Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh.
Turmeric was traditionally called "Indian saffron" because of its deep yellow-orange colour and has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye.
Turmeric has long been used in Chinese and Indian medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhages, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic. Curcumin is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric. In numerous studies, curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone.
Curcumin also exerts very powerful anti-oxidant effects. As an anti-oxidant, curcumin may help improve arthritis symptoms as well as lower the rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.
Growing evidence suggests that turmeric may also afford protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Turmeric is an excellent source of both iron and manganese. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fibre, and potassium. A high intake of vitamin B6 is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
Ways to include more turmeric in your diet
Turmeric has a peppery, warm and bitter flavour and a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger. Although it is generally a staple ingredient in curry powder, turmeric doesn't have to be used only in curries. Here are other suggestions:
- Turmeric is a great spice to complement recipes that feature lentils.
- Add turmeric to egg salad to give it a bolder yellow colour.
- Give salad dressings an orange-yellow hue by adding some turmeric powder to them.
- Mix brown rice with raisins and cashew nuts and season with turmeric, cumin and coriander.
- This spice is delicious on sautéed apples, cauliflower and/or green beans and onions.
- For a creamy dip, try mixing some turmeric and dried onion with a little mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Serve with raw cauliflower and broccoli florets, celery sticks and sweet peppers.
Written by Victoria Trowse