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How to Include Turmeric in Your Diet

Updated on October 26, 2015

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When we hear the word "turmeric," many of us would automatically think "curry." Yes, indeed, turmeric is a must-have ingredient in many Indian and Southeast-Asian curry dishes. Its mildly peppery taste and earthy aroma beautifully complement other curry spices while its deep orange tint can render a dull-looking dish the color of warm yellow. The use of turmeric in cooking needs not be limited to only curries, though. This spice is very versatile and offers so many health benefits that several research studies suggest we should regularly include it in our diet. Before discussing ways to cook with turmeric, first let's take a look at its characteristics and brief history, as well as the many health benefits that it provides.

Fresh Turmeric Roots
Fresh Turmeric Roots | Source
Turmeric Powder
Turmeric Powder | Source

What is Turmeric?

Also known as "Indian Saffron", turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma Longa plant, native to Southern India and Indonesia. This wonderful spice is believed to have been used in the East for both cooking and medicinal purposes for more than 5000 years, and was first introduced to the West in the 13th century by Arab traders. Fresh turmeric has thick brown skin and dark orange flesh, yet it's more popularly used in the powder form. Its flavor is faintly bitter and peppery. Some people compare its aroma to those of an orange and ginger while some others describe it as musty. Personally, I think it neither smells orangey nor musty. Rather, it is soothingly earthy without the underlying scent of staleness. Pungent? Yes, but in a good way.

Where to Buy Turmeric Powder and Fresh Turmeric

Turmeric powder can be found in the spice aisle of many mainstream supermarkets, such as Safeway and Costco. Fresh turmeric, however, is still pretty rare in the U.S. My best bet is that you should be able to find it in an Indian grocery store or a large Asian supermarket. Turmeric powder's shelf life can last up to 2 years if packaged in an airtight container, and stored in a cool and dry place. Fresh turmeric, on the other hand, should be refrigerated, as it can perish within days like other root vegetables.

Nutrients in 2 Teaspoons of Turmeric

Nutrient
% Daily Value
Fiber
3.7%
Iron
10.1%
Manganese
17%
Potassium
3.1%
Vitamin B6
4%
Source: WHFoods.org

Turmeric Health Benefits

The healing power of turmeric is immense. Here are some of its most prominent and widely-researched medicinal benefits.

  • Curcumin, the orange pigment in turmeric, has been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can prevent and relieve inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
  • Turmeric can improve liver function by increasing the liver's ability to get rid of toxic chemicals in the body. No surprise, many brands of detox tea and detox diet recipes use turmeric as one of their detox ingredients.
  • Turmeric is good for your heart. In addition to improving the liver's detoxifying system, turmeric also helps increase the creation of receptors for LDL cholesterol in the liver. With more LDL-receptors, the liver is able to eliminate more LDL-cholesterol from the body. The lower the cholesterol levels, the better your heart health.
  • Turmeric can prevent Alzheimer's disease in two ways. First, since turmeric contains potent antioxidants, it can protect the brain against oxidation, which is believed to be a major culprit in neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease. Secondly, according to a recent study by UCLA, turmeric may help clear the amyloid beta plaquesa or protein fragments, which form plaques between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain and disrupt brain function.


Turmeric Rice
Turmeric Rice | Source
Turmeric is what makes Thai yellow curry yellow!
Turmeric is what makes Thai yellow curry yellow! | Source
My Turmeric Cookies
My Turmeric Cookies | Source

How to Include Turmeric in Your Diet

Cooking with Turmeric Powder

  • First of all, let's not ignore the most obvious: CURRIES!
  • Give your white rice a hint of yellow by putting 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder into the water used for cooking the rice.
  • Sprinkle it over your soups, stews and stir-frys to add a little color and earthy aroma to your hearty dishes.
  • Use it as a spice rub for meats before barbecuing or frying.
  • Add a few dashes of it to your salad dressing.
  • Use it as a natural food coloring. For example, some people love to use turmeric powder to enhance the color of egg yolks in deviled eggs and give insipid-looking steamed cauliflowers a bolder yellow tint.
  • Give your desserts a kick of herbal flavor by adding turmeric powder to your cake or cookie batter. I've made turmeric cookies before, and they were amazing! As long as you don't use too much turmeric, I guarantee your desserts won't come out all weird and funky.
  • Mix a pinch of turmeric powder with a cup of plain yogurt. It is a lovely combination.
  • If you don't like the idea of using turmeric in cooking, perhaps you'd prefer to enjoy it in the form of herbal tea. Simply add about 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder to 4 cups of boiling water. Allow it to simmer for 5 - 10 minutes. Then spice it up with sugar, honey or lemon juice.

Cooking with Fresh Turmeric

To incorporate fresh turmeric in your cooking, you simply have to peel and grate it the same way you would treat ginger, then add the grated turmeric to any dishes of your choice. Or you may turn fresh turmeric roots into turmeric juice by processing them in a juicer.

Comments

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  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    5 years ago

    @starstream - You're very welcome. I'm glad you're going to give turmeric a try!

  • starstream profile image

    Dreamer at heart 

    5 years ago from Northern California

    Turmeric seems like a miracle herb. I must start using it for my health. Thanks so much for your article.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    5 years ago

    @Peggy W - Thanks for dropping by, Peggy. Glad to hear you gave it a try to enjoyed the soup!

    @Rochelle Frank - Yeah, I've heard of its possible blooding-thinning effect. Usually, it only happens when people take turmeric supplements (tablets), though. Using turmeric in cooking probably doesn't interfere with blood-thinning medications. Having said that, I agree that it's safer not to go overboard on it! Too much of anything is never a good thing.

    @everythingdazzles - Glad you'll give turmeric a go. It really is a wonderful spice!

  • everythingdazzles profile image

    Janelle 

    5 years ago from Houston

    Hmm this is an interesting spice that I haven't considered. I'll have to give it a try some time. Thanks.

  • Rochelle Frank profile image

    Rochelle Frank 

    5 years ago from California Gold Country

    I like to sprinkle some on fish fillets if I am breading them in panko crumbs to quick fry. Thanks for the additional hints about how to use tumeric. Be careful not to over-use if you are on blood thinners, since this spice can also have a blood thinning effect.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    5 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Hi Om,

    I have been reading more about the health benefits of using Turmeric in our diets of late so was interested to see how you used it in your cooking. Good suggestions! I just added it to some homemade soup yesterday with good results. Will have to try it in yogurt next per your tip. Thanks! Up votes and sharing.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    6 years ago

    @lindacee - You're very welcome. Glad to hear you enjoyed the hub and are going to give this healthy spice a go!

  • lindacee profile image

    lindacee 

    6 years ago from Arizona

    Had never given turmeric much thought...until now! Just the health benefits alone are worth giving it a try. And now you've given me many yummy reasons to add it to my kitchen repertoire! Thanks for the recipes and valuable info!

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    6 years ago

    @janshares - That's great! Turmeric has such a mild flavor, you can basically sprinkle it on any food. Thanks for the read and comment.

    @Emma Harvey - Glad to hear you're a curry lover, too! By the way, they're actually banana turmeric cookies. hehee

    @krsharp - Good question. I actually don't know the answer, though. I assume fresh turmeric might be a little more nutritious than turmeric powder, or has more dietary fiber at least.

  • krsharp05 profile image

    Kristi Sharp 

    6 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

    I love to use turmeric with meats but I've never used it any other way. I'm going to give it a try. Is the store bought turmeric as healthy for you as the fresh turmeric? -K

  • Emma Harvey profile image

    Emma Kisby 

    6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

    Hi Om, I use a lot of herbs and spices in my cooking, but usually when I make curries! I hadn't really thought about putting turmeric in salads or desserts. I really must check out those turmeric cookies!

    Voting up and interesting :)

  • janshares profile image

    Janis Leslie Evans 

    6 years ago from Washington, DC

    Thanks for this great info. I recently learned about the benefits of turmeric researching natural foods and supplements for an ailment. I have been shaking it on everything for the past week.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    6 years ago

    @leahlefler - Yep, it's a great colorant because you only need a little bit of it, so the earthy aroma and flavor of turmeric won't even affect the food much.

    @watergeek - Peanut butter, turmeric and yogurt? Hmmm sounds like an interesting combination. I've got to try it sometimes.

    @akirchner - Ah, you compliment me too much. I'm getting a big head! hehehe

    @His princez - You're very welcome. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  • His princesz profile image

    His princesz 

    6 years ago

    Great! I have never tried cooking with it. But it looks delicious and knowing all the benefits. I'll try to pick it on my next grocery trip. Thanks om-paramapoonya. Voted up up! :)

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    6 years ago from Washington

    Never could forget you, Om~ You are one of a kind and I just marvel at your photographic style! I need you to send me some of it. I seriously want to go and take a PhotoShop class but just can't seem to fit it all in~ One of these days!!! Great info though and I'm going to try it--it's not like I don't have it in my 1000 spices~~~

  • watergeek profile image

    watergeek 

    6 years ago from Pasadena CA

    OMG I thought I was weird using turmeric in yogurt! I love the taste and make it mainly to improve liver function. I didn't know it would do the other things too. . . . I actually use more than just a sprinkle, though. More like 2 T of peanut butter, 1/4 tsp of turmeric, and two cups of yogurt. This was very interesting, Om.

