I didn’t plan on writing another post on turmeric. But after getting some tips via facebook in response to my previous post, I thought I’d put up a
Jessica of Our Little Honey Bun shared a turmeric milk recipe with me involving honey and a cardamom pod – sounds delicious! And then one of my favorite teachers from high school, Dr. N of Dr N’s Blog told me about putting fresh turmeric root in smoothies with black pepper, coconut oil, and lots of fresh fruits & veggies. These, and a few other comments, inspired me to start collecting turmeric recipes on pinterest.
So far, I’ve pinned more than 40 recipes that incorporate turmeric.
Some are desserts that I’d only make for special occasions, or tempting drinks with a per-cup sugar load that gets my spidey sense tingling. Others are savory dishes and veggie-filled soups that I’d like to try soon. The mouthwatering photos accompanying the recipes certainly motivate me to get in the kitchen.
I’ve never been much of cook, though. I aced my food science and food safety classes in grad school, but food prep has always appealed more in theory than in fact. I can boil and scramble eggs, make salads and stews, cover strawberries in chocolate, and even bake the (very) occasional cake. Yet other than boiling eggs, none of these are daily occurrences.
So the aspirational pinterest photos aren’t motivating enough, on their own, to get me to attempt a turmeric recipe. That’s where science comes in. I found a few studies specifically about using turmeric in cooking. A recent article published last spring in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition has a title that basically says it all: “Turmeric and black pepper spices decrease lipid peroxidation in meat patties during cooking.” Lipid peroxidation happens when free radicals react with lipids. Studies show that eating food with lipid peroxidation products poses health risks, and is associated with diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer and myopathy.
This suggests that not only would I be getting the anti-cancer benefits of turmeric if I used it in cooking alongside black pepper, but I’d help to protect my food from health-damaging free radical damage to boot.
Food scientists also found that turmeric powder added to burgers at 3.5 grams per 100 grams of meat acted as a natural antioxidant, “increasing the quality and extending the shelf life of rabbit burgers.”
I’m not sure why these scientists, who happen to be based in Italy and Hungary, were specifically interested in rabbit burgers. I have no plans to make rabbit burgers in the foreseeable future, but I’d assume that this study’s findings can apply to many types of meat and perhaps vegetarian dishes as well.
An earlier study with turmeric and fish lends support to this idea. Fish contain a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). That’s usually considered a good thing, but the high degree of PUFA unsaturation means that they are more vulnerable to oxidation by free radicals than other types of fatty acids. But, good news for fish lovers: researchers found that 75 mg of powdered turmeric root significantly inhibited lipid peroxidation in cooked mackerel.
These studies convince me that supplements, even if they do contain turmeric/curcumin in the amounts claimed on the labels, can’t offer me the full benefits that cooking with freshly ground turmeric root would. But I’m not ready to ditch the supplements, because I can’t see how I would ever get up to eating or drinking 3-4 grams of the spice each day. It has a distinct taste, which I don’t like except as a faint note in the background of louder flavors.
Just one recipe each week – that sounds like a reasonable goal.
And this blog is a handy tool to keep me accountable. Stay tuned to find out about my turmeric kitchen adventures.