It’s time to spice up your health with the help of turmeric
There are a few surprising health benefits of turmeric you may not have heard about. Turmeric has been widely used as a medicinal herb for centuries, but in recent years, researchers have extensively studied this vibrantly colored, antioxidant-rich rhizome, and found astonishing ways turmeric is good for you! Scientists have found turmeric has a lot of skills: it’s an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective and cardioprotective. (Never fear, we’ll break all of these geeky terms down, plus why you should care about them – keep reading). Add a little spice to your life – here are 6 surprising health benefits of turmeric.
The Health Benefits of Turmeric You’ll Want to Know About
Watch out kitchen towels, the brilliant yellow color of turmeric is powerful stuff, that’s why it’s so good to consume it! Inside turmeric is curcumins, naturally occurring plant compounds that offer health benefits to your body.
6 Surprising Benefits of Turmeric
- Makes You Smarter
- Wrinkle Prevention
- Liver Protector
- Helps Anxiety and Depression
- Fights Dementia
- Stops Plaque
Turmeric: Makes You Smarter
You’re probably thinking, “Can a nutrient actually make you smarter?” According to a review of research studies, curcumin might make you smarter in a few ways. Curcumin has health benefits, that help your brain. A study found after adults added curcumin into their daily diets for 4 weeks, it improved their ability to answer subtraction questions. Another study found curcumin improved attention and memory. These brain-boosting benefits of curcumin are credited to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Turmeric: Wrinkle Prevention
You’ve probably heard this fancy term, antioxidant, before, but what does it actually mean? An antioxidant is capable of neutralizing or stopping, a pesky free radical from damaging parts of your body’s cells. Curcumin is a pretty impressive antioxidant. It seeks out a variety of free radicals, and it is able to enhance some enzymes that help fight against these damaging villains in your body. Eating lots of antioxidant-rich foods, like turmeric, is one of the best ways researchers say you can prevent skin aging.
Turmeric: Liver Protector
The liver creates proteins that you need to digest food, detoxify and have a healthy immune system. These liver proteins are a primary target of those free radicals. You’ll be surprised that scientists say curcumin exerts remarkable protective and therapeutic effects to help protect the liver from the damage (oxidative stress) of free radicals. Why should you care about curcumin’s liver protecting abilities? The liver is injured daily by pesticides on food you eat, alcohol, pollutants, pharmaceutical medications, parasites and more. Phew! After reading that, it’s hard not to think about how it would be nice for us to feed our liver some food that can protect it, like curcumin in turmeric.
Turmeric: Helps Anxiety and Depression
One of curcumin’s cool superpowers is its ability to stop enzymes that make free radicals, including COX-2. Many pharmaceuticals that target inflammation, are also trying to stop COX-2 enzymes. Curcumin is a natural at fighting inflammation. Studies have shown curcumin’s anti-inflammatory activity includes the ability to stop messengers that promote inflammation and those that keep it going. Inflammation is a defense mechanism in our bodies that is good in small amounts, but excessive amounts cause collateral damage, including increased risk of diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Inflammation is also a major problem in irritable bowel, aging and arthritis. More surprising is curcumin’s health benefits may include reducing anxiety and depression: research shows inflammation plays a role in depression. That’s probably no surprise to those who know curcumin has been used to treat anxiety and depression for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine.
Turmeric: Fights Dementia
Inflammation in your brain can put a damper on your mood, as well as your cognitive abilities. Called neuroinflammation, when the brain experiences inflammation for long periods of time, such as with high stress or poor eating patterns common in North America, the brain degrades. Studies have shown curcumin’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities also help in the brain and may fight dementia. Curcumin has been used in studies as a potential therapeutic agent for dementia, including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of little plaques along the lining of the blood vessels in the brain. These plaques are called amyloid-beta plaques and are a consequence of the presence of pro-inflammatory substances in the brain. Curcumin is great at reducing the number of pro-inflammatory things floating around in your body. Knowing this, it’s less of a surprise that curcumin reduces symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers. Curcumin has been found to help maintain the normal structure and function of the blood vessels in the brain, the sites where nerves transfer messages (called synapses), the so-called batteries of brain cells (called mitochondria).
Turmeric: Stops Plaque
The plaque in brain blood vessels linked to Alzheimer’s disease can also form in blood vessels around the heart, leading to heart disease. When that happens, blood vessels can become harder (atherosclerosis) or worse, become blocked (heart attack). In addition to the ability to reduce inflammation and be an antioxidant, researchers say curcumin loves your heart. Curcumin can improve the way the cells that line the blood vessels work and reduce how immune cells can attach to them. This in turn helps reduce inflammation on vessel walls, a process that leads to plaque formation. A surprising health benefit of curcumin involves stopping so-called foam cells from turning cholesterol into plaque. Science is so cool (and, in the case of turmeric, pretty tasty, too).
What is the Best Way to Eat Turmeric?
Sure, you can get a little sweat going while you grate fresh turmeric root into your next recipe, or enjoy the ease of Turmeric Juice. Or, skip the kitchen altogether and put your feet up while sipping on a hot mug of Turmeric Latte (golden milk). No matter which way you choose to get more turmeric in your day, remember it is good for you, but not your dish clothes. When looking for the best way to eat turmeric, know that its super-powered nutrient, curcumin, is shy around water. It’s best to eat turmeric with some fat (may we suggest a nut-milk or dairy milk in your turmeric latte base) to improve its bioavailability. There’s been scientific discussion about ways to improve the bioavailability (how much your body can actually absorb) of curcumin. The answer: add a little more spice! A simple addition of black pepper, which naturally contains piperine, can considerably improve the bioavailability of curcumin, say, researchers. On your next golden milk or recipe using turmeric juice, add some spice and ‘crack’ some black pepper into it.
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Allison Tannis MSc RHN: Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s books and articles are read around the world by those curious where are the most nutritious (and delicious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.