If you want to protect yourself from a multitude of diseases, then please let me introduce you to turmeric. This spice is best known as the substance that gives many Indian dishes and ballpark mustard their yellow color. Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, and if you happen to see it in its fresh in the supermarket, it resembles ginger but with a darker brown tough outer skin and a deep orange inner flesh. However, it is most commonly sold in the spice aisle as a bright yellow powder. Turmeric has been used for centuries in Chinese and Indian medicine and is recently being recognized by conventional medicine for its healing powers.
While studies concerning the health benefits of turmeric are still premature, early evidence has linked turmeric to a slew of health benefits, most of which are based on its most active component, curcumin, the compound that also gives turmeric its yellow-orange color. Turmeric is full of powerful antioxidants, including curcumin, which are known to fight cancer-causing free radicals. Most research done on the health benefits of turmeric have been done using curcumin, not the whole turmeric root. While the studies are promising, more research, especially those using human subjects, need to be done.
Anti-inflammatory – Turmeric is mainly promoted for its anti-inflammatory properties. This property has made turmeric popular with those suffering from arthritis or joint issues. A 2006 University of Arizona study found that this root was able to treat and inhibit the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in rats. Applying a paste of turmeric to the skin can also help ease skin inflammation. It has also been found to be an effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease.
Pain Reliever and Antiseptic – Turmeric is a pain reliever that also has natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Turmeric is believed to boost the immune system and, when applied to wounds, can ease pain and kill germs.
Cancer prevention - In the lab, curcumin has been shown to slow down or inhibit the progression of many types of cancer and also help the body destroy mutated cancer cells. In many animals, it has been shown to slow the growth and spread of some cancers. In a UCLA study, curcumin was shown to block the enzyme that causes the growth of head and neck cancer. Studies have also linked turmeric to lower rates of breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancer.
Brain health support - There is some evidence that turmeric can support brain health and help in avoiding Alzheimer’s disease. There is a low incidence of Alzheimer’s in elderly populations in India, where consumption of turmeric is very high. Research with mice has also shown that curcumin can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought that curcumin my play a role in disrupting a key protein in the formation of Alzheimer’s.
Liver Detoxification – Turmeric is also believed to detoxify the liver. One study showed that rats fed turmeric had increased levels of enzymes necessary for liver detoxification.
1. Turmeric powder has a strong pungent taste which some find bitter, so a little goes a long way when it comes to seasoning food. When 1 or 2 tsp are added to food, it can add a subtle depth and complexity of flavor.
2. Always buy organic turmeric to ensure that it has no additives.
3. While you can find curcumin supplements on the market, it is better to eat turmeric than to take supplements because your body absorbs curcumin from the root better than from a supplement.
4. When seasoning foods, mix turmeric with black pepper. When combined with piperine, the chemical that makes black pepper spicy, the tumor suppressing power of curcumin has been shown to be enhanced.
5. Turmeric is great as a yellow food coloring. A sprinkling of turmeric can make homemade vegan cheese sauces and tofu scrambles look just like the real thing.
6. When applied to the skin, a paste of turmeric and water can be used to cool inflammation, ease burns, including sunburns, and is also believed to prevent skin cancer.
7. A paste made of turmeric and black tea can act as a natural bronzer.
8. When cooking, combine turmeric with onions and cauliflower. Turmeric with onions has been shown to prevent colon cancer, while turmeric and cauliflower is believed to stop prostate cancer.
9. Be careful when working with turmeric because its yellow color can stain clothing.
A wonderful and easy way to get turmeric into your diet is by making turmeric tea. This tea can be enjoyed any time of the day, but if sipped before bed, it can improve your sleep.
- 1 cup coconut milk or plant-based milk of choice
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger (optional)
- 1 tbsp sweetener of choice
Heat plant-based milk. Mix in spices and sweetener. Drink and enjoy.
Weary about using turmeric in your cooking? Give some of these delicious recipes containing turmeric a try.
- Ayurvedic Oatmeal
- Tofu Scramble
- Vegan Souffle Omelet
- Breakfast Poha
- Chickpea Flour Omelet with Spinach, Onion, and Bell Peppers
Dips and Spreads
- Pimento Cheese Spread
- Moroccan Grilled Eggplant, Onion, and White Bean Spread
- Indian Saag Dip
- Creamy Macadamia Cheese with Fresh Curried Fig and Golden Grape Tomato Chutney
- Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Cauliflower Coucous
- Tempeh in Spicy Onion Curry
- Cheezy Kale Salad
- Raw Yam Burgers and Daikon Fries
- Mung Beans and Root Vegetable Curry
- Simple Lentil Dal
- Sweet Potato Tofu Pizza
- Tofu Pakoras
- Simple Slow Cooked Black Eyed Beans
- South Indian Lentil Stew
- Black Bean and Pecan Butter Sauce over Grilled Eggplant and Sauteed Spinach
- Masoor Dal
- Curried Lentil Soup
- Greek “Cheese” Hand Pies
- Spicy Indian Sweet Potato
- Pigeon Pea Soup with Opo Squash
- Lentil Crusted Tofu with Awesome Dipping Sauce (pictured above)