Everything You Need To Know About Turmeric
Turmeric, sometimes also known as golden spice or Indian saffron, has become somewhat of a buzzword in the culinary world and the health and wellness sector. But what is turmeric? Where does it come from? And why are people going crazy for it? Here’s everything you need to know about turmeric.
What Is Turmeric?
First and foremost, let’s go back to basics. Although most of us know turmeric as a dry spice, it starts life as a flowering plant known as Curcuma longa. Curcuma longa is a relative of the ginger family, and like ginger, it produces underground rooty nodules known as rhizomes. Rhizomes are subterranean extensions of the plant’s stem and contain a lot of starchy compounds. Once harvested, these rhizomes are sold as fresh turmeric or dried and ground to form dry turmeric spice.
Where Does Turmeric Come From?
Turmeric is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia and has a long and rich history dating back many centuries to the second millennium BCE. It has been found in ancient tombs and historical medical texts, with evidence pointing towards a number of different uses, including as a dye, healing herb, and food source. Turmeric plants thrive in hot temperatures but also need plenty of rainfall to produce juicy rhizomes. The top ten turmeric producing countries are:
- Sri Lanka
Turmeric And Religion
Aside from its use in medicine and cooking, turmeric also has spiritual significance in Indian culture and forms an essential part of many Hindu rituals and religious practices. Wedding cards are marked with turmeric before being handed out to guests, while turmeric paste is applied to both the bride and groom before the ceremony begins. Turmeric paste is also used to adorn the gods and is often used in place of paint when creating certain symbols and religious artworks.
How Did Turmeric Come To Be Such A Popular Spice In The Western World?
Although turmeric has a long history in India, it didn’t become popular in the western world until much more recently. One of the earliest pieces of evidence relating to turmeric’s use in Europe is a note by Venetian merchant and explorer Marco Polo from 1280, who claims that he has found a plant with all the qualities of saffron but is a root. It wasn’t until the 20th century that turmeric became recognized by western herbalists for its medicinal properties. Even then, it took many more years for turmeric spice and turmeric root to make their way onto grocery store shelves.
Fresh Vs. Dried Turmeric - Which Is Better?
When turmeric is harvested from the Curcuma longa plant, it can then be sold as fresh turmeric or dried and ground into turmeric powder. Depending on where you live, you may never have seen fresh turmeric before, but not to worry - both fresh and dried turmeric can often be used interchangeably.
What You Need To Know About Buying Fresh Turmeric
Fresh turmeric spoils relatively quickly, and so it’s only recently, thanks to faster shipping methods, that we have fresh turmeric on our supermarket shelves. If you’ve never seen fresh turmeric before then, its appearance can be a bit of a surprise. Unlike its vivid powder, fresh turmeric is often unassuming, looking like a smaller ginger root.
If you can source fresh turmeric, you may be able to buy it whole, chopped, or even grated for convenience. If you’re buying turmeric rhizomes whole, then try to select firm rhizomes, as these will be the freshest. Rhizomes that are wrinkly or floppy have started to lose some of their water content and have likely been on the shelves longer.
Once you get fresh turmeric home, it’s best to use it within a few days. Scrape away the outer skin using a teaspoon and use approximately one-inch of fresh turmeric for every one teaspoon of dried. To keep your turmeric rhizomes fresh for longer, keep them in an airtight container in the fridge, or alternatively freeze them.
What You Need To Know About Buying Dried Turmeric
Dried turmeric remains much more readily available than fresh turmeric, and so you’re much more likely to see it in recipes. Because dried turmeric has no water content, you need much less of it to achieve the same flavor as with fresh turmeric, and it’s often more affordable too. When sourcing dried turmeric, fresher is still better as even dried spices lose their potency and aroma over time.
To keep your dry turmeric spice fresher for longer, keep it stored in an airtight container to prevent it from going clumpy and keep it away from direct sunlight. When stored in this way, dried turmeric will usually last in good condition for up to a year.
