If I were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one food with me to help me survive, I would without a doubt bring turmeric root. While the deep yellow spice may seem like an odd choice in this scenario, the “Indian gold” packs a powerful punch. Not only is it a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound, it also has been proven to have over 50 healing actions, including:

Turmeric is also known as the “anti-cancer spice,” with research studies showing how it inhibits the activation of genes that trigger cancer, impedes the spread of tumor cells, hinders the transformation of normal cells into cancer cells, and kills cells that mutate into cancer.

Even modest amounts of this spice can have a potent effect on your palate, your body, and your brain. Populations that eat more curry – with the main spice being turmeric – tend to have better scores on cognition tests. The spice reduces the buildup of the protein known as amyloid-beta, which is found in greater concentrations in demented brains.

It’s easy to harness the healing powers of this powerful spice by adding it to your stir-fries, meats, poultry, or fish recipes. It adds a wonderful little something to soups and stews, and can be used in dishes with cruciferous vegetables for added protection against toxins and to promote healthy metabolic detoxification. Try to include a little black pepper with the turmeric, as the combination helps your body to absorb more curcumin (the active compound in turmeric) than it would otherwise.

Here is one of my favorite curry recipes from my book, Whole Detox, to get you started:

Chicken and Cauliflower Curry (Serves 2)

  • 1 tablespoon extra- virgin olive oil
  • ½ large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  •  ½- inch piece fresh ginger, minced
  • ½ medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 2- inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened, full- fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon tapioca flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped cauliflower
  • 2 4- ounce organic, free- range, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1- inch pieces
  • 1 cup cooked white quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onions

In a large skillet set over medium heat, warm the olive oil, then add the onion, garlic, ginger, and bell pepper, and cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, honey, curry powder, turmeric powder, tapioca flour, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then add the cauliflower and chicken pieces. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet, and simmer the mixture for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the cauliflower is soft. Spoon the prepared quinoa onto a serving plate, and top it with half the hot curry, then garnish the dish with the cilantro and green onions.