Turmeric has been widely used in cooking – most popularly Indian cuisine – for centuries. Its earthy flavour and bright yellow colour make it a delightful addition to a wide range of dishes. In the last few decades, however, it’s become clear that turmeric is so much more than a seasoning. Its health benefits are still being explored and understood, but here’s what is known so far and how you can get the most benefits from turmeric.
The most popular fact circulating about turmeric is that it has anti-inflammatory properties, but what does this mean and why is it important?
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to tings like infection or injury: it is used to fight off harmful pathogens from the surrounding environment, such as bacteria or viruses. However, sometimes too much inflammation or inflammation in the wrong areas can cause damage to the body’s tissues, doing more harm than good. Inflammation has been linked to a wide range of illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s diseases.
With its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can be helpful in fighting off inflammation and some of the issues that chronic inflammation causes. It has been proven to be helpful for reducing the symptoms of hay fever (such as itching, sneezing and congestion), osteoarthritis and chronic itching. There is still research being done to understand how it could influence Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
Antioxidants in Turmeric
Free radicals are reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. They can come from the external environment or form as a normal part of our cells functioning, but either way they can cause damage to our bodies on a cellular level, such as by disrupting cell repair and reproduction.
With its strong antioxidant properties, turmeric can neutralise free radicals and boost the activity of the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes. This can slow down the signs of ageing and prevent the development of cancer.
How to Get the Best from Turmeric
The compounds that tend to give turmeric its health benefits are called curcuminoids. The most critical of these compounds is curcumin. Unfortunately, turmeric has a relatively low amount of curcumin in it – about 3% of its make up is curcumin. Curcumin also doesn’t absorb into the bloodstream easily.
It’s therefore difficult to get the full benefits of turmeric by just incorporating it into your diet, although it’s certainly a start and can be as easy as playing with friends. It’s been found that a compound in black pepper – piperine – can increase the absorption of curcumin into the blood stream, so try to incorporate black pepper into your turmeric recipes. Curcumin is also fat-soluble so including fat in your turmeric recipes, such as coconut cream, ghee, or cream, can also help absorption.
It’s also possible to supplement with curcumin. There are a wide variety of supplements available on the market, but make sure whichever one you buy includes piperine in it for the best possible absorption. These supplements are usually natural and simply contain all the best parts of turmeric, so you can reap its benefits without cooking yourself into a frenzy!