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.

Become your own personal chef!

By Heather Morton, ND

Increasing the number of meals we eat at restaurants increases our risk for disease. While most of us are perfectly capable of becoming our own personal chef, we often go to a restaurant for our meals out of convenience and lack of time. This is allowing others to dictate what goes into our bodies. Since food sustains life, it really is important to ensure it’s nourishing and nutrient dense! There are many staggering statistics about the standard American diet (SAD) and disease along with many shocking nutrition labels on prepared food. Let’s take the power back and start making our own meals out of whole, fresh foods! Here are some first steps:

  1. Take inventory of your kitchen supplies. Absolutely necessary items include:
      • Stove, refrigerator, sink, oven
      • Cutting board
      • Sharp knife (dull knives inhibit vegetable consumption)
      • Small frying pan*
      • Large frying pan
      • Large oven-safe soup pot
      • Medium sauce pan
      • Small sauce pan
      • Baking pan
      • Blender**
      • Wooden spoon
      • Spatula
      • Set of measuring cups and spoons
      • Plates, bowls, knives, spoons, forks
      • Mugs and glasses
      • Storage containers
      • Colander
      • Towels, sponge, dish soap
      • Garbage can/compost bin
      • Cook books and/or the internet

Convenience items include:

        • Vegetable grater and peeler
        • Food processor
        • Hand juicer
        • Dehydrator
        • Many, many more

These items are regularly available at low cost from thrift stores such as the Goodwill. You may just find some real gems!

*Teflon free is best due to evidence of endocrine disruption, but if it’s all you have, start with it. Cast iron, ceramic, or stainless steel are great options.

**Any blender is fine to begin with, but if you get really into cooking and want to advance to making your own milks, fancy sauces, etc., you will want to save your pennies for a high powered blender such as a Blendtec or Vitamix.

2. Organize your kitchen. A tidy kitchen is much more pleasant to cook in than a messy one. This includes some planning and time, but once you’re done, it saves you in both departments. Here are some of my suggestions:

    • Keep your counter space as open as possible while still having frequently used items handy so you don’t have to take things out all the time.
    • Try and do your dishes as you cook, especially on batch days (see below), so you’re not left with a sink-full when it’s all over. Using the same dishes for all your dishes will also minimize clutter. 
    • You will be constantly coming up with new ideas on how to best organize things. It’s fun, it’s life, tell yourself that.

3. Plan. Browse the internet or a cook book for some recipes and make a plan:

      • Google searches are my favorite. Pick your favorite whole food and type in that name and the word healthy. If you follow a special diet, just type it in (vegan, paleo, low carb, etc.) with the word “recipes”. There will be tons of options. You can type in “quick” or “easy” to narrow down the choices further. Don’t forget to choose options with lots of veggies representing the colors of the rainbow (not skittles)!
      • Try to plan for 3-4 days of meals. This will decrease your shopping to 2x/week. This is best when using lots of vegetables (which you will) to ensure optimal freshness. The total time per week planning varies at first, but you will soon develop the skills to plan for 4 days of healthy meals in 20-30 minutes. This planning session also includes making yourself a grocery list and taking periodic inventory of your kitchen.
      • Before you go shopping, have a meal. Don’t go there hungry, way too much temptation.

4. Batch cook. Unless you have a few hours everyday for cooking, you will need to batch cook. This may start out as a chore, but if you approach the task with the proper mind set, cooking becomes a joy. You will be nourishing your body, which means you will start feeling better. You will be preventing many health problems that are occurring at astoundingly increasing rates by being in charge of what goes into your body. Taking one of your days off and spending several hours batch cooking is well worth it – it is your life! Here is a typical day in my life of batch cooking:

        • Soups and stews. These can be kept in the fridge and eaten all week. Freeze what’s leftover for a few months if there are weeks you’re not able to spend a whole day cooking. You’ll soon have some stock available! While fresh is best, your frozen home cooked meals are much better than store bought frozen meals.
        • Sauces and salad dressings. This makes throwing together a salad, stir fry or marinade easy and quick on those long work days.
        • Protein preparation. Prepare your meat or vegetarian protein in advance for easy access later.
        • Breakfast. Breakfast is often simplified to grab and go foods. Preparing a healthy breakfast ahead of time can help you start everyday with some proper nutrition without having to get up early. If you are an egg person, perhaps an egg-vegetable quiche. If you like to have meats, search for some healthy sausage recipes on the internet and make a big batch, even freezing some. Roasted or sautéed veggies, avocado, or sauerkraut are great options for starting your day. Step outside the breakfast box of cereal!
        • Wash your veggies and fruits ahead of time. You may also choose to chop some up in advance, but not more than 2-3 days. 

Cooking all your own meals does take some getting used to, I know. I lived in large cities with wonderful restaurants as a single person for 15 years. I became addicted to the restaurant convenience. But I know that’s not health sustaining. Tell yourself you must do this for your health, it is the truth. Whole, fresh foods are the key to disease prevention – 70% of chronic diseases are caused by our lifestyle. Like one of my favorite bands of the 90s says, take the power back! 

Handy links:

Peeling garlic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d3oc24fD-c

Dicing an onion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwWRY_8KfxM (note: I like to leave the root on, makes handling much easier and safer for a klutz like me.

Other chopping tips: https://happyherbivore.com/2015/02/chop-prep-vegetables-quickly-how-to-videos/

Note on my personal tastes for recipes: I have tried many eating styles in my lifetime. I feel best on an omnivorous, vegetable dense diet. I like to minimize simple carbohydrates that contain no fiber and avoid dairy products. These are my favorite sites:

http://autoimmune-paleo.com/ (I also love the cookbook)

http://www.elizabethrider.com/

http://meljoulwan.com/category/recipes/

http://www.simplerecipesforjoy.com/ (I also love the cookbook)

http://www.thepaleomom.com/

Many of these sites also contain detailed meal plans with recipes and grocery lists, which are extremely helpful for those first starting out.

BEST DOCTOR IN BREMERTON FOR 2015

Dr. Katherine Barkshire was voted Best Doctor in Bremerton AGAIN in 2015!

Thank you to the patients of Kitsap Clinic of Natural Medicine and Kitsap County for this great honor!

BEST DOCTOR IN BREMERTON for 2013

Thank you to my amazing community for voting Best Doctor in Bremerton.
I am honored and very happy to be your physician!

Katherine Barkshire ND, RN

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