As a nutritionist, my go-to culinary spice out of nature's apothecary is turmeric, especially because of its immune-supportive effects.
In fact, it's a cooking ingredient that I always keep in the kitchen. This spice comes from a bright yellow-orange root that is not just a staple in Indian cooking, but contains a magical compound called curcumin.
Curcumin's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties offers so many beneficial effects on your immune system. In her book, "The Immunotype Breakthrough," immunologist Dr. Heather Moday writes extensively about its most notable benefits:
- It has been shown to improve gut health and efficacy in animal models of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
- It can buffer high cortisol levels.
- It encourages the growth of beneficial strains of bacteria in the gut and lowers other disease-causing and pathogenic bacterial strains.
- It can suppress some of the immune changes at the root of autoimmune diseases, while generally helpful in reducing chronic inflammation throughout the body.
Turmeric is a wonderful spice to use in cooking. Here are my favorite ways to add this immune-boosting spice to my diet:
1. Swap out salt for turmeric on vegetables
Cutting back on sodium is always a good idea, and turmeric can pack a ton of flavor and seasoning.
A teaspoon of turmeric has less than one milligram of sodium, according to the USDA. In comparison, one teaspoon of table salt has 2,360 milligrams of sodium — more than the USDA and HHS recommended adult limit of 2,300 milligrams per day.
Turmeric pairs well with veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, onions, carrots and sweet potatoes, so I like to swap out salt for the spice when I'm roasting them.
Spread out the veggies of your choice on a sheet pan and cover them with one teaspoon of turmeric along with black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Then bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the veggies are crisp.
2. Make a homemade golden milk latte
In recent years, turmeric lattes have made its way into cafes and specialty grocery stores in the U.S. However, you can easily make your own version at home.
In its most basic form, a golden milk latte is made with warmed milk and a sprinkle of turmeric and black pepper. You can also substitute regular milk for coconut or almond milk to make it vegan-friendly.
I like to enjoy this creamy beverage as a healthy, delicious treat before bedtime.
3. Blend it into soups
Turmeric adds richness and color to almost any soup.
A warm bowl of carrot, ginger and turmeric soup is the perfect way to relax and cozy up on a cold winter day. Plus, this combination is packed with nutrients and is great for digestion.
4. Stir it into your rice
Adding herbs and spices like turmeric into rice can add flavor and health benefits. Turmeric rice with added veggies is a quick and delicious side dish that turns plain rice into something nutritious and delicious.
I also love to switch things up and make turmeric cauliflower rice. Cauliflower absorbs flavor well, so it pairs great with strong spices like turmeric.
5. Snack on turmeric-spiced walnuts
In a bowl, mix a drizzle of olive oil with a ¼-teaspoon of turmeric, two cups of walnuts, a pinch of black pepper and sea salt to taste. Spread the spiced walnuts out on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the walnuts are crispy and dry.
6. Blend it in smoothies
Blending turmeric into smoothies is easy and, in most cases, you can't even taste it. Simply blend half a teaspoon of turmeric into your favorite smoothie recipe and enjoy.
For an immune system boost during winter months, try drinking a fruit- and greens-filled smoothie that includes spinach, banana, pineapple, ginger and turmeric.
Lindsey DeSoto is a registered dietitian helping clients improve their diet and health. She enjoys staying up to date on the latest research and translating nutrition science into practical eating advice to help others live healthier lives. Lindsey has written for publications including HealthDay, Medical News Today and Verywell Health.
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