I am on a total turmeric kick right now. I have always been a fan of the yellow spice since I started studying Ayurveda about 15 years ago. While turmeric has been used medicinally for thousands of years, it is only in the past 2-3 decades that modern science has proven what ancient healers have always known to be true.
Turmeric has so many health benefits that it seems like it can cure whatever ails you.
One article I saw on the internet had the headline, Science confirms that turmeric as effective as 14 drugs. Most of the studies performed used standardized extracts of turmeric’s most widely known component, curcumin. What about the dozens of other molecular constituents? Are they chopped liver? I like to believe that the entire turmeric root (it’s actually a rhizome in the ginger family) has value. That’s the ‘whole foods’-fanatic in me talking. And the fact that my super sensitive stomach can’t tolerate curcumin extracts in capsule form. Besides, before there were centrifuges and other fancy machines that could isolate the curcumin from the rest of the plant, Indians were reaping the health benefits just fine.
To get the most out of consuming the spice, there are a couple rules to follow:
- The health-boosting components are fat-soluble so if you are using dried powder, you need to cook the turmeric with some fat. Fresh turmeric still contains the natural oils so this step is not as critical.
- Combining turmeric with black pepper increases the absorption by 2000%. So the traditional Indian way of combining a variety of spices to a single dish helps improve the bioavailability of all the good stuff in the pot. How cool is that, HEALTHY FOOD SHOULD TASTE GOOD.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy both the flavor and health benefits of turmeric.
- Golden Rice: In a 1-quart saucepan, cook 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoons of turmeric powder in about a tablespoon of ghee for 20 seconds, add a cup of basmati rice (rinsed and drained) and stir to coat the rice. Add 2 cups water, 1 teaspoons of sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Sometimes, I’ll also add a couple cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes. Allow to sit, covered, for 10 minutes then fluff with a fork and enjoy.
- Honey-Mustard Roast Chicken: Combine about 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 – 2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (more if you like it really zingy), 1 Tablespoon grainy mustard, 1-2 Tablespoons honey, 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1 Tablespoons olive oil. Rub this mixture all over a whole organic chicken, cut up in parts. Place in a baking dish, just large enough to hold all the pieces in a single layer, and add about 1/2 cup water or chicken stock. Bake in oven preheated to 425-degrees until breast pieces reach 165 degrees and dark meat reaches 170-175 degrees, about 30-40 minutes (depends on how big the chicken is).
- I also think that turmeric pairs well with carrots, zucchini, kale and chickpeas. I’ll just sprinkle a little in (without measuring) the pot for color and a hint of flavor.
- As I mentioned before, consuming powdered turmeric with fat boosts its absorption. So adding it to yogurt dip, hummus (made with tahini and/or olive oil), and smoothies containing coconut milk or nuts is also an easy way to get your daily dose!
I rarely measure how much turmeric I add to my food. As long as I get a little bit each day, I’m happy.