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Turmeric is an herb that is common to Indian food and Middle Eastern cuisine, well known for its gut-healing properties and anti-inflammatory benefits.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a bright yellow-orange root that contains the anti-inflammatory polyphenol compound curcumin. Many of turmeric’s health benefits come from this active ingredient and other curcuminoids. Turmeric is in the same plant family as ginger, widely regarded for its earthy, warm taste that is frequently found in curries.
The health benefits of turmeric are all largely derived from its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin is so anti-inflammatory that it has been found to be every bit as potent as conventional treatments like cortisone, even in acute inflammation.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
- Promotes healthy inflammation processes in the body and reduces harmful inflammatory activity
- May reduce inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein
- Functions as an antioxidant
- Promotes gut health
- Supports Phase II detoxification in the liver and protects the liver from damage
- May help to prevent cancer by inhibiting carcinogenic activity and the growth of cancer cells
- May promote cognitive health and protect against Alzheimer’s
- May help to address pain and inflammation in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, IBD, as well as other inflammatory disorders
- May help to improve anxiety or depression disorders
- May promote increases in HDL cholesterol and decreases in LDL cholesterol
- May decrease blood pressure
- Supports increased blood flow
- May decrease cortisol levels
Cooking with Turmeric
Turmeric is a spice that is best absorbed when taken with food that contains fat. The same is true for curcumin when taken as a supplement since it is fat-soluble.
Turmeric is an excellent spice to keep stocked in a pantry. It can be added to traditional curries, but also mixes well with other spice blends, even in dishes like tacos, hummus, or roasted vegetables. It can be added to bone broth, soups, and stocks, and can even be used to make golden milk lattes, which pair milk, a natural sweetener, and turmeric for a warming beverage.
Turmeric and curcumin are not optimized for absorption during the digestive process. Curcumin absorption can be improved by using black pepper in conjunction with it. Some supplements also use phospholipid delivery systems to enhance bioavailability. Other supplements experiment with higher doses or combinations of nutrients to provide an optimal dose or product for absorption. Few turmeric or curcumin supplements are exactly the same.
Turmeric may have a slight blood-thinning effect, and may also interact with the cytochrome P450 system, which is the primary way that drugs and supplements are metabolized in the body. If you take anticoagulants or any other medications, it’s best to check with your healthcare provider about potential interactions. Supplement dosages may vary widely based on the product and formulation, so it’s important to read labels and trust your practitioner for advice.
Today’s Simple Step
Our bodies offer feedback all day long about how we’re doing. Many times we tune out this information until things get bad enough, but many types of inflammatory problems or other issues could be headed off if we would take notice before things get to a crisis point.
What feedback is your body offering you today? Are you sore, achy, or uncomfortable anywhere? Do you always feel this way? Too often we prioritize busyness and don’t take time to slow down and listen to how we’re doing, yet this was a natural part of living for our Paleo ancestors. Modern life isn’t just damaging because of low-nutrient diets and low levels of physical activity, but also because slowing down seems to be regarded as laziness. In reality, prioritizing the health of your body should be considered a virtue.
By incorporating anti-inflammatory elements into your lifestyle, like using turmeric spice when you’re cooking or by stretching your body more frequently to avoid stiff muscles, you support your body in its quest to always keep inflammation levels balanced. Some inflammation is necessary and serves a healing purpose. Chronic inflammation is what can be problematic. Being in tune with your body can allow you to tell the difference between a transient ache or a chronic problem.
This Lamb Curry is an excellent example of how to use turmeric as food-medicine in your kitchen. Try it for dinner this week!