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I am obsessed with learning more about “superfoods” and how I can better incorporate them into our family’s daily meals. My newest favorite is the golden spice, turmeric.
But wait, what exactly are superfoods?
Superfoods are nutrient rich foods that are beneficial for health and overall nutrition. They are considered by many to be nutritional powerhouses that have an extraordinary amount of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In short, they are SUPER good foods for you.
OK that’s really cool. But why turmeric?
Two reasons. Turmeric is a spice that is easy to add to many dishes that your already making (I conveniently added it to our eggs this morning and my 1 year old gobbled them up with delight!). But even more importantly, turmeric may be the MOST healthy spice on the planet.
You may know turmeric as the gorgeous orange-gold spice that is used in many Indian and curry dishes. But what is spectacular about this herb is that it is even healthier then it is pretty.
A growing body of evidence suggests that turmeric may help reduce the risks of several diseases and that it may be one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories discovered thus far.
So when I say this spice is healthy, what I mean is that it’s a major overachiever with an A+ on health report card. In fact, many health professionals have claimed that it may be one of the most powerful disease fighters known to humans. There have been over 6,000 peer reviewed articles published proving the benefits of this beautiful orange herb, and its #1 component, curcumin. Geez, that’s a lot! I am overwhelmed just researching it.
What makes turmeric so healthy for us?
The active ingredient within turmeric known as curcumin is responsible for its health effects. Curcumin is a substance that has powerful inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
To explain this more clearly, lets discuss the banana. Bananas are healthy because they are high in potassium. Thus, as bananas are a source of potassium, turmeric is a source of curcumin. So actually, its curcumin we have to thank for all the extraordinary healthfulness!
Ok, NOW you’ve got my attention. What are all the amazing turmeric benefits?
So glad you asked! Here you go:
This is the BIG one! The most powerful aspect of turmeric is its ability to control inflammation. Inflammation is what puts people at risk for most diseases, such as cancer, arthritis, high cholesterol and chronic pain.
Some research has even found that when comparing anti-inflammatory compounds that aspirin and ibuprofen are less effective then curcumin and are considering it among the most anti-inflammatory compounds in the world.
Very important takeaway: turmeric’s key to disease reversal may be its ability to curb inflammation.
Oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind aging and many diseases. Antioxidants are beneficial because they protect us from free radicals. Curcumin is a very potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure. (1)
Curcumin in turmeric “interferes with several important molecular pathways involved in cancer development, growth and spread,” according to the American Cancer Society. (2)
Curcumin’s powerful antioxidant advantages have been shown to protect healthy cells, particularly those found in the colon, from cancer-causing agents. It aids the body in destroying mutated cancer cells before they have a chance to spread to other areas. (3)
Research has suggested that curcumin may improve overall memory in Alzheimer’s Patient’s. It is thought to do so by removing amyliod plaque buildup in the brain. (4)
Pain and arthritis management
This is because of turmeric’s ability to improve inflammation which also helps arthritis pain.
- Research in 2010 showed long-term improvement in pain and functioning for 100 patients with osteoarthritis in the knee after taking a turmeric supplement with curcumin. (5)
- A small study in 2012 indicated that BCM-95, a curcumin product, worked better at reducing joint pain and swelling for patients than a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. (6)
Lowers risk of heart disease
Can you believe that heart disease kills more people in the world then any other disease? It turns out that curcumin may help stop and even reverse many steps in the heart disease process. (7)
Studies have shown that curcumin is beneficial for heart disease because of how it protects and improves the endothelial (the lining of the blood vessels).
Some studies have even shown that it was as beneficial as exercise and may be as or more helpful then some cholesterol lowering medications. (8) (9)
Wow, that’s impressive! Anything else?
There are so many studies and so much information about the benefits of turmeric and its counterpart, curcumin that I honestly couldn’t read it all even if I had all the time in the world (which I assure you, I don’t). The supply of information on this topic seems endless.
Here are a few of the other benefits turmeric is presumed to help with:
- Natural liver detoxifier
- Reduces risk of childhood leukemia
- Has shown promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis in mice
- Aids in fat metabolism and helps in weight management
- Used as Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression
- Stopping blood vessel growth in tumors
- Making cancers cells more vulnerable to chemo
How do I introduce it into my culinary routine?
- Sprinkle it on your food. You can add this spice to almost anything. Add some zest to cooked vegetables, meats, egg dishes.
- Add a dash to a smoothie (just a teaspoon- you can’t taste it). You can even add it to boiling water to make pasta or soups.
- Try making turmeric tea. See my favorite turmeric tea reciepe here.
- Try a turmeric supplement (I personally don’t do this since I already add it to food, but they are available).
Where do I find turmeric?
- You can buy ground turmeric I’m the spice isle at most grocery stores, or buy turmeric here.
- Experiment with buying whole turmeric and grating it yourself. You can find it at many grocery and natural food stores.
A few other tidbits:
It helps to add a little black pepper, which contains piperine. This enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.
Curcumin is also fat soluble, so it may be a good idea to take it with a fatty meal.
Historically, turmeric was used as a dye for fabric. It WILL stain your clothes, so be careful not to get in on your clothing while cooking with it. It may also temporarily stain your counter tops or dishware, just FYI.
I want to learn more about how to be healthy… Where do I go from here?
Research, research, research! There is a lot of information out there on the internet and I’m a true believer in educating one’s self on the most current healthcare information.
A word of caution: Just make sure you are researching on credible sites. Some websites are legit, some, well… not so much. PubMed is a good source for researching studies if you feel so inclined to dork out!
Knowledge is power. I love it when my patients become experts on their own healthcare. They arm themselves with better decision making power and are much more compliant with taking good care of their health.
The more you treat your body like a temple by filling it with vital nutrients and antioxidants, the less likely you are to wind up as one of my patients, which is a very good thing!
“Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food.” – Hypocrates
If reading this spiked your interest in giving turmeric a try, email me and let me know how it went. I would love to hear about it!
Thank you for reading!
Sarah, Mother Nurse Love