Tired Of Your Recipe Rotation? This Spice Is The Answer

by Emily Duerr, RDN, LD

Last Updated: May 26, 2020

Across the country, the encouragement to stay home to stay healthy has flipped our daily routines upside-down. Whether you’ve had to change the foods you’re using in recipes, or you’re simply eating at home more often, this has us all trying to get more creative in the kitchen. There are many different ways to mix up the flavors of your meals, and one of the simplest, yet most effective, is to try new spices. One spice that’s been making headlines over the past few years is “the Golden Spice”, otherwise known as turmeric. It’s worth a deep dive into the uses and benefits as you consider making this a new pantry staple.

What is turmeric?
This spice comes from the roots of the Curcuma longa plant, native to India, and has been used for many different purposes over the past 4,000 years. Turmeric is often used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine and is also regarded as sacred in the Hindu religion; it is even a key part of Indian wedding traditions. The rich yellow-orange color of “the Golden Spice” is commonly used as a natural dye—from fabrics to foods, including cheese, butter, yellow cakes, and popcorn. Check the back of your mustard bottle- it probably contains turmeric!

What does the research tell us?
Turmeric has been used in traditional medicine for centuries with the notion it may help numerous conditions ranging from arthritis to digestive disorders to inflammation. But what does science say about its potential benefits?
  1. Most research focuses on extracts that contain very large amounts of turmeric’s active component: curcumin.
    Curcumin is a natural polyphenol that gives turmeric it’s classic “golden” yellow-orange color and is responsible for many of the potential health benefits.
  2. Studies have shown promising results regarding curcumin’s impact on many health conditions.
    Curcumin has been shown to potentially have anti-inflammatory properties as well as potential benefits for diabetes and diabetes complications, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and digestive disorders.
  3. Spoiler Alert: More research is needed.
    Most studies have focused on supplementation with notably large doses of curcumin, not the amount of turmeric you add to a rice and chicken dinner. To better understand the health benefits of turmeric as a whole, more research is needed to see if positive effects may also be seen in the lower levels used in general cooking and flavoring.
  4. Always consult your healthcare professional.
    If you are thinking of supplementing with curcumin or turmeric, be sure to consult your physician, as supplement recommendations should be different for everyone depending on their personal medical and nutrition needs.

How is turmeric used in foods?
Health aside, turmeric is also a delicious flavor-booster commonly found in South Asian, Middle-Eastern, African, and Caribbean dishes. It's often known for its earthy, bitter herb as a staple ingredient in many curry powders. Looking to incorporate this unique spice into your cooking? Here’s some ideas.
  • Experiment with different forms of turmeric. Grate fresh turmeric into different recipes or keep shelf-stable ground turmeric on hand. Be careful—while the vibrant colors of this spice can add color to meals, it can also stain hands and countertops. We recommend using caution (and maybe even wearing the gloves you’re likely to have on hand these days).
  • Pair turmeric with pepper. Curcumin is poorly absorbed, but piperine in pepper may help increase absorption and maximize potential health benefits.

Convinced? Here’s our top turmeric recipe picks to help you get started.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Emily Duerr, RDN, LD

Emily Duerr, RDN, LD

Emily strongly believes in a balanced diet- choosing foods that are good for your body AND good for your soul. With this philosophy, she can help you meet your health goals without having to give up your favorite foods. In addition to a passion for nutrition, Emily loves spending time outside with her two rescue dogs.