The Everything Spice
If there is anything for which the Middle East and Asia are famous for, it is their spices.The people of this region take pride in the exquisite aromas and flavours found in their dishes, all because of the hundreds of spices being used everyday. One such spice is Za’atar, an aromatic and earthy mixture of oregano, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt.
Sounds appetizing? Great, because this spice is not just rich in flavour, but also has multiple health benefits as well as a fascinating history! It truly is an everything spice.
Nowadays, the Za’atar blend is used more for its aromatic flavours rather than for medicinal purposes. However, its health benefits cannot be ignored. The elements of this mixture are full of flavonoids, organic compounds, antioxidants, and vitamins, all of which boast exceptional health-enhancing properties.
Not a one-man-army
Za’atar is a result of all the individual ingredients which help give it the taste, aroma, and health benefits. Hence, every good thing about each of the ingredients naturally becomes a part of Za’atar. Here is a list of those ingredients, along with everything good about them which should convince you to make space for Za’atar in your spice cabinet!
Oregano is a common ingredient used in multiple dishes to add some extra flavour and aroma. But that isn’t all; oregano is also known for
- Being an antioxidant
- Having antibacterial properties
- Having anti-inflammatory properties
- Boosting cognition
- Being rich in vitamins
As an antioxidant, oregano helps the body get rid of toxic substances, preventing cell damage and eventually reducing the chances of diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
Recent studies have shown oregano oil can be effective against microbes which have stopped responding to antibiotics! This suggests that oregano can be effective in treating bacterial diseases which have stopped responding to medicine as well as building up a stronger immune system. However, this does not mean that eating oregano will help treat infections.
A major component of oregano, thymol, contains anti-inflammatory properties, helping reduce arthritis and allergic asthma. Thymol is also known to boost cognition, and za’atar is often known as “brain food” because of this reason. Oregano is also rich in Vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E, which carry their own beneficial properties.
Sesame seeds are famous all over the world for their protein content. One tablespoon of sesame seeds (9g) contains approximately 1.5g of protein. The seeds are also a good source of calcium which means that only a small portion of these daily can significantly help with building muscle and keeping your bones strong.
Apart from calcium and protein, sesame seeds are also abundant with B vitamins and vitamin E. The human body cannot store B vitamins and must be consumed regularly in the diet. Vitamin E is an antioxidant which helps support the immune system and reduce cell damage. Sesame seeds are also known to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Sumac is a tangy and colourful spice which deserves a separate spot in your kitchen cabinet. Apart from being full of flavour, sumac can help lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar, help with digestion, and relieve muscle pain.
Sumac has also been proven to help with stabilizing blood sugar levels. In one experiment, researchers discovered that over a 3-month period, diabetic people who consumed sumac daily reported a 13% decrease in sugar levels than those who were given a placebo. Another similar study found that sumac can help increase insulin resistance, allowing diabetic people better control over their sugar levels.
The Fusion Works
When you combine the 3 ingredients above, you get an aromatic and flavourful Za’atar blend which is not only tantalizing for your taste buds, but also extremely valuable for your body and its functions. To summarise, here is a list of all the health benefits which Za’atar can provide:
- Helps with digestion
- Antioxidants help reduce cell damage
- Helps with cognition
- Helps build muscle
- Reduces bone loss
- Helps control sugar levels
- Adds essential vitamins in your diet
- Strengthens immune system
The 3 ingredients mentioned above are used in the Holy Land Dates Palestinian Za’atar. However, not all blends are the same: some use thyme instead of oregano while some use a combination of herbs along with sesame seeds and sumac. To add an extra zing, some people also add chilli flakes, lemon or black pepper to this mixture. Regardless of the recipe, it is safe to say that Za’atar is a completely organic spice full of flavour, nutrition and health benefits.
So, have you made space in your kitchen cabinet for Za’atar yet?