In recent years turmeric has stormed into our kitchens touting incredible healing powers. Apparently, it is still having its moment and remains as ubiquitous as ever. Everything appears to be sprinkled with turmeric these days: soups, teas, smoothies, stews…you name it…It seems like the only option to get with the super food times is to dust all your dishes with a generous amount of turmeric.
While turmeric health benefits are undeniable, it is also obvious that we have reached a point of saturation. With blogs, websites and magazines devoted to spreading the word on the latest nutrition fad, when a seemingly new item hits the spotlight the result is an explosion of misinformation and hyperbole.The fact is that turmeric has been around for a long, long time. Rather a star in its ow right in many parts of the world, it has been prominently featured in traditional cuisines around the globe, particularly in Asia, for centuries. In addition, turmeric (also Indian saffron or yellow ginger as it is sometimes known), has been considered a healing herb by Ayurveda practitioners for generations, who value the powdered root as a powerful anti-inflamatory, immune system enhancer and brain protector.
The plant Curcuma Longa produces small, knobby rhizomes with a thin skin that encases a fragrant, orange flesh. It grows quite prolifically in India, parts of China and some areas of Southeast Asia. After the simple process of cleaning the roots, the end product is a bright yellow powder. You might be familiar with it through the use of curry, which is a blend of different spices that contains quite a lot of turmeric. If you are not a fan of Indian food (what planet do you live on?), you surely must have tasted yellow mustard, which also owes it bright color to the addition of turmeric.
As healthful as turmeric is as a booster food, the truth is that most available turmeric only contains about 2% or 3% curcumin at best. That is the actual substance that acts in your body as an actively beneficial ingredient. Even more unfortunate is that curcumin is poorly absorbed and therefore, enormous amounts of food would have to be consumed in order to reach its therapeutic effect. That does not mean that you should not enjoy turmeric now and then as part of your diet. In fact, you can help maximize its benefits with the addition of black pepper to dishes where turmeric is also present. The piperine content in black pepper acts synergistically with the curcumin enhancing its absorption. Fat (coconut oil, ghee, olive oil) also helps the body reap all the benefits of curcumin.
For those in need of therapeutic levels of curcumin due to an existing condition such as arthritis or another inflammatory process, supplements could be the answer. Look for highly bio-available curcumin standardized for 95% curcuminoids. You can take between 400 to 600 mg daily with no ill effects providing the absence of other conditions or the use of certain medications. Always check with your pharmacist for interactions.
Do consult your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. In addition, curcumin could be contraindicated for those undergoing chemotherapy treatments and those who suffer from existing gallbladder problems.