Is Fresh Turmeric Better Than Dried?
Generally speaking, dried turmeric can be used in place of fresh turmeric in almost all cases and won’t impact the flavor or nutritional composition of the dish, but there are a few instances where fresh turmeric can give better results, such as in smoothies or fresh salads. If you can get your hands on fresh turmeric, then by all means - give it a go! But don’t feel as though you need to buy fresh turmeric because quality dry turmeric is just as good
The Health Benefits Of Eating Turmeric
Turmeric has a very distinct flavor and is an important ingredient in many recipes, but aside from being delicious, part of turmeric's new rise to fame is due to its associated health benefits. Here are just seven of them.
7 Proven Benefits Of Eating Turmeric
Turmeric is known to be an effective antimicrobial and antifungal, and so it’s unsurprising that scientists decided to give it a go against cancer. At present, research is still ongoing, but studies on animals and in the lab have shown high doses of turmeric to be effective at slowing down the spread and growth of cancer. In some cases, applying turmeric directly to cancer cells has caused them to die! Although turmeric isn’t a cure for cancer in itself just yet, it could play an important role in helping to find the future cure.
When it comes to powerful antioxidants, turmeric is up there with the best, offering eight times the antioxidant power of vitamin E! This means that turmeric is extremely effective at fighting free-radicals, helping to keep the body safe, and reducing its risk of cancerous mutations.
If inflammation levels in the body get too high and remain that way for too long, then this can have serious side effects. For this reason, it’s essential that we stay on top of our inflammation levels, and one way to do this is by eating anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric.
As a potent antioxidant, turmeric helps to fight the signs of aging caused by sun-damage and other free-radicals. Turmeric is also an anti-inflammatory and an antimicrobial, meaning that it helps to reduce skin redness, even out skin tone, and reduce acne symptoms.
One very interesting study into turmeric found that it can help to boost the production of an important brain hormone known as BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF is responsible for helping the brain make new neurological pathways, but its production declines with age. Consuming turmeric has been shown to increase BDNF production, ultimately helping to create new neurons that could help fight degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The endothelium is the lining of your blood vessels. Through poor diet, lack of exercise, and age, it can stop functioning correctly. An unhealthy endothelium can cause many health problems, including heart disease. Thankfully, there are things that you can do to improve your endothelial function, and one of them is eating more turmeric! In one scientific study, turmeric (specifically curcumin) was found to be as effective as exercise on endothelial health, and in another, curcumin was found to be more effective than a leading medication!
Last but not least, eating turmeric doesn’t just benefit your body, but it can help your mind too. We’ve already touched on the fact that turmeric can increase BDNF hormone production, but it's not just Alzheimers that this could benefit, but depression sufferers too. In one study of 60 participants, eating a high dose of curcumin was found to be as effective as Prozac at alleviating depression symptoms - potentially providing a more natural alternative to depression medication.
How To Use Turmeric As A Treatment For Inflammation
By far, one of the most common reasons why people turn to turmeric as a supplement is its anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric has helped thousands of people reduce their inflammatory symptoms, easing arthritis pain, soothing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, and reducing inflammatory acne severity. Here are a few ways in which you can use turmeric to treat inflammation.
Regularly sipping on turmeric tea has been found to reduce joint pain in those who suffer from arthritis. To make turmeric tea, all you need to do is add one teaspoon of turmeric powder to four cups of boiling water, or add in some grated fresh turmeric root if you have it available. To give your turmeric tea even more of an anti-inflammatory punch, add in some ginger root.