  • leahlefler profile image

    Leah Lefler 

    6 years ago from Western New York

    This is really great, Om - we try to use natural food products wherever possible, and turmeric would make a great colorant for various food items. Much better than using yellow dye!

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    6 years ago

    @RTalloni - You're absolutely right. Just a tiny bit of turmeric a day can keep the doctor away.

    @healthylife2 - Nah, that doesn't sound too crazy at all. I bet it will be a good addition to your green smoothie. Not sure about the color, though. It might turn your green smoothie lime green!

    @Cyndi10 - Thanks a lot!

    @dinkan - Yep, turmeric is beneficial for the skin health as well. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    @akirchner - Hehehehe funny you! Thanks for stopping by, Audrey. Hope you enjoy experimenting with turmeric in your cooking. And don't you ever forget my name!!!! lol

    @Goodlady - She takes it neat every night? Wow! I don't think many people can do that. Well, she must be super healthy....and I hope her tongue is still red, not yellow. lol

  • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

    Om Paramapoonya 

    6 years ago

    @Arlene V Poma - Hi, Arlene! Glad to hear that you've learned something new from this hub. And yeah, those turmeric cookies are a must-try!

    @carol - That is so true. Once you spill turmeric (especially grated fresh roots) on your clothes, it's so hard to clean. Fresh turmeric can also stain cutting boards. So yes, we have to be careful while handling this spice.

    @Liz-Reviews - Thanks. Glad to hear you'll give this wonderful spice a try.

    @Vega Vallari - Yes, great idea. Hope they have it in your local supermarkets. If not, you can still order it from Amazon.

    @vespawoolf - Ah, I didn't know people also grow turmeric in Peru. That's very cool. Thanks so much for dropping by and voting!

  • GoodLady profile image

    Penelope Hart 

    6 years ago from Rome, Italy

    I'd love to go to an Indian grocery store to buy the fresher turmeric to taste it in its more powerful form - and the next time I go back home to England I will. I have a friend who takes a teaspoon of the powder every night, neat, before going to bed (for all those health reasons you mentio0ned).

    It's an interesting Hub and appreciate all those wonderful suggestions. Yogurt with turmeric sounds interesting. mm.

    Pinning. Voting up.

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    6 years ago from Washington

    Gosh Om - I had no idea how much turmeric could do! I haven't indulged much in curry ever just because I never acquired a taste for it--too spicy the times I tried it. But now I'm thinking I could use turmeric in smaller doses in rice and things as a flavoring~~ Especially if it works to prevent Alzheimer's....I'd better start adding it today!!! Who did you say you were again? (Seriously great piece~)

  • dinkan53 profile image

    dinkan53 

    6 years ago from India

    I use turmeric powder in dishes regularly. It can slows down ageing and will helps to keep the skin youthful and wrinkle free for longer years. Thanks for providing the health benefits of turmeric.

  • Cyndi10 profile image

    Cynthia B Turner 

    6 years ago from Georgia

    Excellent information and well presented. Voted up.

  • healthylife2 profile image

    Healthy Life 

    6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

    What a great article explaining the origin and many health benefits of tumeric. I knew about the anti inflammatory properties but didn't know it can increase liver function. It sounds crazy but I'm going to try to add it to my green smoothie. Voted up!

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 

    6 years ago from the short journey

    Thanks for an interesting look at including turmeric in our diets. Have done a little reading on this spice and have been amazed at how little is required to boost health.

  • vespawoolf profile image

    vespawoolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    Turmeric also grows in Peru and in the North you can find fresh turmeric. Throughout all of Peru, it's used frequently in the powdered form mostly for its lovely color. We love curries and I use turmeric in my rice as well, but these are great ideas for using it more frequently. You did a great job on this hub, congratulations! Voted up and shared.

  • Vega Vallari profile image

    Nicole Paschal 

    6 years ago from Saint Petersburg, Florida

    WoW!!!! Great hub!!! A friend of mine just told me about turmeric the other day. She said it would help my hypertension. Thanks for the hub! I'm definitely going to find some now.

  • Liz-reviews profile image

    Eunice Elizabeth 

    6 years ago from Vancouver, BC

    Great info, I always knew that Turmeric was good for health but never knew how to use it. I will definitely be trying your paste. Thanks

  • carol7777 profile image

    carol stanley 

    6 years ago from Arizona

    We use turmeric all the time. Just have to be careful not to get it on cloths..the dye is strong. I use pure turmeric and curry which has turmeric in it. We actually take turmeric capsules. Thanks for suggestions, information and great photos.

  • profile image

    Arlene V. Poma 

    6 years ago

    Om, thanks for busting the mysteries of turmeric. Up til now, I didn't know what people used it for. Nor did I know that it does have a lot going for it. Along with all the information in this article, I am leaning towards those turmeric cookies! Lookin' delicious!

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