There are so many “trends” in the health & wellness arena. While some are downright questionable and have no scientific basis, there are some based in Ayurveda and Eastern medicine that were used for centuries before modern medicine. These trends have promising value but are not a proven “cure-all” that some mistakenly believe. Having lived in India, I am very familiar with one of these trends – TURMERIC! Turmeric is an herb that can be found in most curries and it gives Indian food their bright golden colors.
Are there health benefits of incorporating more turmeric in your diet?
Though studies have been limited and inconclusive, there is a growing body of literature claiming that the curcumin in turmeric has a myriad of therapeutic efficacies in various diseases.
Curcumin (the main active ingredient in turmeric supplements) is a natural anti-inflammatory bio-active compound, which may help the body fight foreign invaders. Specifically, curcumin blocks a molecule called NF-kB that is responsible for “turning on” inflammation as an immune response. With these molecules blocked, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties can help those with chronic inflammatory diseases. These diseases can include heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and other degenerative diseases.
Curcumin helps neutralize free radicals and increases the body’s antioxidant capacity. This may help delay aging and fight chronic diseases related to oxidative stress. Not only is the chemical structure of curcumin able to bind to potentially damaging free radicals, it also helps stimulate your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
Curcumin may also increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) a hormone necessary for the maintenance and survival of your neurons, or nerve cells. Degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s are associated with low levels of BDNF. Research is being done to explore the potential of curcumin in the prevention of these diseases. In healthy individuals, curcumin may also help to improve your memory.
It is important to note that curcumin is tough for the body to absorb and is present in only tiny amounts in turmeric. While health benefits from consuming it in a latte or in curry may be present, it is also likely to be very limited. Try consuming turmeric with black pepper or in a fatty meal like a curry to help with absorption!
While further research is being done into concentrated curcumin, I’m a fan of adding turmeric to my diet for flavor without sodium, calories, or added sugar! I love it in my curries and also like to juice turmeric along with ginger, lemon, orange, or pineapple for a healthy refreshing drink!
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