Spice Up Your Health With Turmeric!

By Para Mehta, RD/Healthfulfilling.com

You may have heard a lot about the health benefits of the increasingly
popular spice called turmeric in the last couple of years. But if you tried to
use it, smell it or dared to taste it alone, you might have changed your mind!
Not many people talk about the strong smell and not so pleasing taste of
turmeric, mainly on it's own. It kind of makes you think, "Oh no, not something
else that's supposed to be healthy but tastes awful." The good news is even
though turmeric tastes and smells reproachful on its own, once you mix it in
with foods it's hard to tell its presence. Turmeric boasts health benefits and
there are various ways to add its value to many of the foods you eat.

Pardon me, but what actually is turmeric? Turmeric is a shrub, related to
ginger and is grown throughout India, and other parts of Asia, and Africa.  In
India, it is commonly used in the powder form as a spice in Indian cooking.

Why is turmeric considered healthy? Ayurvedic medicine (a whole
medical system originally from India which uses the mind, body and spirit
along with herbs, spices, yoga and other natural type therapies to treat
illness) and traditional Chinese medicine have used turmeric to help with
digestion, liver function, help relieve arthritic pain, as an anti-inflammatory
agent, and to treat cancer.

A recent study (June 2008) done at Columbia University showed that
turmeric along with curcumin, the antioxidant ingredient within it, reverses
many of the inflammatory and metabolic problems that occur with obesity,
and improves blood sugar control in laboratory mice with Type 2 diabetes,
according to the authors of the study who are physicians Dr. Tortoriello,  Dr.
Weisberg, and Dr. Leibel. Currently, studies are beginning to be done to see
if turmeric may show positive health effects on human beings as well.

Is turmeric considered safe? According to the National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the National Institutes
of Health, turmeric is considered safe for most adults; high doses or long
term use may cause indigestion.  NCCAM cautions that people with
gallbladder disease should not use turmeric as it may worsen the condition.
The American Cancer Society reports that when turmeric powder is used as
a spice in cooking, it is safe, but to use it solely as a herbal remedy in the
herb form, the safety has not been established.

Where can I get turmeric? Turmeric powder is available in most grocery
stores in the herb/spice section, and also in Indian grocery stores.

What are some foods I can put it on? Turmeric powder is very commonly
used in Indian cooking in just about every Indian meal item, such as curried
vegetables, lentils, and rice dishes. Turmeric is what gives those foods a
richer color of yellow and orange. If you don't usually cook Indian food, then
other practical ways of using it in everyday cooking can be very simple. You
can put it in soups, pasta sauces, chili, stews, and casseroles and you will
probably not even taste it.

If you are thinking of starting to use turmeric in cooking, use it in cooked
dishes which will help mask the taste. Start by using only about 1/4 teaspoon
of turmeric powder in a pot of food. As you become accustomed to it, you
can try to increase up to 1/2 teaspoon in a pot of food. Be sure to stir well
after adding it to help it get mixed and dissolved. Turmeric does best with
dissolving in liquids, and thus won't be tasted, so if you are adding it to a
casserole, don't sprinkle it on, but mix it with a liquid ingredient used in the
casserole such as sauce. If you sprinkle it into foods like a salad, or on top of
pasta or rice, you'll wish you hadn't because you'll taste it right away!

If you decide to give turmeric a try and then decide to use it regularly, be sure
to discuss it with your physician, especially if you are taking any medications
or have any current health conditions. It is not advisable to use turmeric as a
treatment for any conditions or illness without consulting a physician. For
further information on turmeric, visit www.nccam.nih.gov/health/turmeric, or
www.cancer.org and search turmeric, and check out the recipes using
turmeric below.

Do you need to improve your eating habits? If a healthy eating lifestyle is on
your agenda, these ebooks written by registered dietitian, Para Mehta are
ideal for you. Find out how to start and continue healthy eating so you can
lose weight, gain health, and feel great.

What grade is your plate? How to get your plate from an F to A.

Recipes Using Turmeric

Indian Curried Chick Peas

Dried chick peas, 8 ounces OR 2 cans chick peas, (14-16 oz  can)
1 small onion
1 large tomato OR 4 ounces tomato sauce
3 cloves of garlic
1/2  t cumin seeds (optional)
1/2  t mustard seeds
1/2 t turmeric powder
1/2 t chilli powder--more for spicier
1 1/2 T chana masala (optional *)
1/8-1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t  ground black pepper
1-2 cloves
2 T canola oil
1 t salt

Soak the dried chick peas in hot water and a small amount of salt for at least
6 hours. Chop onion and tomato and put in mincer or blender, grind into thick
paste. In large skillet, warm the oil, add in the mustard seeds first. When the
mustard seeds start to pop, add in the spices EXCEPT for the chilli powder,
cinnamon powder, and salt. Add in the blended onion tomato paste, or the
onion paste. Sautee until golden in color. Then add in tomato sauce if fresh
tomato wasn't used with onion. Add in the chick peas, and all the other
spices, add water if needed to loosen consistency. Cook until chick peas
are soft. Cover the pot occasionally, but continue stirring to help chick peas
cook faster. If canned chick peas are being used then simmer for about 20
minutes after all spices are added in. You can save some chick peas aside
and blend them to create a thickened texture and add it in. Enjoy with
basmati rice, rolls or naan, with chopped onion on the side.

This recipe should yield about 4, 1/2 cup servings.

*Chana masala--This is a ready made preparation spice mixture that can be
added to get a rich flavor. You can find this at most Indian grocery stores.  If
you don't have this or do not want to use it,  you can use a bit more
cinnamon, black pepper, chilli powder, and also add dried ginger, and bay

More information on using dried chick peas:

If you don't usually use dried beans or chick peas, be sure to sort through
beans and rinse before soaking. If you don't have time to soak beans, then
for 8 oz. of dried beans, add 4 cups water and boil in a pot for 2 minutes,
then cover and let stand for 1 hour before cooking. Drain water and rinse
again before cooking.

Vegetarian Chili

8 oz. dried Kidney beans, presoaked
or 16 oz. canned kidney beans
1 14-16 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T canola oil
1/2 t turmeric powder
1/2 chili seasoning packet
Salt to taste

If using dried beans, pre-soak beans in hot water for 4-8 hours.  In a pot, add oil
and sautee chopped onions until slightly golden.  Add in kidney beans and all the
other ingredients, stir, and cover to simmer for about 20-30 minutes until beans are
cooked until soft.

Health benefit package of these recipes: Great source of fiber in chick
peas and kidney beans, use of turmeric, added vegetables of tomato and
onion, and the use of garlic. Indulge and enjoy these healthful dishes!

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