Curry powder is synonymous with Indian cooking and is even known as "the spice of life." It actually includes a mixture of spices, including turmeric, which provides the Asian tang and yellow color to a curry dish. Turmeric may even hold a key to preventing chronic diseases like dementia and cancer.
Studies have shown that curcumin, the active component in turmeric, can stimulate the immune system to remove plaque in the brain responsible for Alzheimer's disease. Researchers are busy studying whether this could help explain why the rate of cognitive decline is so much lower in India where curry dishes are common.
Scientists at MD Anderson Cancer Center and UCLA have reviewed numerous studies of curcumin's cancer-killing abilities when administered in high doses. At Hangzhou University in China, researchers reported that cancer patients eating a lot of curry had less intestinal distress during chemotherapy, and less weight loss.
Turmeric and curcumin have been used for decades to reduce inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis and other joint pain.
In addition to all these health benefits, curry is delicious. And, as in this Curry Shrimp With Butternut Squash, Indian curry dishes usually feature lots of healthful vegetables and other good-for-you herbs and spices such as ginger and garlic. Bon appétit!
Betty Wedman-St Louis is a licensed nutritionist and environmental health specialist in Pinellas County who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. Visit her website at betty-wedman-stlouis.com.