Discover what you need to know about using this healing spice including the health benefits of turmeric and how you can use it in just about any recipe you already love from soups to dips, side dishes to entrees, beverages to smoothies and everything in between.
What You Need to Know About Using The Healing Spice, Turmeric
Turmeric is an ancient spice that has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for thousands of year. Thriving in tropical areas, the Curcuma longa the botanical name for the turmeric plant, has been most widely produced in India and is making it’s way to mainstream grocery stores in America.
If you have never heard of it before, turmeric is a spice from the rhizome of the turmeric plant, typically ground into a powder form. With the rise in popularity of turmeric in recent years, you can now easily purchase it in any grocery store in the spice section.
An Overview of The Powerful Spice Turmeric
– A guest post from my intern, Brittany Blanco
An Overview of What Turmeric Is
Have your social media pages been flooded lately with posts featuring the beautiful golden colored spice known as turmeric?
You may have been tempted to visit the spice aisle and stock up on this trendy spice, but then again, what could you do with it? Or, have you thought about what it could actually do for you?
Cooking with turmeric is not something new. In fact, it has played a significant role in Asian culture and cuisine for thousands of years. Recently, it has gained increasing interest for its medicinal properties and pungent flavor in cooking in mainstream kitchens of Americans.
Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is part of the ginger family. It can be purchased in different forms such as: a root, spice, powder or an extract.
What Makes Turmeric So Powerful?
Turmeric is such a powerful spice because it contains the polyphenol, curcumin, which is known for having remarkable “anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, hypoglycemic, wound healing and chemopreventative properties” (1).
It is important to keep in mind that consuming turmeric with piperine, a bioactive compound found in black pepper, increases its absorption by 2,000%.
So what can it actually do for your health?
Turmeric May Help to Reduce Inflammation
Surprisingly, inflammation is not always a bad thing.
Short-term, inflammation helps to combat foreign invaders in the body and repairs damage to cells and tissues. The problem with inflammation begins when it becomes chronic and it starts attacking your own healthy body tissues, even if they are not currently damaged.
Curcumin offsets inflammation by deactivating NF-kB, a molecule that activates genes linked to inflammation. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric that possess the strong anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce unwanted inflammation in the body.
Turmeric is a Powerful Antioxidant
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. It is believed to be linked to many diseases today. As a result, incorporating antioxidants into the diet is extremely important. They are praised for their ability to neutralize free radicals.
And…you guessed it, Curcumin- a strong antioxidant- does just that!
Turmeric May Help to Improve Brain Function
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a growth hormone that plays a role in increasing the number of neurons in certain parts of the brain. This helps enhance brain function. Decreased levels of BDNF have been linked to many common brain disorders.
Interestingly, studies have suggested that curcumin, the polyphenol heavily present in turmeric, can increase levels of BDNF. However, it is important to note that research is still evolving in this area.
Additional Research on Turmeric Is Needed
Studies have also revealed that curcumin may lower the risk for heart disease and help in the prevention and possibly treatment of cancer. Wow! Again, there is still ongoing research so there aren’t definite answers as of now.
My Personal Thoughts in Turmeric
Now, to be honest, I’ve read about these amazing health benefits before but didn’t feel the need to make a trip to the spice aisle anytime soon. I’ve had it once in a cold-pressed wellness shot and we all know how intense those can be! While it wasn’t off putting, it had a bitter flavor that made it challenging to think about how I would incorporate it into a dish.
BUT! A few months ago, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s which led me to do some research on my own about how I could best manage it. There’s been talk about how diet can aid in treatment, but nothing set in stone yet. I did come across the fact that turmeric may help alleviate some symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s.
Now THAT was my signal to finally make a trip to the spice aisle! My end thoughts… turmeric has been a wonderful addition to my spice drawer. I’ve made some fantastic recipes that don’t remind me of my prior experience with it in a wellness shot. Haha!
I hope to not have overwhelmed you with lots of information on turmeric’s health benefits. While it’s amazing in writing, I understand its not to everyone’s taste. So, I leave it up to you to venture out and experiment with it. Whether it be in a drink or in a dish, at least you can say you’ve tried it. I mean.. isn’t that what we tell young kids?
Let me know what your first encounter with turmeric was like in the comments!
