Turmeric has taken root in the nutrition world, and this root has the health benefits and nutritional value to back it up! You’ve seen it but maybe didn’t recognize it in curries and Indian/South Asian dishes – but now “golden milk” and turmeric lattes are all over the internet and in trendy cafes worldwide. Curious about what this bright yellow spice does, other than stain your white bowls? Here’s the scoop on why turmeric is so good for your health.
photo credit: Ayurvedic India via Flickr
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a medicinal plant related to ginger, with an edible root that we typically dry and grind into a powder. You can find fresh turmeric root at some grocery stores and South Asian markets , but ground turmeric is pretty widely available.
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Turmeric is bright yellow in color,thanks to a substance called curcumin. Curcumin is not only responsible for the vibrant color of the plant; it also provides many of the health benefits we get from turmeric.
photo credit: Steven Jackson via Flickr
Why is Turmeric Good for Me?
Turmeric has been used for centuries in Indian and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent. More recently, plenty of research has been done regarding turmeric and its numerous health benefits and nutritional value.
Turmeric has been shown numerous times to be an effective pain reliever – working as efficiently as ibuprofen in several cases. One study found that curcumin was as effective as ibuprofen for relieving knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis for the duration of the 4 week study.
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Turmeric’s pain relieving benefits are likely due to its profound anti-inflammatory properties, as it has been shown to effectively reduce inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and post-operative inflammation. Inflammation also plays a major role in nearly every chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, and metabolic syndrome – so turmeric’s anti-inflammatory role shows potential importance in preventing these diseases as well.
Early research suggests that turmeric may help reduce liver damage and prevent liver diseases, mainly as a result of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin has also shown promise as an antiviral agent, as well as a cancer cell suppressor. One study noted its suppressive effect on breast cancer cells, significantly reducing the growth of cancer cells and preventing them from spreading.
If that wasn’t enough – One study found that turmeric has positive effects on lipid profiles; lowering total and LDL cholesterol, while raising HDL cholesterol over a two-month period.
Are There Downsides to Eating Turmeric or Curcumin Extract?
There aren’t many reports of adverse side effects from consuming turmeric – possibly stomach upset from long term use, though even that’s pretty uncommon. Overall, curcumin extract and turmeric have been shown to be remarkably safe, with few, if any, adverse effects – even at high doses (2,000-8,000 mg curcumin extract/day). As far as drug interactions go, you should consult with your doctor if you are on blood-thinning medications, antacids, and medications to control diabetes before increasing your turmeric consumption.
photo credit: Marina Boyarkina via Flickr
How To Take Turmeric or Prepare Turmeric?
Curcumin and turmeric extracts and supplements are available, albeit pricey, and you can get a significant benefit just from adding fresh or ground turmeric into your diet! Food is usually the better way to consume most ingredients rather than via supplements. Otherwise you’d have a really full supplement cupboard!
Some of my favorite recipes include my Paleo Granola with Turmeric and Hemp Hearts and my Wild Blueberry Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Smoothie. Traditional uses include adding ground turmeric to curries or rice for earthy flavor and bright color.
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Also check out my new favorite turmeric recipe, my Golden Turmeric Smoothie!