What are the health benefits of turmeric? (if any!)

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With an increased focus on health and wellbeing over the past few years, the rise of superfoods has been a swift one, with health food stores, supermarkets and cafés jumping on the bandwagon to give Australians their fix of antioxidants and nutrient-rich foods. With foods such as acai, goji berries and raw cacao powder filling supermarket shelves and household kitchens, consumers seem to be constantly on the lookout for the next superfood to add to their shopping list.

One ingredient that many are increasingly incorporating into their diet is turmeric. Better-known as one of the main ingredients in curries, turmeric is becoming popular within other meals – and even drinks – due to its anti-inflammatories and links to improved cognitive function.

If you’re looking to get on the health bandwagon, or you’re interested in how turmeric can improve your health, read on to find out just how you can benefit from adding this ingredient into your diet.

What is turmeric?

Officially known as Curcuma Ionga, turmeric is part of the ginger family, and is a perennial flowering plant commonly found in both South East Asia and India. Often used for its colouring and flavouring, turmeric gives curry its yellow colouring, as well as offers plenty of health benefits through one of its main active ingredients – curcumin.

Turmeric is primarily used as a spice, with the roots crushed to form the powder, although turmeric leaves are also used in some dishes, making it a versatile addition to your shopping trolley.

What are the health benefits of turmeric?

The majority of turmeric’s health benefits come from curcumin. While only making up around 3% of turmeric in terms of weight, this provides the bulk of the benefits, including anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, which help your body fight off foreign bodies and ensure that all your bodily functions are running smoothly.

Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, curcumin can apparently reduce the effects and onset of Alzheimer’s disease through a reduction in amyloid plaques, which create a blockage between nerve cells in the brain. Similarly, research published in Phytotherapy Research has shown that turmeric combated rheumatoid arthritis in some patients due to its inflammatory nature, helping to improve joint function and movement.

Curcumin has also been linked to improving the lining of blood vessels, which can help prevent heart disease. A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, which focused on 120 people who were undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery, saw a 65% decrease in the risk of experiencing a heart attack whilst in hospital in test subjects who were given 4g of curcumin a day.

Despite some promising research, however, you may want to hold off from running down to your local supermarket, as other researchers and scientist have argued against turmeric providing health benefits. Research published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry found that turmeric did not provide medicinal benefits to subjects, with many additionally claiming that as it is poorly absorbed by the body, it doesn’t pass on the majority of its supposed benefits.

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Where can I buy turmeric?

With turmeric and curcumin coming in a variety of forms, you won’t have to look hard to find a way to incorporate it into your diet. Turmeric root and powder should be available at your local supermarket or health food store, and available online through the major supermarkets.

If you’re after a supplement, turmeric and curcumin capsules are available at major pharmacies and chemists, with brands such as Bioglan, Blackmores, Nature’s Way, Swisse and Nature’s Own offering capsules and tablets.

If a hot beverage is more your style, turmeric tea is readily available online or through tea retailers and health food stores, with many cafés additionally getting behind turmeric lattes. While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s plenty of options to try out if you’re after a turmeric hit.

How much turmeric should I have?

Both turmeric and curcumin are measured in curcuminoids, with a study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine recommending between 500 and 1,000mg of curcuminoids each day as enough to promote anti-inflammatory measures and healthier body functions.

Taking too much turmeric however, can cause some people to experience digestive issues, as large amounts of turmeric and curcumin stimulate the stomach to produce more gastric acid. However, this is generally for those who have large dosages, generally exceeding 2,000mg a day. Additionally, turmeric may slow blood clotting, so it’s best to avoid if you’re on blood-thinners, or to first consult your doctor before you incorporate either turmeric or curcumin into your diet.

How should I consume turmeric?

Turmeric is best paired with black pepper, as it helps with the absorption process, ensuring that you don’t miss out on any of the benefits. Most supplements include black pepper to combat the absorption problem, but if you’re cooking with turmeric, be prepared to add a few extra ingredients to get the full benefits.

Turmeric Nutritional Information

Per tablespoon, turmeric powder contains 29 calories, while providing 26% of the recommended daily intake of manganese, 16% of your daily iron intake and 5% of your daily potassium needs. A tablespoon of turmeric also contains over 6g of carbohydrates – including over 2g of fiber – with less than a gram of protein and fat, meaning adding a spoon of turmeric to your meals won’t derail your summer body.

Is turmeric worth taking?

Considering how busy our lives can get, we end up putting our bodies through a lot more than we realise. As a result, ensuring we have a balance of vitamins and minerals can often be the difference between tackling the day or letting the day tackle you.

While turmeric may not be at the top of your list when it comes to which spices you should be loading up on, its link to antioxidants and anti-inflammatories makes it worthwhile looking into, particularly if you’re looking to keep on top of your game. Add in the variety of ways that you can incorporate both turmeric and curcumin into your diet – and considering you only need a small dose before you begin to experience its benefits – there aren’t many reasons why you shouldn’t consider turmeric. But it’s best to discuss the matter with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.

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