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How to Deal with Spices on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)

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How to Deal with Spices on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)

Amongst the dietary restrictions of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), which prescribes to avoid grains, legumes, eggs, dairy, nightshades, nuts and seeds for a minimum of 30 days, fruit and seed based spices are pretty tough ingredients to eliminate (find the complete autoimmune food guide here). And today’s post is all about how to deal with spices on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)

Even though on the surface one would think spices aren’t a substantial food we could actually crave, when we can’t use them we end up missing them A LOT!

They have the ability to enhance the flavors of what we eat so much that they can completely change the taste of it!! Think about curried cauliflower and rosemary cauliflower rice… Just a pinch of spice can transform the main ingredient into a completely different dish!

AIP Italian Food from the AIP Italian Cookbook
Jo Romero

Today, we are lucky to talk about this subject with a real connoisseur of the AIP spice world:

…the fellow UK food blogger and recipe developer Jo Romero!

Jo Romero, is the founder of and the author of “Spice”, an amazing ebook packed with recipes and research about… you guessed it, spices!!

As per the instructions of Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, who created the guidelines for the Autoimmune Protocol, quite a few spices need to be left off the plate for a minimum period of 30 days when embarking on the AIP.

Here is a quick overview of the off-limits spices.

Spices to Avoid on the Autoimmune Protocol:

Seed Based Spices: Anise, Annatto, Caraway, Cumin, Celery Seed, Coriander, Cumin, Dill Seed, Fennel Seed, Fenugreek, Mustard Seed, Nutmeg, Poppy Seed and Sesame.

Nightshade Based Spices: Capsicums Seed, Chili Pepper, Paprika and Red Pepper.

Fruit based spices: Allspice, Cardamom, Juniper Berry, White Pepper, Pink Peppercorns and Vanilla Bean (ok if it’s cooked or if you use vanilla powder).

Why all these restrictions? The Paleo Mom explains that seeds contain lectins, phytic acid and have a high omega-6 content and therefore they have the ability to increase inflammation. Nightshades on the other hand have a high saponin content (which can increase gut permeability and exaggerate immune response) and some of them, like pepper, contain capsaicin, which is a gut irritant.

If this list seems overwhelming, Jo can definitely reassure you: in her book she put together a list of 40 AIP-compliant spices and aromatics that can help you make magic in the kitchen!

And, after categorizing and describing the medicinal qualities of these awesome flavorings, she shares over 90 autoimmune and paleo approved amazingly spiced recipes: from pizza to curries, from soups to drinks, all of them inspired to Indian, Thai and Chinese cuisine!

Now, let’s get to know Jo a bit better in this fun and “spicy” interview! 😉

How to Deal with Spices on the AIP:

Jo, where does the inspiration for your book “Spice” come from?

I always loved Asian food. My Friday night ritual, before I went AIP, was a takeaway after work. I’d go for Thai, Indian, Chinese, whatever I felt like, and I’d always try something different, too.

After I started AIP I really missed that, and it got me thinking about how to recreate the flavours I loved, but still keep the recipes AIP compliant. It took me a while to figure out where to get all the levels of flavour from, as it’s about so much more than just ‘heat’ in a dish – but I got there in the end.

Mutton Curry from Jo Romero's Spice

What is the spice that you miss the most? Did you find a way to create an AIP replacement for it in your ebook?

I think I missed curry powder the most. I used to add a pinch of it to a lot of things – roasted chicken, grilled fish, seafood, veggies.

The Indian Style Marinade in the ebook is typical of the Indian spice blend that I use for grilled meats and some of my curries – I chose certain ingredients for sweetness, warmth, depth of flavour and lightness. It works really well on chicken legs or wings, too.

Basil drink from Jo Romero Spice

When I was in London, I was impressed by the many amazing Indian restaurants there. I know Indian culture is very strong in the UK and I can tell from your book that you are an avid Indian food lover!

What is the best AIP Indian dish you recreated? And what’s the secret spice behind it?

It’s really difficult to narrow down my favourite AIP Indian inspired dish – but I love the Mutton and Spinach Curry in the ebook – it’s rich and fragrant and I always like to add a big chunk of ginger, to give it depth.

Here in the UK it’s common to eat chips (fries) with a sweet, Indian style curry sauce, from the chip shop. And I was really pleased to have been able to recreate that, too!

burgers rocket chimichurri from Jo Romero Spice

My absolute favorite spice in the world is saffron! In Italy we use it in risotto, as well as in delicious desserts. I am curious about the way it’s used in the UK. Do you guys have a typical English dish made with saffron or were the saffron recipes in your book inspired by other ethnic cuisines?

I don’t think we use saffron enough here in our cooking. It’s expensive, but you only need a little bit for a lot of flavour and a beautiful colour, too.

Traditionally, saffron’s been used in baked goods here, like buns and breads, although there is a recipe in the ebook for Scallops with Saffron and Orange and this was inspired by the combination of seafood and saffron together in Spanish paella. I also love to add a pinch to a rich lamb stew, for a really fragrant flavour.

What is the spice blend you created that you are most proud of?

I loved coming up with all the spice blends in the ebook – there’s everything from drinks and deserts to stews, curries and roasts. But for me, the Egyptian Lamb Artichoke Hash stands out for me as a proud moment, because it was totally inspired by the flavours of Ancient Egypt.

Tasting it, with the lamb, artichokes, turmeric, parsley and lemon, kind of feels a bit like going back in time. I’m fascinated by the food eaten in the past, and I love to bring back dishes for us to enjoy now.

AIP Formula Curry-SPICE

I love your “Formula for an AIP Curry” and the useful infographic you created to explain it! I am sure it took you many attempts to figure out all the variables. What is your favorite combination?

It was developed as an easy way for people to create a good curry without the need for an exact recipe. It leaves you to experiment and find out what works for you. I’d always add garlic and ginger to a curry, and I love the indulgence of coconut milk or cream (you can cut the richness with a little broth, if you like).

I love zesty flavours, so I also love to add in some lemongrass, lime or lemon. And I always scatter my curries with lots and lots of freshly chopped cilantro/coriander leaf for colour as well as to lift all the other flavours.

Jo’s book is absolutely intriguing… When I started reading it, I couldn’t stop scrolling down the pages, avid to see what her creativity allowed her to invent! “Stir fry some bacon and mushrooms together – she writes –, the resulting salty-umami flavor does resemble the flavor of soy sauce”.

I mean, who would have thought of that?!

And you can’t imagine how many other wonderful tips on how to deal with spices on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) are scattered through her book “Spice, that combines ingenious recipes with methodic and scientific research. I am sure you guys will love it!!

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Ambra Torelli
Born and raised in Italy, Ambra visited over 20 countries and now she divides her time in between Italy and the US, where her husband is from and where she moved in 2011 work as university professor of Italian Literature. She writes about food, travel and things that inspire her! more about ambra

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  • Aimee March 7, 2017 7:02 am

    Wonderful interview. Although I can’t tolerate any spices at the moment, it’s very helpful for my future cooking. I loved curry and can’t wait to try her combinations to have it again some day.

    • ambra March 7, 2017 10:45 am

      So glad to hear this was helpful Aimee!! Can’t wait for you to start using spices and create some of Jo’s recipes!!

  • spirit cadet May 6, 2020 2:55 pm

    Great tips! I’m trying out a coconut milk based peppermint curry over cauliflower tonight! 🙂

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