Turmeric is widely present in many everyday foods (like yellow happy mustard and curry powder), but most Westerners don’t consider it an ingredient. If you do, you likely have only encountered it dried and powdered, an excellent spice in its own right, but vastly different from the fresh juicy rhizome, save for a slight bitter edge and brilliant sunset orange color.
Luckily, whichever form of this ginger-relative you use, you will be better off than not using it because (1) turmeric makes everything you add it to delicious-er, and (2) it’s very highly impressive, nutritionally speaking.
The healing properties of turmeric have long been used by both Indian Ayruvedic and Chinese herbalists. Known as Jiang Huang (literally “yellow ginger” in Chinese), It is considered pungent, bitter and warming and is classically used to treat bruises, menstrual pain and toothache, assist in digestion, relieve pain and reduce inflammation. In fact, that last property of turmeric has recently been the focus of several western scientific studies which have shown that the compound curcumin (what makes turmeric yellow) has anti-inflammatory effects comparable to those of hydrocortisone and ibuprofin (Motrin) with no comparable toxic side effects (as in NONE). Oh, and in case you’re thinking “eh, well, you probably have to eat an entire plant to get the effects of 1/2 a regular-strength Motrin,” they were proven equal gram per gram, i.e. 400mg turmeric works as well as 400 mg Motrin. That’s good news for people suffering from chronic inflammatory pain conditions like rheumatoid and osteo arthritis, lupus and dysmennorhea.
I could go on and on about how turmeric is one of the most potent antioxidants available, how it promotes liver function, lowers cholesterol levels, demonstrates anti-tumor growth factors, and has shown potential as a brain protective agent, slowing the progression of such diseases as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimers. And don’t forget that oxidation plus inflammation is what leads to heart disease, so turmeric can help ward that off too. But, you probably get it. Turmeric is a superfood. Eat it on purpose.
Turmeric Scented Rice
This is by far the simplest (and my favorite) way to eat turmeric. For yellow-coconut rice, you can replace the water with one 14-oz can coconut milk diluted with 6-7oz water to make 2 1/4 cups liquid (be sure you buy a high quality brand of coconut milk without any preservatives besides guar gum).
- 1 1/2 cups long,medium, short, or glutenous white rice (you can substitute brown rice, but you’ll need to up the water by 1/4 cup), rinsed
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 strip kombu (optional)
- 2 TB extra virgin coconut oil (optional and unnecessary if you made the coconut rice)
Stir together the rice, liquid, turmeric, salt and kombu (if using). There are so many different ways to cook rice, so just use your favorite. I always use a rice cooker, but simmering covered and undisturbed for about 25 minutes for white rice works great too. After the rice has absorbed the liquid and is tender, let it sit covered for 15 minutes. Add the coconut oil and eat- it makes a great snack this way. If using as a side dish for something with a sauce, you probably don’t need, or want, any oil at all.
Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis, Journal of Arthritis and Rheumatism, 2006 Nov;54(11):3452-64
Turmeric extracts containing curcuminoids prevent experimental rheumatoid arthritis, Journal of Natural Products, 2006 Mar;69(3):351-5.
- Tumeric an Ancient Skin Care Ingredient! (ctesthetic.com)
- Benefits of Turmeric: Why It’s Finally Okay To Be Yellow-Bellied (holydelicious.wordpress.com)
- The Benefits of Turmeric (nutrispire.wordpress.com)
- Turmeric, Curcumin Ranks as Natural Arthritis Treatment (naturalsociety.com)