This amazing post was written by Caitlin Iles, a Holistic Culinary Nutritionist and Yoga teacher who focuses on healing the body through the latest nutrition research and time-tested, evolution-based dietary concepts. She shares recipes and inspiration at www.caitliniles.ca or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.
There is a plethora of articles online touting the potent health benefits of the ancient Ayurvedic spice, turmeric, and for good reason! The scientific literature has found that it is beneficial for everything from inflammation, to depression, to fat loss. However, rather than write another article on the health benefits of this vibrant spice, I wanted to share with you how to find the most high quality turmeric, tips for upping its absorption, and a delicious recipe for my special, healing Turmeric Latte.
How to Buy Turmeric
We don’t often think about the importance of buying organic herbs and spices to fill up our kitchen cabinets, but if we’re looking to get the most bang for our buck when it comes to these medicinal foods we’re going to want to look for that symbol, for a couple of different reasons.
Often people think that the reason to buy organic is because the food is higher in nutrients or tastes better. But what is equally important when we’re choosing organics is what is not found in our food.
When we buy conventionally grown turmeric, it is often sprayed with various pesticides and non-organic fertilizers to increase crop yield. Much like the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen has found pesticide residues on our produce, this study shows that conventionally grown turmeric is contaminated by the pesticides with which it has been sprayed. If we’re looking to use our turmeric as a healing food, then we most certainly want to avoid the possibility of contamination with endocrine-disrupting pesticides.
Another reason we want to look at purchasing organic turmeric is because in Canada and the US most of conventional spices and herbs are irradiated using Cobalt-60 to extend shelf life and prevent spoilage.
Sayer Ji, of Green Med Info, states that the level of gamma radiation used starts at the equivalent to 2,500,000 chest x-rays or 166 times a human lethal dose and goes all the way up to the equivalent of 75,000,000 chest x-rays or 4,980 times a human lethal dose.
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This is no small amount of radiation and in fact it destroys much of the vitamin and phytonutrient content in addition to creating toxic by-products such as formaldehyde (used to preserve dead bodies), benzene, and formic acid.
Finally, conventional spices and herbs often contain various preservatives, additives, or anti-caking agents, once again in order to preserve shelf-life. I believe that the foods we eat are either building our health or promoting disease and since these chemical additives are clearly not promoting my optimal health, they have no place in my spice cabinet. If you look at the ingredient list of your turmeric packet and there is more than one ingredient, put it down and walk away!
Now, how do we ensure we are buying the most nutrient dense, health promoting turmeric possible? Always buy organic! In order to be certified by a 3rd party they cannot be treated with conventional pesticides or irradiation, nor can they contain artificial colours, preservatives, or caking agents. Some of my favourite brands include Simply Organic and Frontier.
In terms of choosing between fresh or powdered turmeric, so long as you’re choosing organic I would say that preference depends on how you will be using it. Fresh turmeric is great for juicing or making simmered tea, while the powdered spice is fabulous in soups, baking, and the latte below!
How to Make Sure Your Body Absorbs as Much as Possible
Unfortunately, turmeric is not a highly bioavailable spice, which means that it is difficult for our bodies to fully absorb all its benefits. Luckily, there are a couple of things that we can do to increase absorption such as:
Adding black pepper to dishes
- The piperine, which is responsible for the pungent nature of pepper, can increase our absorption of curcumin (one of the active phytochemicals in turmeric) by up to 2000%!
Consuming with healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado, or olive oil.
- This spice is fat-soluble, meaning that it dissolves in fat, making it easier for our bodies to absorb and assimilate it when we eat it in conjunction with health-promoting fats.
Now that we know how to shop for the highest quality turmeric and how to consume it to get the biggest nutritional punch, why not try out my deliciously healing Immune Boosting Turmeric Latte. I drink this sweet beverage whenever I am feeling run down or under the weather and it never fails to give me a boost!
Immune Boosting Turmeric Latte
Per Cup of Boiled Water:
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ground turmeric
- ¼ tsp. dried ginger
- pinch of ground cloves and black pepper
- 2-3 tbsp. coconut milk
- 1 tbsp. raw honey (I like mine slightly sweeter, so you can adjust to your taste preferences)
- Put a kettle on to boil.
- Combine spices in a mug.
- Add coconut milk.
- Mix together until smooth and there are no visible balls of dried spice left. You may want to use a small whisk for this part.
- Add boiling water and stir in honey.
- Cover for 3-5 minutes to prevent the volatile oils, and all their goodness, from escaping.
As with most of my recipes, this one is just a starting point. Feel free to adjust amounts to your particular taste and to get creative!
I hope this article has helped clear up some of the confusion surrounding high quality herbs and spices versus their conventional counterparts. Let me know some of your favourite ways to use turmeric in the comments below. Have a beautiful day friend!
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