Why Is Turmeric One of the Healthiest Spices to Eat?
Why Is Turmeric One of the Healthiest Spices to Eat?
Dr Axe says there are over 6000 clinical studies proving turmeric to be the #1 healing herb today. He explains in this short video...
Recently, we talked all about my favorite ginger and turmeric tea.
It’s great for digestive discomfort and general pain relief. I still make it at least once a week.
This got me thinking about turmeric specifically.
I remember years ago when Dr. Oz turned a lot of meat-and-potatoes folks onto turmeric via his daytime talk show.
It seems turmeric got a new lease on life overnight!
In middle America...
...where many never set foot in an Indian restaurant, turmeric flew off the shelves.
This level of interest does present opportunities to subpar supplement manufacturers.
They can slap words on a bottle of diluted, expired, or flat-out useless capsules and make a killing.
It also opens people up to taking claims at face value and running with them. You can’t lead an unhealthy lifestyle and expect turmeric to make up for it.
Today, I’m going to share some facts about turmeric that a lot of sources aren’t making very clear.
... we’ll explore ways to use more turmeric at home for maximum efficacy.
Ultimate healer or overblown hype?
The truth is somewhere in between.
The Amazing Claims
Reading about turmeric, it’s a mystery as to why any of us age or die at all. After all, we can home-grow turmeric!
Maybe I’m exaggerating. But boy, these studies on curcumin (turmeric’s hot-shot polyphenol) are encouraging.
- Curcumin protects brains from toxic pesticides (animal study).
- Curcumin improves behavior in brains affected by autism (animal study).
- Curcumin prevents IBS flare ups (human study).
- Curcumin inhibits the growth of cancer cells (human study).
- Curcumin works as well as cholesterol-lowering medications (human study).
- Curcumin prevents recurrent heart attack after bypass surgery (human study).
- Curcumin has a beneficial effect on indicators of Alzheimer’s disease (human study.)
- Curcumin is effective in managing arthritis (human study).
- Curcumin increases serotonin alleviating depression (human study).
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg, folks.
Hundreds of studies using curcumin in the prevention or improvement of nearly every major condition plaguing humanity are available.
Those powerful antioxidant, antiseptic properties are also great for your skin.
Slather it on, swallow it, it doesn’t matter - we just know we need turmeric for its curcumin.
So of everything on our spice rack, is turmeric really the healthiest?
...but here’s where we can get tripped up.
Discover The Root of the Root
I remember first reading the above studies and getting incredibly excited.
At present, I still adore turmeric and believe that it can reduce inflammation.
Like many topics in the health arena, there’s a lot of fine print to process.
A lot of people know that the secret to turmeric’s success is curcumin. But many of these same people don’t know how truly rare curcumin is.
In fact, turmeric root only contains about 3% curcumin on average.
There are trace amounts in other relative rhizomes like ginger. Still, second place in curcumin content is taken by a root called shoti.
Shoti, with an approximate 2% curcumin content, is not something you’re likely to find in stores.
Now consider that populations who eat a lot of turmeric do so in part because of their cuisine.
In parts of Asia and even Britain, curry is a staple dish. As such, curry spice blends are quite popular for the average, modern curry eater.
I’ve actually seen bottles of mass-market curry powder promoted as a way to get more beneficial curcumin.
The trouble is...
...curry powder is not a great source of turmeric.
Much of the bottle is taken up by several other spices. Therefore, it’s not a good source of curcumin.
This is a problem particularly in our society, where authentic curry (and its spices) can be hard to come by.
This is important.
So, the warning is...
...curry powder won't cut the mustard.
Turmeric’s inclusion here is to lend its rich, yellow color to dishes (note: the color comes from curcumin as well).
Tinging your dish yellow might make it more characteristic of a curry. But it doesn’t mean you’re getting any curcumin.
...did I just say you may not get any curcumin from curry powder?
