Nutrition Trend: Turmeric
Written by Arielle Kestenbaum | Reviewed by Jennifer Calo, CDE, CDN, MS, RD, RDN
A recent trend that has been hitting store shelves, not only in its pure spice form, but in beverages and other “grab-and-go” items, is turmeric. This yellow spice, a primary ingredient in Indian food, is now a hot new trend in pressed-juices as well as in supplement forms. It comes from the root of the turmeric plant, known as Curcuma Longa. It has been used throughout history (Indian and Chinese) as a condiment, medicine, and textile dye. Today, this historical spice has been included in countless headlines highlighting its many health benefits.
Turmeric is a wonderful spice sold in its fresh and dried form at many grocery and health foods stores. It is one of the healthiest ways to add flavor and color to any home-cooked meal. Although turmeric has many health benefits, it is not a miracle root. Like many other spices derived from roots, turmeric may have anti-inflammatory benefits. These benefits have been helpful in reducing inflammation of the heart (heartburn) as well as of the stomach. Turmeric has been utilized as a natural remedy for joint pain, from those suffering from arthritis to something as simple as a post-workout aches. There are even people who suggest turmeric extract supplements work just as well as ibuprofen in patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis. Laboratory research on animals suggests that turmeric may be an effective intervention for cancer treatment and memory improvement in Alzheimer’s patients.
Turmeric gets its “superfood” reputation because of its antioxidant properties. There are preliminary studies that suggest curcumin, the yellow chemical in turmeric, can interfere with several important molecular pathways involved in both cancer development and growth. According to the American Cancer Society, turmeric is even associated with killing cancer cells and shrinking tumors in these lab settings. It is also associated with removing toxins and harmful bacteria in the gut, reducing the risk of bowel cancer. Although turmeric has all of these beneficial properties, it is worth mentioning that eating the spice alone is not readily bioavailable in the human body. Studies have shown that ingesting black pepper with turmeric has improved its bioavailability. It is advised to consume black pepper and turmeric together, especially in foods containing greater than 2 Tbsp of turmeric.
We now know many of the health benefits turmeric has on our bodies, and can include it in any egg, soup, or poultry recipe. We also are aware that because it is a newly established superfood, many foods and pressed-juices containing the spice will be more expensive. Instead, go out to your local food store, buy some turmeric and have fun in your own kitchens, creating delicious, colorful and healthy recipes!