny enough I created a science back digestion boosting tea for Spice Spice Baby and I was like, wait a second, this is the same as the Ayurvedic tea.
Kanchan : Again, there’s evidence now that these spices can help the food traverse the gut sort of quicker. It can help digestive enzyme function and secretion. It can calm flatulence, it can calm gut inflammation. Targeting different kind of molecular events that are involved in digestion. These spices can help. Cumin, coriander, fennel, I chew on dry toasted fennel seeds after every meal. I see them at most Indian restaurants at the exit and that’s for good reason. It’s also the ingredient and gripe water which a lot of moms give their colicky babies. Fennel is a real powerhouse when it comes to digestion. I think really focusing on that gut health. Turmeric, I know we talked about … Yeah. Go ahead.
Kimberly: Sorry Kanchan. I just want to pause for a second. You said toasted fennel seeds. Sometimes with food the vitamin C can get denatured and heed and enzymes. With spices, are some of the benefits exacerbated or actually diminished with cooking and roasting or how does that work with spices?
Kanchan : Yeah, great question again. Exactly. Some polyphenols in spices. Curcumin is the most well studied in turmeric but other ones as well, like cinema aldehyde in cinnamon and Cuban aldehyde and cumin, these can actually get enhanced and activated by a little bit of heat and sometimes fat. It depends on which micronutrient you’re concerned with. There will probably be some loss of some antioxidants but a lot of the other beneficial polyphenols may actually be improved when you give it a light heat. I like to sort of dry roast them or toast them at a very moderate heat just to kind of wake up some of those compounds that are heat activated and I also like to suggest that people layer spices. If you’re using fennel seeds and say you’re doing oven roasted potatoes with a little olive oil and fennel seed and garlic, you can then take the raw fennel powder, which has not seen heat and you can sprinkle that on top to kind of reinforce the flavor and also allow yourself to get some of those compounds that might be diminished with heat.
Kimberly: I see, so you can add both in. That’s interesting.
Kanchan : Yeah, and a lot of Indian dishes you’ll see will do that. They will cook with this as a base but then they’ll finish with a sprinkling of the raw spice and we tend to think of that as, Oh, like a nice little hack to make it more delicious but probably some very wise grandma thought that was a great way to extract all the benefits from the spices.
Kimberly: That’s wonderful. Just like having raw spinach and smoothies but also having cooked greens as well. It’s good to have both.
Kanchan : Totally.
Kimberly: Okay. Sorry to interrupt you. You’re going to talk about turmeric again from a skin digestion perspective.
Kanchan : Yeah. Turmeric is interesting because it’s not very well absorbed into the blood as we know, it’s rapidly cleared by the liver. You can enhance the bioavailability of the curcumin and the other active compounds by warming the turmeric in a fat source. Whether it’s your coconut oil or avocado oil or whatever your chosen fat source and then combining it with black pepper as many people have heard also reduces that clearance rate so it stick around longer doing its thing but what’s interesting is turmeric has a direct effect on the gut lining and many people have heard of leaky gut and this kind of inflammation of the gut that allows, unwanted food products and bacteria and environmental toxins to enter the bloodstream and sort of mount this inflammatory cascade, right? Which can then manifest as bad skin or ill health in other ways. Turmeric actually activates a protein that can help to seal the gut lining and keep it intact and what’s great is you don’t have to worry so much about the turmeric getting absorbed in that situation. You just really wanted it to have contact with the gut lining.
Kanchan : I would say even if you can’t necessarily heat the turmeric in a fat source and combine with pepper, you’re still getting the gut boosting benefits of the turmeric. That’s a great one to throw into the mix.
Kimberly: Like golden milk. Dr. Jay who comes on here seasonally, he’s my argument ed doctor. He had talked about that with the black pepper but he also said there’s other sort of warming spices that do that same effect so it doesn’t always have to be black pepper if some people don’t like black pepper [crosstalk 00:23:07], work for your dish.
Kanchan : Exactly. You might not want to pepper up your golden latte. That might be a little bit too extreme.
Kimberly: Yeah, I’ve done that. I don’t love it but yeah. What are some other things that would help the bioavailability? Is it could we see cumin or what are some other spices that would-
Kanchan : Yeah. From a scientific perspective, the only one that’s been looked at is pepper because of the piperin which is the compound in pepper that seems to slow the clearance rate from the liver but I’m sure there are others that will emerge but I haven’t seen studies around any of the others that are the warming spaces that could be combined. Yeah. And then I would say in terms of skin health, obviously we’re talking about gut health but we’re also talking about systemic kind of chronic low grade inflammation, which is really like a challenge in the modern day. When I think about that challenge, I think about the anti inflammatory spices and there’s overlap. There’s some overlap but some of the unique ones to think about and one of my favorites is sumac.
