Turmeric is a popular spice that is widely used in Southern Asian cuisines. It is an important ingredient in curry dishes. This spice adds flavor and the distinctive golden color to curry powders. Turmeric contains the healing nutrient curcumin. Curcumin is well known for its medicinal qualities. In India, this plant has been a prized ingredient for both culinary and medicinal purposes for centuries.
In this article we will look more closely at how to use turmeric, the nutritional value of turmeric, and the health benefits of this spice.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric’s health benefits are many and quite varied. This spice has been used in place of prescription and over-the-counter medications to aid in the treatment of certain ailments.
Chronic inflammation and pain can be debilitating, causing us to reach for the ibuprofen and prescription painkillers, both of which have potentially detrimental side effects. The curcumin in turmeric works wonders when it comes to reducing inflammation, by blocking some of the molecules that contribute to the condition. Many believe that chronic inflammation is a major cause of disease in western cultures. Studies have shown that curcumin has the ability to activate the body’s natural opioids that are critical for pain management.
Regulates Cholesterol and Blood Sugar Levels
Cardiovascular-related conditions include high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. Turmeric seems to work as well as statin drugs in the control of cholesterol. It also helps to regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure. As such, this plant is likely to help deter heart attacks.
May Improve Brain Function
Healthy brain function is dependent upon certain growth hormones that our bodies produce to help regenerate our brains cells. Curcumin has been linked to better production of the hormones our brains depend upon to remain active and healthy. Boosting hormone levels has been shown to increase the uptake of the neurotransmitters necessary for controlling depression.
Delay Premature Aging
As we age, our bodies are bombarded with free radicals. These contribute to premature aging and related degenerative conditions. Antioxidants are necessary to keep free radicals in check. Turmeric is rich in antioxidants and thus can help ameliorate the effects of free radicals.
Arthritis is characterized mostly by painful inflammation of our joints. As mentioned above, curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties that are shown to be very effective in reducing swelling and related pain. You can use turmeric together with anti-inflammatory medications to ease the symptoms of arthritis.
Digestive issues are often characterized by painful inflamed intestines. That is why experts have labeled several conditions Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). Medics often prescribe corticosteroids to treat IBD. These come with undesirable side effects. Studies have shown that persons with Chron’s Disease were able to replace steroid therapy with dietary changes and supplementation with turmeric.
Additionally, turmeric seems to be able to reverse insulin resistance and to aid in lowering blood sugar levels in diabetics. This is exciting for those with diabetes who are completely dependent on prescription medications to prevent shock and slow down the progression of the disease.
Nutritional Value of Turmeric
The main phytonutrient in turmeric is curcumin. A member of the ginger plant species, turmeric possesses some nutritional similarities. In addition to containing many vitamins and minerals, it is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids and fiber.
The root of the plant is naturally fibrous. Thus, it is a good source of dietary fiber. The fresh root is particularly high in fibers. You can use fresh root just as you would use ginger root in recipes.
The essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6 are quite high in turmeric. Omega fatty acids are crucial for our bodies to function optimally. Our organs, blood, and cells require essential fatty acids. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot make these substances. We have to obtain them from food sources. While fish and nuts are great sources, turmeric also contains fatty acids.
It also contains the vitamins B3, C, and K. Vitamin B3 (Niacin) can help to lower blood triglyceride levels and cholesterol. Vitamins C and K are beneficial in boosting immunity and fighting diseases.
The most common minerals found in turmeric are calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium, among others is smaller amounts. These minerals are all necessary for the health of our musculoskeletal and central nervous systems.
If you aren’t accustomed to eating Southern Asian style dishes, you might be wondering what is turmeric used for. It is not only an ingredient in curry dishes. People have used this plant for thousands of years as a culinary ingredient, as medicine, and as a dye.
We have reviewed the medicinal benefits above. In order to take advantage of the medicinal qualities of turmeric, you generally have to ingest it. We will thus look at recipes to incorporate turmeric into our diets below. Most of these recipes use turmeric powder. You can also use it as a paste, which you can then incorporate in a healing poultice for sprains, burns, and body aches.
The bright yellow color of the root powder has made it a common use in dyes for clothing and ceremonial body decorating. Chefs often use it to add a dash of color to certain culinary dishes, like rice, tofu, yogurt, curries, and cakes.
The most common use of turmeric is in food recipes. It imparts a mildly peppery flavor. Although it is available in supplement form, it is best when you incorporate it into foods and beverages. You can use the fresh root as is, but you can also dry it and use it as a powder. Here are two of our favorite recipes.
Turmeric Spiced Tea
1 cup water (or milk for chai style tea)
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp of cinnamon
Milk or dairy free milk to taste
Honey to taste
Boil water in a small pot. Add turmeric and ginger and slow simmer for up to 10 minutes. Stir in milk and honey. Strain and enjoy.
Tofu & Vegetable Scramble with Turmeric
1 16-ounce package firm tofu
1 TBS olive oil or coconut oil
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt & pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped green onions, parsley, or cilantro
Before starting, drain tofu on paper towels or a clean dish towel.
In the meantime, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium fire, and sauté red pepper and corn until almost soft for approximately 4 minutes. Add more oil if needed.
Then, stir in the cumin, garlic powder, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Cook for another minute.
Crumble the tofu with both hands into the pan and heat through for a couple of minutes. Add a little water, if needed, to deglaze the pan.
Serve with chopped scallions or chopped fresh herbs.
There are many benefits to turmeric. This versatile root and spice is a culinary and medicinal staple in Southern Asian cultures. Thus, it is something we all should consider having in our spice racks for enhancing our food and boosting our health.
Please feel free to let us know how you use turmeric both in recipes and for medicinal purposes. We love it when our readers share their knowledge and experiences. We would also be happy to answer any questions you might have.