Sporting a brilliant bright gold hue, turmeric is made from the dried rhizome (rootstalk) of the turmeric plant. It has been used for millennia in Middle Eastern and South Asian cooking. It’s also used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, for its alleged anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial antiviral, and antioxidant properties. Today, turmeric has attracted the attention of cancer researchers for its possible anti-cancer properties.
The main phytonutrient found in turmeric is curcumin. It was isolated in 1815 by scientists and has grown in popularity ever since. Curumin has been studied mainly in animal models and cell cultures and has shown promise in reducing the risk of chronic diseases that result from chronic low-grade inflammation as in certain cancers.
The effects of curcumin have been seen in its ability to lower inflammation in the body by interacting with several chemicals that, when released, increase inflammation in the body. Curcumin has been shown to inhibit some of these chemicals and thus thwart the inflammatory process.
As breast cancer is one of the most widespread cancers in women, the effects of curcumin have been investigated as a potential therapy for breast cancer. It is thought that curcumin would exert an anti-inflammatory response on breast cancer cells thus reducing their ability to grow and spread to other parts of the body. Results from these studies remain inconclusive and there is a lack of randomized controlled trials on the effects of curcumin and cancer and for now our recommendation is to consume curcumin in its whole form found in turmeric root and to avoid a supplement of curcumin.
Curcumin’s bioavailability is poor — meaning our bodies have a hard time absorbing it and thus we can only absorb a small amount of the total curcumin found in turmeric. Because of this, it is best to combine it with other ingredients like black pepper and fats such as olive oil or coconut oil, which will help your body absorb more of the curcumin found in turmeric.
All ground spices, turmeric included, have a limited shelf life, after which they lose volatile oils, and with the flavor and nutritional value. It’s best to replace them every six months. Be careful when handling turmeric. One of its traditional uses is as a cloth dye, so it can leave permanent stains if it gets on your clothes.
Turmeric adds a delicious flavor to foods. Add a little turmeric to your marinades, soups, stir-fries, and curries, in fact, its distinctive taste is the base of many curry powders. Although it is not a ‘spicy’ spice, because of its potency, go easy with it when cooking.
Try roasting cauliflower with turmeric and coconut oil in our simple and easy Spicy Oven Roasted Cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower will add extra cancer-fighting value to your meal.