In the world of superfoods, turmeric—the spicy-hot main ingredient of curry—is currently savoring the spotlight.
And is it any wonder? Turmeric uses date back centuries in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, the member of the ginger family contains a vital bioactive compound, known as curcumin, that functions as an antioxidant, helping your body ward off the damaging effects of free radicals. What’s more, it may organically support your liver, naturally encourage optimal cholesterol levels, boost skin health, and enhance cognition. Even more exciting: recent studies point to its promise in aiding those affected by memory issues.
But for those who don’t eat Indian food on a daily basis, working turmeric into their diet may seem like a strain, if not a downright challenge. How can you reap its rewards, from the comfort of your own kitchen? Read on.
1. Sprinkle it on your salad
Crisp vegetables get an extra kick with a shake of turmeric on top. Kale goes particularly well with this potent spice, as well as celery, shaved carrots, and cucumbers. To ensure optimal absorption of turmeric, add black pepper as well: The National Institutes of Health reports that doing so can bolster your body’s absorption of curcumin.
2. …or make your own turmeric salad dressing
Bottled salad dressings have their appeal—economy and accessibility chief among them—but salads are made all the more satisfying with a homemade dressing that eschews, well, junk (think of what’s really in that botte of store-bought ranch). Toss in a pinch of turmeric and you can make a dressing that’s delicious and nourishing.
To create your own, blend two teaspoons of ground, dried turmeric with half a cup of olive or coconut oil, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, fresh lemon juice and garlic. Craving something creamy? Stir in a tablespoon of honey and three tablespoons of almond butter; blend smooth. The extra dose of fiber and omega-3s will keep you feeling fuller longer.
3. Brew a mug of tea
Turmeric tea has the warmth and bite of ginger, rendering it an excellent way to get your digestion going first thing in the morning (or any time of day). Simply add a dab of ground turmeric to a cup of hot water, squeeze in some lemon, add honey, and enjoy.
4. Use turmeric in lieu of salt
Many people dust simmering soups, stews, stir fries and pasta sauces with salt. Why not reach for something that might also support healthy blood circulation instead? In a study out of Nutrition Journal, people who consumed curcumin demonstrated an increase in nitric oxide, which enlarges vessels, thus allowing for improved blood flow.
5. Toss it on your veggies before roasting
Enduring a bout of joint pain? Pepper your pan of cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes and other vegetables with turmeric before placing them in the oven: Research out of the NIH suggests that turmeric may help arthritis-sufferers with body aches.
6. Add a pinch to enliven desserts
Known for its bold, slightly bitter taste, turmeric doesn’t exactly call to mind sweet treats (but just think of how sea salt makes caramel all the more sumptuous!) The same could be said for this Asian staple. Create a homemade chai tea with almond milk, pure maple syrup, vanilla extract, black or chai tea, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and ground turmeric, and serve it, hot, over a cup of your favorite vanilla ice cream or non-dairy frozen dessert (Coconut Bliss is especially delightful).
If you’re in the mood for some extra zest—or you’re simply feeling adventurous—consider this recipe for cinnamon-pecan turmeric bites. The texture is wonderfully indulgent, but the treat is healthy too, given the inclusion of ingredients like apple cider vinegar, coconut flour and chia-flax vegan "eggs."
7. ….and a dash to brighten dips
If hummus isn’t a frequent sight in your refrigerator, consider adding it to your grocery list. High in folate, phosphorous, iron and fiber, this rich, chickpea-based dip is just as nutritious as it is delectable. Combine ground or freshly grated turmeric with pine nuts and toss it over your favorite organic brand or try this turmeric hummus recipe instead. Bonus tip: Serve with roasted red bell peppers—which are packed with vitamin C—and you’ll potentially strengthen your immune system while also gaining energy, thanks to hummus’ high levels of protein.
8. Or enjoy its benefits away from food
Can’t stand the taste of turmeric, but still want to obtain its potential gifts? Turmeric (and curcumin) are available as supplements, while a number of companies use the powerhouse-of-a-spice in face washes, creams and soaps. Double-duty, indeed.