Health Benefits of Turmeric : Fabulous Recipes, Use and Cooking Tips

The humble spice, Turmeric has been used as a spice for cooking and as a medicine for 4,000 years as a remedy for a variety of conditions. Studies show that turmeric, and its active ingredient curcumin, appears to fight infections, reduce inflammation, remedy digestive problems.

Recent laboratory studies have suggested that it be effective in treatment of various types of cancer and may help improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy. It has also be suggested that it may be beneficial for stroke and dementia patients as well. It has known antioxidant properties.

Turmeric is widely used in cooking and is the source of the yellow color and flavor to traditional Indian curry dishes.

It is also used in mustards and relishes and to color cheese and butter. However this article shown that turmeric can be used in a wide variety of other dishes apart from curries and mustards.

So see how you can get the benefits of this wonderful spice in lots of different and interesting ways.

Beautiful turmeric
Beautiful turmeric. Source: Pixabay

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is closely related to ginger and spreads from underground rhizomes which are harvested. It is native to the Himalayan mountain region. Turmeric has been grown in India for hundreds of years.

It reached China, East Africa and West Africa about a thousand years ago. It was introduced to Jamaica and the New World in the 18th Century. Turmeric was probably initially cultivated as a dye, and then became more widely used as a condiment and for cosmetics.

In the 13th century Marco Polo praised this spice, as a cheaper substitute for costly saffron. It is now cultivated widely throughout the world in both tropical and subtropical regions. 

The plant grows up to a meter (3 feet) high and has broad dark green aromatic leaves.The rhizome has a dark brown skin on the outside and deep orange-yellow pulp on the inside similar to fresh ginger.

Once the root sections are harvested, they are boiled, then dried thoroughly and ground to make turmeric powder. If you can get it, the fresh turmeric is far better than the dried and ground powder.

The taste is described as a mild pepper flavor and somewhat bitter. It has a sweet smell reminiscent of ginger and orange. The yellow to orange color imparts a beautiful hue to all dished cooked with turmeric.

Health Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric has been used in both Chinese and Ayurvedic (Hindu) traditional medicine as an anti-inflammatory, to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds. Curcumin also has known antioxidant properties. There are extensive reviews of the health and medicinal properties claimed for turmeric and curcumin (see the image below).

The best known benefits of Turmeric are:

Turmeric can be taken in powder or pill form, which are available in most health food outlets, commonly in 250-500mg capsules. However it is much more interesting to get the benefits of this condiment from food and meals.

A published review over 3000 studies on curcumin, concluded that more definitive studies were needed to fully evaluate the safety and efficacy of reformulated curcumin, the structural analogues of curcumin, as well as how curcumin interacts with existing therapies. Nevertheless, the low cost of curcumin, its pharmacological safety, its proven therapeutic efficacy and multiple applications make curcumin a promising agent for prevention and treatment of various human diseases. Meanwhile, research continues on how to enhanced the bioavailability of curcumin and reduce its side effects.  This looks very promising.

Claimed Benefits of Curcumin
Claimed Benefits of Curcumin. Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3025067/?tool=pubmed

Nutrients in Turmeric

One tablespoon of turmeric powder contains about 24 calories, 1.4 g fiber, 4 g carbohydrates, 0.5 g, 0.7 g fat and 3 mg sodium and no cholesterol. Turmeric is rich in several important nutrients such as manganese, iron, copper, zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. Turmeric also contains several Vitamins and pre-cursors such as choline, folate, niacin, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and vitamin B6 and phytochemicals.

For details about the nutrients see the table below.

Turmeric Recipe Ideas and Uses

Couscous with Turmeric, Coriander and Lemon Juice

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Add the turmeric and garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add 1 2/3 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and the lemon peel, and then bring the liquid to the boil. Take the pan off the heat. Add the couscous and cover the pan and let it stand for about 5 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with the couscous with a fork; add the cilantro and lemon juice and stir. Season with a little salt and pepper if desired.

