While I can’t say with abandon that I monitor everything I put in my body, I will admit I’m fairly diligent as far as (mostly) avoiding stuff like sugar and white flour, and I kicked smoking in my mid-twenties after realizing that growing older is a luxury I desperately wanted. Still, as conscious as I try to be, I don’t always give my full attention to which so-called superfoods I should be ingesting daily, except for one: turmeric. Every single chance I get, I toss this stuff into salad dressing, I season meat with it, I shake it into my morning juice, I even put it on my face both mixed with coconut oil (thanks, Pinterest) and in a slightly more professional form, aka Kiehl’s very excellent Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque.
Why? The marigold-colored spice—often found in Indian and other Asian cuisines—has a compound called curcumin that has long been hailed as a miracle health fix. Preliminary lab studies suggest that curcumin or turmeric might protect against a pretty staggering list of health issues including skin diseases, inflammation, Alzheimer’s, depression, stomach problems, and may even have tumor-blocking properties. It’s a also something of a beauty superstar, with devotees swearing it improves skin’s elasticity, tone, and acne, while controlling stuff like dandruff and oil.
Granted, to reap these benefits, your best bet is to consume the spice in its most potent form—pure turmeric extract—because it’s not exactly clear if you get hardcore nutraceutical benefits from cooking alone.
“One of the main issues with curcumin is its poor absorption, says sports nutrition expert and author Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD. “In fact, one to two grams per day—that’s more than a bottle of turmeric—isn’t detectable in the body, [but] it’s been shown as safe in doses up to 8 grams per day over a three-month period.
Still, there are ways to get the most out of the version sitting on your spice rack. “Combine turmeric with black pepper,” Spano says. “Studies show curcumin combined with piperine, a constituent in pepper, enhances absorption.”
Here, check out these 20 turmeric recipes that are as easy to make as they are tasty—the spice has a mild, warm flavor that lends itself to everything from chicken and rice to lemony juices.