It’s possible because, on top of the small amount of turmeric, curcumin has major bioavailability issues.
At this time, I’m skeptical as to whether or not you can see major therapeutic benefits from casual ingestion of turmeric.
Still, it’s one of the healthiest spices you can eat, and you should aim to get more of it.
Just do one of the following to improve absorption:
1. Eat it with black pepper
One thing curry powder does have going for it in the curcumin department is the simultaneous presence of black pepper.
The compound piperine, found in black pepper, increases curcumin’s bioavailability.
There is also discussion that turmeric’s relative, ginger, can be supportive to the absorption of curcumin.
That’s yet another reason to combine them, such as in tea, with a little black pepper.
2. Eat it with fat
Turmeric is fat soluble, as opposed to water soluble.
Whether you’re supplementing or including it in foods and drinks, eat some fat it can journey with.
Good options would include a handful of nuts or some avocado.
3. Don’t eat it; just swallow it
Fortunately, the bioavailability problem has inspired researchers to look for ways around it. Suffice to say, there are many schools of thought on what makes a turmeric/curcumin supplement the best.
Lately, my own research finds me focusing on topics like free curcumin and nanoparticle curcumin.
Zhou is one brand that seems really aggressive in terms of backing up their product with science.
In fact, their supplements are the work of scientists at UCLA. Their formulation is specifically for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Similarly, doctors brought forth Meriva for those with arthritis, although many users report success with relieving other kinds of pain.
Eating More Turmeric: Interesting and Easy Recipes
Here’s my anecdotal two cents...
...I love turmeric for pain relief.
Because it really works!
However, I don’t take capsules of the stuff at this time. I’ve found plenty of ways to work turmeric into my diet.
Here are just a few!
My favorite thing about avocado toast is that you can dress it up until it doesn’t resemble your typical breakfast.
It’s satisfying, nutritious and the best part is...
...you can make it if you’re still half-asleep!
I mash half of an avocado, while it’s still in its skin, and spread it on sprouted grain bread. Then, I sprinkle with salt and pepper.
On top of that, I add a few healthy dashes of turmeric. This dish alone has the pepper and fat quotients covered.
You can have fun customizing turmeric breakfast bites. These are great pre- and post-workout as well. I use a base of one cup of raw cashews and two cups of medjool dates, no pits.
After I blend these together in a food processor, I add a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of ginger. Add a splash of water and spoonful of almond butter, and you can form the mixture into balls.
To finish, I roll them around in coconut flakes or crushed nuts and seeds. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for a few days.
Honestly, turmeric isn’t bad at all in oatmeal and Greek yogurt!
Sure, it changes the color of your breakfast, but the taste isn’t as strong as one would assume. I find that a drizzle of raw organic honey conceals it nicely.
Frittatas, quiches, and tofu scrambles?
Turmeric is the perfect spice to add flavor dimension and color to your dish. Just blend it, along with pepper, in with your eggs or tofu during preparation.
Make Lunch Healthy and Delicious
For lunch, I usually have a wrap or power bowl.
Turmeric goes well in either of these. For the base of either, try a nice, lemony turmeric quinoa.
You can prep a big batch of wraps and bowls for the entire week.
First, rinse your quinoa if necessary. Use a ratio of 1-part quinoa to 2 parts liquid, water or broth. Add a tablespoon of organic extra virgin olive oil. Bring it all to a boil on medium-high heat.
Next, turn it down to low heat. Add a teaspoon (or more!) of turmeric, black pepper, and any other spices you like.
Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the juice of half of a lemon when cool.
It’s delicious hot or cold.
Dress it up with cranberries, golden raisins, pumpkin seeds, olives, or anything else you like.
What's for Dinner?
There is, perhaps, nothing more healing and nourishing than a turmeric-laden soup.
Here is where you can really make the most of your healthiest spices. My detox soup is too good to make only in the winter, and it holds up well in the freezer.