Bean and Bell Pepper Soup with Turmeric

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy base saucepan or stock pot over moderate heat. Fry the garlic, celery, onion and sweet potatoes for 5-7 minutes, or until onion is just starting to soften. Add the basil, salt, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon and the bay leaf. Mix to blend and add the in chicken stock and tamari. Cover the pot and gently simmer the soup over low heat for about 15 minutes. Then add the garbanzo beans, tomatoes and green pepper, and simmer the soup for an additional 10-15 minutes. Check to make sure that all of the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Baked Turmeric Chicken

Run warm water over the chicken, and then dry it. Cut it up into 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, and cut the back in half. Using a small bowl, add the minced garlic, soy sauce, and olive oil and stir to mix. Coat the dried chicken pieces with the turmeric powder by mixing in a bowl. Another way to do this is to place the turmeric and chicken in a large strong plastic bag. Close and seal the bag tightly leaving plenty of room for air. Shake the chicken in the bag to coat it with turmeric. Next, roll the coated chicken in the soy sauce and olive oil mixture, or brush the liquid over the chicken. Bake the chicken pieces at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 45 minutes. Remove the breasts, as they require less cooking and continue baking for another 30 minutes.

Chinese Style Turmeric Chicken

Clean the whole chicken and slice in half. Place the ginger, turmeric, and lemon grass into a food processor and blend until very finely chopped (or slice finely by hand). In a heavy non-stick frying-pan, fry the blended ingredients in a tablespoon of oil for 1-2 minutes until the flavors and fragrances are released. Add the water, season to taste and bring the liquid to the boil. Add in chicken, and cover the pot with a lid and simmer using low heat for about 30 minutes. Check to make sure the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken and allow to cool, and then cut into pieces. Use the liquid remaining in the pot to make a sauce. Add a tablespoon shaoxing or Chinese wine bring to boil. Thicken by adding a tablespoon of cornflour dissolved in with 2 tablespoons of water. Pour the sauce over chicken and serve.

Savory Pork Roast with Figs and Turmeric

Preheat an oven to about 345 degrees F (170 degrees C). Dry the pork with a clean towel. Mix the ground ginger, garam masala, chili powder, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, pepper and salt in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork roast. Heat the butter and olive oil over moderate heat in a large, heavy pan or Dutch oven. Add the seasoned pork to the pot and fry until browned on all sides (about 2 minutes for each surface. Remove pork from the pot and set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook while stirring until the onion is soft and transparent (about 5 minutes). Stir in the fig compote and mix well. Put the pork back into the pot and pour in the chicken broth and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Then transfer the covered pot to a preheated oven. Cook the pork for about 2 hours or until it is no longer pink inside. Your meat thermometer should reach 160 degrees F (70 degrees C) when inserted into the center of the pork.

Lamb Tagine with Turmeric

Place diced lamb in a bowl, coat with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and set aside. Add the coriander, garlic powder, saffron, ginger, salt, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin, turmeric and paprika to a large thick plastic bag, and mix well. Transfer the lamb to the bag, seal and toss it around to coat all surfaces of the lamb thoroughly. Refrigerate the lamb for a least 8 hours or overnight. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy pot or saucepan over moderate heat. Add about one third of the lamb, and brown well. Transfer to a plate, and repeat with remaining lamb. Add carrots and onions to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the fresh ginger and garlic and cook for an extra 5 minutes. Return all the lamb to the pot and add the chicken broth, tomato paste, lemon zest and honey. Increase the heat and bring the content to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is tender. If preferred you can thicken the mixture with cornstarch dissolved in water during the few minutes.

