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The Rise of Turmeric & the Anti-inflammatory Diet

July 19, 2018


Colorful foods continue to capture our attention and find their way into our pantries. We’ve seen grassy green matcha and deep purple acai take the stage, to name a couple of high-profile colorful foods. The sunny yellow of turmeric is no exception. In the foodie-sphere, it’s popularly used to create golden milk, a warm spiced milk that incorporates cinnamon, ginger and black pepper along with the earthy spice. However,  turmeric is more than a food fad. It helps our bodies battle inflammation, and the rise of the spice has stirred more conversation around the anti-inflammatory diet — a way of eating not as widely known as the gluten-free or vegan diet, but which shares overlapping qualities. Here’s what it’s all about.

Why Inflammation is Important

In a nutshell, inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury, infection and foreign substances. Inflammation is essential to healing your body, but chronic inflammation, which persists for longer than necessary, can cause more harm to the body than good by eventually causing some diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and arthritis. When it comes to avoiding and counteracting  chronic inflammation, food is one of your best allies.

How to Fight It with Food

There are many foods that have been dubbed inflammation aggravators and others than have been heralded as anti-inflammatory superstars. Turmeric is one of the superstars because of a substance in it called curcurmin, but there are several other strong fighters of inflammation too. Blueberries, apples and dark leafy greens, for example, contain antioxidants and polyphenols, which also protect your body from inflammation and disease.

Though an anti-inflammatory diet isn’t strictly dairy-, gluten- or meat-free, it does encourage minimizing the consumption of processed meats, gluten and animal products. One study actually found that reduced inflammation may be one of the key benefits of a vegan diet. Another study released last year also suggested that animal foods could “trigger systemic inflammation and insulin resistance-dependent metabolic disorders.” In general, avoid foods that are known to induce inflammation, such as red meat, fried foods, refined carbohydrates like pastries, sugary beverages and margarine and lard.

Ways to Get Creative

Looking for a few ways to enjoy turmeric other than golden milk? If you’re up for experimentation, create a meat rub or seasoning for sweet-potato fries with the spice. It combines well with cumin and paprika. It’s also a great complement to coconut milk, making it a popular in curried dishes. Turmeric isn’t limited to savory flavors though. Give zing to fruit salads with a  ginger and turmeric combo, which will play off of each other’s spicy elements. You can also enhance some of your favorite fall recipes with turmeric, as it pairs well with warm spices like cinnamon.