From sneaking into frothy lattés to refreshing juice elixirs and mouthwatering curries, turmeric has quickly become 2017’s ingredient du-jour. But does the golden spice live up to the hype? In a word: yes. A member of the ginger family and a long beloved staple in Indian and Asian cuisines, the vibrant orange-yellow superfood is revered for its health promoting properties and makes a common appearance in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
Turmeric possesses strong anti-inflammatory qualities and considering chronic inflammation is a key factor in many of today’s widespread diseases – including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes – the fragrant spice can improve a person’s overall health.
Still not convinced? We present to you five reasons why you should add an extra dash of the turmeric to your diet.
- ANTICANCER EFFECTS
Curcumin, a phytochemical and the primary healing agent found in turmeric has strong antioxidant properties that prevent the formation of and neutralize free radicals. According to Phyllis A. Balch, author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, “It [curcumin] stops precancerous changes within DNA and interferes with enzymes necessary for cancer progression.” A 2013 international laboratory study looked at the effects of combined treatment with curcumin and chemotherapy on bowel cancer cells. The researchers concluded that the combined treatment shows better results than chemotherapy alone.
- PROTECTS THE LIVER
The liver is one of the body’s most important organs. It is responsible for converting food to energy, ridding your body of toxins, and producing bile, a liquid that aids digestion. Turmeric contains chemical compounds that have been shown to protect the liver from damage, improve its ability to detoxify, and support the regeneration of new liver cells.
- IMPROVED DIGESTION
Turmeric helps to stimulate the production of bile, which in-turn assists the breakdown and absorption of fats from your food. It also reduces the symptoms of gas and bloating for people susceptible to indigestion. In fact, in Germany, turmeric supplements are sometimes prescribed for digestive problems.
- IMPROVED MENTAL HEALTH
Studies have shown that curcumin can increase levels of the brain chemical BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in animal models. Low BDNF is associated with a host of mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. An increase in BDNF is thought to improve mental health, well-being, and mood. BDNF also stimulates the growth of new neurons in the brain, which could lead to enhanced memory. Studies show that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s disease.
- LOWERS CHOLESTEROL & IMPROVES BLOOD VESSEL HEALTH
Curcumin stops the oxidation of cholesterol, thus protecting against the formation of plaque in the arteries and the progression of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to cholesterol and plaque build-up), which can lead to stroke or heart attack.
- TREATS ARTHRITIS
Because curcumin is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing characteristics, a study was conducted on 45 rheumatoid arthritis patients to compare the benefits of curcumin in turmeric to the arthritis drug Diclofenac sodium, which put people at risk of developing leaky gut and heart disease. The curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement in overall [Disease Activity Score] scores and these scores were significantly better than the patients in the diclofenac sodium group. More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate to any adverse effects.
– Written by Sofia Sosunov