Nutrition / Food

All You Need to Know About Turmeric and How to Use It

How this yellow-orange, aromatic spice can improve your health.

You’ve probably heard all about this magical, golden, aromatic powder and the slew of health benefits that go along with it. It’s true that turmeric is incredibly nutritious. But it also has a great deal of healing properties and has been used in the Indian system of holistic medicine, also known as Ayurveda, since ancient times. In fact, turmeric used as a medicine and a food ingredient dates back 4,00 years, explains Jeanette Kimszal, R.D.N. “Ointments containing turmeric were used to relieve the effects of poisoned food.”

We turned to nutrition pros to help you understand why we humans hold this spice so dear. Keep reading for the 101 on how you can use turmeric to improve your health on a regular basis.

Why is it so popular nowadays? And, what do people use it for?

With a closer eye on nutrition and health than ever before, turmeric has once again jumped into the spotlight. From a medicinal perspective, turmeric comes in handy thanks to its containment of the compound curcumin. Curcumin has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies, including one published in the AAPS Journal, show that curcumin can help fight the inflammation that contributes to a myriad of conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, irritable bowel disease, pancreatitis, diabetes, and even cancer. “Acute inflammation is important in the body, because it repairs damage and fights foreign substances,” explains Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD, registered dietitian and chef. “Turmeric is also considered an antioxidant because it protects the body from free radicals (which contribute to cell damage) and can boost the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes.”

What are some benefits of turmeric?

As we’ve already mentioned, turmeric is an all-around health booster. But to get more specific, here’s a closer look at how the spice can boost your health.

Reduces Inflammation

It’s rich anti-inflammatory properties make it a good addition to any diet. “It will help to dispel any foreign invader who might cause the body harm,” describes Kimszal. “Turmeric also helps to improve disease that have inflammation at the root cause, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”

Improves Liver Function

As Kimszal points out, a 2016 study, published in the journal BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine, shows that turmeric extract and curcumin can protect the liver from injury. “Research indicated the oxidative effects of a stressed liver were suppressed by an extract of this spice.”

Reverses Signs of Aging

If you’re not already impressed with turmeric’s benefits, this one probably caught your attention! “Stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise can lead to inflammation. But with turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, it can help prevent cells from oxidizing and forming free radicals. [These] contribute to the aging process.”

Reduces Joint Pain

Turmeric is especially beneficial for those suffering from arthritis. “Research shows an extract of turmeric put a stop to the inflammatory response on a sample of patients suffering from arthritic joints,” explains Kimszal. “However, more clinical trials need to be done to find if turmeric can prevent and stop the flares of arthritis.”

Boosts Brain Function

We’re all looking for ways to improve our memory as we age. According to research, turmeric might be a key nutrient that aids in the process. “The anti-inflammatory curcumin compound has illustrated a regenerative property in brain function,” explains Kimszal. She specifically points to a study of female rats, whom showed to have lower markers of oxidative stress and better cognition.

Turmeric may have a mostly positive review. But, it is worth noting that more studies are required to truly understand the role that the spice plays in prevention and treatment of diseases. As of now, Andrews says that there are no known side effects for using turmeric supplementation. However, it can be dangerous for pregnant women. “If taken in large doses, it can stimulate the uterus to think it is menstruation and cause a miscarriage,” warns Kimszal.

How to Incorporate Turmeric Into Your Diet

Perhaps the best thing about turmeric, aside from its health benefits, is how simple it is to incorporate the spice into your diet. You can pretty much add it to anything, from scrambled eggs and roasted vegetables to soups and smoothies. Many trendy juice vendors have a blend that includes turmeric, golden milk lattes. Or they might instead offer a quick liquid turmeric shot. Although it has a slightly pungent flavor, it’s easy to mask this when you add in other spices and flavors.

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