As nutritionists gradually begin to understand the role which our diets can play in both enhancing and damaging our health, turmeric is one of the latest ingredients to come under inspection. Many scientists now suspect turmeric can do much more than just enhance the flavor of curry and stain our clothes yellow.
Some amazing health benefits are attributed to the inclusion of turmeric in our diets, and its anti-inflammatory properties mean it has the potential to help fight cancer and heart attacks, as well as treat upset stomachs and heartburn, and help fight off the flu and common cold. Let’s find our what prompted the nutritionist, Jonny Bowden, to include turmeric in his book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.
What Makes Turmeric So Healthy?
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). It is indigenous to India and fresh turmeric has been a prominent feature of Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years., as well as a popular ingredient in cosmetics. The awesome ingredient within turmeric which turns it from an ordinary spice into a hyper-charged superfood with amazing health benefits are a compound known as curcumin and a volatile oil called aromatic turmerone.
Curcumin, the better understood of the two, has potent anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties can help in the fight against cancer, by inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels in tumours, and is a powerful antioxidant, combatting those nasty free radicals in the body. Curcumin can also relieve the pain for sufferers of joint pain and arthritis, with some studies showing that turmeric extract supplements work just as effectively as Western medicines like ibuprofen to provide anti-inflammatory pain relief. In traditional medicine, turmeric is prescribed for the relief of skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
Including curcumin in your diet is great for helping with digestion problems, providing support to your gastrointestinal functions by stimulating the production of bile in the gallbladder. It also plays a role in helping to lower total cholesterol levels while raising the density of good cholesterol - high density lipoproteins (HDL). Thus turmeric can aid in weight loss, has a fantastic influence on your heart health, and can help ward off cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. Turmeric has even been accredited with the power to ward off the development of Type 2 diabetes in at-risk patients. Curcumin helps the body with glucose control and insulin activity, and can help lower blood sugar levels.
There is less concrete research on the effect of turmerone in human beings, but the initial results are very promising and may have huge implications for our brain health. Turmerone has been linked with encouraging the development of new brain cells, repairing stem cells, and improving blood circulation in the brain. It is thought that turmerone may hold the key to staving off brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, as its the anti-inflammatory properties may counteract the development of amyloid plaques in the brain, by keep blood vessels from becoming clogged. It’s thought that turmeric could thus help to improve the memory and brain functioning in Alzheimer’s patients.
How Can I Get the Health Benefits of Turmeric?
If you want to start enjoying the amazing benefits of adding turmeric to your diet, you’ll have to ditch the dried powder and start buying fresh roots for maximum impact. Fresh turmeric looks a little like ginger, but when you peel it the flesh inside is an earthy orange colour which releases a heady, delicious aroma. Be careful as the potent juice can stain your hands, clothes, and surfaces. If accidents do happen, however, you can use lemon juice to resolve most cases if you catch it quickly. You should be able to find fresh turmeric in Asian, Thai, or Indian supermarkets, just go hunt out the garlic, ginger, and galangal section. It keeps for about two weeks in the fridge.
You can use turmeric as a curry spice, just chop it up as you would ginger – peeled and then grated, finely chopped or cut into thin matchsticks. It will add an earthy, citrusy, and slightly spicy, bitter flavor to your cooking.
One point to take especial notice of is that eating turmeric in combination with black pepper boosts your digestion system’s ability to absorb all the rich compounds hidden in that juicy flesh – one study cites a 2000% improvement in uptake.
If you want to get a little creative with some turmeric recipes you could try adding it to juices, smoothies, soups, teas, omelets, marinades for meat, or even cooking it into an all-healing Indian Golden Milk alongside peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, ginger and honey.