For topical application, a turmeric ointment can be applied straight to an inflamed area of the body. Turmeric pastes and rubs have been used in ancient Chinese medicine and Ayurveda medicine for many years, helping to cleanse wounds, reduce inflammation from injury and promote faster healing. To make a turmeric ointment, all you need to do is mix turmeric powder with some warm water or a body-safe oil, then apply this mixture directly to the affected area. Although turmeric makes a fantastic anti-inflammatory ointment, it is a dye and so can damage clothing or stain the skin,
- Make An Anti-Inflammatory Face Mask
For areas of inflammation on the face, the best way to use turmeric is to mix it into a face mask. Making your own face mask is often much more affordable than buying one from the store, and you can customize your ingredients to suit your skincare needs. We’ve explained how to make a turmeric face mask towards the end of this post - but essentially, all you need to do is mix turmeric powder with honey.
Lastly, perhaps the easiest way to benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric is to eat it. If you like the taste of turmeric, then all you need to do is add some to your meals, or alternatively, you can also purchase turmeric supplements.
What Is Curcumin?
Throughout this article, you may have noticed the use of the word curcumin, and if you were particularly observant, then you may also have noticed that the scientific name for the turmeric plant is Curcuma longa - this isn’t a coincidence. Turmeric contains a group of plant substances known as curcuminoids, the most beneficial and active of which is called curcumin. Curcumin makes up approximately 2% of turmeric by weight but is responsible for many of turmeric’s health benefits.
Health Benefits Of Curcumin
When isolated from turmeric, curcumin provides the following benefits:
- Curcumin alone is more effective than turmeric at minimizing blood sugar.
- Curcumin is better at preventing type-2 diabetes than turmeric.
- Curcumin is a stronger anti-inflammatory.
Health Benefits Of Turmeric And Curcumin
When consumed in its whole form, turmeric with curcumin provides the following benefits:
- Both turmeric and curcumin are potent antioxidants
- Both turmeric and curcumin are antimicrobial and antifungal
- Both turmeric and curcumin are anti-inflammatory
- Both turmeric and curcumin can reduce the risk of heart disease
- Both turmeric and curcumin could help to fight cancer - but by different means
- Both turmeric and curcumin help to lower blood glucose levels
So Is Curcumin The Real Hero Of Turmeric?
When isolated from turmeric, curcumin continues to offer many health benefits, but not all of them. When taken in isolation, curcumin isn’t as beneficial as taking turmeric and curcumin together, which is why many curcumin supplements are a combination of the two.
Do You Need To Eat Turmeric With Black Pepper?
While we’re on the subject of supplements, you may notice that many turmeric and curcumin supplements are marketed as being blended with black pepper - this is for a good reason and is all thanks to a compound called piperine.
What Is Piperine?
Piperine is an alkaloid and is the compound responsible for giving black pepper its smell. Black pepper itself is already known to help reduce nausea, relieve headaches and improve digestion, but it comes into its own when combined with turmeric.
Why Eat Turmeric With Black Pepper?
The reason why turmeric should always be taken with black pepper is that the piperine present in black pepper helps the body to absorb curcumin. Without piperine, the body struggles to absorb curcumin into the bloodstream, reducing its efficacy. Just a pinch of black pepper, on the other hand, provides enough piperin to increase the absorption of curcumin by up to 2000%!
How Does Piperine Improve The Absorption Of Curcumin?
Piperine increases the efficiency of curcumin in two ways:
- Piperine somehow helps curcumin molecules to pass through the intestinal wall. Without piperine, most curcumin molecules aren’t absorbed and simply pass through the digestive system.
- Piperine also slows down the speed at which the liver can process curcumin. By slowing this down, more curcumin can build up in the bloodstream, giving it more chance to provide its therapeutic benefits.
How To Take Turmeric And Black Pepper Together
If you’re buying turmeric in supplement form, then keep an eye out for curcumin or turmeric capsules that are pre-blended with piperine or black pepper. Alternatively, if you prefer to use turmeric in your meals but still want to experience maximum benefits, then simply add a pinch of ground black pepper whenever you add turmeric. If you’re worried about forgetting to add black pepper, then why not make a turmeric and black pepper blend? Simply mix turmeric spice with freshly cracked black pepper in a ratio of 4:1. So for every teaspoon of turmeric and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper.
