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  • Jennifer Wong

Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, but do you know how to use it?

When it comes to cooking with turmeric, a little bit goes a long way and too much leads to bitterness.

Turmeric was once known as 'the poor man's saffron': an earthy-tasting spice good for adding golden colour to food and drinks. These days it's just at home in the health food aisles as it is in cafes (turmeric latte, anyone?) — and that's because of turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties and potential health benefits. Of course, it's not a new discovery for everyone. "Turmeric is in 90 per cent of Indian food, and an average Indian would eat turmeric in 10 different ways in one day," says author and chef Ragini Dey, who's been cooking a range of Indian food in Adelaide for 27 years. In India, eating turmeric for its healthful properties has also been going on for a long time. "All spices have some medical benefits. Years and years ago the recipes were made up by Ayurvedic priests and other medical Brahmins, not chefs, and this was all very scientifically done," says Ragini. So how do you use turmeric in its many forms, from fresh to powdered, and how much do you need to eat or drink if you're interested in the health benefits?

Curcumin and the health benefits of turmeric

Turmeric contains an active compound called curcumin, which is the source of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Because it can limit inflammation, some researchers believe that curcumin can reduce the risk of arthritis, Alzheimer's and heart disease. But if you're thinking of adding liberal doses of turmeric to your cooking for greater health benefits, unfortunately it doesn't work like that.

"Although curcumin is showing some encouraging effects in reducing markers of inflammation in humans, the majority of the pharmacological effects of curcumin are in lab studies or animal experiments," writes Gunveer Kaur, lecturer in Nutritional Sciences at Deakin University, in The Conversation. Plus, there's taste to consider. "Too much powdered turmeric can make your food bitter, so you have to be careful how much you use. It's not a case of, 'It's so healthy, let's just put in a bucket load'," says Ragini. She recommends using the right amount that a recipe calls for, which may not be more than a teaspoon at the most for five people.

Article from ABC Life

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