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Foods

Turmeric
Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

Turmeric is a spice derived from a rhizome (a type of root) native to India and Southeast Asia. Turmeric was prized as a dye for centuries, thanks to its power to tint fabric--or food--a brilliant yellow-gold. The dried, powdered rhizome is used in curry powder, some types of pickles, and prepared mustard, and is used as a natural food coloring, in cheese, for instance. Turmeric is sometimes substituted for saffron (which is far more expensive); but aside from their color, the two spices have little in common. Turmeric's flavor has been described as peppery and somewhat bitter, so it's important to be judicious when adding this spice to foods.

Turmeric also has some health benefits: It was used in India for centuries to treat wounds and eye infections. Turmeric contains a phytochemical called curcumin, a prostaglandin inhibitor (like aspirin or ibuprofen); these compounds act as painkillers. Turmeric was also the subject of a recent study that showed it to have anti-inflammatory effects as well as antioxidant properties. According to research carried out in India, turmeric also contains compounds that may fight cancer.

Varieties

There are two main types of turmeric: Alleppey and Madras. Alleppey, which is deeper in color and more flavorful, is the type most likely to be found in American markets.

Availability

You'll find ground turmeric in the spice section of the supermarket. If you want to try Madras turmeric, visit an Indian grocery store.

Shopping

As with all spices, shop at a store that does a brisk business to insure that your turmeric is as fresh as it can be.

Storage

Store turmeric in a cool, dry place away from heat.

Preparation

Turmeric is sometimes used in place of saffron to give dishes such as paella or risotto a rich, yellow color. Just remember, a little goes a long way, so taste before adding any more to a dish.

Nutrition Chart

Turmeric/1 teaspoon

8
Total fat (g)
0.2
Saturated fat (g)
0.1
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Dietary fiber (g)
0.5
0
Carbohydrate (g)
1
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
1


Date Published: 04/21/2005
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