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How to Include Turmeric in Your Diet
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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.
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
% Daily Value
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.
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.