Hey! I’m Brittany Blanco. I was born and raised in Northern Virginia. I am a recent graduate of Radford University with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and Dietetics and am currently working in school nutrition. I plan on doing my dietetic internship soon with my field of interest still up for debate– the possibilities are endless. When I’m not busy with work, I’m most likely sipping on bubble tea or stocking up on skincare products. I love to travel, especially to visit my family in Mexico and stuff my face with my grandparent’s delicious Mexican cuisine.
Turmeric & Inflammation: What You Need to Know
One of the most sought after health benefits of consuming turmeric are the anti-inflammatory health benefits produced by the compound curcumin. It has been widely accepted that inflammation is the catalyst to the development of many diseases we see present in Western culture today.
While more scientific evidence is needed to support the claim, some people even speculate that turmeric is so powerful that it may have the ability to not only prevent cancer, but work toward treating it as well.
Ancient medicine has long understood the powerful health benefits of turmeric and the medicinal properties it provides to our bodies. Western medicine is just starting to adapt the functional medicine mindset and starting to recognize turmeric as the powerful spice that it is.
However, I always want to caution my clients that turmeric is not a magic pill that will somehow restore bad health.
Simply adding to turmeric to an already unhealthy diet will not make it healthy. Simply adding turmeric supplements to an unhealthy lifestyle that does not address sleep, or stress, or mental health will not create a healthy lifestyle.
But adding turmeric sensibly to your food and drinks, when you enjoy the taste, is a great way to help to combat inflammation in combination with other positive lifestyle choices.
As always, I encourage everyone to focus on consuming turmeric in its most natural state, rather than from unregulated supplements or pills. Whole foods are always a safer choice, but in some cases, curcumin supplements are an option for people who are working directly with a health care professional.
How to Cook with Turmeric
Ingredients that are good for you are great, but they won’t do you or your body any good if you don’t know how to start using them in your own kitchen. Using a spice like this for the first time may seem a little intimidating, but don’t worry, everyone always has to start somewhere.
Here are my favorite ways that I incorporate turmeric into my daily meals. You don’t have to start adding turmeric to everything all at once, but get a little adventurous and try something new! You may just be pleasantly surprised 🙂
Try it —> Turmeric Golden Milk Yogurt Bowl
With the rising popularity of turmeric comes the rising popularity of the ‘Golden Milk’ recipe. Traditionally made with turmeric and milk, this recipe is a fresh take on the tasty, popular drink.
Try it —> Golden Milk Quinoa Porridge
Naturally vegan and gluten free, this Golden Milk Quinoa Porridge Bowl is an anti-inflammatory, plant-based bowl of goodness with a warm, sweet flavor that will help you heal from the inside, out.
Eggs make the perfect medium to use turmeric in, especially if you are brand new to using this spice! The yellow color from the turmeric powder only enhances the beautiful yellow color that farm fresh eggs give off. If you’re a first timer, this is the recipe for you.
Like the eggs above, the bold yellow color in turmeric is a bright compliment to a classic butternut squash soup. In this recipe, you really get to experience and enjoy the bold flavor turmeric lends to this creamy, coconut based, vegan bisque.
Try it → Acorn Squash & Lentil Egg Bake
You would be surprised how many places you can sneak turmeric into without anyone even noticing, especially if anyone in your family is not the biggest fan! This recipe uses a small amount of turmeric along with many other health promoting spices to create a delicious flavor profile paired with sweet acorn squash.
Try it → SunGold Kiwifruit Cider
If you are truly invested in your health and are looking to add turmeric in more and more often, this is the recipe for you. This vibrant SunGold Kiwifruit Cider is a anti-inflammatory, antioxidant powerhouse which will help to kick your immune system into top gear!
Try it → SunGold Summer Squash Smoothie
One of the easiest ways to get a little turmeric into your diet every day is to throw a teaspoon or two into your smoothie. Whether you’re using a formal recipe or just winging it, adding some of this spice is always a good idea!
Turmeric lends its bold flavor and bright color to this delicious Homemade Taco Seasoning, along with a heart dose of plant-based phytonutrients.
DON’T FORGET YOUR MEAL PLAN
I hope you’re inspired to try new and different recipes, like this one. If you’re looking for additional help in meal planning or discovering new and delicious recipes to try, be sure to download my Free eBook – The Happy & Healthy Flexible Meal Plan below:
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