A Specialist in the Spice Rack

By Fiona Breslin

Turmeric is a bright orange-yellow spice made from the dried rhizome of 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 and anti-oxidant properties. Today, turmeric has attracted the attention of cancer researchers for its possible anti-cancer properties.
The American Cancer Society reports that it is the major source of the plant compound curcumin. In animal and laboratory studies, curcumin has been shown to potentially slow the growth of and even to kill cancer cells. However, these effects have not yet been proven in human studies to a satisfactory effect. This may be due to the poor absorption of curcumin in the gut, which a recent review noted, stating that the health benefits of curcumin may be over exaggerated due to it’s poor absorption.

While turmeric may not be the magic health bullet many of us would like you to believe, it’s still worth adding to the diet. It adds a delicious flavor to foods, and can be used to cut down more unhealthy additives like salt.

Add a little turmeric to your marinades, soups, stir-fries and curries, in fact it’s 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. Because of its poor bio-availability, it is important to try to combine it with other ingredients which will help you to get its full health benefits. Combining black pepper with turmeric is one way to help your body absorb the curcumin in the turmeric. Mixing turmeric with fats such as olive oil is another way to help improve the absorption of curcumin. You can do this by sprinkling it over vegetables as you saute them.

Ann’s Tips

All ground spices, turmeric included, have a limited shelf life, after which they lose volatile oils, and with them flavor and nutritional value. It’s best to replace them every six months or so. 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.

Recipe Tips

Try roasting cauliflower with turmeric and coconut oil for Cook for your Life’s simple and easy, Spicy Oven Roasted Cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower will add extra cancer fighting value to your meal. It can also be used as the main seasoning ingredient in warming winter recipes such as Cook For Your Life’s Moroccan Style Chickpea and Chard Stew or our Turmeric Latkes.






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