Unless you’ve been living on an island without access to any outside communication, you’ve probably heard of the amazing health benefits of turmeric.
But what in the heck is it, exactly? And should you be eating it?
Turmeric is a rhizome that grows under the ground like ginger. It has a rich, bright orange color and is used in many foods. Originally used in Southeast Asia, it’s a vital component for traditional curries. You can find dried powdered turmeric in the spice aisle of just about any grocery store. Sometimes they carry the fresh rhizome too (it looks like a ginger root, but smaller).
Turmeric contains an amazing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound called “curcumin.” The amount of this bioactive compound is around 3-7% by weight of turmeric. Curcumin has been studied extensively for its health benefits. Many of these studies test curcumin at up to 100x more than that of a traditional diet that includes turmeric.
Health benefits of curcumin
There are dozens of clinical studies using curcumin extract (which is way more concentrated than ground turmeric).
Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory compound. It fights inflammation at the molecular level. Some studies even show it can work as well as popular anti-inflammatory medications (but without the side effects).
Curcumin is an antioxidant compound. It can neutralize free radicals before they wreak havoc on our biomolecules. Curcumin also boosts our natural antioxidant enzymes.
These two functions of reducing inflammation and oxidation have fantastic health benefits. Chronic inflammation plays a significant role in so many conditions. Including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, dementia, mood disorders, arthritis pain, etc.
Curcumin has other amazing functions too:
- Boosts our levels of “Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor” (like a natural growth hormone for your brain) which is excellent for brain health.
- Improves “endothelial” function” (the inner lining of our blood vessels) which is excellent for heart health.
- Reduces growth of cancer cells by reducing angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis ( the spread of cancer), and even contributes to the death of cancer cells.
Do you think these make turmeric deserve the “miracle spice” title?
Okay, so how do you get the most out of your turmeric?
Your gut does not easily absorb curcumin. For one thing, it’s fat soluble. So, as with fat-soluble nutrients (like vitamins A, D, E, and K), you can increase absorption by eating it with a fat-containing meal.
The second trick to get the most out of your turmeric is eating it with pepper. Interestingly, a compound in black pepper (piperine) enhances absorption of curcumin, by a whopping 2,000%!
If you want the health benefits of curcumin, you need more of a dose than you get just eating some turmeric; this is where supplements come in.
Always read the label before taking a new supplement. Also, before you decide on a curcumin supplement, take caution if you:
- Are pregnant
- Are taking antiplatelet medications or blood thinners
- Have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction
- Have stomach ulcers or excess stomach acid
Turmeric is a delicious spice, and it’s “active ingredient” curcumin is a great health-booster.
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties which are great to reduce chronic inflammation. It also has other fantastic health benefits, like brain- and heart-boosting properties, and even cancer-fighting properties.
Curcumin supplements can be great for your health, but they’re not for everyone. Check the label or speak with your health practitioner before taking it.
Here’s a delicious recipe to try: Golden Milk
What’s your favorite turmeric recipe? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for stopping by…
As the founder of Live Wise Coaching, and a practicing integrative health & wellness coach, Cheryl specializes in helping women in their 40’s and 50’s to reclaim their health and sense of well-being (mind, body, and spirit) through nutrition, movement and lifestyle choices so they can live healthy, happy, and active lives.
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