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Ask a Foodie: Is Turmeric a Super Spice? How Do I Use It?

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turmeric spoon 1I recently read an article about turmeric that said it can help you not get Alzheimer’s disease. I looked for recipes using turmeric but didn’t find any. Do you have recipes or some suggestions as for good ways to use it?  — M.M.

Dear M.M. Thanks for including the link to the article in your question. Turmeric contains a  substance called curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. As this article from the Mother Nature Network states, “Preliminary clinical studies are showing that curcumin helps reduce beta amyloid plaque in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s (and prevent plaque buildup in people who don’t have the disease).”

Turmeric is widely used in India as a spice in curry blends, and is also used in other South Asian cuisines. You could get turmeric in capsules from a health food store, or buy the spice in bulk, buy the gel caps and put together your own dietary supplement of turmeric.

Or, as scientists in the study reported in the Journal of Neuroscience did, find extracts of curcumin in pill form. (We can’t tell you now much to use — check out the research, consult with your doctor or a registered dietician or other nutrition expert for suggested amounts.)

To get some of the spice into everyday food, though, the obvious suggestion would be to eat some Indian curry each day! But, that is pretty powerful stuff and generally not a daily occurrence in the American menu.

Make this recipe, Indian New Potatoes with Turmeric for a spicy, healthy way to dress up potatoes.

Consider stirring stirring a half-teaspoon or so into a juice, especially vegetable juice or juice blends such as V-8 or tomato juice. Or, put some into a breakfast smoothie, add it to a spicy sauce or add it to condiments such as mustard or ketchup. Put it into rice or couscous, which will add flavor and add its golden color. It’s also good with beef, chicken and scallops.

Field Guide to Herbs & Spices

Turmeric is not spicy hot, and has an earthy taste with a slightly bitter aftertaste, says Aliza Green in her book “A Field Guide to Herbs & Spices, (Quirk Books, $15.95). It also can sometimes be found in fresh form in markets. It is a rhizome, and the individual pieces are called “fingers.”

“Turmeric has been valued for almost four thousand years in India, where it’s essential for curry dishes, but is also used as a cosmetic, as a dye, in traditional recipes and in religious ceremonies,” writes Green.

To read about using a certain type of turmeric (non-edible) in skin/beauty treatments, check out this article in About.com., The Super Skincare Spice.

 

Photograph by Bonnie Walker/SavorSA

 

 

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One Response to “Ask a Foodie: Is Turmeric a Super Spice? How Do I Use It?”

  1. Blake Olson says:

    Turmeric has numerous health benefits as well as its use as a culinary ingredient.

    Its culinary applications are more about color than taste. It does have that ‘earthy’ taste but that is almost always overwhelmed by stronger ingredients it is normally used with. Its greatest contribution is probably in giving a fullness and grounding to a recipe rather than a specific taste.

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