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Why you should include Turmeric in your diet

You have no doubt heard the talk about turmeric. In just about any café or restaurant, you will find some form of turmeric tea. There is plenty of discussion about the health benefits of turmeric. 

You will instantly recognize turmeric in just about anything it appears in. The unmistakable saffron color of turmeric comes through any tea or dish. You can find turmeric in powder form in any spice aisle. Turmeric is also grated while fresh and used to flavor any number of dishes. 

Turmeric is a key ingredient in curry. It is one of the signature flavors that makes curry so distinctive. Turmeric has also been used as a natural medicine in eastern cultures for hundreds of years. In recent years, western countries have been catching on to the many health benefits of turmeric. Turmeric is even being used in body products like skincare creams.  

What exactly is turmeric? What are its properties? And what are the health benefits of turmeric? This guide will give you all the information you need to understand turmeric and to include turmeric in your diet to improve your health and wellness. 

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric as we know comes from the turmeric plant. Part of the ginger family of herbs and plants, the turmeric plant is native to India and parts of Southeast Asia, which accounts for the prevalence of turmeric in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine.  

You will recognize the taste of turmeric as the primary spice in curry. It has a slightly warm and bitter flavor and a distinctive orange-yellow color. This distinctive color comes from the chemical curcumin. Turmeric is commonly found in curry, mustard, and some cheeses.  

But the turmeric root has long been used as a traditional medicine in the parts of the world where it is found. Turmeric is primarily understood to be an effective treatment for inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are now being studied widely by conventional medical researchers.  But turmeric can be used to treat conditions like hay fever, depression, high cholesterol, some types of liver disease, and even itching.  

There is some evidence to show that turmeric may be effective in enhancing memory and treating depression and stress.   

Turmeric properties

In addition to its culinary uses, turmeric has been used as a traditional medicine in many parts of the world. The primary active medicinal chemical, curcumin, is the yellow bioactive compound that is beginning to show clinical proof that it has anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, anticoagulant, antidiabetic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. 

The use of turmeric in Ayurvedic medicine has shown that it is effective as an antiseptic and improves digestion and intestinal flora. Turmeric can also be used to treat minor skin irritations. 

There are eight other compounds present in turmeric. These have not been as closely studied as curcumin, but these other compounds are thought to provide either similar benefits as curcumin or to work with curcumin to provide benefits. For this reason, it is recommended that a turmeric supplement is more effective than one that contains only curcumin. 

Turmeric benefits

Again, turmeric has long been a staple in Ayurvedic medicine. It has been recognized as a natural medicine around the world to treat a variety of ailments and conditions. The rise in popularity of turmeric in western countries as natural medicine has led researchers to examine some of these traditional practices. Many of the health benefits of turmeric have now been clinically tested. 

Can treat arthritis symptoms

Since turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, it naturally works well to treat an inflammatory condition like arthritis. Clinical studies now prove that curcumin found in turmeric is effective in reducing the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis. Turmeric, taken in the form of tea, can reduce inflammation and alleviate the pain associated with arthritis. 

Vastly reduces oxidative stress and anti-inflammatory

The damage from oxidative stress is linked to a host of diseases and conditions that come with aging. Oxidative stress comes with the presence of free radicals in the body. Free radicals react with the organic chemical systems in the body and cause damage over time. This means that free radicals interrupt biochemical systems like DNA and proteins. 

Because turmeric has such a high concentration of antioxidants. The presence of antioxidants in turmeric can neutralize free radicals and eliminate oxidative stress. 

Researchers have found that turmeric is so effective as an anti-inflammatory that it rivals some of the pharmaceutical treatments without causing any of the adverse side effects that come with pharmaceuticals. Several studies found that the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric were highly effective in treating things like osteoarthritis. Turmeric appears to be more effective in treating the pain of osteoarthritis than ibuprofen. 

The curcumin in turmeric blocks a specific molecule that causes inflammation. This same molecule plays a major role in many of the chronic diseases associated with inflammation. The bottom line is that the curcumin in turmeric works as a bioactive substance that naturally fights inflammation.

Reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a category of illnesses and conditions that include diabetes, hypoglycemia, and high blood pressure. Due to the powerful antioxidant properties of turmeric, it is not known to significantly reduce your risk of developing the conditions that fall under the category of metabolic syndrome. 

Turmeric also blocks certain metabolic pathways that contribute to metabolic syndrome. This reduces your risk of high blood sugar and high cholesterol. By extension, as turmeric blocks these metabolic pathways, it also has the potential to help you lose weight by reducing the metabolic processes that allow fats to accumulate. 

Prevents Alzheimer’s disease

One of the causes of Alzheimer's disease is the oxidative stress that comes from an excessive presence of free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause damage to all kinds of cells including brain cells. Turmeric has a high concentration of antioxidants. Research now suggests that turmeric may prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Research shows that taking turmeric can reduce the presence of a synaptic marker that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. 

