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I’m A Nutrition PhD: 4 Must-Try Spices For Exceptional Gut Health

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Doctor of Biomedical Sciences

By Kanchan Koya, Ph.D.

Doctor of Biomedical Sciences

Kanchan Koya, Ph.D. is an author and an expert in harnessing the power of spices for health and well-being. She received her bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Texas at Austin and her doctorate in biomedical sciences from Harvard University.

Welcome to mindbodygreen dishes, our new original series that’s part educational, part inspirational, and totally delicious. Featuring a fresh nutrition expert each month, these bite-size videos dish out the science behind healthy ingredients and demonstrate a tasty recipe to bring that knowledge into practice. Now, let’s get cooking!

A healthy gut really seems to be the focal point of true vitality and well-being. Ancient Ayurveda and many ancient medical systems believed that all health outcomes begins in the gut. And while that may seem like an oversimplification, a host of modern research and science is really suggesting that gut health is at the core of overall health.

So, how do we achieve optimal gut health? One way to support a healthy gut microbiome is incorporating nourishing spices into your diet–particularly those that have been used for over 5,000 years, and are also supported by modern science.

I’m sharing a few of my go-to spices, along with a gut-nourishing khichdi recipe–my take on a classic digestion-soothing Ayurvedic dish–which features these beneficial ingredients.

4 gut-supporting spices


Fennel seeds are powerful because they can enhance digestion by supporting digestive enzyme production. They are also thought to help cool the digestive tract. Simply steeping some fennel seeds in warm water and drinking it as a tea can help support your gut health on a daily basis.


Cumin can also help digestive enzyme production and bile secretion, which helps your body better digest fatty foods. Most recipes using lentils will also use cumin to help boost their digestibility.




Nix bloating & transform your gut health.*

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An all-star spice for good reason. Turmeric contains anti-inflammatory properties, so it can help support healthy inflammatory pathways in the gut. It can also help support your gut lining. Always remember to include a bit of black pepper to help boost the bioavailability of the curcumin in turmeric.


Cloves are another spice that provides powerful anti-inflammatory effects, thanks to the compound eugenol.

Gut-Soothing Quinoa Khichdi Recipe

Makes 2 to 4 servings


1 cup quinoa

1/2 cup split red lentils

1 tablespoon avocado oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 cup veggies of choice

Salt and pepper

2 cloves

2 black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1/2 inch Ceylon cinnamon stick

Handful of spinach

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Large pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Juice of 1/2 a lime

4 sprigs of fresh cilantro


Rinse and soak the quinoa and lentils for 1 to 3 hours.

Heat the avocado oil in a pot on medium-high heat. Add the cumin and fennel seeds and allow them to sizzle, about a minute. Add the turmeric and sautee for about 30 seconds until it blooms and becomes fragrant.

Add the veggies, salt and pepper and sautee for a minute. Add the drained quinoa and lentils, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, and cinnamon.

Add water to cover (about 3 cups) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook with the lid on for 15-20 minutes until the quinoa is translucent and the lentils are cooked through.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add spinach to the pot, and stir until combined. Place the lid back on the pot, and let it sit for a couple of minutes, until the spinach is lightly cooked.

Ladle into serving bowls. Top with a pinch of cumin, coriander, and cayenne (if using). Finish with a squeeze of lime and fresh cilantro. Serve right away.

Want to turn your passion for wellbeing into a fulfilling career? Become a Certified Health Coach! Learn more here.

With Amy Shah, M.D.

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