It’s also really easy to swap out ingredients depending what you have on hand. I typically include cauliflower, kale, celery, onions, and carrots.
Let me explain.
After sautéing the veggies, I let it simmer for an hour or more in low-sodium vegetable broth.
To this, I add either a few spoons of powder turmeric or a knob of grated fresh.
From there, you can add ginger, cayenne pepper, garlic, and a few capfuls of apple cider vinegar.
Most of us love saffron rice, but saffron is really expensive! You can still enjoy flavorful yellow rice by adding turmeric instead.
And what if, instead of conventional rice, you tried cauliflower rice? All you have to do is grate and sauté.
It’s easy to make the healthiest turmeric-cauliflower pilaf ever. I like to first sauté onions and diced carrots and then add my cauliflower rice.
While stirring over medium heat, I add in my turmeric and black pepper to my taste.
A garnish of fresh herbs and seeds makes this a really impressive side dish. Not to mention, it’s very low-calorie.
How about Drinks
Since we aim to stuff as many healthy ingredients into smoothies anyway, why not turmeric? Well, it can turn a green smoothie brown - not very appetizing.
The solution is simply using awesome fruits and veggies that resemble turmeric in color.
For instance, a smoothie with turmeric can include mango, carrot, oranges, bananas, and pineapple.
Add in some complementary ginger and cinnamon, too. While turmeric is rather bitter, the flavor doesn’t overpower bright, fresh fruits.
Then, of course, there’s the ubiquitous golden milk. Golden milk is a great option for those who like a warm, comforting drink in the morning - without caffeine.
Golden milk is rather trendy at the moment, so there are a lot of variations floating around.
Katie at Wellness Mama keeps hers really simple, which I like.
It involves two cups of milk (plant-based is fine) and a teaspoon of turmeric. From there, you add in black pepper, some ginger and cinnamon, and a tiny bit of natural sweetener.
A Little Extra Bonus for you: An Awesome Immunity-Boosting Paste
...I know what it’s like to cook for, well, let’s say, selective eaters.
Kids, in particular, will balk at the slightest variation in color and flavor.
In such cases, you may find that adding turmeric to regular dishes just isn’t possible, if you want them to actually eat.
That’s why I love keeping a little jar of homemade turmeric honey around.
I like a super-concentrated version to help protect from seasonal viruses. You prepare it once and eat a spoonful daily, whenever you remember to.
You can even take that spoonful and stir it into your tea. Start with a half a cup of raw honey. You can heat it just a little to make it easier to mix.
From there, I stir in two teaspoons of ground turmeric, and one teaspoon of ground ginger. Finish it off with a pinch of pepper.
Final Word about: Why Is Turmeric One of the Healthiest Spices to Eat?
I have to admit, turmeric (curcumin) is a tough one. The potential is pretty much undeniable at this point. The question is: are we, average citizens trying to make healthy choices, gaining these benefits by using the dried spice?
The question is:
Are we, average citizens trying to make healthy choices, gaining these benefits by using the dried spice?
The tiny percentage of curcumin in turmeric, along with the bioavailability issues, make this uncertain.
So, it may be good for general pain relief, such as from strenuous exercise.
However, the treatment of conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia may require a therapeutic dose.
For the treatment of medical conditions, I’d definitely recommend bringing turmeric up with your doctor.
Start examining supplements and look into their formulations and concentrations before making a purchase.
For the rest of us, we have nothing to lose by using turmeric as an anti-inflammatory, immune-system-supporting spice.
The secret is...
...you have to use quite a bit of it, and often. It certainly adds more value to everything you eat than, say, salt or onion powder.
And once you get used to it, you’ll be really surprised how well it hides in a variety of foods!
Now it’s your turn. .
With all of the hype around turmeric, what concerns you most?
Have you seen any obvious benefit to taking it?
What unexpected foods do you find go best with turmeric?
Be sure to let me know, and I’ll return soon with more health secrets and topics to discuss.