Every once in a while, a magazine or blog features turmeric benefits for health. And then, another ‘superfood’ takes the stage. Sometimes it seems like turmeric is one of the latest fads, too, because of its many health benefits.
But turmeric has been around for centuries. Found in Southeast Asia and often used in delicious East Indian dishes, turmeric is the heart of most curries. The turmeric benefits come from its rich antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are actually found in a compound called “curcumin”.
Turmeric is a rhizome that grows similarly to ginger, under the ground. It’s hard to mistake turmeric for any other spice with its rich, bright orange-yellow color! Most of us use the dried turmeric but you may be able to find the fresh stuff in some specialty supermarkets. It’ll look like ginger but smaller.
Curcumin is the bioactive compound of turmeric and constitutes about 3-7% of the total weight of the root. Turmeric benefits from curcumin have been studied for years and are often touted as one of the reasons many Western diseases aren’t prominent in countries with widespread usage.
Turmeric Benefits to Your Health
While we often see that turmeric benefits our health, it’s actually the studies based on curcumin that tell the real story. Dozens of clinical trials involving curcumin extract have taken place to fully understand it’s unique health benefits.
One amazing aspect of curcumin is that is fights inflammation at the molecular level in the body. This feature is so great that some studies even state that it can work just as well as many prescription-grade anti-inflammatory medications!
Of course, curcumin doesn’t leave the side effects of medications, which vastly improves its benefits.
Another of the many turmeric benefits is that it has a ton of antioxidant properties. And we know this is important to neutralize free radicals that can cause cancer and other harmful diseases in our bodies. Plus, curcumin boosts our bodies’ natural antioxidant enzymes too!
Reduce Inflammation – It’s Important!
Turmeric benefits of reducing inflammation and oxidation are so important for your overall health.
Inflammation can arise in two situations:
- One, when you stub your toe or cut your finger, your immune system mobilizes the resources needed to clear out any foreign invaders and heal the wound.
- Two, when your immune system is triggered to be ‘always on’ due to environmental toxins, food sensitivities, stress or many other factors, you can have what’s called “chronic low-grade inflammation”.
It’s the latter type of inflammation that’s dangerous to your health. And one of the turmeric benefits is that is helps reduce overall inflammation throughout your body. This is important help reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, mood and mental disorders, arthritis, dementia and many others.
Amazing Curcumin Functions
The most important part of turmeric, curcumin, has many other awesome benefits, too.
Curcumin helps to boost a natural growth hormone-like substance called “Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor”. This helps protect your brain and keep it healthy.
Eating curcumin often will help to improve the inner lining of your blood vessels, keeping them strong, supple and maybe even helping to avoid plaque build-up. As you probably know, this is great for the health of your heart!
And, finally, one of the turmeric benefits I think everyone can get behind is its ability to help reduce the growth of cancer cells. Curcumin helps by reducing the growth of new blood vessels in tumors (known as ‘angiogenesis’) and the spread of cancer (‘metastasis’). And, curcumin has been shown to help kill existing cancer cells, too.
Get the Most Turmeric Benefits You Can!
In order to get all the turmeric benefits possible, you need to consume it properly.
Curcumin is fat soluble, which means it needs healthy fat in order for it to be absorbed by your gut. This is why it’s important to add turmeric to foods sautéed with olive or coconut oil, or even fattier cuts of meat, like beef or chicken thighs.
Another little trick to getting more of the turmeric benefits is to eat it with pepper! (This may be why so many Indian curries are so spicy, right?) Pepper helps to enhance absorption. In fact, a compound in black pepper, called ‘piperine’, increases absorption by 2000%! Amazing, right?
Now, if you really want turmeric benefits, you do need to get it in large doses. So, this means adding a teaspoon here and there to your diet isn’t going to benefit you that much.
This is where curcumin supplements come in. Just make sure to take them with food that contains some fat!
Some people should contact their health care professional before taking any curcumin supplements, including those who:
- Are pregnant
- Are taking anti-platelet medications or blood thinners
- Have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction
- Have stomach ulcers or excess stomach acid
And, of course, for the rest of you, read the label before taking a new supplement.
Turmeric benefits your health in so many ways and is actually thought to be a ‘miracle’ spice. Its unique taste helps to enhance many different dishes, and curcumin has been shown to boost your overall health.
Reduce inflammation to reduce your risk of disease as well as to help you manage stress better and promote a healthy weight.
Antioxidants are crucial in our toxin-laden environments to help avoid the problems associated with free radicals. This includes not only cancer but pre-mature aging and brain health.
So, if you’re dealing with chronic low-grade inflammation and need a bit of a boost, try some curcumin supplements and make sure to add more turmeric to your diet.