Curry powders are an ancient and traditional part of Indian cuisine, used almost universally to flavor meat, vegetables, and fish. The curry powder familiar to Western cuisine, available in most supermarkets, is a blend composed primarily of powerful antioxidant and antibacterial spices, turmeric, coriander, and cumin. Not only do these spices give curry its distinctive flavor and orange color, but also its cancer-fighting properties.
Turmeric is a source of the healthy phytochemical, curcumin. Animal and laboratory studies have suggested that curcumin can successfully slow the growth of and even diminish cancer cells. However, these effects have not yet been proven in human tests. Cumin, rich in iron and antioxidants, is no slouch either, and coriander has well known antibacterial properties. Each has the ability to help lower “bad cholesterol.” Also being studied is cumin’s possible ability to protect against stomach ulcers and even Alzheimers.
Aside from turmeric, coriander, and cumin, most curry powders also contain fenugreek, celery seed, and cayenne pepper. These round out curry’s robust taste and increase its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Curry powder can be found in various grades of heat, from mild to very hot, with the hottest varieties containing the most cayenne. Madras curry powders are always at the hot end of the scale.
Store-bought curry powder has a shelf life of six months, after that, it loses both nutrients and flavor. The cancer fighting properties of the spices in curry powder are best released by cooking, so use curry powder in your marinades, soups, and stews. In stews and curries, add the powder to sautéed onions and vegetables when they are just soft, then cook together for a minute before adding stock, water or other liquids.
You can use curry powder to flavor literally anything: meat, fish, vegetables, stews, soup, sauces, marinades, and, of course, curries. All curry powders vary slightly in flavor, but they can vary a lot in spiciness. Some patients crave spicy food during chemo, so the spiciest curry powders really suit them. Not everyone is the same, however, so we suggest testing a few brands to find out which you like the best. When you’ve found a favorite, use it for Cook for Your Life’s Quick Cauliflower Curry. For a quick and easy cabbage dish, try our Thai Style Tempeh Curry. To learn more about traditional Indian cuisine and to see how individual spices are used, check out our Healing Foods article, Spice of Life. It may inspire you to make your own curry blend at home.