Turmeric is a spice most commonly used in dishes such as curry or korma, among many others. Over the years the many amazing health benefits of Turmeric have been highlighted and studied, so in this Blog I’ll dive into how you can use Turmeric in your diet to improve your health.
If you’ve every search Turmeric and its health benefits, you’ve probably come across Curcumin. Curcumin is what gives Turmeric it’s vibrant, yellow colour and it is also seen to be the main active ingredient in Turmeric that gives all the amazing heath benefit.
An ‘active ingredient’ is the substance that is responsible for certain effects associated with the drug or in the case of Turmeric, the whole food.
Turmeric is a proven anti=inflammatory and antioxidant, but is it just the curcumin in the Turmeric doing all this?
The normal Turmeric you get as a powder in the supermarket has over 300 different components including curcumin (1). One study used Turmeric with the Curcumin removed and found that it still exhibited anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-Diabetic properties (1). This shows that the other components in Turmeric other than Curcumin offer those health benefits.
One of the main health benefits Turmeric is spotlighted for is cancer prevention, AKA it’s Chemo preventative properties. Chemo preventative agents are usually derived from plants and unlike Chemotherapy, which is used to treat Cancer, they kill the Cancer and prevent it from growing (2). Chemo preventatives like Turmeric are inexpensive, easily available and have no or very limited toxicity levels when compared to Chemotherapy. Also, as the saying goes, “Prevention is better that cure”.
But is Turmeric proven to prevent Cancer. The National Cancer Institute has tested over 1000 different potential Chemo preventative substances since 1969, and only 40 showed any promise and moved on to clinical trials. One of them was Curcumin, on of the active ingredients in Turmeric (3). In my opinion, they should test the other components in Turmeric as well.
To show you how effective Curcumin alone is, Chemo preventatives are categorized into three subcategories.
- Carcinogen blocking agent (3)
Curcumin Is all three of these, so it’s powerful stuff! It basically plays a role in blocking Cancer at every stage.
You may think to avail of these health benefits you need to consume Turmeric or Curcumin supplements (4). This is not necessarily true! One study took a group of smokers to test how Carcinogens present in their body from smoking would react when they urinated into a sample bottle with bacteria (5). The bacteria were acting like human cells. In our body’s when a cell comes into contact with a Carcinogen that is when Cancer can develop. Smokers have high levels of Carcinogens in their body. The number of DNA mutation from their urine sample was very high. They were given a mere 1.5g of normal Turmeric per day, and within 15 days the DNA mutations significantly dropped. Those shows that normal Turmeric is an effective antimutagen and may be an effective Chemo preventative.
There are also studies that show Turmeric to be more effective that supplements or Curcumin supplements in preventing several different Cancer including Colon Cancer and breast Cancer (6).
Of course, Turmeric has other proven health benefits aside from Cancer prevention. It is a strong anti-inflammatory so any disease caused by inflammation such as Heart Disease, Metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s (7–9). It also help ease the painful symptoms of Arthritis (10). One study showed it to be more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs.
Now for the not so good possible side affects you might encounter if you go a little overboard with the Turmeric….
Taking Turmeric in large doses can lead to
- Acid reflux
- Upset stomach
Some other things you should know about Turmeric is that it acts as a blood thinner. So if you have any bleeding disorders or are on blood thinners you should maybe avoid Turmeric, or talk with you doctor before using it.
Turmeric can interact negatively with certain medications.
- Blood thinners
- Heard medication
Also, VERY IMPORTANT for Diabetics taking Diabetic medication. Turmeric interacts with Diabetic medication and can cause you to take a hypoglycaemic event.
It can also limit Iron absorption and if you are pregnant or breastfeeding you can consume it in powder form in your food, but avoid turmeric or curcumin supplements.
In conclusion, the best way to include Turmeric in your diet safely, and to avail of all the health benefits is to use it in your cooking! You can add it to curries, kormas, soups, scrambled eggs, omelette, toss it in your vegetables, mix some in with your rice. When I have a bad cough, I mix 1 tsp of turmeric with 1 tsp of honey ad add it to warm (not boiling) water and drink it as a tea. I feel it really help with a dry, tickly cough. You could also add it to a smoothie.
1. Aggarwal BB, Yuan W, Li S, Gupta SC. Curcumin-free turmeric exhibits anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities: Identification of novel components of turmeric. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Sep;57(9):1529–42.
2. Bengmark S, Mesa MD, Gil A. Plant-derived health: the effects of turmeric and curcuminoids. Nutr Hosp. 2009 Jun;24(3):273–81.
3. Park W, Amin ARMR, Chen ZG, Shin DM. New perspectives of curcumin in cancer prevention. Cancer Prev Res Phila Pa. 2013 May;6(5):387–400.
4. Hoffmann I. Transcending reductionism in nutrition research. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Sep;78(3 Suppl):514S-516S.
5. Polasa K, Raghuram TC, Krishna TP, Krishnaswamy K. Effect of turmeric on urinary mutagens in smokers. Mutagenesis. 1992 Mar;7(2):107–9.
6. Multitargeting by turmeric, the golden spice: From kitchen to clinic – PubMed [Internet]. [cited 2022 Apr 14]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22887802/
7. Marchio P, Guerra-Ojeda S, Vila JM, Aldasoro M, Victor VM, Mauricio MD. Targeting Early Atherosclerosis: A Focus on Oxidative Stress and Inflammation. Oxid Med Cell Longev [Internet]. 2019 Jul 1 [cited 2022 Apr 14];2019:8563845. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6636482/
8. Slika L, Patra D. Traditional Uses, Therapeutic Effects and Recent Advances of Curcumin: A Mini-Review. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2020;20(12):1072–82.
9. Lumeng CN, Saltiel AR. Inflammatory links between obesity and metabolic disease. J Clin Invest. 2011 Jun;121(6):2111–7.
10. Chandran B, Goel A. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res PTR. 2012 Nov;26(11):1719–25.