A Medicinal tea
Masala chai. The name itself usually conjures an image of a warm, flavorful, spicy and delicious drink. But do the words “medicinal” or “healthy” come to mind as well? They certainly should! Masala chai has a whole host of health benefits! In fact, masala chai was originally devised as an Ayurveda health tonic!
Chai as medicine
At masala chai’s inception, the purpose of the drink was to act as a cure-all to a number of common ailments. According to legend, a compassionate and learned Indian king developed the drink with Ayurveda ingredients in mind. Ayurveda is the ancient and traditional art of well being. The tradition is heavily influenced by Hindu spirituality and aims to harmonize our minds, our bodies and our spirits through proper dietary and lifestyle practices. And so the ingredients of masala chai had this goal in mind. Over time, the original Ayurveda ingredients were blended with black tea and milk. Both health drinks in their own right. But what kind of health benefits can masala chai grant us?
The healthy ingredients
While the recipe for chai can differ from household to household and region to region, the following are the most common core ingredients. Some variations may be even healthier, like say adding lemon rind or swapping out whole milk with soy milk, or slightly less healthy, like adding in sugar or using whole fat milk. So this list will mainly reflects masala chai’s ingredients at the most standard and fundamental.
Ginger is a great spice and one that certainly provides a heap of benefits to masala chai. Ginger contains gingerol which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger can also alleviate nausea and morning sickness. Muscle pain and soreness are soothed by the addition of ginger, so maybe choose masala chai after a good workout! Ginger can also ease digestive problems and possibly even ameliorate menstrual cramps.
Cardamom has been found to help lower blood pressure and like ginger and many of masala chai’s other ingredients, hosts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also helps with digestion and can sooth the stomach. Some studies suggest that cardamom may improve oral health and promote respiratory health.
Here we have another anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powerhouse. We are only three ingredients in, and we can already observe how beneficial masala chai can be! Cinnamon also helps to protect our heart health, is beneficial to diabetics, and has anti bacterial and anti fungal properties.
Cloves have a whole array of nutrients. Some of which include manganese, vitamin K and vitamin C. antioxidants are also present in cloves, as are anti-bacterial properties. And good news for those who may enjoy a drink or two, cloves promote a healthy liver, promote bone health and help guard against stomach ulcers.
This herb is among the other ingredients in terms of its health benefits. It has potassium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C and B-6, it provides iron, and also has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties. Fennel can also boost our metabolism and aid in digestive health and strengthen our immune system.
Star anise gives us a nice helping of antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Make sure that the star anise you are purchasing is Chinese star anise and not the Japanese variant of this herb, which can cause some negative health problems.
Once again, your anti-inflammatory and antioxidant needs are met with black pepper, which gives masala chai a nice kick. It also promotes healthy brain function, promotes gut health, reduces appetite and helps the body absorb nutrients. The appetite suppression aspect is beneficial because it aids in controlling weight and dieting.
Antioxidants, heart healthy effects, bad cholesterol cutting, you name it, black tea has got it! Black tea is the oxidized and slightly fermented cousin of green tea, and in addition to the aforementioned health boosting properties, it also promotes metabolism, digestive health, healthy gut bacteria and also contains caffeine, which can give us a nice energy boost and improve our focus.
In this context, we will be looking at cow’s milk, though masala chai made with alternative types of milk including soy and almond milk are beneficial to our health and well-being too, and can certainly be used in a masala chai recipe. Milk from dairy cows, however contains calcium, vitamin B12, potassium and other vitamins, nutrients and minerals. Milk also provides protein and can help strengthen teeth and bones. For those wanting to choose a healthier or more sustainable option, the first method is to opt for grass-fed dairy cow milk. Next would be to opt for a non-animal milk like soy, almond, coconut, cashew, oat or rice milk.
Healthy AND tastes good
And these are just the main core ingredients to masala chai. Part of the beauty of chai is the freedom to swap, exchange or modify the recipe and ingredients to suit your taste, your circumstances and certainly your culinary expertise! Masala chai makes a great beverage to add to your diet and provides a whole wealth of benefits. As always, consult your doctor or physician in regards to incorporating new foods or drinks into your dietary habits, and certainly keep in mind which ingredients are beneficial to your body and personal health.
Because everyone’s body is different, certain ingredients, spices and herbs may have a different effect on you than on others, so always be certain the ingredients you utilize will keep you happy and healthy! Also make sure to enjoy masala chai at times that are beneficial to you, for those who have strong reactions to caffeine, perhaps try using less black tea or swapping the black tea out with another ingredient or make a masala chai without caffeine altogether. You can still get a whole heap of healthy and beneficial results from enjoying this drink even if you swap out one or two ingredients. So feel free to enjoy some chai today, because being healthy never tasted so good!
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