In the Cabinet of an ND Student….. Turmeric

Well, I have come to my last post in this series, can’t believe its been over 6 weeks already! I’m excited to talk about turmeric today because it has so many health benefits and can be added to your diet relatively easily…

But first, I want to detour a little …

I have found in my journey towards healthy living that often people are far too hard on themselves. Yes, sometimes to overcome chronic and deep seeded issues we must commit to major changes (in diet, relationships, physical activity etc). But guys, when we do ‘fall off the wagon’ or ‘cheat’ on our diets I think we need to ditch the guilt. I’ll say it out loud…my midterms were hell this semester and guess what? I ate junk food, I stayed up too late studying, I stopped working out, I forgot to wash my face at night and I even skipped meals (a big no no for my metabolism and my working brain). Yes, I did it! I’m not saying my body doesnt feel it either, it surely does. But I know that I was doing my best under stress and that this week I am going to move back into a positive direction. I also know that next time I am in a similar situation I need to be better prepared, schedule in my workouts and my sleep. Whatever it takes to change the pattern. But feeling guilty or disappointed in myself is not constructive and just harbours negativity. I think this is an incredibly important outlook for everyone who is trying to change their habits and journey towards continual health. So next time you feel like you’ve deviated from whatever goal you’ve set for yourself, ditch the negative self-talk. Be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to find your path again without the guilt.

Before we delve into the wonderfulness of turmeric, here is an affirmation I have been using lately to help me continue down the empowering path:

“I am gentle and kind with myself and recover from my mistakes gracefully.  I love the person I am as well as the one I am becoming”

Turmeric (latin binomial: Curcuma longa) is one spice I have been actively including in my diet since the summer. Though it was not a spice I was super familiar with, it has come to be one of my favourite flavours (and colours) to eat!

The main active constituent of turmeric is called curcumin, this is the molecule that is responsible for that rich yellow colour it gives to your food. Many people are familiar with the fact that turmeric is HIGHLY anti-inflammatory. This makes it an excellent dietary spice for people suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions (arthritis, psoriasis, eczema etc). Some of its other indications in the Western Herbal Tradition are as follows:

  • Antihepatotoxic (protects the liver)
  • Antibacterial, antiviral, anticancer
  • Antioxidant
  • Carminative (helps with digestion)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine turmeric is prized for its ability to promote the movement of Qi (energy) and relieve pain as well as promoting the movement of blood. In the Ayurvedic tradition this spice is considered ‘tridoshic’ meaning that it balances all three of the dosha’s (vata, pitta & kapha) to tonify the body and bring back overall balance.

Energetically this herb helps to clear blockages! I thought this really seemed appropriate in relationship to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. The more I study holistic approaches to healthcare the more I come to respect and appreciate the ways in which energetic/emotional blockages manifest as chronic disease.

Overall, turmeric definitely deserves a place in my kitchen cabinet and has added not only great variety to my cooking but some incredible healing properties. Here are several suggestions for ways you can easily make room for turmeric in your kitchen too…

  1. Sprinkle over Veggies: This spice LOVES veggies. You can make it simple by adding  from 1tsp-2tbs of powdered turmeric to olive oil and drizzling over your favourite steamed/sauteed/roasted veggies. My absolute favourite is to add it to cauliflower… this recipe is divine: Oven Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric + Ginger
  2. Add this to your Quinoa or Brown Rice: simply add some turmeric to the water while you boil your side dish! I usually use about 1-2 tbsp.
  3. Add it to Soups, Stews + Chilli 
  4. Turmeric Tea: this one might take more ‘getting used to’ but is great for inflammation and/or digestion. This is the one I have found tastes the best, remember this is just a base so play with the flavours:

      Pinch of Cinnamon

Pinch of Ginger

Pinch of Nutmeg

1 tsp Turmeric (add more as you begin to get used to the flavour)

1 cup hot water (not quite boiling- we don’t want to kill the goodness of the honey)

Almond milk + raw honey to taste!

I want to include one other tea variation for those of you who prefer a more citrusy flavour, this one is also quite good!

Juice of 1/4-1/2 Lemon

up to 1/3 cup of RAW Honey

 1tsp-2tsp Turmeric

1 cup hot water (as above)

5. Add 1-2tsp to your smoothie: if you do smoothies, do turmeric! Plain + simple. If you put in about 1 tsp you can’t really taste it, especially if you use a good amount of fruit. Recipes soon to come in my smoothie section!

