Used for centuries in Indian cooking and Eastern medicine, the West is now touting TURMERIC as a new superfood due to its therapeutic properties.
Colourful plant foods are said to be good for our health due to their phytochemical properties. So it’s not surprising that turmeric, the richly coloured, golden-orange spice, has been found to have a range of health-promoting benefits.
Turmeric has several compounds with medicinal properties, the most important being the yellow pigment, curcumin. Curcumin provides the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a potent antioxidant.
Although short-term inflammation can be beneficial, as it helps the body fight foreign invaders and plays a role in repairing damage, chronic, or long-term inflammation can cause major problems. Indeed, it is believed that low-level chronic inflammation contributes to many common Western diseases, such as metabolic diseases, age-related degenerative disorders, arthritis, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Curcumin works by inhibiting some of the molecules that play a role in causing inflammation. In fact, it is found to be so powerful that it can match the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs, and in some cases is more effective. The other advantage is, it doesn’t have side effects. Curcumin is currently used successfully to relieve pain and swelling in patients suffering from osteo and rheumatoid arthritis.
Oxidative stress is a major factor associated with ageing. It is caused by cumulative damage by free radicals that are inadequately neutralised by antioxidants.
Curcumin is a potent antioxidant with dual benefits. It can neutralise free radicals (highly reactive, unstable molecules with unpaired electrons) and boost the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Consequently, curcumin is becoming a popular supplement in the treatment of premature ageing.
The amount of curcumin in the turmeric we buy can vary widely, depending on species, growing conditions and harvesting. However at best, it is around 3% by weight.
Studies into the health benefits of the spice use extracts of turmeric that contain mostly curcumin, with doses exceeding 1g per day.
Although it is a welcome addition to your diet, adding turmeric to your cooking will not put you in reach of the quantities of curcumin needed to provide adequate health benefits. Therefore, to enjoy the full effects of curcumin, you need to take an extract or supplement.
Supplements should contains significant amounts of curcumin and, as curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, black pepper, or piperine – as this will enhance absorption rates by up to 2000%. Alternatively, swallowing a few peppercorns with the supplement may provide the same effect.
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