Chances are Turmeric wasn’t exactly on your radar before this year. But in the past nine months, after being named one of the foods to watch in 2016 and with Turmeric Lattes being declared the “drink of the year,” this bright yellow spice is starting to hit mainstream food culture.

What Exactly Is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a spice common in South Asian and Indian cuisine. It is what gives food dishes a bright yellow color and it is often used in curry dishes. It is a member of the ginger family and can be used fresh, but the dried form is more common. Turmeric should be stored at room temperature and dried turmeric used within six months.

Turmeric Health Benefits

Turmeric has been used in traditional eastern medicine for centuries due to it’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Turmeric’s potency comes from curcumin, a plant compound that gives turmeric its bright yellow color. Turmeric is often described as a magic bullet, with the ability to treat a wide variety of ailments. But are these health claims true?

Curcumin’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties have been widely studied. Curcumin may reduce inflammation in the body. For example, it’s been studied in people with arthritis, and its anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce joint pain. Curcumin is also a potent antioxidant, and in certain studies people who took curcumin supplements showed lower levels of oxidation markers in their bloodstream.

Unfortunately, almost all of the studies thus far have been done on mice and animals, not humans. The human studies that do exist are very small, so it’s tough to generalize their effects to the rest of the population. A review of the published studies on curcumin shows that some smaller studies have seen a benefit from curcumin, but larger scale trials are needed to see if it will affect the general population in the same way.

How Much Turmeric Do You Need?

The other issue with the current studies on turmeric? Most of them use high doses of curcumin that can’t be gotten naturally by just the spice itself, and instead are given via supplement. Even in supplement form, curcumin isn’t well absorbed by our body. So even if you are taking in higher amounts of turmeric or curcumin, your body probably isn’t able to absorb enough to see any health benefits. Some studies do show that black pepper helps with turmeric bioavailability in our body (it also brings out the flavor of turmeric).

Chances are, to get the variety of health benefits seen in studies, you’d need to eat a lot of turmeric. But that doesn’t mean you should ditch turmeric altogether. It is a versatile spice that can add a delicious taste of many different dishes, and is an excellent way to add flavor to food without using salt.

Turmeric Recipes

Try adding turmeric to soups, sauces, rice dishes, curries, and roasted meats. You can find turmeric in our Thai Style Green Curry Chicken. Or try one of these recipes, all of which feature turmeric.

Share your favorite recipes with us in the comments below.

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