Turmeric: the spice of life

This colourful spice adds flavour and colour to your meals, but what else could turmeric do for you?

Turmeric has long been considered one of the most beneficial foods in the world, and now shows promising results from many high-quality studies on its health benefits. The roots of the turmeric plant are used fresh, or dried and ground into a powder; both forms have been used in Asia as a medicine and a spice for thousands of years.

One of the compounds that make turmeric so nutritious, and also gives it the orange-yellow colour, is curcumin. Curcumin boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, improves brain function, shows promise in cancer prevention, and much more.

Anti-inflammatory compound
Inflammation is an essential function that helps your body repair damage and fight bacteria. However extensive or chronic inflammation can cause serious health problems. It’s believed that chronic inflammation may contribute to some illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. Curcumin is powerful in fighting chronic inflammation. Studies show that it can match the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs.

Brain and heart health
Curcumin can increase the levels of growth hormone in your brain, helping your neurons form new connections. This shows promise for improved learning and memory, and in the prevention of depression.

Curcumin can play a part in heart health by improving the lining of the blood vessels which helps regulate blood pressure, clotting, and inflammation.

Antioxidant benefits
We often hear about antioxidants, but what exactly are they? Antioxidants are molecules in our bodies that fight damage caused by unstable molecules (known as free radicals). We need a balance of free radicals and antioxidants. When this balance is disrupted, our health can suffer.

Curcumin is an exceptionally powerful antioxidant that neutralises free radicals to slow down the aging process, and prevent disease.

Cancer treatment prospects
Intensive studies have shown that curcumin can help reduce the growth of malignant cells in some forms of cancer. Research is in its infancy, but the results are promising.

To reap the health benefits, it’s important to know that it’s not as easy as stocking up on the spice, or heading out for a turmeric latte. The curcumin content in turmeric is a mere three percent, and is also difficult for your body to absorb, so curcumin supplements may be the most effective approach.

Not all curcumin supplements are created equal though, and more evidence on the reported benefits is needed. Some contain other ingredients such as piperine (a compound in black pepper), which can help aid absorption by up to 2,000 percent. Consuming curcumin with a fatty meal could also help, as it is fat soluble.

There’s no denying that turmeric is a delicious and healthy addition to your diet, but too much can sometimes cause stomach irritation, so remember, everything in moderation. Talk to your GP about whether curcumin supplements would be suitable for you.

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Turmeric: the spice of life
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