Sumac is an exotic berry with a rich history of use in many different countries around the world. It’s most commonly known in several areas of the Middle East where it is said to originate from. There are also reports of it growing in areas of the Mediterranean and even North America. Yet despite that, it’s no cakewalk trying to find sumac in stores and supermarkets. Many people are familiar with the word sumac because of the poisonous shrub that grows. The edible sumac is easily distinguished by its shape and color.
Sumac has a rich culinary history of use in Turkish, Arabic, and Lebanese cuisine. The Roman empire also used and enjoyed sumac for its unique flavors and health benefits for many years. There are even records of the medicinal benefits of it in ancient Greek texts. From spice rubs on meats, to desserts, vegetables, soups, stews, and side dishes, sumac has a wide culinary range. It blends well with sweet and savory dishes to add hints of tartness and citrus.
In most dishes, it works best when used as a small part of a blend rather than as a sole flavoring agent. The slightly sour, tart, and citrus notes compliment flavors such as cilantro, cumin, lemongrass, cardamom, spicy dishes, thyme, saffron, cinnamon, and brown sugar. With sumac, it’s important not to overdo it in quantity. Despite its versatility, the most exciting part of this berry is the multitude of health benefits it offers.
For starters, sumac berry is a very powerful antioxidant. The word antioxidant is so incredibly overused and abused in the health world. Everything is touted as having these potent benefits that will allow you to ride off into the sunset unperturbed by these damaging free radicals.
When compared to just about any other superfood, berry, herb, and spice, sumac is vastly superior as an antioxidant. In fact, it is often 20,40, to 100 times more potent than other powerful antioxidants. It usually comes in as number 1, or at least top 3 on any ORAC rating (measuring antioxidant capacity) list. Despite all the boasts and claims of most of these mainstream nutrients, this humble, barely known berry tops all of them with ease.
The benefits for of sumac berry for diabetes are quite significant according to research thus far. Several studies found a very big reduction in postprandial spikes in glucose levels. The insulin and glucose spike following a meal is one of the more damaging processes that occur in the body. Especially if meals are filled with unhealthy ingredients. This gives even more incentive to use sumac in cooking.
As we see, sumac can impact diabetes in many important ways such as improving insulin resistance, lowering glucose levels, as well as leptin levels. In many people, this hormone is out of balance and causes overeating. In human clinical testing, several measurements that hold great importance in health such as CRP, malondialdehyde, and insulin levels were positively impacted by sumac.
A study using a sumac extract improved cholesterol and lipid profiles in obese subjects. The extract cause HDL (protective) cholesterol to increase and LDL to decrease. The same study also saw a decrease in triglyceride levels. One of the main protective benefits is the effect sumac has at decreasing cholesterol from oxidizing and producing “foam cells”. This is when things become more dangerous. Studies show that stable cholesterol on its own isn’t harmful like we once believed.
A second study backed up sumac’s protective effects on the arteries. This study proved that this potent berry can lower a harmful type of cell from forming and migrating into the vascular walls. This cell, called a vascular smooth muscle cell, is an indicator of arterial disease. In addition, sumac shows promise for those suffering with high blood pressure.
Other noteworthy attributes include possible benefits for respiratory disorders, weight loss, infectious pathogens, and even bone loss. Human research is lacking for bone loss, but it still holds excellent potential based on what we know so far. The tart, tangy subtlety coupled with the fantastic health benefits may cause it to be a favorite in your spice cabinet. At Spice Station, we carry two high quality forms of sumac from Turkey and Syria.
DIY Seasoning blends
One of the most popular trends being followed today is the trend toward healthier eating. Most people are trying to avoid unhealthy foods and seasonings that have additives and other harmful ingredients. A better way to accomplish the use of healthy seasonings is by making the blends yourself. You can add a combination of your favorite spice blends together for a do it yourself seasoning that is nutritionally better for the body. Some easy do it yourself seasonings include what you prefer, and like in your food.
Make a list
To start with your do it yourself seasoning blends, shop for your favorite spices. Get enough to make at least five different blends. You can either grow fresh herbs and spices in your garden or purchase them fresh from your favorite market. You can allow them to dry, or use them fresh. They will eventually dry on their own. Decide what spices will blend well together, and give you the flavor that you want.
Set up mixing materials
Get out the bowls, measuring spoons, and the containers to be used. Mason jars in various sizes are ideal for this project. This is something that the kids can help with. It will give them an opportunity to use their math skills. Once the spices have been blended, put them into containers and label. The herbs will sometimes clump together once they sit for a while, but just give them a stir and they are ready to use again.
Use the seasoning blends on favorite foods
A cajun blend will go great on chicken, pork, salmon, and burgers. Make up a chili blend to enhance soups, ground beef, and sloppy Joe’s. For grilling steaks, chicken, fish, and pork, a jerk blend is a perfect mixture. A tasty Mediterranean blend gives a zesty flavor to roasted vegetables, chicken, and seafood. These do it yourself seasoning blends puts you in control of your sodium intake and saves money on the expensive store-bought seasonings. Enjoy eating healthier and eliminating many of the harmful preservatives that are used in packaged seasonings by experiencing do it yourself blends.
You can purchase some seasonings here.