Highly prized for its role in flavoring food, healing, and dying things yellow, this bright orange-pigmented root has been around for centuries. Turmeric is one of the world’s healthiest foods so you’ve probably been hearing all the hype around it. It’s by no means the latest fad on the food front and is a prime example of how food can be the most powerful form of medicine — and has been for a very long time.

Think: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-tumor, antioxidant, antiseptic, and offers protection to our heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and digestive system. That said, turmeric is often used for disorders and conditions including ‘upset stomach, intestinal gas relief (including for lactose intolerance), psoriasis, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, sciatica, and osteoarthritis.’ Impressive resume, no?

One hitch though, when turmeric is consumed orally, it has really low bio-availability. Meaning, say only 20% of it is used by your body. The rest gets metabolized too quickly to be of use.

But research has shown that when it is combined with black pepper, the bio-availability is remarkably increased (~2000%). The uptake is also increased when consuming the root fresh and with fat. Even given that, research shows us that long term consumption appears to be effective enough to benefit from its life-protecting powers. So, bottom line here: spice up your food, eat deliciously, and do it regularly.  Not a bad prescription.

That said, given its earthy, pungent, bitter taste, I would never eat it by itself… except maybe for a really good dare that involved dark chocolate or a sum of money, or both.

Here are 5 culinary tips for enjoying turmeric in your diet, both the flavor and its therapeutic properties:

Fresh root:

  • Peel the outer skin with a teaspoon. Chop and mince the root much like you would ginger root. Sauté in a fat such as ghee or olive, sesame, or coconut oil. You can add onions or leeks, ginger and garlic as a base for soups or stir-fries. Season the dish with sea salt and black pepper.
  • Make tea! Simply add 1 TSP grated fresh turmeric, 1 TSP grated fresh ginger root to 12 oz of hot water. Allow to diffuse for 3 minutes and strain.  Add raw honey to taste and a spritz of fresh lemon.
  • Normally I’d suggest a warming golden milk, but with the summer heat, try this Iced Golden Coconut Milk instead.

turmeric pure roots nutrition

Dried, ground root

  • Cooking grains like brown rice, millet, quinoa, kasha, couscous: add 1/8-1/4 TSP of turmeric to the water when you cook your grains. It’ll impart a brighter yellow color as well and a mild aromatic touch.
  • Add it to rubs to spice meat and vegetables, like this recipe: Grilled Eggplant and Greens with Spiced Yogurt

Shopping tip: Buy ground turmeric from the bulk spice bins where there is higher turnover and freshness. With individual spice jars, it’s likely been sitting on the shelf longer and has lost some of its luster.

Reminder: It dyes things a beautiful orangy-yellow! Careful with your clothing and clean surfaces after exposure.

Who shouldn’t consume turmeric?

When a food has such potent pharmacological properties, there are also reasons why people shouldn’t consume it. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that turmeric in food and supplements in recommended doses are safe. However, “People who have gallstones or obstruction of the bile passages should talk to their doctor before taking turmeric. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor before taking turmeric supplements. Turmeric may lower blood sugar levels. When combined with medications for diabetes, it could cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). It can also interact with blood thinning medication and drugs reduce stomach acid. Although it is safe to eat foods with turmeric, pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take turmeric supplements. Because turmeric may act like a blood thinner, you should stop taking it at least 2 weeks before surgery. Tell your doctor and surgeon that you have been taking turmeric.’

Alright now, no more just reading articles about how amazing turmeric is. Try my 5 culinary tips to get you started today in making this fantastic spice a regular superstar on your weekly menu.