One of the coolest things about nutrition is discovering the incredible health benefits of foods you already love.
This is especially true of spices. Cinnamon makes everything more delicious and guess what? It helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Oregano is mouth-watering and good news – it also has antibacterial properties.
But in the world of health-promoting spices, one plant is king: turmeric. Ubiquitous in Indian and Asian cooking and long-used for its medicinal properties, turmeric is best known in the United States for lending mustard its deep yellow-orange color.
Turmeric’s power comes from a compound called curcumin, which is a potent antioxidant proven to reduce inflammation and prevent illness.
Here are five science-backed reasons to add turmeric to your diet:
1. Counter heart disease: Some studies show that turmeric may prevent the buildup of plaque that can block arteries (atherosclerosis) and in animal studies, turmeric extract kept LDL cholesterol from building up in blood vessels.
Turmeric also stops platelets from clumping together, so it could help prevent blood clots from building up on artery walls. All in all, that’s a win for cardiovascular health.
2. Prevent cancer: Preliminary research shows that curcumin may help prevent or even treat prostate cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, and colon cancer. This is likely due to turmeric’s antioxidant properties, which protects cells from damage and abnormalities.
3. Fight Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease: Turmeric may help prevent and even treat neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions. This is again likely due to its anti-inflammatory and circulative effects. Elderly villagers in India have one of the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s!
4. Combat stomachaches: One double-blind study found that turmeric reduced symptoms of bloating and gas. This may be because curcumin stimulates the production of bile in the gallbladder, which may improve digestion.
Even more significantly, another study showed that people with ulcerative colitis who eat turmeric stay in remission longer than those who took a placebo.
5. Relieve osteoarthritis pain: A study found that people taking an Ayurvedic formula that contained turmeric experienced less pain and disability. This is likely due to its powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
The theme here is that turmeric is powerfully anti-inflammatory, and inflammation is ultimately the root of almost all chronic disease, whether it’s asthma, diabetes, or stroke. You can reduce systemic inflammation both by cutting out unhealthy foods – for example, trans fats and sugar are highly inflammatory – and eating more anti-inflammatory foods.
So what’s the best way to enjoy the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric? You can get incredibly creative in the kitchen whipping up a delicious curry, but to start, we recommend trying this incredibly simple healthy turmeric tea recipe from IIN visiting teacher Dr. Andrew Weil. It takes only hot water, ground turmeric, and honey and/or lemon to taste. Easy as that!
Do you incorporate turmeric into your diet already? What are your favorite ways to enjoy it? Let us know in the comments section below!