For the Love of Turmeric


Cancer Busting Curry-turmeric Hailed the New Superfood

By Nisha Katona @nishakatona and online at

Medical research is alight at the moment with the notion that Turmeric, (Curcuma longa), the main curry ingredient, is a cancer busting super food. Turmeric contains a chemical called Curcumin. It is now thought that this Curcumin, is one of the most potent cancer fighting foods.

Countries such as India where turmeric is frequently consumed in the daily diet have lower rates of many cancers including prostate cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer. Laboratory tests have suggested that turmeric boosts the ability of chemotherapy drugs to kill bowel cancer cells. Some studies have indicated it may slow the spread of cancer and in addition, protect healthy cells from the effects of radiotherapy.

Not only a cancer warrior, the American Journal of Cardiology, earlier this year, published research showing that turmeric helps ward off heart attacks in bypass patients.


Turmeric is a ground root. It is know as the golden boy of the spice cupboard, sunshine yellow and the creator of the distinctive curry colour. It tastes mild, earthy, deep. To my mind this is the defining curry ingredient. Add this to a dish and it turns from casserole into curry.  Its almost as though this ground root transports any dish to warm Indian soil. Incredibly, the active medicinal principle, curcumin, when taken orally, is best absorbed when taken with oil as in traditional Indian curries.

Curcumin, the active ingredient has been widely studied. It is recognized as a potent cell protectant, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric has been used for centuries to support cancer patients in Ancient Indian ayurvedic medicine. Now modern science is beginning to catch up and understand why it works.


Essentially it is found that turmeric reduces inflammation, which in turn reduces the production of certain proteins that can cause the spread of cancer.  This use of Turmeric as an anti-inflammatory has long been practiced by Indians. In India, turmeric ointment is widely used for skin problems. Often in the kitchen, turmeric powder was tapped onto burns and scalds.  Ingrained in the culture, tradition involves the bride and groom being covered with turmeric paste on the morning of the wedding as a purification ritual.

In my youth, I well remember having my arms and legs smeared with a mixture of turmeric+mustard oil by my grandmother in Varanasi. I felt like a basted turkey-awful in that heat but what she had written in her DNA was also actually written into the chemistry of this spice. How incredible that Turmeric is at its medicinally strongest when combined with oil! It humbles me to see how much more intelligently close our ancestors were to nature and her properties. Perhaps we alternative medicine cynics should show a little more humility from the sidelines of the match between ancient and modern medicine. Especially since the improvement of our health and well-being will always be their unified goal.

Turmeric is widely available now. Asian grocers sell huge bags of the stuff for about £4 per kg. It is a quiet gentle spice. In fact it is not in the least bit spicy. There is no reason why you cant just add it to any stews or soups.

Below are some ways you can introduce it into some day to day staples. Remember that it is at its most medicinally powerful when combined with oil so don’t just throw it over a dry salad!


Golden Chips/Roasties

My mother would never make chips or roasties without smearing the spuds with a bit of salt and turmeric. The turmeric makes them beautifully golden but it also deepens their flavour and adds a gentle sweet woodiness. Try this and you wont look back!


1 kg Potatoes cut to chips or roasties

2 teaspoons of turmeric

salt to taste

Rub the potatoes with this turmeric and salt mix and either fry as chips or

roast with a dousing of oil for 40 mins on 200C.





Detoxifying Lemon Dahl

Dahl to Indians is like cheese spread on toast to the Brits! Always a stash of it in the fridge, the ultimate comfort food. It is very high in protein, low in carbs, gluten free, low in fat and keeps for a week. Its a great weight loss food. Just heat a bowlful when youre hungry-filling and flavourful.



1/4 kg Red Lentils

1/2 tin of chopped tomato

2 teaspoons of turmeric

green chili (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 lemon

Coriander leaf to garnish (optional)



Directions: Boil the lentils with the tinned tomatoes in double the amount of water. In a separate pan, heat a tablespoon of oil. When hot, add the cumin seeds. They need to crackle and turn a little brown. Now add your chopped chili.

Add in your boiled lentils, the turmeric, salt. You can adjust the dahl. To make it more soup like, add water, to make it thicker, simmer it down.

Towards the end when the dahl is a nice yellow paste, add your lemon juice and the chopped coriander as a garnish. Eat as a soup, with rice or dip a tortilla in.


Butternut Squash with Turmeric Butter

The truth is, this is a great recipe for any squashes. You can do it with courgette, marrow and even aubergine.


1 butternut squash

a knob of butter

2 teaspoons turmeric

squeeze of honey

handful of hazelnuts

coriander powder (optional)



Chargrill or oven bake chunks or slices of the squash that have been rubbed with a little oil. In a pan fry the butter and add the turmeric, the hazlenuts and the coriander powder. On a low heat add the salt and honey. Toss the squash in with this spiced butter. Heavenly.

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