Turmeric’s Health Benefits and 8 Ways to Get the Spice in Your Life

One of the mounting trends in food, alongside nourishing broths and stocks, is one that Indo-Asian cultures have been relying on for thousands of years: Turmeric. You already know it as the spice that gives curry powder its warm, yellow coloring, but it’s also used as a natural colorant in everything from cheese to juice. It adds an earthy, slightly bitter note to recipes, but that’s not all it’s known for; it’s also gaining speed in medical studies as a compound with all sorts of benefits.

There are two main active compounds in turmeric: Curcumin and aromatic (ar) turmerone. Curcumin is now fairly widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties, whereas ar-turmerone is still being actively studied in an exploratory sense. Various studies such as this one out of the University of Arizona show that curcumin is effective in prohibiting joint inflammation in the prevention of and treatment of arthritis (particularly rheumatoid arthritis). Other studies have found the compound promising in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. In combination with the anti-nausea drug Thalidomide, studies have shown that curcumin effectively kills multiple myeloma cells. One study even showed that curcurmin is as effective in treating osteoarthritis pain in the knees as Ibuprofen, but with reduced gastrointestinal stress. Ar-turmerone, on the other hand, has shown promise in promoting healthy neural stem cell proliferation that may prove useful in treating neurodegenerative diseases. The compound is also being researched as a treatment for epilepsy and as an antidepressant.

There are curcumin supplements available, but don’t overdo it. Ingesting too much of the stuff can cause ulcers in extreme cases and make life rough for people prone to gallstones, according to the University of Virginia Massey Research Center. Instead, cook with it; it’s hard to “overdose” if you’re eating normally. Try these 8 recipes to get more of this wonder-spice in your diet!

Turmeric tea, orange drink

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1. Turmeric Tea

A mix of turmeric, raw honey, and lemon is a great tonic for reducing inflammation and warming up all at the same time. Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks swears by it. She likes to make a jar of turmeric-honey paste ahead of time for a quick way to make her turmeric tea. Just don’t use boiling water, she warns, because it will reduce the benefits of the raw honey.

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup raw honey
  • 2½ teaspoons dried turmeric
  • Lemon juice, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Work the turmeric into the honey until it forms a paste. Scrape it into a resealable jar for future use.

For each cup of tea, place a heaping teaspoon of the turmeric paste in the bottom of a mug. Pour hot but not boiling water into the mug, and stir well to dissolve the turmeric paste. Squeeze the juice from a lemon and add a good amount of black pepper into the tea.

Indian Dhal Curry, lentils

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2. Indian Mango Dal

Turmeric is pretty prolific in curry powder, but that shouldn’t stop you from adding even more to your dish. As the rhizome likely originated from India, many of the country’s dishes are home to the bright yellow spice. Here in a recipe from Eating Well, the earthiness gets a boost from sweet mango and some heft from protein-rich lentils. Serve over rice for a complete meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup yellow lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 mangoes, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions: Place lentils in a colander and rinse until the water runs clear. Combine lentils, 4 cups water, ½ teaspoon salt and turmeric in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and cook until fragrant and starting to brown, about 30 seconds. Add onion; cook, stirring, until soft and beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cayenne and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more.

Stir the garlic mixture and mangoes into the lentils. Return to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are falling apart, 10 to 15 minutes more. Stir in cilantro.

Roasted Carrots, Pesto

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3. Roasted Carrots With Turmeric and Cumin

These wonderfully spiced carrots from The New York Times offer a punch of beta carotene with your turmeric. Relatively quick roasting at high heat caramelizes some of the sugars on the exterior of the carrots while preserving more of the nutrients within compared to a longer roast. These would be great as a side dish to almost anything.

Ingredients:

  • 10 medium carrots, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or mild chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the carrots in half lengthwise and crosswise. If the carrots are particularly large at one end, split that half again lengthwise so that the pieces are more or less equal in thickness. Place in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and thyme leaves.

Heat a heavy baking sheet in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the carrots on it in one layer. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring the carrots every 10 minutes. They should be slightly caramelized and tender.

While the carrots are in the oven, place the cumin and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle and grind. Add the soft butter, turmeric, and Aleppo pepper or chili powder and stir with the pestle until well-combined. Transfer to a large pan.

Remove the carrots from the oven when done and add to the pan with the spice butter and the mint. Toss together, taste, and adjust salt and pepper. Serve from the pan or transfer to a platter.

