Trendy turmeric: Why the hype?

If you follow the latest health and wellness trends, it’s likely that you’ve stumbled across several turmeric-related articles, recipes, and hashtags in recent years.

From smoothies and soups, to scrambled eggs, curries and roast vegetables, it seems this humble yellow-rice spice is making a big comeback.

But, why the fuss?

This week, we take a deeper look at some of turmeric’s amazing health benefits, and discover how you can get the most out of this Indian-cooking staple.

Health benefits

Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine for centuries.

Fortunately, research has finally caught up to ancient cultures, and we are starting to witness the beginnings of a large-scale return to natural medicine as a whole, with turmeric being a prime example.

The key compound that gives turmeric its punch is curcumin – a curcuminoid with very powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties.

Numerous studies show that curcumin is as effective as over 14 conventional drugs, including cholesterol medications, antidepressants, blood thinners, steroid-medications, chemotherapy drugs, and diabetes medication.

It is believed that curcumin may assist in treating or improving over 580 medical conditions – some studies show that it even has the potential to destroy multi-drug resistant cancer and cancer stem cells, and protect against radiation-induced damage.

Additionally, it also helps improve brain function, lower the risk of brain and heart disease, lower blood pressure, improve arthritis symptoms, treat depression, and slow down aging due to its high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

Given its impressive résumé, I believe we could all use a little more of this spice in our life….

How to use it

Consuming organic fresh or non-irradiated dried turmeric regularly is important if you want to experience the full health benefits (a once-off dosage will not work).

Curcumin is also poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, unless it is combined with other substances to increase its bioavailability. Try to always combine turmeric with black pepper.

Piperine – the compound responsible for pepper’s characteristic strong taste – increases curcumin absorption by up to 2 000%, as well as increase absorption of other nutrients in your food.

Curcumin is a fat-soluble compound, which means that the body will absorb it much better when combined with fat.

Additionally, heat also increases curcumin’s absorption rate. Practically, this means that you should always try to add your turmeric to hot, fat-containing foods along with a pinch of black pepper.

For example, soups with cream or nut milk, curries with yoghurt, coconut or butter, milky teas, and roast vegetables topped with olive oil are all good matches for turmeric.

A very easy (and delicious) recipe that ticks all these boxes is turmeric milk (traditionally also known as “golden milk”):

Golden milk recipe

2 cups milk of choice (coconut and almond also work well)

1 tablespoon organic virgin coconut oil

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more to taste)

A pinch of black pepper

1-2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon local honey (or add to taste)

Pour all the ingredients into a small pot and bring to a boil. Whisk to combine the ingredients, and simmer on low heat for approximately 10 minutes.

Strain the milk if desired, and serve warm.

A note on supplements

For a more potent dose of curcumin, you can purchase natural curcumin supplements. You can check the ingredients for piperine to aid absorption, or drink your supplements with some black pepper kernels and a spoon of olive oil.

The frequency and dosage will depend on your individual needs and condition.

There are also some interactions with drugs so it is best to check in with a healthcare professional before use.

For health-related questions, email panel@realfoodco.co.za