By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
What It Is
Exotic things fascinate me, and there is nothing more spectacular than the bright yellow hue of turmeric, a spice steeped in ancient Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian food, society and medicinal history.
While you may have tried turmeric in curry or yellow mustard (turmeric adds the lovely color there), it’s time to expand your horizons. I’m going to tell you why.
The Dirty Deets
A tablespoon of ground turmeric offers 29 calories, nearly a gram of protein, 2 grams of fiber and 6 grams of carbohydrates. It contains minerals such as manganese, phosphorus and potassium. Turmeric also contains magical nutrients -- the kind that practically cast spells to keep you strong and healthy.
- Turmeric is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat inflammation -- both inside and out. Uses include cancer prevention and treatment as well as treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and infections.
- Curcumin, a substance in turmeric, is being researched for cancer prevention and treatment, and has shown promise in animal studies. Stick to fresh or dried and powdered versions until more research is conducted and we better understand the use of supplements.
- In the Western world, turmeric was first embraced as a fabric dye. Late to adopt, we are just now studying turmeric for its role in prevention, management and treatment of cystic fibrosis and various cardiovascular and neurological diseases (such as Alzheimer's). Pass the curry, puh-lease.
How To Chow Down
Turmeric, a relative of ginger, has brilliant yellow flesh that will permanently stain, so break out the plastic gloves and old cutting board if you're working with the fresh stuff. If fresh isn’t available, do like the rest of us, and go for the powder in the spice aisle of your local grocery store.
- Before you wave bye-bye to winter, toss one more pot of stew on the stove (or in the slow cooker you got for Christmas), because nothing is more delish than a spicy tagine, roasted-root-veggie soup or Asian-inspired comfort-food stew.
- Believe it or not, you can play medicine (wo)man if you are fighting inflammation. I highly recommend having an anti-inflammatory smoothie or an anti-inflammatory tea before you reach for the over-the-counter painkillers.
- Turmeric leaves, available in Asian and specialty markets, can be sprinkled over greens or used to steam fish.
In The Know
It may seem counterintuitive, but turmeric makes a great anti-acne cleanser and face wash. (Inflammation reducer, remember?) It’s also believed to reduce the growth of unwanted facial hair. I promise: You won't turn yellow if you do it right!