When it comes to spices, many of us think of them as flavor enhancers in food. And while that's true, most spices contain a ton of health benefits. However, there's one spice that stands out in particular. And that's turmeric.
Turmeric has been used in traditional Indian cooking for thousands of years and Ayurvedic medicine considers it to be not just food but medicine.
what is turmeric?
Turmeric is a root, belonging to the ginger family, having a similar shape, aside from being smaller and orange. It can be consumed raw, but its most available in powdered form. It has a mustard like flavor, earthy and peppery taste. I wouldn't recommend munching on a root (though feel free to do so and let me know how that works out), turmeric is often consumed in curries, soups, smoothies or it can be taken in pill form.
Turmeric contains curcumin, which is the main active ingredient that's responsible for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant power. I've mentioned this in several posts, but it's important to remember that while turmeric is a miracle spice, it's poorly absorbed in the blood stream. One way to counter that is by adding pepper to whatever you're consuming that contains turmeric.
why the hype?
Turmeric has been getting a lot of attention in the scientific community mostly because it has amazing health benefits, which I will be covering here. As I stated previously, Turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and has shown significant health benefits, especially in the area of inflammation, which I've covered in several posts. So let's look at some of the health benefits of turmeric that are supported by science.
health benefits of turmeric
- Anti-inflammatory. If you want to reduce inflammation, turmeric may be a doable, natural solution. While most whole foods reduce inflammation, turmeric does it on another level. It is now well known that inflammation is the root cause of most modern disease. Diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and even cancer have been linked to chronic inflammation in the body. "Based on early cell culture and animal research, clinical trials indicate curcumin may have potential as a therapeutic agent in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, arthritis, and chronic anterior uveitis, as well as certain types of cancer."
- Anti-depression agent. There is mounting evidence that turmeric can play a major role in MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). This study shows that turmeric can be as powerful as anti-depressant medication. Another study focused on the involvement of curcumin on the serotonin and dopamine systems.
- Treatment for PMS. If you're a woman in your reproductive age, you know periods suck and not just periods but the week leading up to it. Everything is basically awful, for me at least. I'm miserable, moody, have chocolate cravings galore. This 2015 study shows that curcumin may reduce symptoms of PMS. "Our results for the first time showed a potential advantageous effect of curcumin in attenuating severity of PMS symptoms, which were probably mediated by modulation of neurotransmitters and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin."
- Alzheimer's prevention and treatment. Alzheimer's is one of the world's worst neurodegenerative diseases. There is no cure so a big focus in the area of research is prevention as well as cure. Some promising advances have been made in the area. In patients who already have AD, it's shown that behavioral and psychological symptoms improve when supplementing with curcumin. "The present cases suggest a significant improvement of the behavioral symptoms in the AD with the turmeric treatment, leading to probable benefit of the use of turmeric in individuals with the AD with BPSD."
- Potent antioxidant. Turmeric is one of the most powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants scan the body for free radicals which damage cell membranes as well as DNA. Antioxidants are vital for optimal function. "Antioxidants scavenge molecules in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Antioxidants can fight free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause."
- Helps with gut health: If you've read any of my wellness posts before, you know that I'm all about making sure the gut is happy and things are functioning smoothly. Turmeric is extremely beneficial when it comes to gut health. One of the humps researchers have had to overcome is that curcumin is poorly absorbed by the GI tract. However, scientists have discovered that using phospholipids in conjunction with curcumin has significantly improved absorption.
- Aids with weight loss. The results from this randomized, controlled study shows that patients who were on a 30 day diet and lifestyle intervention showed little results in terms or weightless. But after an additional 30 days of the same diet, with the addition of phosphatidylserine and curcumin, there were remarkable changes in terms of weightless compared to subjects who took straight phosphatidylserine.
how you can use turmeric
There are several ways you can get all the benefits of turmeric. Here are several things you can do:
- Turmeric shots - This is one of my favorite ways to get all the goodness of turmeric without having to eat an entire pot of curry. My recipe is simple. You'll need:
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp honey
- 1/4 tsp pepper
Combine everything in a small bowl and drink it down. *Word of caution. If you're pregnant or nursing, you may want to consult your doctor prior to consuming higher amounts of turmeric than you would in food. It can cause uterine contractions and would be particularly troublesome for women who are less than 37 weeks along*
- Turmeric tea - So easy to make and such an effective way to hydrate while also receiving all the benefits of turmeric.
- 4 cups water
- 1 tsp turmeric
- honey and lemon to taste
Bring water to a boil and add turmeric. Simmer for 10 minutes. Cool for a few minutes and add honey and lemon if you wish. *I recommend eating a few peppercorns (you can swallow them whole) if you're consuming this tea. Again, since turmeric is poorly absorbed, by consuming pepper along with it, you'll ensure you're receiving all the benefits from this incredible spice.
- Golden milk with a twist - and lastly my absolute favorite way to consume turmeric. As soon as chillier weather rolls in, it's pretty much a staple in my house. It's warming, delicious and makes the whole house smell wonderful. I like to make it extra special by adding collagen to it for a little extra. Recipe below.
golden milk with collagen
- Prep time: 2 minutes
- Cooking time: 5 minutes
- Serves 1
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp collagen (leave out if vegan)
- 1.5 cups cashew milk
- 1-2 tsp honey or more to taste
- small sauce pan
Over medium low heat combine all ingredients and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Pour in mug and sprinkle with additional cinnamon if you wish.