Curries on my Mind

The yellow colour of Asian curries is due to turmeric, a spice which appears often in health news.

In India and in some other parts of south-east Asia, curries with turmeric are consumed daily and often more than once per day.  In those regions, the incidence of degenerative mental conditions in old age is lower than here in North America, and some types of cancer are significantly rarer.  Not surprisingly, turmeric and curcumin, an active component of turmeric, receive wide-ranging scientific study, more so than any other spice.

Other benefits from turmeric that have been scientifically studied touch on cataracts, diabetes, M.S., HIV, and skin and liver problems.  Unfortunately, many of the studies, though numerous and expert are small.  It is hard to get research funds for major health research on foods because drug companies cannot easily put patents on a spice and raise the price.

Another problem is quantity.  Traditional diets that provide evidence of health benefits of curries are diets that include turmeric in very large quantities; that spice is not quick to absorb.  Micro-grinding and cooking in healthful oil may turn out to help.

So what does all this mean in practical terms?  If you come to consult me in my Downsview clinic will I prescribe hot curries?  Don’t count on that!  But you don’t need any prescription to enjoy the curries.

I started using turmeric in my kitchen around 2009.  Now it is a family favorite. Consumption seems safe because millions of people eat curry more than ten times a week.  For me, there is nothing to lose and a possible benefit to be gained.  Turmeric as a simple curry and also in morning smoothies has become a very regular part of my cooking though it wasn’t part of my background.  I don’t buy commercial curry mixes with salt and preservatives.  I deeply admire and respect those who have mastered the complex, time-consuming, highly refined and elegant art of traditional curries made from scratch.  I modestly experiment with simple turmeric and internet recipes. Try it.  Learning new things is good for the brain.  That is a scientific fact.

We would be very pleased to respond to your health-related questions in this column.  Write to   Nicole Constant is a registered Doctor of Naturopathy.   Her website is:  www.IndividualCare.CA.  Before coming to Canada, she practiced as a medical doctor in Europe.   She has lived in the Jane-Finch neighborhood since coming to Canada, where she has also been employed in social work and community development in addition to volunteer service in Mediation,  Laughter Yoga and the Community Action Planning Group of York West.

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