Envision a whole clove, and you can see that it comes from an unopened flower bud. After the buds are dried and ground, the spice becomes a favorite seasoning, but ground cloves deliver more than flavor. Even a teaspoon is a rich source of manganese, plus it has a small but measurable amount of fiber, iron and vitamin K.
When conversations turn to diet and health, manganese isn’t usually one of the first nutrients mentioned, but it’s worth knowing about because it’s a component of many enzymes that have vital roles. Some manganese-dependent enzymes metabolize carbohydrates and proteins. Others help produce a substance called proteoglycan, which is a thick fluid that binds connective tissue, lubricates joints and cushions cartilage. Manganese is also necessary for an antioxidant that protects energy-producing structures inside every cell from damage by free radicals. Just one teaspoon of ground cloves has 70 percent of women's recommended daily intake.
Vitamin K is one of the few vitamins your body can make, but it can’t produce enough to meet all your nutritional requirements, so you still need 90 micrograms daily. If you don’t get enough vitamin K, your blood can’t clot properly. It's also essential for proteins that regulate bone mineralization and maintain bone density. This is especially critical for women because low dietary intake of vitamin K is associated with a higher risk of hip fractures, according to the February 2003 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” One teaspoon of ground cloves has 3 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K.
It doesn’t appear to have much, but 1 teaspoon of ground cloves has 0.7 gram of dietary fiber, and that amount represents 3 percent of your recommended daily intake. Insoluble fiber is the “roughage” that keeps food moving through your digestive tract and prevents constipation, as well as diverticular disease. Including soluble fiber as part of your regular diet helps lower cholesterol. It also balances blood sugar by slowing down food absorption and preventing large spikes in sugar after you eat.
Iron is familiar for its job of carrying oxygen through the blood and preventing anemia. It also supports your immune system through its role in the development of white blood cells that attack infected cells. Women should consume 18 milligrams of iron daily. One teaspoon of ground cloves has 0.25 milligram, which is 1 percent of that recommended daily intake. After menopause, the recommended intake drops to 8 milligrams, but pregnant women have higher needs and should get 27 milligrams daily.
Try braising chicken pieces in a mixture of tomato sauce, ground cloves and garlic. The chicken and tomatoes add the protein and vitamins B-12, C and A that are missing from ground cloves. Make a similar sauce but add honey and mustard and use it to glaze a ham, or make a glaze for roast pork with cranberry sauce, mustard and ground cloves. The spice also works well with baked beans and in lentil soup, where the legumes give a boost of fiber, iron, potassium and folate.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Spices, Cloves, Ground
- University of Michigan: Cartilage Structure and Function
- Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology: Cellular Functions of Proteoglycans -- An Overview
- Linus Pauling Institute: Manganese
- Bastyr University: Vitamin K
- New York University: Cholesterol-Lowering Diet
- Linus Pauling Institute: Iron
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.