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Health benefits

Multiple studies with turmeric (and its key active ingredient, curcumin) over several decades have shown it provides strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and antidiabetic effects and even enhances the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory medications. It does so by targeting multiple processes in your body involved with disease onset, progression and complications.

While still more research is required, the data so far looks very promising: turmeric or curcumin may help with diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s disease, various cancers and possibly also liver fibrosis and cirrhosis, psoriasis, burn pain and wounds.

How much to have

Extensive clinical trials have confirmed turmeric is safe for culinary and medicinal use. In India, the average dietary intake is a little over 3 grams per day. Based on a review in the United States, the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that 1–3 grams of dried, powdered turmeric root per day is needed to produce a health benefit. There is no clear recommendation for curcumin dosage, which is sold as a dietary supplement.

Because different components show different biological activities with varied efficacy and potency, research suggests natural mixtures of the various curcumins present in turmeric may itself offer better therapeutic potential.

I recommend using both fresh turmeric and dried turmeric powder in everyday cooking. If you want a higher level of curcumin, use alleppey turmeric (darker yellow) because it has 3.5–4 per cent curcumin compared to the more common bright-yellow Madras kind that contains 1.5–1.8 per cent.

How to use it in cooking

Turmeric is mainly used for its bright-yellow colour, although it also contributes to flavour at higher doses. Use ground turmeric to make yellow-coloured pastes and dressings, when cooking rice and vegetables, dahls, stews and legume soups. Dissolve it in hot milk with a sweetener to make traditional “golden milk.” Fresh turmeric is also perfect when added to juices and smoothies for an extra kick.