Kanchan : It’s actually a spice that’s used predominantly in the middle East but it has become quite trendy now in the US. It’s kind of burgundy, purple berry packed with anthocyanins, which are antiinflammatory and other antioxidants and it’s just so wonderful. It’s kind of lemony but earthy and fruity at the same time. It’s great sprinkled on salads. You don’t even have to give it heat. In fact, it would probably preserve a lot of the antioxidants if you don’t. Sumac is a great one to add to your life. Great sprinkled on hummus. Like I said to me, I mean I put it on everything. I’m a little bit obsessed with it and then even nutmeg. Nutmeg is an interesting one because we’re coming into the holidays. People are having this sort of warming spices, nutmeg is definitely a very warming space.
Kanchan : It does have antiinflammatory properties but as I’ve written before, it also has a dark side. I would say less is more when it comes to nutmeg. It used to be abused historically, believe it or not, because in high enough doses it can cause hallucinations and even palpitations pretty high-
Kimberly: [crosstalk 00:25:14], large amount. Yeah.
Kanchan : You need like two teaspoons, tables spoon, I mean, you’re never going to have that much nutmeg, so I don’t want to scare anyone but there’s been a constant people giving like little kids nutmeg teas, which haven’t always resulted in the best outcome. Like the kid may just seem out of it. I wouldn’t do a concentrated nutmeg tea but like gratings of nutmeg and your butternut squash soup or even in your spice tea could be a nice way to add that sort of holiday spice and also a few antiinflammatory benefits.
Kimberly: [inaudible 00:25:51], of course being Indian and having an inclination towards Ayurveda, I am the same way. I cook the same way and I see some in here like paprika, a lot of the ones that listeners are familiar with like let’s say thyme and we know which are herbs but then it can be dried into spices. Rosemary, I’ve seen some research on those. Did you not focus on those because there’s less research though? Or just personal preference?
Kanchan : Yeah. I love herbs. I feel like I just had to draw the line somewhere so I can dive deep and I’ve actually been thinking about doing something with like technically the herbs. There’s so much overlap like you said, you know they could be ground down into a spice and it really is just about semantics. No, I don’t think that there’s inadequate research. I think there’s tons of research like on the likes of oregano and Rosemary and basil and holy basil. Oh my gosh. It’s a whole like beautiful world in its own right. I think I just stayed away from it because it would have been too much to dive deep into but those are really, really powerful ingredients as well.
Kimberly: Now you mentioned spicing up your children’s food at a young age and I think especially in the West, again, not to be so down in the West but I think that a lot of people are sort of scared to do that and to give their babies spicy food. I mean, from the beginning, EE, [inaudible 00:27:14]. His name’s Emerson but I call him a million things. He loved cumin and turmeric and I would make these little [inaudible 00:27:21], sweet potato burgers for him with a lot of spices. Not spicy like cayenne pepper but spices. What do you feel about that? Do you think the earlier we introduced spices to children, the more acclimated they’ve can become. Do you personally avoid the spicy spices with your children until a certain age? What do you think?
When to introduce spices to children
Kanchan : Yeah. I think one of the biggest misconceptions I came across when I started educating people about spices was that people tend to think all the spices that are overwhelming and spicy and hot and I’ve said this a million times, aside from the cayenne pepper family and the black pepper family maybe, most spices are aromatic and wonderful and not necessarily spicy. I think, the research really does show that we can mold and influence our kids pallets starting with when they’re in the womb. What the mother eats when we’re pregnant and then what we introduce in terms of solid foods, even what we’re eating when we’re breastfeeding, all of that has an impact on their palette, their preferences and let’s be honest, I mean, I think we have a little bit of a crisis in this country when it comes to children’s menus and we tend to kind of dumb down kids’ food to only be these white processed foods and it’s not serving our kids well and I think expanding their palette early on definitely is just a wonderful training ground.
Kanchan : It’s not always going to be a home run. I make a lot of things my kids reject but it’s about exposing and celebrating and just a wide variety. Yeah. I started giving my son the aromatic, not the spicy spices at the age of seven months. I would do part of them in his pears or cinnamon and sweet potato, cumin with lentils and so on and my pediatrician who was New York based was like very happy and said, go for it.
