What is Turmeric?
If ginger has a real-life cousin, it would be turmeric. Turmeric is a rhizome from a flowering plant called Curcuma longa from the ginger family, native to Southeast Asia. The scientific name of turmeric is Curcuma longa. India famous for its curry dishes, produces at least 80 percent of the world’s supply for this perennial herbaceous plant. This explains why turmeric is also better known as Indian Saffron. You usually see turmeric is sold in your local supermarket in dry ground powdered form or raw. In its raw form, turmeric resembles fresh ginger. Where ginger has yellow interior flesh, turmeric is in a more electrifying attractive orange color.
History and Origin of Turmeric
Turmeric as a spice grows mainly in Southeast Asia and India but can be found as well in warm regions with plenty of rainfall like South America. For more than 5,000 years, the Curcuma plant has been harvested both in China and India. Turmeric was introduced to Europe in the 13th century. Recently, the root spice has grown popular and is now commercially produced in other countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Haiti, and Jamaica.
Since time immemorial, turmeric has been used as a condiment, textile dye, and as an aromatic stimulant. For centuries, this ancient spice is hailed as both food and medicine. This spice is famous for its healing substance curcumin that also supplies this spice with its vibrant colors. Curcumin is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, just like ibuprofen but, without the side effects associated with it.
What Does Turmeric Taste Like?
Fresh turmeric looks like a tiny version of raw ginger. The taste of turmeric is not very pleasant if you consume it by itself. It has a distinctly earthy and slightly bitter taste. Surprisingly it is not musky and has a little bit of peppery spice thrown in. With just a spoonful or two, turmeric leaves a strong tinge in your entire soup, tea, milk, coffee, or curry. You wouldn’t like to see the yellow-orange color spill on your clothes though since this stuff stains like crazy.
What Does Turmeric Smell Like?
Turmeric is mildly aromatic and has scents of mild ginger and mustard.
Is Turmeric Spicy?
If turmeric is added to milk, tea, coffee, soup or curry, it adds a mild spicy taste.
How to Eat Turmeric?
There are lots of ways to eat and drink turmeric.
Take it in root form – When you eat turmeric raw, it leaves behind a bitter flavor to it. Whether you want to eat the roots or eat turmeric raw, your first concern would be to avoid staining your teeth with it. You need to brush your teeth as soon as you can.
Use the powdered form – You can add powdered turmeric to food and liquids. You can add the powder to golden milk to energize your digestive system as a soothing night drink.
Add as Turmeric Tincture – The roots of this spice plant can be extracted into liquid. You can easily add about two to three drops of turmeric tincture in your water, tea, milk, soup, or other forms of liquid that you drink every day.
Use the paste form – In traditional Indian curry, turmeric paste is used to add extra color and flavor.
Use as supplement – Turmeric is generally safe, even in supplement form. High doses can lower your blood sugar and blood pressure. This means that you got to use turmeric supplements with caution when you got diabetes or heart disease.
The root of this plant can prevent heart disease, treat arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. As part of the ginger family, it makes sense that drinking turmeric tea will quiet down an upset stomach. You can use turmeric tea for heartburn and morning sickness too. Using the roots of this plant can lower your cholesterol levels.
Turmeric has powerful antioxidant properties that help to boost your energy levels. You will look and feel better if you consume turmeric every day because curcumin found in this spice slows down the aging process.
Preliminary studies found that turmeric:
- Reduce the number of heart attacks that bypass patients had after surgery.
- Control knee pain from osteoarthritis, as well as ibuprofen, did
- Reduce the skin irritation that often occurs after radiation treatments for breast cancer.
Other preliminary studies in people have looked at curcumin, a type of curcuminoid, for different cancers, colitis, diabetes, surgical pain, and as an ingredient in mouthwash for reducing plaque.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has studied curcumin for Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and prostate and colon cancer.
Source: The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
There are many ways you can include turmeric in your food.
Use it on your salads and vegetables
You can add turmeric in your salad dressing or sprinkle some of this spice in your vegetables before you roast it. You can add a sprinkle of turmeric on your cauliflower, potatoes, and other kinds of root vegetables too. You can make a roasted vegetables meatless dinner using the energy and color boosting turmeric.
Jazz up your meat
You can add some of these in your marinated lamb chops and served the lamb chops with garlic flavored yogurt. Use turmeric on your grilled chicken breast and served this with curry rice.
Make a heartening soup
You can add a pinch of turmeric on your soup. Whether you want to use turmeric as a broth to detox or warm up a carrot soup, adding a little turmeric makes a warm soup. Since turmeric has a slightly gingery bitter taste, you need to used other spices or tempered the spice using oil.
Spice up your scrambles and frittatas
Just a small amount of turmeric can make your scrambled eggs or tofu scramble taste better. The color of this spice complements the color of your scrambled eggs and give it that subtle flavor taste.
Blend it into a smoothie
Spice up your tea, or you can blend fresh turmeric root into your smoothie. Don’t worry about smelling the slightly pungent flavor because the other smoothie ingredients can cover up the smell.
Other Uses of Turmeric
- Natural food dye – In French’s classic yellow mustard, turmeric is added to as a natural food dye. You can use turmeric for your baked goods such as biscuits, cereals, cakes, popcorn, and sweets. Some form of turmeric can also be found in canned beverages, dairy products, ice cream, and yogurt too.
- Essential curry dish ingredient – You cannot make Indian curries without turmeric. Add some aromatics like onions and garlic with this spice as the base of your soup or stew.
- Make your dishes interesting – If your recipes call for dried turmeric and you have fresh ones, then you must use it four times as much. Don’t forget to use gloves while you mix turmeric with your dishes.
- Drink your spice – Surprisingly, you can make drinks like warm turmeric tea with a little bit of sugar. Another option would be to have a turmeric latte mix. This could be a perfect drink to sip in the morning to jumpstart your day.
- Soothing facial mask – Turmeric is not just food for your tummy but, it is considered as one of the best foods for your skin.
- Prevents memory loss and clogged arteries – For your body to fully absorb this spice, you need to add a little black pepper spice. Curcumin found in this spice can help to ward off brain fog and severe other brain health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin improves your brain function by boosting your brain-derived neurotrophic factor hormone.
- Slows down cancer growth – Research studies show how turmeric can slow down the spread of color and pancreatic cancer cells. Turmeric fights cancer cells by reducing the size of the tumors.
- Cures symptoms of cough and colds – Turmeric helps you fight infection. Because of its anti-viral and antibacterial properties, this spice increases mucus production. The microbes are flush out of your respiratory tract, helping you breathe a little easier.
Is Turmeric Safe?
However, take note that turmeric is high in soluble oxalates. This can bind to form insoluble calcium. Too much turmeric may cause gastrointestinal problems. Suffice it to say, that in order to use turmeric in safe levels you need to limit your consumption from 400 to 600 milligrams in powder form. If you are using grated or dried turmeric you should restrict your intake to only 1 to 3 grams.
Source: The National Center for Biotechnology Information
The Bottom Line
Turmeric has a lot of benefits, whether you use it in cooking or for health benefits. Some foods taste better when you add turmeric into it, as seen above. You can add turmeric in your tea or drink it up with milk.
Don’t forget to consume turmeric at safe levels. The exact dose that your body needs depends on what kind of condition your body is at. If you decide to take turmeric as a supplement, you need to use it with caution. Consult your doctor first before you start using this in supplement form.
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