In a world where we are constantly searching to find the elixir of life, turmeric is the latest health food trend, following on the tail of the coconut oil craze.
Turmeric grows as a rhizome and is from the same family as ginger.
Outside of the tropics turmeric is commonly sold in powdered form where it lends a bright yellow hue to rice dishes, curry powders and of course curries. Fresh turmeric is becoming more widespread and grows in the warmer parts of New Zealand. Plants can be ordered from Russell Fransham’s Subtropical nursery.
So what is all the turmeric fuss about?
Turmeric contains an active ingredient called curcumin which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Circumin has been said to prevent a list of diseases including Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and a few minor ailments.
It is the quantity of curcumin required that seems to be conflicting, some researchers say that as little as a teaspoon of powdered turmeric per day or 3g of fresh is enough whereas others say that it needs to be in an extract supplement form to provide benefit.
Turmeric does need food companions as poor bioavailability (absorption) of circumin means it doesn’t linger in the body long enough to do any good. To get the health benefit it needs to be paired with complimentary compounds. The protein and fat in milk can help with absorption or alternatively combine turmeric recipes with black pepper. Black pepper containes a substance called piprine which helps with absorption of circumin.
Countries such as India have consumed high amounts of turmeric for ever and while they have significantly lower rates of many cancers, they also have a predominantly vegetarian diet, are one the highest consumers of fruit and vegetables in the world and also incorporate lentils and beans into their diet as well as many other spices. So, it may be that their total diet is conducive to health as opposed to just the turmeric consumption.
For those interested in science based information and research on turmeric/circumin then this research papper from the University of Maryland is worth a read. It is particularly significant for those with compromised health as large doses of circumin may not be suitable for you.
Indian families have enjoyed Haldi Dhoodh (hot turmeric milk), for hundreds of years.
In the past year it has quickly made its way into the west, is all over social media and the name has changed to Turmeric Latte. Haldi dhoodh is traditionally made at home and served to those with sore throats and colds whereas Turmeric lattes are a growing café craze.
The word latte is misleading as typically there is no coffee added although some cafes do offer a shot of coffee as well.
The milk used is a personal preference, the health food fans are likely to choose a nut milk (apparently now called mylk) while you can of course have cow’s milk if you prefer.
Whatever the name or type of milk the drink is actually quite soothing and pleasant and at the very least it is something quite easy to drink.
2 cups milk of choice (nut, coconut or cow’s milk)
1 tablespoon grated turmeric or 2 teaspoons ground turmeric mixed with 1 teaspoon boiling water
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons coconut oil
Gently warm the milk in a saucepan, add the turmeric, ginger, black pepper and cinnamon. Simmer without boiling for 5 minutes. Stir in the honey and coconut oil.
Whisk until frothy and then pour into two cups.
Sprinkle with a little extra cinnamon if you like. Serve warm.