Vegetarian Bean, Spinach and Red Lentil Curry with Turmeric

Wash the lentils using several changes of water and transfer to saucepan with just enough water to cover the lentils. Bring to the boil while stirring and then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat, and then drain in a sieve. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and tomato puree and add the turmeric, cumin, garam masala and chili powder. Stir until well combined and creamy. Heat oil in a skillet over moderate heat. Cook the onions, garlic, and ginger, until onions just start to soften and brown. Add the spinach and cook until the leaves wilt. Add the yogurt mixture a little at a time and then stir in the cilantro and tomatoes. Add the lentils and beans and combine well. Heat all the ingredients well while stirring for about 5 minutes.

Corn Relish with Turmeric

In a large saucepan, add the cabbage, onion, corn, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, white sugar, celery seed, mustard seed, salt, ground dry mustard, turmeric, water and apple cider vinegar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Transfer the mixture to sterile glass jars. Seal and keep cool in the refrigerator until serving.

Barbecued Thai Style Chicken with Turmeric

Chop the cilantro thoroughly, keeping several leaves aside for garnishing. In a food processor or blender, combine the chili peppers, turmeric, curry powder, cilantro, garlic, sugar, and salt. Pulse to a coarse paste. Pour in the fish sauce, and then pulse until smooth. Place chicken in a large shallow bowl and rub all over with the cilantro paste. Cover, and marinate the chicken for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator. Preheat the grill or barbecue to a high temperature and lightly oil the grill. Place chicken pieces on the prepared grill, brush with coconut milk and grill the chicken pieces for 8 to 15 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the pieces. Turn the chicken only once, and baste several times with coconut cream. Cook until tender and browned on both sides (test to make sure the juices run clear).

Traditional Beef Curry

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or frying pan over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook while stirring until the onion has softened and become transparent (about 5 minutes). Turn down the heat to low and cook while stirring for another 15-20 minutes until the onion is dark brown and very tender. Add the garlic,ginger paste, cardamom seeds, cloves, green chilies and cinnamon sticks. Cook and stir until the garlic just starts to brown (generally about 3 to 5 minutes). Add the turmeric, garlic powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and water to the onion mixture and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the curry has thickened. Add the pieces of beef and stir to coat with spice mixture. Simmer the curry over moderate heat, stirring occasionally for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the beef is tender and cooked.

Nutrients in Turmeric - 100g (Ground)

Nutrient
Quantity
% of Recommended Daily Average
Energy
354 Cal
17%
Carbohydrates
64.9 g
50%
Protein
7.8 g
14%
Total Fat
10 g
33%
Cholesterol
0 mg
0%
Dietary Fiber
21 g
52.50%
Vitamins
 
 
Folates
39 micro g
10%
Niacin
5 mg
32%
Pyridoxine
1.8 mg
138%
Riboflavin
0.233 mg
18%
Vitamin A
0 IU
0%
Vitamin C
26 mg
43%
Vitamin E
3.1 mg
21%
Vitamin K
13.4 micro g
11%
Minerals
 
 
Calcium
183 mg
18%
Copper
603 micro g
67%
Iron
41.4 mg
517%
Magnesium
193 mg
48%
Manganese
7.8 mg
340%
Phosphorus
268 mg
38%
Potassium
2525 mg
54%
Sodium
38 mg
3%
Zinc
4.3 mg
40%

Source: Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Nutritive Value per 100g (Ground) (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)





Thai rice with turmeric
Thai rice with turmeric. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thai_rice_with_tumeric_and_agretti_(16193458483).jpg
Turmeric is a key ingredient of Butter Chicken and many curries
Turmeric is a key ingredient of Butter Chicken and many curries. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Outlay_of_most_of_the_Spices_and_Seasonings_used_to_make_Butter_Chicken_(Murgh_Makhani).jpg
Turmeric provides color and nutrients for many seafood dishes
Turmeric provides color and nutrients for many seafood dishes. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brodard_-_Banh_khot.jpg
Bowl of Yellow Basmati Rice containing short grain brown rice, onion and turmeric
Bowl of Yellow Basmati Rice containing short grain brown rice, onion and turmeric. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basmati_Rice.jpg