Growing up in a Persian household, Turmeric (as well as Saffron of course) was prevalent in our kitchen. At home we use it in most of our Persian dishes and many, if not all, of our khoresht (stews) are started with turmeric. Turmeric has remarkable benefits and is surprising that it is generally overlooked in western cuisine.
The yellow/orange hued spice is a staple of many eastern cultures. It grows wildly in Asia and it is popular among the Asian, Indian and Persian cuisines typically used from curries to desserts.
Fresh turmeric root looks like an orange ginger, but is most commonly known and used in its powdered form.
Turmeric has many uses, some use it medicinally, some for colour and others for flavour. It has been used as a remedy, a natural fabric dye, and it's even used in traditional ceremonies and rituals.
Fun fact: Turmeric is used traditionally to colour the robes of Hindu monks
A Powerful healer
The real power of Turmeric is in its outstanding medicinal properties. Traditionally it has been used for centuries in Indian cultures as healing spice and cleanser of the body, specially in Ayurveda (the Hindu traditional medicine system).
Turmeric is commonly known as a remedy to treat ailments ranging anything from skin conditions, stomach, lung or liver problems, colds and flus to topically healing wounds and sores.
Curcumin is the main active compound, the responsible for the powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral properties that are attributed to Turmeric.
Its potential is being recognised by science and Curcumin is currently being studied for it’s possible healing benefits in treating diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis (all inflammatory conditions).
Good news for vegans & vegetarians
The healthy growth and development of our brains is tightly related to the critical role of the essential omega 3 fatty acids in our diets. They reduce inflammation and the risk of degenerative conditions.
ALA, EPA and DHA, the 3 omegas are essential because our body does not produce them on its own and we must get them from food.
Whereas ALA can be found in plant sources, EPA & DHA can only be found in animal sources (grass fed meats and wild fish) and algae. However, certain enzymes in our body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but it’s usually a very low conversion and only small amounts get absorbed.
Research has shown vegans and vegetarians tend to show 30 to 50 % less EPA and DHA concentrations in their bodies. A deficiency of DHA can lead to cognitive problems ranging from anxiety, attention disorders, schizophrenia and depression to Alzheimer’s disease.
An interesting study has shown that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of Turmeric can greatly improve the absorption of the DHA in the liver. This has shown to increase the levels of DHA in the brain. This is specially good news for vegans and vegetarians because Curcumin can improve the conversion rate of ALA to DHA. Which means that when turmeric is combined with chia, flax, hemp or walnuts (the plant sources of ALA), your body will produce and absorb more DHA from them, getting more bang for your buck!
How to buy turmeric:
A healthy pantry is incomplete without that deep yellow/orange bottle of powdered turmeric. My suggestion is to purchase a good quality organic powdered turmeric to always have at hand. This is by far the easiest way to use it.
And if you are lucky to find fresh turmeric root in your local market or speciality store, don’t hesitate and get some! Peel it, grate it and use it just like you would use ginger.
how to use turmeric:
- Use it in soups, stews or curries
- Use it to sauté your onions as a starter step
- Season meat, poultry, fish, tofu or tempeh
- Make a marinade
- Add powdered turmeric in smoothies
- Add fresh turmeric to your juices
- Make an interesting dessert with it
- Make a turmeric milk
- Try a turmeric hummus
- Or try this turmeric tonic drink - you will love this one!
turmeric chia pudding. brain food.
This recipe combines the plant sources of ALA, chia and walnuts with Turmeric, to increase the absorption and conversion of ALA into DHA for the healthier and happier brains of vegans and vegetarians (also suitable to omnivores :)
It is also incredibly delicious, I highly recommend you try it!
1/4 c water
3/4 c coconut milk
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs honey (vegans use maple syrup)
2 tbs chia seeds
3 walnuts, chopped
1. Blend the coconut milk, turmeric, cinnamon, honey and water.
2. In a bowl mix the chia seeds and the liquid. Stir to incorporate and avoid clumps. Let it sit 15 minutes.
3. Top with a drizzle of honey and chopped walnuts.