Quick And Easy Ways To Consume More Turmeric
Now you know the benefits of eating turmeric, you’re probably wondering how you can add more of it into your daily diet. The good news is that turmeric is fairly versatile, and there are many ways to fit it into your lifestyle. Here are just five that you might want to try.
Spices like turmeric make a great addition to smoothies. Turmeric is quite a strong flavor, and so it works best when paired with strong flavored green ingredients like spinach, cilantro, and kale. Try adding half a teaspoon of turmeric to your blender next time you make a green smoothie, or alternatively add a little extra honey to fruit-based smoothies to offset the strong flavor.
Turmeric tea isn’t anything new and has been a healing drink for many centuries. To make turmeric tea, all you need to do is mix turmeric with hot water, though you could add a little honey, ginger, or even additional spices like cinnamon or cardamom if you’re not a fan of the turmeric flavor. If you can get your hands on it, then fresh turmeric works really well in turmeric tea, as ground turmeric can leave a powdery feeling on your tongue.
You don’t need to eat vast quantities of turmeric in one go to reap its rewards. Instead, just aim to add a little to everything you make. Sprinkle some over your oatmeal for a delicious savory flavor, use it as a garnish for some avocado on toast or add a teaspoonful to your soups, stews, and evening meals. If you like salads, then try adding some grated fresh turmeric in place of using dry spice, and don’t forget - turmeric is delicious used in curries!
If you’re looking for a caffeine-free alternative to your usual morning coffee, then give a turmeric latte a go. Turmeric lattes, also known as golden milk, have been a soothing and healing drink in India for years! If you live near a quirky cafe, then you may be able to find golden milk on the menu, or alternatively, make a turmeric latte yourself - you’ll find a recipe at the end of this article.
Finally, why not become a savvy snacker and mindfully snack on turmeric spiced nuts or nibbles throughout the day. Packed with protein, good fats, and slow-release energy, nuts are an ideal mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack and taste great paired with turmeric and chili.
Where To Buy High-Quality Turmeric In Canada
If you’re ready to stock your spice rack with turmeric, then hold on just a second. You need to make sure that the turmeric you buy is high quality if you want to guarantee the best flavor and the most health benefit.
Watch Out For Adulterated Turmeric
In the US and Canada, adulterated turmeric is rare but not unheard of. Turmeric is now a very high-value spice, and this has led some suppliers to mix pure turmeric with other substances in an attempt to increase their profits. Chalk, sawdust, and even toxic chemicals, like lead chromate, have been found in certain batches of turmeric, so it’s important to buy your supply from a supplier you can trust and not purchase a cheap product from abroad.
How To Tell If Your Turmeric Is Contaminated
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell when turmeric has been contaminated, but there are certain signs to look out for.
If your turmeric is dull or pale in color, then it is likely to have been mixed with another powder like chalk.
Turmeric has a very distinct earthy flavor. If it is bland or particularly bitter, this could indicate that it has been mixed with another substance.
Lastly, if you spot a turmeric deal that seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Turmeric shouldn’t be dirt cheap, so steer clear of any turmeric that is selling well below market rate.
Where Can You Buy High-Quality Turmeric Spice In Canada?
Fortunately, turmeric adulteration is very rare in Canada, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to source the highest quality turmeric that you can. Here are a few places to go if you're looking for the best quality turmeric spice.
Asian or Indian Grocery Stores
When it comes to finding fresh turmeric, Asian and Indian grocery stores are your best bet. Fresh turmeric in Asian and Indian grocery stores is often fresher than in other supermarkets because more people buy it, and so it doesn’t stay on the shelf as long. When selecting fresh turmeric, look for chunky rhizomes that are firm, steering clear of any that are wrinkled or floppy.
Ayoub’s Dried Fruit And Nuts
If it’s turmeric powder you’re looking for, then look no further than us here at Ayoub’s Dried Fruit And Nuts. We may be famous for our freshly roasted nuts, but we also sell a wide range of other kitchen essentials, including - you guessed it - turmeric! As with all of our products, we only stock the very best! So you can rest assured that the turmeric you receive is fresh and of the very highest quality.
