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Turmeric has antioxidant properties. Photo: iStockphoto
Turmeric has antioxidant properties. Photo: iStockphoto

Turmeric milk, the new health drink

The West is waking up to the benefits of items found in the Indian pantry. A staple in curries, 'haldi' is now spicing up lattes and cold-pressed juices

Remember the haldi ka doodh your granny would force you to drink every time you had a sore throat or fever? The same turmeric milk is now making news in the West. Called “turmeric latte", it combines almond, cashew or coconut milk with cold-pressed turmeric juice.

The famed health benefits of the ochre-coloured spice, used so far mostly in curries, has resulted in a cult following from Australia to the US and the UK, according to a recent article published in The Guardian. “Turmeric lattes are now being sold at cafés from Sydney to San Francisco, and the drink is gaining fans in the UK (too)", says the article.

Google search for the spice, which belongs to the ginger family, increased by 56% from November to January, according to an April report by the search engine on food trends in the US. In fact, in a report this month, market research firm Mintel named turmeric, which has been used medically in South Asia for thousands of years, as one of the superfoods for this year.

Consumers believe that turmeric milk, or “Golden Milk" as it is also called, is an anti-inflammatory alternative to caffeine drinks. And they are not wrong.

Research has shown that curcumin, the compound found in the turmeric root that gives it its colour, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. “Anything that helps relieve inflammation can also prove helpful in improving complaints of indigestion, diabetes, heart disease, even cancer. It’s also good for acne, for it’s a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, and is useful in disinfecting cuts and burns," says Daljit Kaur, senior nutritionist at Delhi’s Fortis Escorts Heart Institute.

A UK study, published this month in the British Journal Of Nutrition, found that curcumin helps block rogue proteins that trigger Alzheimer’s disease. The same compound may help suppress body fat growth and reduce weight gain, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal Of Nutrition. Closer home, researchers at the Government Medical College in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, published a study in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2013 that said curcumin could help treat depression.

“As such there’s no fixed amount of how much turmeric one should have in a day," Kaur clarifies, “but one fourth to half a teaspoon is more than enough."

Off the shelf

Although “turmeric latte" has not yet made an appearance on café menus in India, there are some companies which are catering to the new trend. Mumbai-based cold-pressed juice company RAW Pressery offers HEAL ( 100), a 125ml booster shot that contains a nutritious blend of turmeric, coconut milk, cayenne pepper and pineapples. “There was a growing demand among our customers to have a turmeric-based drink. So we launched HEAL in July last year," says Anuj Rakyan, the managing director of the company that offers over 15 juices in Mumbai, Delhi and Pune. “Turmeric is fat soluble, which means it dissolves in fat. Hence, some of the best ways to derive the full nutritional benefits of turmeric is to have it with milk or even ghee," adds Rakyan. “We use coconut milk since many people are lactose intolerant or are vegan." RAW Pressery sells about 150 bottles of HEAL a day.

“Curcumin, which is a great antioxidant, cannot be utilized effectively in the body because of its poor bioavailability. It has to be combined with fat," reiterates Srikumar Misra, managing director and chief executive officer of agri-food start-up Milk Mantra, which offers MooShake, a 160ml turmeric-based milkshake. The drink, which contains 0.05% curcumin, comes in five flavours—chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, mango and almond. It is currently available in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Bhubaneswar.

Kaur offers some ways of including haldi in the diet, besides milk and curries: biscuits, cakes, tea, smoothies, soups, even salads. You can add pepper or cinnamon to lighten the bitter taste, she suggests.

“Like with so many other things (ghee, home-made curd, coconut oil), the West is waking up to the benefits of items in the Indian pantry. Only if we ourselves could spot the gold dust languishing in our kitchens and not wait for a health fad starting in another part of the world to direct us," says Kaur.

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