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Curry may very well be the spice of life: Curcumin, the antioxidant that gives the condiment its color, has been shown to halt tumor growth and destroy cancer cells in lab tests. "Our research revealed that this ingredient may help prevent a variety of diseases, including multiple myeloma, lymphoma, and breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers," says Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, a professor of cancer medicine at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. At this point, it's still unclear exactly how much curry you should eat to help avoid disease, Aggarwal says. Experts simply recommend using the spice liberally to reap the rewards. For recipes, check out the book 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, by Ruta Kahate.
Shopping shortcut: For the most bang for your buck, opt for pure turmeric powder rather than curry powder. Turmeric is curry's main ingredient and contains a higher concentration of good-for-you curcumin, according to a report in the journal Nutrition and Cancer. Most grocery stores sell it.
Make it even healthier: Sprinkle curry or turmeric powder over cauliflower or any member of the cabbage family. The curcumin-veggie pairing significantly increases the spice's cancer-fighting ability, found Rutgers University scientists. The research was on prostate cancer, but experts are optimistic about curcumin's ability to combat colon and breast cancers as well.
Bonus benefits: The antioxidants found in curry may also help break up plaques in the brain that cause Alzheimer's disease, say UCLA scientists.
Try these healthy recipes: