Food Focus: The Golden-Orange Goodness of Turmeric

by Sandy Todd Webster on Dec 01, 2013

Food Focus

Learn about the unique properties of this powerful plant derivative.


You may not know what turmeric is at first mention, but if you’ve ever slathered plain old ballpark mustard on a hot dog, you’ve eaten turmeric. However, sampling it as a simple condiment hardly honors the properties of this powerful plant derivative.

Also known as Curcuma longa, turmeric is a rhizome of a herbaceous perennial plant, a cousin of ginger. Each year these rhizomes are harvested, boiled and dried in hot ovens and then ground into a deep orange-yellow powder. It’s that ubiquitous, earthy spice used in Indian foods and curries, and it is even used for fabric dyeing. Of course, there’s the mustard coloring component as well.


  • The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is showing promise in preliminary research for treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, as well as allergies, arthritis and other chronic illnesses. It also is used to treat heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, skin conditions, bruising and infected wounds.
  • Turmeric has deep roots in Chinese and Indian medicine as an anti-inflammatory aid. It also is an essential ingredient in the cuisines of those countries.
  • The essential oil of turmeric is used in perfumes. Its resin is used in food manufacturing as a coloring agent and to impart a peppery-warm-bitter flavor.
  • Bon Appétit magazine reports that many chefs and home cooks use turmeric in raw, rather than powdered, form. It can be cut, peeled, sliced and grated much like ginger. A recent article mentioned that “turmeric juices, tinctures, and tonics have been on the rise.” Try adding it to braises and soups for a peppery kick.
  • Be wary: The bright yellow-orange flesh stains easily! Protect your fingers, cutting boards and clothes.
  • Bon Appétit also suggests using a tiny amount to drench batters and doughs with bright color.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Steven Jackson

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.