Turmeric – the lowdown

August 2, 2016


Turmeric is the new super food in town, and like most others before it, it’s not new at all. While the rest of the world wakes up to its myriad health and benefits, Indians are letting out a collective yawn about this magic root that can transform every inch of your fabulous self.

If you’re not already embalming yourself with it or ingesting it daily, here is what you need to know about turmeric and how to include it in your life:

What is it?

A member of the ginger family, turmeric has been enjoyed by Indians for generations in both its fresh rhizome form and as a dry, powdered spice.

What’s so amazing about it?

Turmeric has been hailed as “nature’s miracle” and the “golden goddess” for its wide range of health benefits. It’s a powerful antioxidant, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, to name just a few. Its day glo yellow colour comes from the healing compound curcumin contained within it.

Does it work?

There are a number of clinical trials that prove it does. And if you don’t believe them, ask my mother and grandmother who are right about everything. Jokes apart, turmeric is classified by ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical science, as a food that balances all three doshas or body types.

Indian brides are anointed with turmeric in festivities aimed at beautifying them before their big day and a cup of Haldi Doodh, or what is now hilariously called a Golden Milk Latte, is deemed to cure almost any ailment.

As a child, I was forced to eat a lump of raw fresh turmeric every morning with raw honey, alongside seven almonds that had been soaked overnight and then skinned. I await the miracle anti ageing benefits of this concoction promised by my tortuous mother with bated breath.

Fresh or powdered?

Fresh is always better than powdered with spices, because of the natural essential oils contained in them. However, powdered turmeric has medicinal benefits too. If you go for fresh, cut it up into quarter centimetre pieces and freeze it for months of use. It tastes more earthy and gritty than its powdered version. Allegedly, using it with black pepper helps absorption.

How do I use it?

Obviously, you could start by eating more Indian food. But this is perhaps a little more than self-serving for an Indian food writer. I would also recommend the following:

  • Grate it on breakfast: Fresh turmeric is lovely grated onto eggs, into porridge and in pancakes, especially savoury ones
  • Add it to rice: This will give it heaps of flavour and a lovely yellow colour too
  • Put it in smoothies: A little chunk before you start blending will work its magic without affecting the taste too much, if you happen not to like the taste
  • Make hot drinks: Pukka Herbs do a lovely turmeric tea, or you could just bubble up your own with ginger, cloves, pepper and cinnamon and sweeten with a little honey. A mug of warm almond milk with black pepper and turmeric will send you straight into snoresville at night

Is there anything wrong with it?

Yes. It stains everything. Expect your fingernails, the worktop and your blenders to turn a golden hue. But it’s nothing a good scrub won’t sort. For the health benefits aplenty, a little yellow is just the golden ticket.


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