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Why You Need To Eat More Turmeric

Turmeric has many medicinal properties, and has been used traditionally in medicine for centuries

Spices are important, and not just because they can make a bland dish taste amazing. Cinnamon, for example, has been associated with lessened menstrual cramps. Black pepper can help improve nutrient absorption. Turmeric has its own treasure chest of health benefits, and that is exactly what we are going to discuss today!

Where Does Turmeric Come From?

Turmeric grows in many parts of South and Southeast Asia, as well as in parts of Africa and Australia. In fact, turmeric residue has been found in pots in New Delhi that were dated to 2500 BC!

While turmeric can grow in many parts of the world, researchers are still arguing about where it originated. A common belief is that turmeric is native to India and Indonesia, although, there are others who believe that this spice was first grown in China.

Either way, turmeric has been used medicinally for at least 2,500 years, if not more. In the Ayurvedic system of medicine (practiced primarily in India and Sri Lanka), turmeric has been used to heal wounds, clear congestion, and help to clear skin conditions.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

As we can see, turmeric has been used medicinally for a long time. Right now, it’s trendy to use turmeric to treat whatever malady or ache! But, does it work?

In biomedicine, doctors and scientists often discount traditional medicine. Sometimes, they claim the effects we feel are placebo. The placebo effect is when we feel better, even when the treatment makes no changes in our bodies. Other times, researchers do not even test if traditional medicine is effective at all.

Think about it. Why would a pharmaceutical company fund a study about holistic medicine, and risk losing customers?

Luckily, that is not the case with turmeric! Researchers have been hard at work discovering if and how turmeric affects our bodies. The results, spoiler alert, are good!

Curcumin

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

If you have been in the vitamin aisle recently, you have probably seen this word. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that gives it its anti-inflammatory properties and vibrant color.

In this blog, we have talked about inflammation before. On one hand, it is a critical part of stress and immune responses. On the other hand, long-term inflammation can cause diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and possibly even cancer.

Curcumin has fascinating anti-inflammatory properties! While we had millennia of evidence from Ayurveda and the traditional use of turmeric, these properties have been validated by modern science.

In one study, turmeric and ginger were both anti-inflammatory (turmeric more-so) and helped reduce arthritis symptoms in rats.

Moreover, Jurenka found that turmeric slows down the production of inflammatory cytokines (immune cells) in our bodies. The ripple effects include:

Lastly, unlike many pharmaceuticals, turmeric has shown no toxic or negative effects on the average human. It is safe to use and does not interact with other drugs.

How To Add Turmeric To Your Diet

Turmeric is wonderful.

Countless anecdotes on the internet share how turmeric has helped people manage their pain. In my personal experience, a nice, spicy curry did wonders for my buddy’s joint pain (I added a ton of turmeric). There are even more recipes that you can find using this miracle spice!

As with many herbal remedies or supplements, the biggest concern is not whether it works, but how easy it is absorbed by our bodies. If you are eating something, and your body cannot break it down, you may as well be eating styrofoam (but please do not eat styrofoam).

In previous articles, I have touched on bioavailability a few times. For example, when we enjoy our food, our nutrient absorption increases! Additionally, seasoning your meal with black pepper can make the vitamins in the food easier for your body to absorb.

The reality is, you could start eating smoothies with two tablespoons of turmeric in them, and not see any benefits.

What’s my advice?

  1. Eat what you enjoy
  2. Add a bit of black pepper

From there, you should start seeing the effects of turmeric in no time!

My Favorite Turmeric Recipes

Photo by Hilary Hahn

Below, I’ve collected a brief list of meals that I enjoy when eating turmeric.

There are so many more! And, because turmeric is mild compared to some spices (like, I don’t know, garlic) you can really add it to anything you’d like! If you really dislike the taste of turmeric, you can also buy curcumin supplements, which you can take with a meal to improve absorption.

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