Sunday, July 20, 2008

Healing Foods: Curries & Tumeric

Our healing and preventive recipes are designed for optimum health, following the lead of nutrition and preventive medicine expert John McDougall, MD, (author of The McDougall Program:12 Days to Dynamic Health). Dr. McDougall has developed a medically sound diet plan for lasting health that promotes weight loss and the reversal of serious illnesses such as heart disease.

The recipes in this department will follow his diet plan's recommendations all very low-fat, cholesterol-free, and prepared without dairy, eggs, oils, fatty foods, highly-refined grains, or refined sugars.

All recipes will contain less than 10% calories from fat and include carbohydrate-rich whole foods: vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. These guidelines are consistent with Dr. McDougall's health-supporting diet program, Dr. Dean Ornish's heart disease reversal diet, the Pritikin Longevity Center diet program, and the Weimar Institute's NEWSTART lifestyle program.

With that in mind, we bring you curries and the protective effects of curcuminoids the phytochemicals in turmeric that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic effects as well as brilliant color and flavor for your vegetarian palate.

Turmeric is easily identified as the spice that gives curries their characteristic bright yellow-orange color. Turmeric is a tropical plant of the ginger family native to India and Southeast Asia. The underground rhizomes of the plant are boiled, dried, and ground into a powder. The spice has a bitter musty flavor similar to mustard. Turmeric has been used in cooking for over 2,500 years and is sacred to Hindus who use it in religious ceremonies, as well as in dyes and cosmetics.

Turmeric is a spice most common to Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, but curries have found their way into many other cuisines including Thai, African, and English. Indian cooks grind fresh turmeric with up to 20 different spices to make a curry blend to suit each Spices particular dish. These unique blends vary with culture, region, and cook, but almost always include turmeric. Curry powder, as it is packaged and labeled in the supermarket, is not an authentic Indian spice blend, but a standard blend of common Indian spices originally combined by British spice merchants to recreate the flavor of Indian dishes. Western curry powder usually consists of a blend of six or more spices including: turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, ginger, cumin, pepper, dill, mace, cardamom, cloves, and chili, mixed to a variety of hotness.

Whatever your curry blend, these spices are delicious prepared in stews, soups, sauces, chutneys, and with legume, vegetable, potato, and rice dishes. Powdered turmeric and curry powder is available in most supermarkets. For a variety of curry powder blends, try Indian or Asian markets.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

Turmeric has been a part of the ancient Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine for thousands of years. It has been taken internally as a stomach or liver tonic and blood purifier; and externally as a natural antiseptic to treat cuts, bruises, boils, and skin diseases.

Turmeric was also well known throughout history as a food preservative. It's thought that the same aspects of turmeric that preserve food may also protect living tissues in a similar manner from natural (and unnatural) degenerative processes such as free radical damage, and exposure to environmental toxins and carcinogens.

Modern Studies

Turmeric has three major phytochemical compounds, called curcuminoids, that give turmeric its bright yellow-orange color. These curcuminoids (of which curcumin is the most significant) have been the focus of more than one hundred different laboratory and clinical studies indicating their safety, and antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer preventive effects; plus their potential to help reduce heart disease risk.

In an overview of laboratory and clinical studies edited by Muhammed Majeed, PhD, pharmaceutical researcher and botanical medicine expert, curcuminoids are most noted for the following antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-microbial effects.

Antioxidant Effects

Curcuminoids have been observed to have the capability to protect the body's cells, tissues, and organs from free radical damage by helping to neutralize existing free radicals and prevent the formation of new ones.

