Turmeric, also known as Indian saffron, is produced from a tropical plant related to ginger. Turmeric is commonly ground into a bright yellow powder, and it's used traditionally as a flavoring and coloring agent in South Asian cuisines. The spice has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat inflammatory, digestive and skin diseases and to fight infections. Research shows that curcumin, a compound in turmeric, may help prevent the growth of cancer cells and ease joint pain in osteoarthritis. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant power of turmeric may also help prevent chronic diseases ranging from allergies to diabetes to Alzheimer's. The good news is that turmeric is widely available in grocery stores and simple to use in everyday cooking. Read on for seven easy recipes and ideas for adding this beneficial spice to your life.
1. Enhance Your Scrambled Eggs
Eggs are a quick, protein-packed breakfast option. Adding turmeric to scrambled eggs and omelets gives anti-inflammatory power and eye-popping brightness to an already nutritious, vibrant dish. In the Indian cookbook "5 Spices, 50 Dishes," author Ruta Kahate's masala omelet calls for mixing shallots, tomatoes, cilantro, turmeric and chili peppers into whisked eggs before pouring them into a heated, oiled pan. Although turmeric appears traditionally in Indian cuisines, you can easily add it to American-style scrambles to get the same health and visual benefits. "I like to sauté spinach, shallots, and tomatoes, then add turmeric and a pinch of cayenne to the eggs as I mix them in. The result is a beautiful dish of green, red and yellow, with a touch of earthy spiciness," says Robin Foroutan, an integrative medicine nutritionist and registered dietitian in private practice in New York and New Jersey.
2. Make a Golden Smoothie
A clinical trial published in 2009 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that turmeric was as effective as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug including ibuprofen in reducing knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. "Turmeric has incredible medicinal properties," says Fatinah Darwish, a registered dietitian in Los Angeles, "but many people don't know what to do with it." Darwish recommends adding turmeric to homemade smoothies or juices for color and taste. One of her favorite smoothies combines turmeric with coconut water, clementines, ginger, agave, coconut flakes and rolled oats. "I would love to see more of my patients including turmeric in their diet," Fatinah says.
3. Colorful, Butter-Free Popcorn
For a fun and healthy snack option, registered dietitian Robin Foroutan recommends adding turmeric to homemade popcorn. "The golden color is reminiscent of the junkier, brightly-colored version at the movie theater, but it's really an extra dose of antioxidant power." Because of its brilliant color, turmeric is also used as a natural dye for fabrics, and to enhance the yellow color of foods like butter, cheese and mustard. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than 6,000 research studies describe the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antibacterial and antiviral activities of curcumin, a yellow pigment present in turmeric.
4. Add Warm Spice to Poultry, Meat and Seafood
Fresh cuts of meat or seafood are a blank canvas for creative seasonings. A simple marinade of oil, citrus juice or vinegar, and spices and herbs gives flavor and fragrance to basic chicken, beef or shellfish dishes. The flavor of turmeric, somewhere between ginger and pepper, gives a tangy finish to any marinade. When shopping for turmeric in the spice aisle look for a bright marigold color and lots of fragrance. Keep the bottle well sealed and stored in a cool, dry, dark pantry. The New York Times recipe guide offers a turmeric marinade for chicken. The ingredients you'll need are: chicken breasts, olive oil, fresh squeezed lime juice, chili powder, turmeric, rosemary, garlic and butter.
5. Season Roasted Vegetables
One of the best ways to cook flavorful vegetables without excess fat or calories is to toss them with herbs, spices and a touch of oil before roasting. Cauliflower roasted with turmeric is a popular recipe on the blog Ancestral Chef, whose author, Louise Hendon, promotes healthful ingredients as part of a paleo and grain-free diet. She was motivated to make the dish after reading about all the wonderful health benefits of turmeric. "I believe in flavorful foods, and this roasted vegetable side dish is truly flavorful," Hendon says. The ingredients you need include: cauliflower, turmeric, salt and olive oil.
6. Spice Up Soups
Soups can be a convenient, healthful meal option, especially if they are loaded with vegetables and lean protein, and low in sodium. To avoid excess fat, stick to water- or broth-based styles such as minestrone, chicken noodle or black bean rather than cream- or cheese-based versions. A wide range of spices mixes easily into soups. A turmeric-infused red lentil and lemon soup from the blog 101 Cookbooks includes onions, cumin, mustard seeds and sea salt, along with spinach leaves and chopped cilantro. Turmeric deepens the golden color of canned chicken and vegetable soup, and adding a dose to your bowl may have a long-term positive effect on your health. Studies have called attention to the spice for its potential in helping to prevent the growth of tumors in both prostate and breast cancers, as well as protecting healthy cells from the toxic effects of chemotherapy during cancer treatment. To create the Red Lentil Soup with Lemon recipe, you'll need split red lentils, turmeric, butter, sea salt, onion, cumin, mustard seeds, cilantro, lemons and spinach leaves.
7. Soothe With a Latte
Christy Meyers, co-owner of the holistic health counseling service How To Chow, regularly recommends turmeric to her clients for its anti-inflammatory properties. "There are so many fun ways to include turmeric in your diet," she says. For a luscious, dairy- and caffeine-free morning beverage, Meyers recommends a turmeric latte: "I use Dr. Sanjay Gupta's recipe because it is so creamy and soothing. Take a deep breath, and enjoy!" INGREDIENTS: 8 ounces of almond or coconut milk, ½ teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of honey and 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ginger. DIRECTIONS: 1. In a saucepan combine milk, turmeric, cinnamon, honey and ginger. 2. Stir and heat until warm. For a non-creamy, throat-soothing version, replace the almond or coconut milk with water, add 2 lemon slices, stir and let steep for 20 minutes, then strain and add a pinch of cayenne before serving. "I often make one of these in the morning or during an afternoon break," Meyers says. "A turmeric drink before bed can also reduce any swelling from the day."
What Do YOU Think?
Have you tried turmeric? If so, what do you think of it? How do you incorporate it into your cooking? Would you try one of these recipes? Which one sounds the best to you? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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