By LeeAnn Weintraub, Special to Digital First Media
Every year a new superfood emerges as the next must-have ingredient for good health. Such nutritional powerhouses as kale, quinoa and acai build in popularity until it seems like these once exotic ingredients become household names, found in many mainstream restaurant menus.
Get ready for this year’s rising superfood star: turmeric.
Related to ginger, this deep golden colored root is known for its beneficial health properties and has been used for thousands of years in Southeast Asian cuisine. Although it’s been available in the United States as a dietary supplement for years and ground turmeric can be easily found in the spice aisle, fresh turmeric is now becoming increasingly available in the grocery store produce section to be used as a dynamic culinary ingredient.
Turmeric is known for a wide range of anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant effects. Turmeric contains three curcuminoids with the most studied being curcumin, which boasts these unique health-promoting properties. There is strong evidence that consuming turmeric can help with cancer prevention, cardiovascular health and digestive health, including improving symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease among other benefits.
Like other well-known superfoods, turmeric is versatile, and in order to reap its mighty health benefits, it can be used daily in innovative and delicious food preparations.
It is known that the grilling or charring of meat produces health hazardous and carcinogenic chemicals called heterocyclic amines, or HCA. Studies have shown that marinating meat in a spice mixture containing one to two teaspoons of turmeric per 3.5 ounces of meat helps decrease the production of the HCAs during grilling.
Because curcumin is fat-soluble, it is more easily absorbed in the body when consumed in the presence of dietary fat from such foods as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, seeds, nuts and fatty seafood, for example.
A turmeric latte is a simple and tasty beverage to incorporate into your routine. It can be made with any kind of milk, including almond milk or coconut milk. The milk is heated just to a simmer and a mixture of turmeric and other ground spices such as ginger and cardamom can be added along with the heated milk to a blender to whip up into a warm and satisfying antioxidant-rich drink.
Because of its bright orange color, turmeric pairs well with red, orange and pink foods such as sweet potatoes, salmon and tomato-based sauces. It also goes well with white or beige foods such as chicken, eggs or rice to add a burst of color.
Make turmeric a part of your morning routine by adding it to scrambled eggs with some veggies, such as spinach and tomato. In addition, turmeric can give a nutritional boost to a fruit smoothie.
Turmeric is a great addition to a roasted winter root vegetable dish with such veggies as carrots, parsnips and rutabaga. Try combining spices such as cumin, fennel, coriander and turmeric with harissa, Greek yogurt, fresh lemon juice and chopped fresh mint. Use the yogurt sauce to coat the vegetables prior to roasting.
If you would like to incorporate turmeric into your daily routine, but you’re not much of a chef, start by enjoying a cup of hot turmeric tea in the morning or before bedtime.
Next time you are at the supermarket, check the produce department for fresh turmeric root and become inspired by this flavorful and nutritious spice.
LeeAnn Weintraub, a registered dietitian, provides nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and businesses. She can be reached at RD@halfacup.com.