Cardiovascular disease is caused by the progressive narrowing of arterial walls due to cholesterol plaque build-up. In a seven day study involving 10 healthy subjects issued 500 mg of curcuminoids daily, curcuminoids were shown to be a safe and effective antioxidant in preventing serum lipid peroxidation (the process that enables cholesterol to contribute to the formation of arterial plaque by reacting with oxygen), resulting in a statistically significant reduction in cholesterol levels among the subjects. (Ind J Physiol Pharmacol 36:273, 1992)

Anti-inflammatory Effects

Curcumin's anti-inflammatory activity has been compared in studies to steroidal drugs and nonsteroidal drugs (such as phenylbutazone) used to treat rheumatoidarthritis. Curcuminoids inhibit enzymes which are involved in the synthesis of inflammatory substances in the body, reducing swelling and pain.In a double-blind clinical trial, a group of curcumin-treated arthritis patients showed significant improvement comparable to the improvement of a group treated with phenylbutazone. (Ind J Med Res 71:632, 1980)

Anti-Carcinogenic Effects

Turmeric and its curcuminoids, when included in the diet, can act as anti-carcinogens-helping prevent the development of cancer by preventing free radicals from damaging genetic material. In animal studies, both curcumin and turmeric were shown to inhibit carcinogens from mutating cells.

In a 30-day clinical study in India, 16 chronic smokers with oral cancer responded well to curcumin treatment (1.5 grams a day), some showing dramatic improvement within days. Curcumin significantly reduced their excretion of tobacco mutagens, and was effective in detoxifying carcinogens and mutagens found in cigarette smoke. (Mutagenesis 7:107, 1992)Turmeric and curcuminoids have also been shown to protect tissues from damage caused by anti-cancer drugs, environmental toxins, and pollutants.

Golden Brown Rice

Yellow Thai or Mussamun curry paste is available in jars at Asian markets and specialty shops.

1 stalk lemon grass
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2-1/4 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tablespoon yellow Thai curry paste or Indian curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup brown rice

1. Wash lemon grass and peel away the outer most layer. Pound several times with the flat base of a knife, pestle, or small pan to soften, then tie the whole stalk in a knot and set aside.

2. In a medium pot with a tight fitting lid, cook onion and garlic in 1/2 cup stock until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry paste or powder, turmeric, rice, remaining stock, and lemon grass. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender and liquid absorbed, about 45 minutes. Remove lemon grass. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender and liquid absorbed, about 45 minutes. Remove lemon grass before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

V PER SERVING: 211 CAL(7 percent from fat), 5g PROT, 2g FAT, 45g CARB, 101mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 4.1g FIBER

Potato Curry

Plate of Curry There are many variations of this Indian dish, some with the addition of peas, tomatoes, or chickpeas. Experiment with spices and vegetables to suit your taste.

1 large yellow onion thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
1 teaspoon red chili powder
2 teaspoons turmeric
4 medium red potatoes, quartered and cut into 1/4-inch slices. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat, cook onion and garlic in 1/2 cup vegetable stock until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, chili powder, and turmeric. Add potatoes and remaining stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft, about 25 minutes. Stir in soy sauce and garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

V PER SERVING: 133 CAL(3 percent from fat), 3g PROT, 1g FAT, 328g SOD, 0mg CHOL, 3.2g FIBER

Curried Vegetable Soup

A chunky, rustic soup straight from the garden.

1 small egglplant
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock or water
2 small zucchini, chopped
3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
Fresh basil (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°. With a knife, pierce eggplant in several places, then bake on an ungreased baking sheet until soft but not collasped, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. When cool enough to handle, peel and chop coarsely.

2. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat, cook onion and garlic in 1/2 cup vegetable stock until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in eggplant, zucchini, tomato, curry, and tumeric. Add remaining sotck, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Serve garnished with slivers of basil leaves, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

V PER SERVING: 68 CAL(10 percent from fat), 3g PROT, 1g FAT, 15g CARB, 149g SOD, 0mg CHOL, 4.3g FIBER

Simple Curried Chickpea Spread

Serve this as a dip at parties or as a quick lunch spread on lightly toasted pita bread with fresh vegetables.

1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups (1 16-ounce can) cooked chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
2 to 4 tablespoons water

In a food processor or blender, combine garlic, chickpeas, lemon juice, and curry powder. Pulse, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth.

Makes 1-1/2 cups.

V PER 1/4 CUP: 74 CAL(9 percent from fat), 3g PROT, 1g FAT, 14g CARB, 179g SOD, 0mg CHOL, 2.8g FIBER

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