This native Indian and Southeast Asian cousin to
gingerroot has a rich, earthy taste and bright-yellow
color when dried and ground into a powder. Turmeric
contains curcumin, which is thought among Eastern
medicine experts to help combat inflammation in the
body to prevent disease and help muscles recover after
strenuous use. Scientific studies have yet to prove that
as fact, because turmeric is a food, but some point to it
working just as effectively as manufactured painkillers.
Use the spice in curries, smoothies, yellow cakes, Middle
Eastern ras el hanout and other condiments and sauces,
or, as MacAller uses it, in a non-sugar molasses-infused
pumpkin pie for extra depth and color.
The most active compounds in the oils of this common
Chinese spice are thymol, terpineol and anethole, which
have been used to treat coughs and flu, according to
MacAller. When consumed as a tea, it can improve
digestion and reduce bloating while imparting a
licorice-like flavor. Steep it in brothy soups and teas for
sous-vide cooking, or as a complex poaching liquid for
mild fish and vegetables.
CULINARY MEDICINE SPICES
FOR HEALTH AND TASTE
Chef/nutritionist Natasha MacAller’s latest cookbook, Spice Health Heroes:
Unlock the power of spice for flavour and wellbeing (Jacqui Small, 2016),
profiles the many herbs and spices used to treat and prevent diseases as well as
add flavor to many dishes as an alternative to adding salt and sugar. MacAller
recommends purchasing organic spices whenever possible to ensure that they
are not grown or produced with pesticides and other chemicals. Store spices
in airtight containers in cool, dark places to maintain their potency and freshness.
This ubiquitous spice naturally contains piperine,
which helps boost the absorption of vitamins and
nutrients found in other foods and spices, such as
turmeric. In traditional medicine, it has been singled
out for use in pharmaceuticals developed to help the
absorption of chemotherapy medicine. A teaspoon
a day of peppercorn is considered in culinary
medicine circles to help with circulation and act as
a cleanser. Also, try using whole or lightly crushed
pink peppercorns to add a pop of crunch and heat to
dishes. Green peppercorns can add brightness and a
slightly tart flavor to lighter dishes with chicken, fish
and mostly vegetables.
Look for Ceylon cinnamon, which has been hailed by
nutritionists as the “true” cinnamon spice because
it has the most health benefits, such as reducing
blood sugar, even with less than a teaspoon a day.
Other more commonly found types of cinnamon (such
as cassia) have been shown to have higher levels of
coumarin, which is a natural blood thinner. Compared
to most commonly found cinnamons, Ceylon cinnamon
has a less pungent, more delicate and slightly sweeter
taste that lends itself well to desserts, but try it also
as a rub for meats and a flavor developer in dark, rich
stews and sauces.
Nicknamed the “nutribullet spice” by MacAller, this
traditional component of curries has a wide range
of health benefits, according to Eastern medicine
experts, including balancing blood sugar, disabling
digested toxins, boosting breast milk and improving
appetite among chemo patients. Thanks to its complex
herbal flavor and maple scent, MacAller has used it in
desserts, from a fenugreek-based poaching liquid for
pears to a component of a dessert dukkah with date
sugar, toasted cumin and nuts.
chain LYFE Kitchen, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. On
LYFE menus, you’ll find dishes such as power green salads and
quinoa crunch bowls, as well as pizzas and entrees loaded with
multicolored vegetables that are more about the quality of the
food being consumed than calorie counts.
“Culinary medicine is the umbrella, and anti-inflammatory
is just part of that,” La Puma says.
BREAKING DOWN SILOS
For as long as anyone can remember, there have been two
camps in the U.S. in the formal nutrition/dietitian, world: the
clinical and the culinary. But often, those two camps had little
do to with each other. In hospital settings, for example, you
wouldn’t see a chef interacting much with the dietitians, or vice
versa. Now, however, things are changing.
“There is still a disconnect between the nutrition and
culinary worlds, which is actually why I got my chef training
after being a dietitian,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, a Chicago-based dietitian/cookbook author and a former spokesperson for
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chicago.
ABOVE, LEFT: A turmeric-based smoothie with tropical fruit and coconut milk might
help with inflammation and sports recovery.