Whole Foods Market
Finally, although turmeric is becoming much more popular in conventional grocery stores, you’re more likely to find high-quality turmeric spice in premium chains like Whole Foods Market. Not only does Whole Foods stock turmeric powder, but they sometimes stock fresh turmeric, too, as well as a range of turmeric products like supplements and turmeric tea bags.
How To Make Your Own Golden Milk - (AKA, A Turmeric Latte)
Turmeric lattes became all the rage recently thanks to Instagram, where their vivid orange color and cute name (golden milk) gained them favor with notable influencers. Despite their recent rise to fame, turmeric lattes aren’t actually anything new and have been a staple drink in India for centuries.
What Exactly Is Golden Milk?
Golden milk, or a turmeric latte, is essentially just milk stewed with turmeric. Some recipes also include honey, while others add in spices like cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger to create depth of flavor.
What Are The Benefits Of Drinking Turmeric Lattes?
Historically, turmeric-based drinks have been an essential part of Hindi culture. Golden milk, in particular, is believed to strengthen the mind and body, help with sleep, soothe an upset stomach, and prevent sickness. Aside from being a delicious drink, golden milk also has the added benefit of containing turmeric, which, with its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, can benefit the body in many ways.
How To Make A Turmeric Latte
Keen to try one for yourself? The good news is, turmeric lattes are surprisingly easy to make! All you really need are three ingredients, turmeric, milk, and honey, but there are a few extras we recommend adding if you want to take your golden milk to the next level.
- 250ml of whole milk
- ¾ teaspoon of ground turmeric (Or 1tbsp of grated fresh turmeric)
- ¼ teaspoon of black pepper (To help the absorption of curcumin)
- ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons of honey
- Add all of your ingredients to a small saucepan and slowly heat together until steaming.
- Try not to let the milk boil and allow the mixture to heat slowly to let the flavors infuse.
- Once hot, give everything one last whisk together and then pour into your mug. (If using fresh turmeric, then you will need to sieve this out.)
- Garnish with a dusting of extra cinnamon.
That’s all there is to it! Remember, you can customize this recipe. If you’re vegan, swap out cow’s milk for oat milk or almond milk, and use maple syrup or agave nectar in place of honey. If you find the latte too sweet, cut back on the sugar. If it’s not sweet enough, then add in another teaspoon.
Making Your Own Turmeric Face Mask
Earlier in this article, we touched on the skincare superpowers of turmeric. As an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antifungal, there’s no wonder turmeric is being used in so many skincare products! Keen to try it for yourself? Here’s how to make a turmeric face mask.
How To Make A Turmeric Face Mask
Believe it or not, making your own turmeric face mask is probably easier than going to the store and buying one! You only need three core ingredients:
- 1 tbsp Milk
- 1 tsp Honey
And the method couldn’t be more simple - simply mix everything together in a bowl and then apply to your face, sit back and relax for 15 minutes and then rinse your skin clean. What we love most about this turmeric face mask recipe is how easy it is to make your own. Here are a few extra ingredients you may want to add.
- Manuka Honey - swap out normal honey for manuka honey for additional antimicrobial and healing benefits.
- Lemon juice - ½ a teaspoon of lemon juice will provide vitamin C to brighten your skin.
- Cucumber juice - swap out the milk for cucumber juice for a soothing base.
- Aloe vera - like cucumber juice, aloe is a great soothing base.
Turmeric is a great ingredient for your skin, but it does have intense pigmentation. This means that it can cause staining. Turmeric tends to stain paler skin more quickly, so conduct a test patch on your arm and wait for 15 minutes before applying the mask to your face. If you’re worried about this face mask staining your skin, then only leave it on for five minutes.
So there you have it! We hope you’ve learned something new about turmeric.
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