Kanchan : They’re advocating that more and more now to add natural flavors, herbs, spices, less salt, less sugar, less kind of garbage, if you will and just really celebrating all these diverse plant foods from an early age. My kids do eat a wide variety of spices. I held off on the hot spices but I will tell you this, I ate some really spicy food when I was pregnant with my daughter who was two and a half and sometimes you want to taste what I’m eating, which I think is way too spicy for her and she will eat it and she’ll go, “Huuh, huuh.” But then she’ll want more.
Kimberly: You did it with your son. When you were pregnant with your son. You did not eat spicy.
Kanchan : I didn’t crave spicy when I was pregnant with him. I was weird. I craved different things. With her, I just want to Indian food. She loves spicy, which I think is super funny and I wasn’t necessarily going for that but Hey, I’ll take it.
Kimberly: When I look at this and I see it in your book but I don’t see it sort of called out is ginger, which again, kind of goes into that herb spice category.
We discuss ginger and other spices and the benefits
Kanchan : Yeah. [crosstalk 00:30:32].
Kimberly: I love ginger. I’m obsessed with it. I feel like-
Kanchan : Oh my gosh.
Kimberly: … [crosstalk 00:30:36], pungent as garlic and chili. I’m Vata Pitta, so I kind of try to chill out my Pitta. I don’t have that many onions and garlic anymore. I used to eat them every day but I feel like ginger doesn’t have that effect as much.
Kanchan : Yeah, ginger is really balancing. In fact, my Ayurvedic practitioner told me to make a very similar smoothie to your GGS but she told me to add ginger and a little cardamom to mine. [crosstalk 00:31:03].
Kimberly: Yeah, bring the ginger in.
Kanchan : Yeah. I think ginger, you’re right. It can be very balancing even for fiery types. As you know, it’s just amazing digestion, sort of circulation boosting space. Tons of research. Again, I left it out just because it was kind of veering into that sort of herb category but no, it’s a powerhouse and it’s pretty much, I think in like 70% of my recipes. I cook with it. I cook with it a lot and I love it. Kimberly: Yeah, and Bobby, my son loves ginger. I mean he will eat big ginger chunks but he likes ginger flavored things. It’s more palatable for children I think too.
Kanchan : Yeah, and I would say if you’re a little concerned, you can always start with ginger powder. I tend to think that’s a little bit milder. The fresh root is definitely sharper. It does mellow out when you put it on some heat, like in the oil for example or even in a soup or whatever it mellows out. If you want to start with a powder first, get acclimated to that and then use the actual route kind of graded. That’s kind of a good progression I think for people who are new to ginger. Kimberly: We talked earlier about concerns with turmeric sourcing beyond organic. Are there any other spices that you would recommend we look into beyond just getting an organic brand for safety reasons?
Kanchan : Yeah. The one that comes to mind that I talk about all the time is cinnamon. Cinnamon is so beloved and people love it and it’s so great. There do happen to be two kinds of cinnamon. The one that you find most regularly in grocery stores that isn’t necessarily labeled in any kind of specific way would just be called cinnamon. It is a variety that we call cassia cinnamon. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s wonderful. It’s the one that everybody associates with like the holidays and the spice cookies and whatnot. The problem with that is if you’re using that cinnamon often, which sometimes people do to balance blood sugar or just to bring some of those benefits into their lives, it turns out that cassia cinnamon has a compound in it called coumarin, which at high enough doses can be toxic to the liver. It can just sort of congest the liver and so I tell people, if you are embracing cinnamon in larger amounts, go out of your way to find what’s called true cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon. It comes from the island countries, Ceylon or Sri Lanka. That’s why it’s called Ceylon cinnamon. Although it can also grow in other parts of the world.
Kanchan : That cinnamon now I’ve seen it at whole foods, I’ve seen it on Amazon, like it’s more widely available. It should specifically say true or Ceylon cinnamon and that cinnamon has negligible if any amounts of coumarin and in fact there was actually a study done on Scandinavian children who were adding a lot of cinnamon to their oatmeal and in the blood tests they did have higher levels of coumarin that are deemed safe. In large amounts it can become an issue. I always like to draw attention to cinnamon because I think it’s one that people like and they feel like they can get on board with but if you’re using it often try to find the true cinnamon. Kimberly: That’s a great tip. It is very familiar I think and is in a lot of sweet dishes. I like to use it savoury. I actually put it in my kitchari too.
Kanchan : I love at savoury.
Kanchan : I love at savoury.
Kimberly: Oh my God, so good. Love cinnamon sticks. I love all cinnamon.