Slicing, Cutting, Steak

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4. Cumin-Rubbed Steak Tacos With Turmeric-Lime Crema

Though tacos don’t make much of an appearance in Indian cuisine, cumin is a staple spice in both Latin and Indian dishes. Here in this recipe from The Small Boston Kitchen via PBS Food, turmeric crosses over to add a splash of bright color to a usually dull-looking lime crema.

Ingredients:

Tacos

  • 12 flour or corn tortillas
  • 3 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt
  • Two 12-ounce strip steaks
  • Vegetable oil for the pan
  • Cilantro sprigs to garnish

Crema

  • ½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Juice of half of a lime
  • Salt to taste

Directions: Heat a skillet over medium heat and toast each tortilla on both sides. Set aside, wrapped in a warm towel.

In the still-warm skillet, toast the cumin, coriander, and paprika until fragrant. Immediately remove them from the heat and let cool slightly. Grind in a coffee or spice grinder and rub evenly over the steaks. Season well with salt.

Heat a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan with enough vegetable oil to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is very hot, add the steaks to the pan. Cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, flipping only once. If you like your steak more well done, add a minute or two to each side. Remove from the skillet and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

While the steak is resting, thoroughly combine all crema ingredients in a bowl.

To assemble the tacos, spread a tablespoon of crema onto each taco. Top with steak sliced on the bias and garnish with cilantro.

Orange and ginger smoothie drink

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5. Sunshine Smoothie With Coconut, Clementine, and Turmeric

Take advantage of citrus season and stuff clementines into everything you possibly can, including this smoothie from The Kitchn. It is packed with awesome nutrition including rolled oats for extra fiber, maca powder (optional) for B, C, and E vitamins as well as a score of beneficial minerals, and turmeric for all of the reasons we’ve already discussed. For the best texture, peel the membranes off the clementine segments before you freeze them.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup chilled unsweetened coconut water
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
  • Fresh or frozen segments from 2 clementines
  • ½-inch fresh turmeric, peeled and roughly chopped, or ½ teaspoon ground, plus more if desired
  • ½-inch fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional 

  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon maca powder

Directions: Place the oatmeal in a blender and process until finely ground. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and process until smooth. For a thicker smoothie, let it stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

Rice Noodles with Broccoli

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6. Thai Curried Noodles With Broccoli and Tofu

This creamy noodle dish from Vegetarian Times is modeled after Khao Soi, a chicken and rice noodle dish. While you could certainly use chicken here, it’s a great place to stick some tofu. The assortment of spices gives this dish a sweet, spicy, and sour flavor combination that’s to die for, with a big wallop of turmeric to make sure you don’t!

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro stems, plus ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons yellow or red Thai curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • One 15-ounce can light coconut milk
  • ¾ cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • One 12-ounce package firm tofu, drained and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 5 ounces dry fettuccine or flat rice noodles
  • 5 cups broccoli florets
  • 6 lime wedges, for garnish

Directions: Heat oil in medium pot over medium-high heat. Saute shallots in oil 2 minutes. Add cilantro stems, curry paste, curry powder, and turmeric; cook 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk, broth, and brown sugar, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes, then stir in tofu. Simmer 10 minutes.

Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Add broccoli to pot for last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain, and add to tofu-curry mixture. Mix well, and serve with lime wedges and chopped cilantro.

Spiced cauliflower in sauce

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7. Oven Roasted Cauliflower With Turmeric and Ginger

This recipe from the Food Network is another easy, turmeric-packed side dish that goes well with most mains. It’s very easy to prepare and the spice combination would also be great as a rub for chicken or tofu.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk together the oil, mustard seeds, jalapeño, ginger, and turmeric in a small bowl.

Place cauliflower in a medium baking dish and toss with the flavored oil and season with salt. Roast until lightly golden brown and just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Baked Butternut Squash

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8. Roasted Butternut Squash With Smoked Paprika and Turmeric

Squash is another beta carotene-packed vegetable that benefits from the earthiness of turmeric. Here in this recipe from Healthy, Seasonal Recipes, it gets additional warmth from a smoky waft of flavor from smoked paprika. All in all, it only takes 1o minutes to get into the oven, making it an easy, nutritious fall and winter favorite.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toss squash cubes with oil, paprika, salt, turmeric and garlic powder in a large bowl to coat. Spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring once or twice, until the squash is tender, and starting to brown in spots, 32 to 37 minutes.

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