Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin
Far beyond the ability of these compounds to make our foods more attractive to the eye, studies suggest that the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin also make them attractive additions to your diet plan.
Although you have probably noticed the bright, yellow hue in foods ranging from Indian curries to American mustard, you may not know that the characteristic color of these foods is conferred by a spice called Turmeric, whose active ingredient is the compound Curcumin. Expand your culinary horizons and learn about the health benefits and risks of turmeric and curcumin.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
This pungent spice, derived from a plant related to ginger, has long been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments. Modern studies are in consensus that turmeric shows promising health benefits to the body, and may help fight infections, inflammation, and digestive problems. A comprehensive summary of 700 turmeric studies that was published in 2007 in Alternative & Complementary Therapies found that turmeric appeared to outperform numerous medications in preventing or alleviating chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and even cancer. The study revealed that turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds, including six different inhibitors that block the enzyme that promotes pain, swelling and inflammation.
Health Benefits of Curcumin
What makes turmeric so potent? The benefits of Curcumin—its bioactive ingredient—are myriad even by itself. Curcumin serves as a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals in the body that damage cell membranes or even tamper with the DNA, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Curcumin can also lower the levels of enzymes in the body that cause inflammation and prevent platelets from clumping and forming dangerous blood clots. A paper published in The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology supports the therapeutic effects of curcumin as a promising anti-inflammatory agent to combat against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases.
Uses and Risks of Turmeric and Curcumin
Turmeric and curcumin found in food are considered safe in moderate quantities. The best way to receive the benefits of turmeric through food is to prepare and consume dishes featuring turmeric, such as curries, soups, stews, or even turmeric tea, which can be prepared by boiling water and adding a small spoonful of turmeric.
Despite the benefits of curcumin, if it is consumed as a supplement, precautions should be taken to avoid interactions with other herbs and spices, supplements or medications. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a large volume of these compounds can cause stomach upset or, in extreme cases, ulcers. The UMMC recommends that adults can take curcumin in its powder form in 400 to 600 mg doses, 3 times per day. In addition, curcumin supplements are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Turmeric can also act as a blood thinner, so the UMMC advises against taking turmeric in the two weeks leading up to a planned surgery. If you have gastrointestinal disorders such as gallstones, you should consult with your physician before taking turmeric supplements.
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