I’m not the biggest fan of the whole “x healthy food is the new y healthy food” trend. It seems to promote the idea that just one food can hold our attention at a time, not to mention unnecessarily depriving our palates of new tastes and limiting the diversity of foods on our plates. Collards Are The New Kale? How about Together, Collards And Kale Will Introduce You to a World of Plant-Based Deliciousness (too verbose?)! In all seriousness, though, I think it is important that people know that they don’t have to limit their healthy food options to whatever is currently trending on food blogs. However, with all that said, I do think it’s great for people to be introduced to plant-based foods, even if it is in the context of one veggie supplanting the other.
Case in point: turmeric has received a lot of press lately, but it’s still worth an introduction for those of you who might have missed the bus. Turmeric, which is most often sold either as a whole root or powder, is a true powerhouse. This spice is health-promoting, subtle in taste, and contributes a gorgeous hue to just about anything with which it’s cooked. Here are just a handful of reasons why turmeric should be a staple in your diet (along with bok choy, millet, mulberries, chard…).
Turmeric contains curcumin, a plant compound that gives the root its yellow-orange pigment. It does a lot more than lend a sunny color to your dishes, however: in many studies, curcumin has proved to be a great anti-inflammatory. So, next time your stomach is feeling out of sorts, instead of reaching for that bottle of Aspirin, add a pinch of turmeric to your meal instead.
Check out this recipe: Turmeric tea
2. Prevents and Treats Cancer
While studies on turmeric’s potential to prevent or treat cancer are still in the early stages, there is evidence to suggest that this special root may have some promise. Studies show that curcumin acts as an inhibitor for certain molecular pathways in which cancer develops, grows, and spreads. Curcumin can also kill most cancer cells in laboratory dishes and slow the growth of remaining cells.
Warm yourself up with this Tempeh Curry.
3. Improves Skin Health
A 2011 study at the University of Michigan found that curcumin better penetrates skin, actually increasing skin hydration and sebum content. Similarly, a Japanese study found that, with its antimicrobial, anti-aging, moisturizing, and antioxidant properties, turmeric may actually protect the skin from UVB radiation damage and aging.
Why not try our delicious Turmeric and Wheatgrass Juice? Or, if you’d like to try something topical, try one of these amazing masks (note: turmeric may temporarily stain your skin!).
4. Helps With Depression
Whether your depression is seasonal or something you deal with regularly, turmeric may provide some relief. In one study, researchers found that turmeric’s plant compound, curcumin, had an antidepressant effect in patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder. (Of course, this is not to say that SSRI’s do not have their place and time for someone dealing with depression, so please consult with your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.)
Munch on: Coconut-Turmeric Cauliflower
5. Helps Fight Allergies
A study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, turmeric consumption may prevent mast cells in the body from releasing histamine, the substance responsible for causing itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and runny noses. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, consider adding more turmeric to your diet during times of the year when you usually experience symptoms.
Try this recipe on for size: Turmeric Tahini Dressing
6. Whitens Teeth
With its anti-bacterial properties, turmeric fights plaque and makes for a great teeth whitener. If you’re tired of spending money on over-the-counter teeth whitening strips, a simple turmeric paste is an economical way to make your teeth gleam. However, as with basically context in which you use turmeric, be careful to wash mouth and surrounding areas completely; turmeric stains easily!
Check out this simple recipe for whiter, brighter teeth: DIY Tooth Whitening Paste
What are your favorite ways to use turmeric?
Related: Healthiest Herbs and Supplements for a Gentle Cleanse
Also by Molly: What I Learned from Eating Disorder Recovery
Photo by: Chris Gansen via Flickr