In addition to reducing the impact of free radicals on brain cells, it appears that turmeric can actually stimulate the production of new brain cells. It was once thought that we cannot grow new brain cells. Recent research shows that we can grow new brain cells.

Turmeric stimulates the production of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This is a hormone that causes the body to produce new brain cells. Researchers now see turmeric as one way of preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative illnesses.  

Reduces the risk of heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world. This means heart disease and its causes are one of the most carefully studied health conditions. Researchers have found that the curcumin found in turmeric may help prevent heart disease. 

Turmeric assists the function of the tissue that lines the inside of blood vessels called the endothelium. This has the effect of reducing blood pressure and boosts blood clotting capabilities. In fact, these studies show that turmeric may work as well as the drug Lovastatin which is used to fight heart disease. 

Prevents cancer

There are many types of cancer, but many of them have things in common. Cancers tend to increase as a result of uncontrolled cell growth. Turmeric has been shown to inhibit this type of uncontrolled cell growth associated with cancer. 

There are now multiple studies that show that the active ingredient of turmeric, curcumin, can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent the metastasis of cancer cells that render it deadly. 

Fights depression

Several studies show that turmeric may be effective in fighting depression. 

In one study, participants who suffered from depression were split randomly into three groups. One group took prescription Prozac, one took only curcumin supplements, and a third took both Prozac and curcumin. After six weeks, the group that took only curcumin supplements showed improvements that rivaled the prescription drug Prozac. 

The properties of turmeric that increase the production of BDNF mentioned above also help fight the neurological conditions associated with depression. Turmeric can help boost the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and dopamine. Both of these decrease the symptoms of depression. 

Helps with digestion

Turmeric has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for a variety of digestive problems and general digestive health. 

Western medicine has finally caught up with these practices. The World Health Organization recommended taking turmeric to treat acid reflux, flatulence, and functional dyspepsia in 1999.

More recently, researchers found that turmeric can benefit people in the treatment of colon cancer. Studies showed that turmeric was effective in preventing the growth of cancerous cells in the colon. 

Another study in the UK found that people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) showed marked improvements in their symptoms and discomfort by taking turmeric tablets. 

Choosing Turmeric

Turmeric can be used as a spice in plenty of things you probably already eat. Put a teaspoon or two in with eggs to spice up breakfast and get the benefits of turmeric. Turmeric goes well in salad dressings, roasted veggies, soups, and fish, and meats. 

There are now numerous turmeric teas available in most any grocery or café. Turmeric ginger tea is a favorite because it packs the additional benefits and flavor of ginger. 

There are also turmeric supplements you can buy. These beg the question of whether or not you should take turmeric capsules or a supplement that only contains the active ingredient curcumin. 

There are some health benefits in turmeric that are not attributed to curcumin alone. Researchers have found at least eight compounds in turmeric that contribute to the health benefits that go beyond simply taking curcumin. What is more, many of these other compounds appear to work with curcumin to provide the benefits attributed to turmeric.

Time to eat Turmeric

If you are taking a turmeric supplement, there are no hard and fast guidelines as to when it is best to take it. However, there is evidence to suggest that you get the most benefit from turmeric supplements when they are taken on an empty stomach. It is recommended that you take turmeric supplements at least two hours before a meal or two hours after. This prevents the active compounds in turmeric from becoming absorbed in ways that do not provide benefits. 

Turmeric FAQs

What is turmeric? 

Turmeric is a root similar to ginger. It is indigenous to India and parts of Southeast Asia and is a staple ingredient in things like curries and mustards.

Why has turmeric been used in traditional medicine?

Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat things like inflammation and digestive problems. 

What are the benefits of turmeric? 

Recent research has shown turmeric is highly effective as a treatment for inflammation, digestive problems, and to help protect and enhance memory in people with neurodegenerative diseases. 

Can I get a turmeric supplement? 

Turmeric is widely available as natural food and in the form of a supplement. 

Are there side effects from turmeric?

There are few side effects to taking turmeric, but it can cause an upset stomach, thin blood, and may stimulate contractions in pregnant women. 

Conclusion 

Things like turmeric ginger tea are now available in cafes and tea shops all over. The presence of turmeric in foods has become something of a fad. But the facts about turmeric back up the claims that it is a healthy and medically beneficial natural food. 

The ancient natural medicine practices that prescribe turmeric for inflammation and digestive problems have now been tested by modern science. The results show that turmeric holds up to scientific scrutiny. Turmeric is now recommended as part of the range of treatments for devastating problems like Alzheimer’s disease. The chemical components of turmeric help repair and generate new neuron growth in the human brain. 

The relentless problems of inflammation that has become associated with so many contemporary diseases can also be treated with turmeric. Even something as serious as cancer is now treated, at least in part, with turmeric.

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