Turmeric’s been trending on health blogs recently, and with good reason. Curcumin, the pigment that makes turmeric yellow, has been shown in countless studies to be a powerful anti-inflammatory compound, and has actually been used medicinally for thousands of years.
Why do we care so much about anti-inflammatory foods? Well, because chronic inflammation (typically caused by our food choices) leads to chronic disease. According to Nature Medicine, more than 50% of all deaths worldwide are attributable to inflammation-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and autoimmune diseases.
The foods that lead us to inflammation (i.e. ‘pro-inflammatory foods’) include animal products (such as meat, dairy and eggs), sugar, refined starches and saturated fats. There’s no point adding an anti-inflammatory ‘supplement’ like turmeric to your diet if you’re eating pro-inflammatory foods three times a day. First get your foundations right by minimising or removing the stuff that’s causing the inflammation (i.e. focus on a whole food, plant-centred diet), and then give yourself an anti-inflammatory boost with a daily dose of turmeric.
The great thing about turmeric? It’s a commonly available spice no matter where you are, and it has a long shelf life. If you want to change things up you can find fresh turmeric root: it looks like ginger root on the outside, but it’s bright orange on the inside—this has a milder taste than dried turmeric, and you can keep it in the fridge for weeks.
An extra tip to maximise your body’s absorption of turmeric: mix it in with some black pepper. Why? The liver works hard to eliminate foreign substances (including curcumin!)—one way that it does this is by making the substances water soluble so that they can be excreted in the urine. Piperine (the active compound in pepper) inhibits this process: consumption of turmeric with black pepper has been found to dramatically increase levels of curcumin in the blood.
Just one thing to be aware of: there have been some reports of lead contamination of turmeric that’s produced in Bangladesh. While it doesn’t seem to be very widespread in exported turmeric, it is an ongoing concern. To err on the side of caution, try to get your turmeric from a supplier that knows exactly where it came from; or buy fresh turmeric.
Here are some great ways to sneak turmeric into your cooking:
- Tofu Scramble (that egg-yellow tinge comes from the turmeric)
- Yellow Rice (change up your rice routine)
- Lentil Soup (turmeric adds a musky, earthy flavour)
- Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower (yum!)
- Golden Latte (a perfect winter warmer)
Happy cooking! Watch out for those yellow-stained fingers 🙂