Curcumin (which comes from turmeric root) has garnered more and more attention for its many healthful effects. Dubbed the “Solid Gold” of India, it’s one of the preferred tools for kids I work with too, because most of them have chronic inflammatory conditions like asthma, eczema, autoimmune problems, or food allergies. One of curcumin’s standout properties is that it is a potent anti-inflammatory, so it helps my patients with these conditions improve. It also has broad anti-microbial action, and can kill some bacteria, viruses, molds, and even cancer cells. It became a darling of the autism community a few years ago when it emerged as a key part of supplement protocols for kids on the spectrum. At least one study showed it could improve social behaviors in rats poisoned to trigger autism-like features. Curcumin also reduced repetitive, obsessive behaviors in the rats. Another study showed curcumin can reduce oxidative stress in the brain and exert a protective effect against certain toxins – two problems frequently found in children with autism. It boosts glutathione levels in the body, which is a powerful antioxidant that our own cells make to protect against toxins and infections. Glutathione itself shows benefits for autism features as well. And, it is an excellent source of iron, zinc, and manganese.
When curcumin pills and powders starting pouring on the market, these were objectionable for some of the kids and parents in my practice. They were hard to swallow, or tasted too pungent. Apex Energetics makes a tasty liquid version, which gives 420 mg standardized curcuminoid extract per teaspoon in an easy to administer suspension. This works well and kids love it – but it’s expensive.
The good news is that you don’t have to make your kids swallow a bunch of costly pills or buy expensive supplements to get enough curcumin and turmeric daily. All you need is a lot of high quality organic turmeric spice and/or some fresh organic turmeric root. It actually tastes good in a lot of foods besides your favorite curries – which you can liberally add more turmeric to as well. I’m currently eating about 2-3 tablespoons daily of turmeric powder, and fresh root when I have it. The root is softer and less stringy than fresh ginger root, which makes it easy to add to smoothies.
If eating turmeric isn’t appealing for your child, I recommend the Apex product mentioned above over powders, pills, or capsules. You can find it via health care providers like me, or through web-based supplement sellers. It’s very easy to administer, formulated for easy absorption (with medium chain trigylcerides and vegetable glycerin), and it’s easy to control the dose. It will work to correct oxidative stress in the body. Caveat: Dosing this too quickly can cause your child to feel worse, if they have entrenched inflammation from conditions like asthma, autoimmune problems, or autism. It’s best to start with a lower dose (~100 mg) and work up to at least 420-500 mg daily. Many children do well on about a gram (1000 mg) of curcuminoids daily, with slow ramping up.
If you’re using turmeric powder to get curcumin’s antioxidant benefits, you’ll need to eat somewhere in the range of 1-2 tablespoons of turmeric daily. Powdered turmeric spice has about 3% curcumin in it by weight. To reach a beneficial dosing range for curcumin (400 mg or higher daily), eat powdered turmeric by the tablespoon! Curry powders, which are spice blends that contain turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and other spices, don’t deliver as much curcumin – but that’s no reason to pass on curry dishes, which are just plain delicious with loads of nutritional benefits. You can also add extra plain turmeric powder to any curry dish to boost curcumin in it.
What about fresh turmeric root? I have not yet found analysis for fresh root versus powder, but it’s likely that any whole, fresh food has more nutrition value and active phytochemicals than a powdered dried form.
Fresh turmeric, powdered or raw, has a fruity essence that pairs well with unexpected flavors. Here’s a few ideas – and if you need help purchasing supplement items mentioned in this blog, contact me.
Tumeric Raspberry Salad Dressing: Whisk with a fork or immersion blender, makes enough for 2-3 salads:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1-2 teaspoons sesame tahini
- 1 Tablespoon turmeric powder or 1/2 inch minced, peeled fresh root
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (cherry wood aged balsamic vinegar is really good here)
- 1 teaspoon raspberry preserves
Cocoa Turmeric Power Packed Smoothie: Place all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth. Adjust liquid to
- 1/2 cup crushed ice
- 6 oz unsweetened organic almond milk
- 2 Tablespoons sesame tahini or nut butter of choice
- 1 scoop Apex Glycemovite (my favorite for taste and nutrient profile), Thorne MediBolic, or Systemic Formuals Chocolate Metaboshake protein and multivitamin/mineral powder
- 1 scoop organic grass fed whey powder such as ImmunoPro
- 2 Tablespoons turmeric powder or 1 inch peeled fresh root
- 2 Tablespoons organic unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 Tablespoon organic flax meal
- dash organic stevia powder or 1/2 teaspoon raw honey
Mild Thai Red Curry Sauce Over Salmon: This recipe is adapted from At Blanchard’s Table: A Trip To The Beach. Prepare this sauce while your fish is baking, and enjoy with wild caught (not farmed) salmon, ahi, haddock or any firm fish. Rinse the salmon and lay it on aluminum foil on a baking sheet, skin side down. Pour the sauce over the salmon. Bake at 400 degrees for 9-15 minutes (depending on size and thickness of the fish) til just flaking but not dry. Remove from oven and wrap the foil to enclose the fish lightly. Let it rest for 2-5 minutes and serve.
- 1 TBSP coconut or olive oil
- 1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 cup chicken broth (best if it’s your homemade stuff, or use organic full fat broth)
- 1 can unsweetened canned organic full fat coconut milk (not So Delicious coconut milk in carton)
- 1 Tablespoon gluten free tomato puree
- 1 Tablespoon Thai Red Curry Paste
- 2 Tablespoons turmeric powder or 2 inches peeled minced root
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika (more if you like it hotter)
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon peeled minced ginger root
- 1 teaspoons gluten free tamari sauce
Heat the oils gently and add garlic and ginger, cooking x 1 minute. Add the turmeric, cumin, curry powder, curry paste, and paprika. Stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
Raise the heat to medium and add the tomato puree, tamari, coconut sugar, coconut milk, and chicken broth, whisking well after each addition. Cool for about 10 minutes, stirring often – don’t let it boil. When edges are gently bubbling, pour over fish and bake.