That’s all for today! I hope this inspires you to experiment with turmeric, or just try something new for those of you who use it regularly already! As always I’d love more ideas for how to use this awesome yellow root.

Reminder: this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice, but only as informational and based on personal experience. You should never enter into any treatment protocol/supplementation without the advice of a licensed naturopathic doctor or other health care practitioner. For more clarification on this please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

References

Godfrey, A. & Saunders, P.R. (2010). Principles & practices of naturopathic botanical medicine.Toronto, Canada: CCNM Press Inc.

Photo credit 1: Mara ~earth light~ / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit 2: Steven Jackson Photography / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit 3: shutterbean / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Moroccan Chicken, Quinoa + Balsamic Sauteed Kale

photo 4

This is probably THE BEST chicken meal I have made…..EVER. It is so flavourful and includes so many spices. Admission….. when I cook with things I know are amazing for my health I probably enjoy my food about 10 times more!

This year one of my goals was to add more spice to my life – I mean this literally. While my cooking has gone from non-existent to quite creative over the last 4 years, I was still kind of stuck in my “use garlic to flavour everything stage.” Until this year. Not only does cooking with spices equal an incredible taste bud experience (no need for salt + pepper on the table folks) but it adds sooooo many wonderful phytochemicals to the meal!

Phyto-what? ‘Phyto’ comes from the Greek word for plant! Phytochemicals are compounds that are naturally occurring in plants and many of them may have significant impacts on health. While they are not considered essential nutrients like many vitamins, many phytochemicals have been shown to have beneficial qualities in the body (i.e antimicrobial properties etc).

In this recipe I focused alot on Turmeric, but it also includes coriander, cumin, and cinnamon. For those of you interested here’s a little snippet of what I learned in my Botanical Medicine course about each of these spices!

Turmeric (Latin binomial: Curcuma longa): anti-inflammatory, protective to the liver, antibacterial, anticancer. In Traditional Chinese Medicine Curcuma promotes the movement of Qi & blood and alleviates pain.

Coriander (Latin binomial: Corianrum sativum): anti-spasmodic and carminative (promotes appropriate digestion by soothing the gut, reducing inflammation, eliminating gas and easing pain).

Cumin (Latin binomial: Cuminum cyminum): anti-spasmodic, carminative and antibacterial. Has also been shown to increase glutathione-S-transferase activity and thus may be cancer protective!

Cinnamon (latin binomial: Cinnamonum zeylandicum): anti-microbial and hypoglycemic (helps to control blood sugar).

Ok – I know, you’re definitely ready for the recipe now! So here it is…..

Moroccan Chicken photo 1

Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

4 organic, boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground coriander

1/3 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp sea salt

3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

~ 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon

photo 2Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, place chicken on a baking sheet.

2. Combine all spices including salt+pepper! I used coriander seeds so I used my mortar and pestle. If all spices are pre-ground you can just mix them in a bowl.

3. Combine spice mixture with olive oil and brush over the chicken.

4. Cut the lemon into quarters. Drizzle 1 of the wedges over the chicken and then place the rest of the wedges on the baking sheet (evenly distributed btwn the chicken breasts).

5. Bake for ~ 25-35 mins or until chicken reads 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Baking times will depend on the size of the chicken you use. Make sure it is thoroughly cooked.

Quinoa

Ingredients

1 cup Quinoa

2 cups water

1 tsp turmeric

Directions

1. If you didn’t buy pre-rinsed quinoa, rinse the quinoa in warm water for a few minutes. This removes the bitter coating.

2. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered, over low heat, until all water is absorbed.

Balsamic Sauteed Kale

Ingredients

1 bunch kale

~2 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar or to taste

Directions

1. Wash kale and remove the stalks. I take out the whole stalk and chop the leaves into 2 inch pieces. But some people like to leave the stalks in tact – its up to you!

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat and add kale and garlic.

3. Sautee until almost wilted. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for another few minutes.

You’re done! One thing I will note, for anyone who hasn’t cooked with turmeric (though I’m sure many of you have), it STAINS! So just be sure not to wipe your hands on a good tea-towel or your clothes!

I hope you enjoy this recipe! XoXo

References:

Godfrey, A. & Saunders, P.R. (2010). Principles & practices of naturopathic botanical medicine.Toronto, Canada: CCNM Press Inc.

Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.