Turmeric the Super Food

By Heather Morton, ND and Katherine Barkshire, ND, RN

If you’re a regular reader of health news, you have certainly seen the recent articles praising Turmeric as a super food. Turmeric, or Curcuma longa, has been used in many cultures as a food and medicinal agent for thousands of years. You have probably noticed it being sold as a supplement in vitamin sections and supplement shops everywhere.

Turmeric is one of the most heavily researched plants in botanical medicine. The most widely studied medicinal constituents of Turmeric are known as curcuminoids, which are present in the orange root-stem part known as the rhizome. Curcumin is the most active of these curcuminoids and has been found to inhibit several inflammatory enzymes. Thus, the anti-inflammatory benefits of Turmeric are widespread throughout the body. If you have something that’s inflamed, it is likely Turmeric can help modulate or calm the inflammation. In addition to being an inflammation modulator, Turmeric has many other benefits, including the following:

    • Stimulation of the liver and gall bladder to make and release bile. This results in a powerful digestive aid ideal for treating symptoms of dyspepsia or indigestion as a result of fat malabsorption, which also improves the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A,D, E, and K). Do you belch excessively or get heart burn after eating? Have you ever been told you have a Vitamin D deficiency or do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? Including Turmeric in your whole foods based diet will probably help.
    • In individuals with high cholesterol or highly coagulable blood, Turmeric lowers plaque build- up in the arteries via inhibition of platelet, or clotting, activity. Warning, caution is needed for those taking Warfarin, a blood thinner. Seek advice from your health care provider.
    • A useful antimicrobial for fighting infections. You can find Turmeric in many over the counter supplements used for treating the common cold or intestinal bug. It can also be used topically in a paste to treat skin infections, but be warned, this will leave a temporary stain on skin and a permanent stain on clothing.
    • There is evidence Turmeric may prevent cancer by protecting our DNA from free radical damage.
    • Turmeric supplements are frequently recommended and helpful for all forms of arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. 
    • Recent research demonstrates Turmeric is useful for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

With all these amazing benefits, you may want to incorporate Turmeric into your daily life. Luckily, this is easy and delicious! We have included recipes for one of our favorite traditional Ayurvedic beverages, a delicious creamy cauliflower dish, and a sweet treat. These are easy and relatively quick recipes to make. Note the importance of adding black pepper or consuming with fat for optimal intestinal absorption of the active constituents.

Warm Golden Milk*

Servings: 2-4

INGREDIENTS

1 can of coconut milk plus 1 cup of water (or you can make it yourself)

1 teaspoon powdered Turmeric

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of black pepper

¼ tsp ginger powder

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon raw honey or maple syrup (optional, if sweet enough, omit)

Instructions

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Gently heat in a sauce pan

Pour 6-8 oz into your favorite mug

*Adapted from http://wellnessmama.com/223/turmeric-tea-recipe/. See this site for more whole foods based and delicious recipes.

Coconut Curry Cauliflower with Kale*

Servings: 4-6

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon coconut oil

½ onion, thinly sliced

1 celery root, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced

1 head cauliflower, chopped

½ cup water or broth

1 tablespoon coconut aminos (or tamari/soy sauce)

2 teaspoons Turmeric

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 cup kale, shredded

1½ cups coconut milk

Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the coconut oil in the bottom of a large skillet or dutch oven on medium heat.

When the oil is melted, add the onion and celery root and cook, stirring for eight minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for another minute, until fragrant.

Add the cauliflower, water or broth, coconut aminos or tamari, Turmeric, and sea salt.

Cook, covered, for 7-10 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.

Add the kale, and coconut milk, and turn down to a simmer.

Cook for another 7-10 minutes, until both are soft. Serve warm.

*Adapted from http://autoimmune-paleo.com/coconut-curried-cauliflower-with-kale/. See this site for more whole foods based and delicious recipes.

Almond Butter, Turmeric and Ginger Cookies*

Makes about 12 cookies

INGREDIENTS

1 cup almond butter**, creamy, roasted or raw

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 whole egg

1 whole egg yolk

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ginger root, freshly ground

1 tbsp Turmeric, freshly ground (preferred) or powdered

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, fresh

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup raw pecans, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the almond butter and sugar in a bowl mix by hand or with a mixer until combined

Add the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk and mix.

Add the ginger, Turmeric, nutmeg, baking soda and salt and mix

Add the shredded coconut and pecans and mix thoroughly

Batter will be thick but not crumbly. If too crumbly, beat it longer

Scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough and place on parchment paper. Slightly flatten the top of the cookie. Repeat until dough is gone.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Let them cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes

*Adapted from http://www.primalpalate.com/paleo-recipe/almond-butter-Turmeric-and-ginger-cookies/

**Any form of nut butter can be used in this recipe. Make sure there’s no added sugar in the ingredients, and we generally try to avoid peanut butter. Peanuts are delicious but full of an inflammatory intermediate called arachidonic acid. We naturally get plenty of these types of fats in our diet.

At Kitsap Clinic of Natural Medicine, we like to start by addressing the fundamentals of health. Without adequate hydration, a whole foods based diet, daily moderate exercise, adequate sleep, and minimizing uncompensated stress, the body will have a hard time healing even with the best supplements and/or pharmaceuticals. As naturopathic physicians, we appreciate the use of supplements for when a larger dose of curcumin is needed; however, encouraging a healthy lifestyle is our preferred approach for prevention and treatment of low grade inflammation. At Kitsap Clinic of Natural Medicine, we carry both bulk Turmeric powder and supplements containing highly absorbable forms of curcumin.

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