If you’re a fan of curry, then you’ve most likely had the pleasure of eating turmeric. Turmeric gives curry its vibrant yellow-golden color. A member of the ginger family this spice has been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both Chinese and Indian medicine for centuries to treat a wide variety of conditions. Western scientists are now paying a lot of attention to this amazing compound.
Turmeric and its most important active ingredient, curcumin is one of the most extensively researched spices with hundreds of lab studies published in the last few decades.
A number of laboratory studies on cancer cells have shown that curcumin has a wide variety of anti-cancer effects. It seems to be able to identify potential cancer cells, kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing – LOVE! Studies have been conducted on several types of cancer including breast cancer.
Another important way that turmeric and curcumin help prevent cancer is by reducing inflammation in the body. Inflammation can lead to many different diseases including cancer so reducing inflammation is an extremely important factor to maintaining good health.
Everyone needs a best friend and Curcumins is Black Pepper! There is a special relationship between curcumin and a compound called piperine, found in the black pepper. Piperine slows down the absorption of curcumin making it more available and effective in the body. The bioavailability of curcumin skyrockets when eaten with black pepper! (I told you it was turbo charged :)
It is not advised to eat Turmeric while you are undergoing chemotherapy. The strong antioxidant properties of turmeric can make the chemotherapy less effective. Always ask your doctor about adding in anything new to your diet, especially when going through any type of treatment.
There are SO many other health benefits of turmeric, but I’ll highlight just a few. Turmeric can help lower cholesterol, offer cardiovascular protection, balance blood pressure, help balance blood sugar, soothe stomach irritations and offer relief of depression. Turmeric has been found to improve liver function and help remove toxins from the body. The anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric also make it your friend when it comes to offering relief from arthritis.
Perhaps one of the best-known benefits of turmeric is as a brain boosting spice. Growing evidence suggests that turmeric offers protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Studies of the elderly population in India whose diet regularly includes this spice, show very low levels of neurological diseases.
Don’t be intimidated by turmeric if you’ve never tried it. Just because it looks exotic to us westerners, doesn’t mean it’s complicated to use. You can buy it in a jar like any other spice or if you want to feel more “at one” with it, you can find it whole at certain markets, and peel and grate it yourself. I do both, depending on how much time I have. The one warning I’ll pass on is that the bold yellow color can stain light surfaces! Living with an all white kitchen, I know all about this :)
There are so many ways to include it in your diet. An easy one is to include it in a smoothie, which I do every morning. You can include it in salad dressing or add it to your brown rice or quinoa. It’s also great on sautéed or steamed veggies. Turmeric goes hand-in-hand with lentils, so if you’re a fan of these this is a great place to use it.
Having grown up in Scotland and having lived in Birmingham and Manchester, England, eating curry was the norm and I absolutely love it! When I arrive back in the UK for a visit, it’s one of the first things I crave. Luckily there are many Indian restaurants to choose from and there are so many healthy vegetarian dishes available. During the time between college and starting my first “proper job” I lived in Glasgow with my friend Jane. Our across the landing neighbor was an Indian lady who brought us a plate of food almost every night…whatever she had cooked for her own family. Wow – we were so spoiled and so grateful. How nice is that?!
I know some of you may not be as into curry as I am, so here are some other ways to cook with turmeric.
Roasted Butternut Squash with Smoked Paprika and Turmeric
A simple, seasonal recipe from Katie at Healthy Seasonal Recipes www.healthyseasonalrecipes.com
Cauliflower Steaks with Ginger, Turmeric and Cumin
A fun variation on cauliflower from Emily at The Kitchn www.thekitchn.com
Red Curry Lentils
OK, I had to include a yummy curried dish :) This one is from Lindsay at Pinch of Yum www.pinchofyum.com
Are you also a curry lover? If you have a favorite place to eat curry or have enjoyed a curry in some exotic place, please share below. We'd love to hear!