The deep yellow-ochre color that Asian foods are rich in is because of the addition of the versatile Asian spice Turmeric. Turmeric is a root akin to ginger with brown skin and a deep orange flesh inside. This form of turmeric is rarely used in everyday cooking but the powder form of Turmeric which is a fine yellow color is used in many Asian dishes and virtually all Indian curries and gravies.
It has a slight peppery, bitter taste when consumed as is but when mixed into the food it blends in beautifully and also adds a warm pleasant flavor not to mention the rich color to the dish. Turmeric is a miracle nature cure for many health concerns like digestive problems, bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis and is also used as a powerful anti inflammatory. But this article is about how curcumin, the major constituent of turmeric, can be a cancer preventer and there are hardly any preventive natural foods available that works so powerfully against cancer.
Research has proven that a consistent intake of turmeric can lower the rates of colon, lung, prostrate, oral and breast cancer. A research study conducted by the University of Texas on mice suggests that turmeric actually slows down the spreading of breast cancer to the lungs! The study was made possible by injecting human breast cancer cells into mice to grow tumors that were subsequently removed to simulate mastectomy.
How does curcumin work? According to researcher Bharat Aggarwal, our genes have what is called transcription factors and these regulate the formation of tumors. When the transcription factors are turned off, some of the genes responsible for the growth and onslaught of cancer cells are shut down. Curcumin works against the transcription factors and renders them useless to regulate the formation of these cancerous tumors. In the instance of lung cancer, Curcumin is believed to suppress and arrest cancer cell multiplication and causes cells to kill themselves. Curcumin in the turmeric is also suggested to have chemopreventive properties against myeloma and pancreatic cancer.
When turmeric is added to onions the combination helps in reducing the size and the number of precancerous lesions in the intestinal tract. Similarly a combination of turmeric with cauliflower is especially effective to stop prostrate cancer. Prostrate cancer is a leading cause of death in American men but is extremely rare in Asian men due to their diet which is rich in curcumin combined with a variety of vegetables.
While curcumin and vegetables like cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi etc helped in slowing the growth of human prostrate cancer cells, combining turmeric with these vegetables proved to be a potent fighter against the growth of tumors and the spread of the cancer cells. Make sure that when you cut cauliflower or other vegetable mentioned above you let them sit for about 5-20minutes to encourage the formation of phenethyl isothiocyantes which stop when they are heated. While sautéing add turmeric and other spices you’d like. This not only tastes good but is a great prostrate cancer prevention technique.
Research also suggests that eating food flavored with turmeric can reduce the risk of childhood leukemia. This is a heartbreaking disease, mainly in children under the age of five, that has increased in incidence by over 50% from the year 1950 mostly due to environmental and lifestyle factors like exposure to prenatal or postnatal radiation, pollutants, benzene etc and studies show that turmeric can actually help in inhibiting the effects of some of these risk factors.
The good news is that turmeric is not a strong Asian flavor that cannot be used in other types of cuisine. It can safely be added to most gravies, sauces and soups without fear of altering the taste radically. Try adding it to your pasta sauces, chili, dips and even your marinades for your meat and chicken. You can add it to you barbecue sauces too or just sprinkle some on to steamed vegetables while stir frying or sauteing. But do make sure you find turmeric that is of a reputed brand so that it is pure and free of any kind of adulteration. And remember to keep it away from your carpets and clothes unless you are planning on dyeing them!