Turmeric is a spice widely used in the Middle East and Asia. Turmeric contains curcumin and is believed to provide many health benefits, as well as adding flavour to food.
Curcuminoids are plant substances that are found in turmeric. Curcumin is one of these plant substances and has the greatest benefit to health.
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, and antioxidant effects. In addition, studies have shown curcumin to improve depression and anxiety, however more research is still required. Some of the health conditions which turmeric and curcumin may help include:
- Heart disease
Turmeric, Inflammation & Health
As discussed above, curcumin (found in turmeric) has anti-inflammatory properties. High levels of inflammation can lead to obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The cause? Poor diet, stress, and lack of sleep.
Inflammation is what the body uses to fight anything that can harm you – for example, viruses and bacteria, and injury. Some form of inflammation is always necessary to protect the body from harm and to be able to heal. However, too much inflammation can harm us.
How to avoid inflammation
Watch your saturated fat intake. Saturated fats come from foods like butter, cream, cheese, palm & coconut oil, and meat fat, and increase levels of inflammation in the body. The same thing happens with eating the wrong types of carbohydrates. Processed carbohydrates with added sugars need to be avoided. These foods include white rice, white bread, white flour, pastries, soda and fizzy drinks, pasta, sweets, breakfast cereals with added sugars. These types of foods increase insulin and insulin can cause inflammation to increase.
What can I eat to avoid inflammation?
Your best diet is a whole-food plant-based diet. Swap coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and cream for healthy fats like olive oil, nuts & seeds, and avocado. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and include as many grains in your diet as you can (foods like beans, lentils, chickpeas). If your diet is made up of mostly whole foods (ie nothing from a packet), you will be going a long way towards reducing inflammation in your body.
Exercise. Exercise is great for reducing insulin, which in turn reduces inflammation. Moderate intensity workouts are perfect. Exercise increases blood flow which means more oxygen and nutrients get to your cells. Choose any form of exercise that you enjoy. Go for a brisk walk, go for a bike ride, swimming – but most of all, do something you enjoy, and do it consistently. At least 5 days a week and for 30 minutes a day.
Stress. Stress is not good for you. Chronic stress (stress over a long time) can increase your risk for conditions such as cardiovascular disease and depression. Exercise can help with stress relief. So can meditation. So can music. If you feel you need help, always seek advice from your registered health practitioner.
Sleep. Quality sleep matters as much as the amount of sleep you get. Inflammation affects REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During REM sleep, endorphins for pain relief and healing are released. If you are not having quality REM sleep, your body may struggle to heal.
Try and develop a routine sleep system. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. This sleeping pattern can train your body to feel sleepy at the same time of night and wake up at the same time in the morning.
Try not to have a tv or phone in your room or any form of blue light. Blue light can make your body think it is daytime, which will make it harder for you to fall asleep.
What about Turmeric supplements?
There are several good quality clinical trials demonstrating that curcumin may have an anti-inflammatory effect. So far, no studies have shown toxic effects in humans. However, some side effects may include nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. Due to a lack of safe clinical evidence, supplements are discouraged in pregnancy and lactation. Turmeric should also be used with caution for anyone taking anticoagulants and antiplatelet medication. Also, anyone taking hypoglycaemic medication should take care consuming turmeric. Always consult your registered medical professional before adding supplements to your diet.
Turmeric appears to have good tolerability, even at doses as high at 1.5g/day, for up to 6 months. The Joint United Nations and World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Food Additives recommends an allowable daily limit of Turmeric of 0-3mg/kg.
Health Conditions which Turmeric supplements should not be taken:
- Pregnancy & breast feeding (may promote a menstrual period and put the pregnancy at risk, and there is currently not enough information to support turmeric’s safe use during breast feeding). Taking turmeric in food (as used in cooking) is likely safe.
- Bleeding problems (people taking anticoagulants and anti-platelet medication) - may slow clotting.
- Diabetes – may make blood sugar levels too low.
- Gallbladder problems – may make issues worse.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (stomach condition) - may make symptoms worse.
- Hormone related cancers – breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids. Not enough research exists to support the safe use of turmeric supplements for these conditions.
- Infertility - may lower testosterone levels.
- Iron deficiency - may inhibit iron absorption.
- Surgery - may slow blood clotting.
How can I add Turmeric to my diet?
If you wish to add turmeric to your diet, add it to curries, stir-fries, and Asian dishes. Note that clinical studies are ongoing to determine the health benefits of this spice. At the moment, it is not possible to provide a recommendation on how much Turmeric will benefit health. Future research will help to inform this.
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The Science behind it
Our partner The Food Cruncher https://thefoodcruncher.com/turmeric-and-health/ was kind enough to allow us to share this article.
Giordano A, Tommonaro G. Curcumin and Cancer. Nutrients. 2019; 11(10):2376. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102376
Tabrizi R, Vakili S, Akbari M, Mirhosseini N, Lankarani K, Rahimi M et al. The effects of curcumin-containing supplements on biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randiomized controlled trial. Phytotherapy Research. 2018; 33(2):253-262.
Singletary, Keith PhD Turmeric, Nutrition Today: 1/2 2020 - Volume 55 - Issue 1 - p 45-56
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