Learn all about Turmeric, where is it from, how you can include it in your diet and also a few things you perhaps did not know about this ingredient.
It seems the golden spice is becoming increasingly popular in our everyday diets and food supplements. While colouring and providing flavour to curries is its primary use, this bright orange spice is widely consumed globally and is especially popular in Asian cooking. So what exactly is turmeric?
Where is turmeric from?
Turmeric originates from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has been widely used in the east in cooking and food supplements.
One of the integral components of the spice is a substance called curcumin which is considered the ‘active’ part of the plant and is responsible for the bright yellow colour of turmeric.
So how can I get more Turmeric in my diet?
As it turns out, there are many ways to eat and drink this spice, and it can be an excellent accompaniment for foods like rice and vegetables. You can even use a pinch of turmeric in scrambled eggs, a frittata or tofu scramble.
Did you know this about Turmeric?
Turmeric and black pepper
Curcumin is the active part of turmeric; however, the body finds it difficult to absorb this nutrient. Research suggests that if you take turmeric with black pepper, it can enhance curcumin absorption by 2,000%. As black pepper contains piperine – a natural substance that aids with absorption, which is why many turmeric supplements also contain piperine.
In addition, curcumin is best absorbed when eaten with oil – spices are traditionally fried in ghee in Indian cooking.
Sweet and savoury
In addition, curcumin is best absorbed when eaten with oil – spices are traditionally fried in ghee in Indian cooking, and Turmeric powder is often also consumed in the popular spiced milk-based drink called a ‘Lassi’.
Most people think turmeric is a spice and can only be used in savoury dishes, such as curries. But that need not be the case. Turmeric is a great ingredient to add interest to a dish, and more and more recipes have been introducing the ingredient to sweet treats such as pancakes, smoothies, mousse and as a colouring in cake icing.
Turmeric’s earthy aroma goes particularly well with citrus fruits and ginger - adding a spiced kick to make a dish a little more indulgent.
Who knew Turmeric and Ginger were related?
Turmeric is a product of Curcuma longa, a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the ginger family Zingiberaceae, which is native to tropical South Asia. As many as 133 species of Curcuma have been identified worldwide.
The Consumption of Turmeric
In a 2015 study of turmeric consumption in urban households in Southern India, 100% of households consumed turmeric in their diet every day. According to this study, turmeric is the most popular spice of all used in these Indian households.
Curcumin is lipophilic, which means it binds to fats. It is typically fried in Indian cooking, eaten in combination with coconut cream or milk; it is also used in milky spiced drinks, e.g. lassis or chai. Bioavailability is known to be improved when combined with pepper (or a chemical called piperine), also commonly used in Indian cooking.1
By way of comparison, the Indian population, who eat large amounts of turmeric, consume about 2-2.5 grams of turmeric per day, or about 100 milligrams of curcumin.2