Turmeric is one of the most frequently used spices in Indian cuisine. If you’ve eaten curry or other dishes at an Indian restaurant, you’ve sampled this spice. Related to the ginger plant, its bright yellow, and comes from a rhizome with stems that grow underground. You can use it fresh or in powdered form.
This golden spice has been used for centuries in India as a remedy for many injuries and illnesses. It is a proven anti-inflammatory, and eating it can fight cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
This spice offers the following health benefits and dozens more.
- Helps you handle pain more effectively.
- Supports healthy cardiovascular function
- Helps your body eliminate toxins
- Improves digestion
- Supports bile production in the liver
- Keeps blood sugar levels within a normal range
- Maintains a healthy triglyceride level in the blood
- Promotes healthy gallbladder function
- Regulates neurotransmitters to keep you in a good mood
One tablespoon of this super flavoring has 23 calories, 1.4 grams of dietary fiber and 4.4 grams of carbohydrates. The impressive list of vitamins and minerals in this spice includes Vitamin C, choline, potassium, iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, and calcium.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in this healthy spice. For the best anti-inflammatory results, consume 500 to 1,000 milligrams of curcuminoids each day. A teaspoon of the spice has 200 milligrams of this nutrient.
This spice does have a few side effects. Most people can eat a moderate amount of it without incident, and when problems occur, they are usually minor.
- Stops full absorption of iron
- May interfere with some lab tests due to its high absorption and fluorescent properties
- Reduced blood sugar in diabetics
- May cause increased bleeding during or after surgery
However, the advantages to using this golden spice in meals and smoothies outweigh any potential side effects.
Smoothies and Other Beverages
Golden milk is one of the most popular turmeric beverages. It’s been used for centuries to treat illnesses and improve overall health.
Golden milk improves an already great thing because it combines the cucurmin with spices and a bit of fat in a hot beverage. Use almond, pecan, rice or coconut milk for the healthiest drink, but cow’s milk will work, too. Add a teaspoon of curcumin, a half teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of black pepper. (The black pepper improves absorption.) You may add a few other spices of your choice to taste.
Make fruit or veggie smoothies with this bright yellow spice. For a delicious anti-inflammatory drink, add curcumin to pineapple and kale. A detox smoothie includes chia seeds, ginger and Brazil nuts along with this golden spice.
Add curcumin to scrambled eggs, a breakfast burrito, or a tofu scramble to start your day with a bit of spice and plenty of antioxidants. For dinner, try making Coconut-Curry Chicken with Lemongrass. With a host of other healthy spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and red pepper flakes, this recipe will perk up your taste buds.
Combine carrots and red lentils with this spice in a vegan stew. The red lentils offer fiber and protein to add a complete nutrient package to the meal, and lime and cilantro provide Vitamin C and a fresh taste.
Make Indian food at home to control the amount of this golden spice you put into each recipe. Authentic Chicken Tikka Masala has lots of other spices, including black pepper, coriander, cayenne pepper, cumin seeds and paprika to provide even more desirable outcomes. Vegetarians should try Gobi Aloo (Indian Style Cauliflower) or Spinach, Red Lentil and Bean Curry at home.
Cooking with this spice can cause a permanent stain your cutting boards, kitchen towels, or clothes. (It was once used as a fabric dye and is still used to give color margarine and mustard.)
Turmeric curcumin health benefits also extend to weight maintenance. Losing weight and staying at your ideal weight helps you to stay healthy and live longer. One study on mice showed the spice could aid weight loss. All mice in the experiment were fed a fatty diet, but one group also received a small amount of the golden spice. After 12 weeks, the mice fed curcumin weighed 10 percent less than the other mice.
Many people use weight loss teas with this Indian spice or drink Golden Milk as a way to slim down. The spice seems to have fat-burning, or thermogenic qualities, that increase metabolism. It increases your metabolic rate and burns calories while storing energy in your body. (Green tea and ginger are other foods with thermogenic properties.)
Using this spice helps prevent metabolic syndrome and the problems it causes (obesity, heart disease, diabetes) by preventing abdominal fat from accumulating. It also controls or eliminates adipokines and other inflammatory substances that can cause obesity.
Difference Between Turmeric as a Spice Vs. Turmeric as a Supplement
If you need to target a specific condition, such as arthritis or high blood pressure, use an organic turmeric supplement. A supplement will give you a premeasured amount of curcumin per day to treat a particular health condition, such as arthritis or high blood pressure naturally. When you cook with this spice or use it in smoothies or tea, you’re protecting your overall health, and getting an extra shot of vitamins and antioxidants that may help with specific conditions.
What is turmeric good for? A better question would be “What isn’t it good for?” Using this spice may improve many medical conditions without the side effects and expense of drugs.
It may be a substitute for anticoagulants, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or Warfarin. Studies indicate that curcumin may be better for vascular thrombosis than prescription anticoagulants.
If you have arthritis, this spice may help relieve inflammation. A group of arthritis patients was split into three groups – one group was treated with the drug Diclofenac sodium, another with curcumin, and the third group with a combination of the two substances. The group treated with curcumin only showed the highest improvement.
This golden spice was found to lower glucose and improve beta cell function and fatty acid oxidation in diabetic and pre-diabetic patients. Based on 13 years of study, the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal suggested that this Indian spice may help people with pre-diabetes avoid full-blown diabetes by taking the substance for nine months. This spice may also prevent diabetes-related complications, including nerve damage, cataracts, and kidney disease.
Using recipes with curcumin can reduce blood fat levels after a meal. Some enzymes are inhibited by including this spice in meals, thus lowering triglycerides. Adding black pepper or ginger to curcumin will help lower fat in the blood.
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents in curcumin have been found to regulate blood pressure and prevent some cardiovascular diseases in animal studies. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it may help prevent atherosclerosis, the plaque build-up that clogs arteries. It may also stop blood clots from appearing on artery walls. Lower cholesterol and the ability to keep LDL (bad cholesterol) from invading blood vessels are other pro-heart benefits.
Depression and Anxiety
Curcumin can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which contribute to depression. An Australian study showed participants who took curcumin twice a day for eight weeks exhibited an improvement in depressive symptoms after the fourth week.
Other studies show curcuminoids offer neuroprotective benefits in treating depression, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and other neurological diseases. It may also be helpful for anxiety. In a 2006 study, lab rats were fed curcumin after a stressful episode, and results showed that depressive and stress-related symptoms were reduced. It may prevent monoamine oxidase enzyme from breaking down dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood.
A study conducted at UCLA showed that curcumin, when taken by mouth, could inhibit cancer cells in people with mouth cancer. The spice has also been shown to slow the growth of ovarian and colon cancer. The effects are more pronounced when the substance is taken in supplement form, but eating curcumin spice will have some effect.
The antioxidant properties in the golden spice stop inflammation and swelling. Since inflammation plays a role in cancer development, eating dishes made with this spice may reduce the chance of several types of cancer. Some studies show curcumin may make chemotherapy more effective and guard healthy cells against radiation damage.
A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology showed that curcumin has therapeutic potential for reducing the chance of colorectal cancer, and preventing several digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome. This spice discourages bloating and relaxes smooth muscles in the digestive system, to easily push digested food through the intestines.
How to Buy Curcumin
The best turmeric you can buy is available from Indian food shops and cooking specialty stores. Check online for kosher certified curcumin from India, and make sure it is marked as organic and non-irradiated. Avoid cheap discount store brands, as they may contain toxic metals and offer few, if any, of the health advantages of pure curcumin.