Turmeric is a spice that has held a significant value in our lives from the ancient times till date. It contains a strong polyphenol, curcumin- the active compound which gives turmeric its yellow colour. Curcumin helps manage oxidative stress, inflammation, metabolic disorders, arthritis, anxiety, and cholesterol levels. It can also lower exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, thereby improving recovery and performance in fitness enthusiasts or active people. Curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body, which is why it has to be combined with piperine (the active component of black pepper) which increases its bioavailability by 2000%.
Benefits of curcumin:
1. Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation is a process that occurs naturally in our body. Short term inflammation does not cause harm, but long-term or chronic inflammation can cause heart disease, cancer, and several age-related neurological disorders. Curcumin has been shown as very effective in reducing inflammation under several studies. Without causing any side effects, curcumin exerts its anti-inflammatory action, similar to some strong anti-inflammatory drugs. Hence, inflammation which is the root cause of certain diseases can easily be curbed by making curcumin a part of our diet.
2. Good for people with arthritis: Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin can be extremely beneficial for people suffering from osteoarthritis and arthritis. Curcumin eases joint pain, reduces muscle soreness and joint stiffness by suppressing the levels of cytokines (inflammatory markers).
3. Lowers the risk of metabolic diseases: High inflammation in the body can lead to metabolic disorders like insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hypertension, elevated triglyceride levels, and visceral obesity. With regular consumption of curcumin, the risk of these chronic metabolic disorders can be minimised.
4. Packed with antioxidants: Curcumin is well known for its antioxidant properties. It neutralizes free radicals and prevents them from damaging healthy cells. Free radicals are linked to our brain health. They may lead to early ageing, diminished cognitive functioning, and may damage the cardiac cells. Curcumin not only helps invade these harmful free radicals but, also enhances the body’s enzymatic action. Our brain consists of a hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Low levels of this growth hormone may result in malfunctioning of the neurons, which can lead to certain brain disorders. Curcumin supports our brain’s functioning by elevating the levels of BDNF. High levels of BDNF improve our memory and delay or prevent the onset of age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
5. Treats disease-causing bacteria: Consuming turmeric helps cure hay fever, sneezing, itching, runny nose, throat issues, and congestion.
6. May promote brain functioning: Studies have shown that curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier, which may help fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin reduces inflammation and protein plaque build-up in the brain that is a characteristic of Alzheimer’s. Curcumin supplements may treat depression and anxiety symptoms in people.
7. Supports liver functioning: Curcumin reduces the chances of liver injury in people suffering from liver diseases by preventing more fat build-up in the liver.
8. Good for skin: Curcumin improves skin health. It acts as a detoxifier by purifying blood and removing toxins from the body. Incorporating turmeric into the daily diet can give a blemish-free and glowing skin.
9. Possesses anti-cancer properties: Another advantage of consuming curcumin is its anti-cancer properties. Cancer medications and treatment therapies may harm the functioning of other organs and the immune system. Turmeric possesses anti-cancer properties. It reduces the growth of cancerous cells in the body, thus preventing them from spreading.
The conventional use of turmeric in day-to-day cooking for preparing dals/curries/gravies etc has somehow become mundane now. Here are some innovative yet healthy ways to incorporate turmeric into your daily diet:
Make some turmeric tea by simply combining 250-300 ml of water in a pan with 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, boil over medium heat for five minutes. Switch off the flame, add ¼ teaspoon of black pepper powder and sip warm. You may also use coconut/nut/oat milk in place of water to make a turmeric milk latte. You can also add turmeric to egg or tofu scrambles. Use curcumin for preparing a salad dressing. Mix 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 2 teaspoons white miso paste, some lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, and ¼ cup tahini and whisk until well combined. You can use it with roasted vegetables also to add flavour if you are not fond of having bland vegetables. It goes well with carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, and other root vegetables. Sprinkle turmeric generously over it before or after cooking, along with pink salt or rock salt, and black pepper to enhance its absorption in the body. Turmeric can also be added to spice up green smoothies. Blend a handful of leafy greens (spinach, kale, romaine, celery) with some healthy source of fat (avocado/ a scoop of nut butter/ a tablespoon of raw virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil/ 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds), a pinch of sea salt, liquid of your choice (plain water/coconut water/non-dairy milk), and add turmeric to taste. Flavour your favourite soups with this beneficial spice. Turmeric can help treat inflammatory bowel conditions like colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, therefore it's a perfect ingredient to add to a gut-soothing soup. Munch on healthy snacks by creating spiced nuts. Mix some olive oil in a bowl with a pinch of turmeric, sea salt, and black pepper. Take a handful of raw walnuts and almonds, coat well in the seasoning, and spread on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for about 7-8 minutes, and stir occasionally until lightly toasted.