Friday, 27 February 2009

Turmeric - the Super Spice

Hi, those who’ve read my earlier posting about a pro-health approach will recall that, of the 7 pro-health tips I mention, one of them is being aware of the nutritional properties of foods so that you are able to make informed decisions and choose healthy foods to consume. So from time to time I’m going to pick a particular food item and write about its potential health benefits.

Let’s start with the super spice Turmeric. Used in many Indian savoury dishes we tend to generally appreciate it more for its lovely golden colour and completely overlook its immense health giving benefits. So, next time you are tucking into your curry dish, spare a moment to consider the untold health benefits of this humble spice that has long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of medicine.

Turmeric is a rhizome, a member of the ginger family and is generally boiled, dried and ground into a fine powder which is then used in cooking. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been undergoing much research in recent years with many on-going studies. There is now general acceptance of the amazing medicinal and therapeutic properties of this wrinkly root. The curcumin, present in turmeric, is now known:

• to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties
• to have antiseptic properties
• to be a powerful anti-oxidant
• to have anti-carcinogenic properties

These properties make turmeric beneficial in treating and managing certain medical conditions, as well as improving general health and well being by strengthening the immune system. While there is much research under way, there is now a general understanding that turmeric or its active constituent curcumin:

• is helpful in treating gastro-intestinal conditions such as diarrhoea, colitis, crohn’s disease, IBS
• improves heart health i.e. offers cardiovascular protection [turmeric contains vitamin B6 which helps to lower homosysteine, high levels of which are now known to lead to heart disease]. It also helps to lower the bad cholesterol [LDL]
• Reduces damaging toxins in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s
• is helpful in the fight against certain cancers as it inhibits tumour formation and cell growth and improves liver function

• helps in managing arthritis pain and inflammation by reducing joint inflammation and regular use is found to ease pain for sufferers [beneficial to people suffering psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis]
• turmeric in combination with cauliflower has been found to help in prostate cancer management
• turmeric in combination with onions may prevent colon cancer
• improves liver function thus increasing detoxification of toxins and anti-carcinogens from the body

How can we ensure we get more of this super-food regularly in our diet to reap its multiple health benefits?

Some of you health-savvy people may already be taking regular turmeric [curcumin] supplement capsules and/or using turmeric regularly in your cooking. Well done you! If you opt for the capsules just make sure you get the pharmaceutical grade – generally those containing standardized extract of turmeric of up to 95% will have sufficient levels of curcumin to yield health benefits.

If you don’t generally use or consume turmeric how can you start getting this wonder-food into yourself and the rest of your family members? Now that you know it’s vast health giving potential, how can you use it more in your cooking?

Some ideas from me to get the ball rolling:
• in savoury curries and dishes
• in savoury rice dishes
• turmeric root pickle - peeled turmeric pieces pickled in salt water
• in hot milk with honey – great for sore throats
• in plain hot water with honey and lemon – again great for sore throats [if you don’t want the milk in above suggestion]

I’m sure there are many more ideas swirling out there. Please share your suggestions here [insert in comment section].

I promise to post a turmeric-rich dish here soon.
Suggestions from readers:
Use in things like veggie burgers [see NiNA's comment below]


  1. Absolutely interesting, as I myself never go and search for the nutritional properties of food, but loved and enjoyed knowing all these here in this blog.Infact didn't know that turmeric has got so much power:)))Will be waiting for turmeric rich dish...It was extensively informative..Thank you:)))

  2. I really enjoyed this post. I've known about turmerics' goodness for awhile, but not in such specifics. Thanks! I try to add this to things like veggie burgers or any dish that might benefit from a beautiful golden color, it just imparts a very slight earthy flavor.

  3. Nina,
    Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Excellent suggestion about using turmeric in things like veggie burgers - I have added it on to the post above.

  4. My housemate just made me some turmeric with honey for my sore throat. Another remedy for sore throat with turmeric powder.
    I am not a big fan of supplements. I always think it is better to consume the vitamins and minerals directly from daily food intake. Your blog is really helpful. Well done! I will be sure to pay your blog a visit more frequent.

  5. Hi Anonymous,

    Hope you recover soon from your sore throat.

    You are absolutely right about getting your nutrition from wholefoods rather than supplements. I think the other properties in those foods make the nutrition more available to the body than the nutritional supplements.

    Hmmm, you've given me an idea. I think I will do a post about this issue. Thanks!

  6. Want suggetions for a vegiterian diet chart with 1800 Cal Max. (Better be sugerfree or Minm. of sweet, May include a glass of wine or Whiskey)

  7. Turmeric is absolutely THE BEST anti-inflammatory. It works better than NSAIDs without any side effects. It works extremely well for me to treat flareups of tendonitis and bursitis and reduces my osteoarthritis.

    For regular use, I stir 1 teaspoon of turmeric into a glass of warm water once every few days. For flareups I take 1 teaspoon, 3-4 times a day until the symptoms subside. It is cheap and easily available, doesn't need a prescription and can't be patented. That is why you won't hear the drug companies praising turmeric's medicinal value. For me it is priceless!