A cherished cousin of ginger, turmeric is a root that accounts for an excess of uses in our kitchens and lives. Bright orange-yellow in colour with a heady fragrance, turmeric has a unique earthy taste, with a touch of citrusy bitterness and the numbing punch of pepper. It is a staple in all Indian cooking, with its primary compound curcumin, giving the delectable dishes that lovely yellow tinge, a staining quality that can often turn against us (hint: stained nails after devouring some delicious curry).
Coined as the most powerful spices of all, haldi is every Indian household's go-to fix for a variety of health problems. Its incredible list of healing properties include antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic and anti-inflammatory - that should be an enough number of antis to make you look up and rethink its usage in your food!
The use of this spice has been traced back a thousand years in India and China with some stories even suggesting that it was used about ten thousand years back when Lord Rama walked the Earth. Its usage has been long embedded in the ancient Ayurvedic practice and has been cited to promote the holistic health of the body - this has resulted in increased usage of it in the Western world too.
Turmeric has given us more than enough reasons to include it in our daily diet. These are:
1. Relief from Arthritic Pain
Turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties have been instrumental in treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The antioxidant also destroys the free radicals in the body that damage the cells. Anybody suffering from the condition should consume the spice on a daily basis to relieve themselves of mild joint pains and inflammation, though it should be understood that it does not stand as a substitute for medication.
2. Cancer Prevention
The compound curcumin present in turmeric has been known to interfere with cancer development in the body. While the studies are in the early stages of research, curcumin shows promise in the fight against cancer and in boosting the effects of chemotherapy. This property of turmeric becomes even more potent when paired with freshly ground black pepper.
3. Brain Protection
There is another power compound present in turmeric that has not been studied as much as curcumin - aromatic turmerone or ar-turmerone. Research has found that this compound promotes repair in the stem cells of the brain - the same stem cells that can help in the recovery from neurodegenerative diseases like stroke and Alzheimer's. Studies also suggest that curcumin may help to improve memory in Alzheimer's patients.
4. Digestion Improvement
When consumed raw while suffering from a digestive problem, turmeric can help treat the condition. The major components of the spice stimulate the gallbladder to produce bile, instantly making the digestive system more efficient. It is also known to reduce symptoms of bloating and gas.
5. Healing Properties
Turmeric is every grandmother's pet suggestion to treat any cut, burn or infection. Its natural antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties make it an effective disinfectant. The powder can be sprinkled on the affected area to help it heal faster. Instead of turning to a pill, the next time you experience an upset stomach or heartburn, try this super spice instead.
6. Delay in Diabetes
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of curcumin have been found to delay the onset of Type 2 Diabetes in people with pre-diabetes. It further helps moderate insulin levels and boosts the effect of medications that treat diabetes. However, it is important to consult a health professional before combining it with strong medication.
7. Immunity Booster
Lipopolysaccharide - a substance in turmeric with anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal agents helps stimulate the human immune system. Take a teaspoon of the spice powder in a glass of warm milk daily and you'll see it work wonders as it reduces your chances of catching a flu.
8. Liver Detoxifier
Turmeric is known to increase the production of the vital enzymes that detoxify our blood in the liver by breaking down and reducing the toxins. By improving blood circulation too, turmeric is instrumental in promoting good liver health.
Storing It Right
Fresh, unpeeled turmeric should be placed in a plastic, airtight bag in the refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for about two to three weeks. You can also chop it into multiple one-time use units and freeze them for up to two months, making sure it is properly packed to ensure that it doesn't dry out. If you are buying turmeric powder, make sure it is of pure organic variety and store it well in an airtight container.
Indian kitchens have already discovered countless uses for turmeric in their dishes. Considering the number of health benefits it has to offer, this powerful spice can be added to a variety of dishes in order to keep improving the quality of our lives. Add turmeric powder to curries, smoothies, warm milk, salads, stir fried dishes and in just about any other way you feel like. While there are turmeric supplements also available in the ill form, raw turmeric is considered to be the most effective.
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