What is Turmeric?
Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. It is considered a rhizome which is an underground, horizontally growing stem that is attached to the root. It is known for its rough tannish-brown skin and a deep jewel-toned orange flesh.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
As an antioxidant, curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) has known anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting capabilities as it neutralizes disease causing free radicals. Some studies have shown that it is as effective as some anti-inflammatory drugs. It has also been studied for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as well as cholesterol lowering capabilities.
Fresh Turmeric vs Dried?
Dried turmeric is made by peeling, boiling, and drying the rhizomes, which are then sold whole or ground into powder. Some of the essential oils and potency are lost in the drying process. Whole, fresh turmeric rhizomes can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks (it should be firm), or peeled and frozen for 2-3 months, just like ginger.
How To Use Turmeric
Did you know that turmeric, alone, has poor bioavailability which is due to the fact that it rapidly metabolizes. Here are a few tricks that can significantly improve its effectiveness.
Add a fat. Turmeric can be mixed with a healthy fat like coconut oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, olive oil, etc. Studies have shown that the addition of fat decreases the metabolic degradation of the curcumin thus increasing bio-availability and effectiveness.
Combine it with Quercetin. Quercetin? It is a flavonoid that is found in many plants and foods such as apples, red grapes, onions and citrus fruit. Quercetin inhibits the enzymes that can degrade the phytochemicals found in curcumin.
Heat it! The bioavailability of curcumin may also be enhanced with heat because heat increases the solubility of curcumin in water.
Spice it up. Black pepper contains piperine, an alkaloid that has been shown to substantially increase the bioavailability of the nutrients in foods and supplements. Piperine is a known inhibitor of hepatic and intestinal glucuronidation thus blocking the metabolic pathway of the curcumin. One study found that when even 2g of curcumin was ingested, its serum levels were very low. However, when 20mg piperine was added to curcumin the bioavailability increased by 2000%.
What Do You Need To Know
- Keep it simple. If you can’t find fresh, buy dried. Opt for the smallest bottle to ensure it stays fresh. Use it up and replace it as needed.
- Cook! A well-known turmeric recipe – a traditional Indian curry – would naturally increase the bioavailability! Think about it—the turmeric is combined with an oil, quercetin (in onions and chutneys that are often served with this dish), black pepper and yep, it’s heated!
- If cooking isn’t your thing, try a supplement. I like Turmeric Supreme from Gaia, which contains black pepper. Chase it with a shot of olive oil which boasts it’s own wealth of health benefits.
Make a Turmeric Paste
Combine these ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat until the turmeric powder becomes paste-like.
What you’ll need:
- 1 ½ cups water
- ½ cup turmeric powder
- 3 teaspoons coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1″ piece of ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
How To Make Golden Milk
It’s as easy as stirring a teaspoon or two of your turmeric paste into a mug full of warmed milk or a milk alternative
5 Ways to Use Turmeric
- Add turmeric to your warm breakfast cereal and make sure to add some healthy fats like coconut oil, peanut butter, nuts or seeds as well as fruits like apples or citrus zest. Feeling adventurous? Make a turmeric nut butter like the one below!
- In a smoothie – Why not! You can use your turmeric Paste.
- As a topping or condiment like my favorite Turmeric Aioli recipe that’s below
- Add turmeric to your tea. With a little orange zest and coconut cream you have three of the four above tips covered.
- Cook with it! The flavor is mild and lends a beautiful yellowish-orange tint to your recipe. Try these recipes!
Turmeric Recipes to Try