Kanchan : Yeah, and another tip, I tell people this and they’re like, I’m never going to do it and then they go do it and they’re like, Oh my gosh, I’ve been missing out. You can grind your own cinnamon and you’ll never buy pre-ground cinnamon again. It’s totally like a game changer. You just take the sticks and you give them a very dry heat, just sort of on a skillet for like 30 seconds just to wake up some of those compounds and then you can just toss them into a coffee grinder that you kind of use just for spices. It’s like 20 bucks or less and you just grind it down into a powder and it is, Oh my gosh, it’s next level.
Kimberly: Wow. Wait, how do we prepare the sticks did you say? We just …
Kanchan : Yeah. I take the sticks and I put them on a kitchen towel. I fold a towel over and then I just kind of hammer them down with-
Kimberly: Okay. You pre break them down and then-
Kanchan : … I pre break them down and then I give them a very light kind of tossing around in a skillet, like 30 to 60 seconds and then I put them into my coffee grinder, grind them down into a powder. I know it sounds like three steps and like a huge pain but if you do it once, I mean, you can do enough to last you six months and it’s just so aromatic and so amazing. Like I said, you won’t buy the pre-ground stuff again because the pre-ground stuff’s been sitting on a store shelf for a while and a lot of its volatile compounds do lose their potency over time. They don’t necessarily go bad but they’re just not as active. If you smell an old spice jar and it smells like nothing. Basically that’s what’s happened. A lot of those volatile compounds have kind of just evaporated and gone.
Kimberly: Yeah. It’s just kind of feels not as potent-
Kanchan : Exactly.
Defining what true beauty is and finding your own uniqueness
Kimberly: … good. Wow. Well, Kanchan, thank you so much for all your amazing wisdom and information to share with us that’s not only interesting but super useful and can be applicable to our daily lives. Before I let you go, I have one question for you that we’re starting to ask all our guests and it has to do with this concept of true beauty that I’ve been talking about for years and years and my definition has continued to expand and evolve. We know we talk about true beauty being beyond physical to be our everything. Our spiritual side being connected to our uniqueness, where we feel comfortable and confident as we are, where we get to that point where we’re in our light and we don’t have to compare ourselves to anyone else. We don’t have to feel competitive with anyone else. One of my goals is to really redefine beauty for women and people everywhere. As a fellow amazing, beautiful woman, as we all are, Kanchan, I love you to share what makes you feel truly beautiful and in your true beauty power.
Kanchan : What a beautiful question that is.
Kimberly: [inaudible 00:37:20], on you.
Kanchan : I know. I will say it really is about just being connected to my inner light. We all have this inner light, inner spark, inner wisdom. It’s so bright, we’re born with it and then it gets all covered up and kind of clogged up by just stuff, life and I think when we institute some of these self care practices and some of which you shared so beautifully on my podcast by going within and really spending time to kind of just spend time with yourself, you kind of unmask that inner light and I think when I’m connected to that inner light and when I can let it shine like it’s supposed to, that’s when I feel truly beautiful.
Kimberly: And so you meditate, you spend time by yourself. Do you journal? What is your practice?
Kanchan : Yeah, all of the above. Sometimes lasting for like 43 seconds because I’m a mother of two kids. Yes. I like to start my day with the journaling. I have this wonderful journal that I just started working with called The 6-Minute Diary and it’s just a wonderful way to sort of set an intention for the day to express gratitude. All of the things that helped me connect to that inner light instead of the noise in my head, you know? And then I do do some front IMR, some deep breathing exercises in the morning, sometimes with my children running around in circles around me and then I’ll do a quick meditation. If I can wake up before them, it’s much smoother but that doesn’t always happen, especially if one of them is in the bed with me. Yeah, those three things I think and then just constantly during the day. I think connecting to the breath is such a great way to kind of access that inner knowing. Just reminding myself take a deep breath, take five deep breaths. It’s a really powerful tool. All of the above.
Kimberly: Beautiful. Well thank you so much for sharing that, Kanchan, and thank you again so much for sharing all your wisdom and knowledge. Beauties. We will link directly in the show notes to Kanchan’s book. It’s called Spice Spice Baby, a hundred recipes with healing spices for your family table. We will also link to Kanchan’s website where you can find out more about her and her work. It’s spicespicebaby.com. Kanchan again, thank you so much for everything, for being with us. I really enjoyed our conversation today.
Kanchan : Thank you so much for having me.
Kimberly: And Beauties, thank you so much for tuning in. Take great care of yourself this week as it starts to get a little bit colder and want to keep our immunity out. Maybe it’s a great time to get more into the ginger tea and some of the spices we were just talking about today. We’ll be back here Thursday for our next Q&A podcast. Till then take great care and we will see you back here very soon. Lots of love.