A Brief History Of Turmeric – The Benefits Of Adding Turmeric In Your Diet – Nutritional Benefits of Turmeric – Turmeric Side Effects – Are There Any?
You’ve seen it in the supermarket. You heard about its benefits and what good can it do to your body. There are tons of virtual flyers sent to your email, urging you to try. In fact, your Asian friends are
even vouching for it.
But what exactly is turmeric? Why is it even considered as the “golden spice?” What’s so special about this spice compared to what you have at home?
Stick around because you will learn everything there is about turmeric.
Turmeric, In A Nutshell
Do you know where the name turmeric came from? Because of its color that looks like mineral pigment, turmeric was derived from the Latin word, terra merita, which means meritorious earth.
Also known as the “golden spice,” turmeric came from Curcuma longa, a rhizomatous herbaceous plant that belongs to the ginger family. This also explains the similarity of appearance.
It could grow up to one meter with rough and segmented skin on the outside and yellow brown with dull orange on the inside. It has warm, bitter taste, thereby making it a staple ingredient in curry powder and mustard.
This spice is native to South Asia with India as the top producer and consumer. Its main component is a volatile oil, which contains turmerone. It also has colored agents called curcuminoids, which are rich in antioxidants.
The history of turmeric dates back to almost 4,000 years, particularly during the Vedic culture in India. People from North India called it “haldi” while those from the South refer to is as “manjal.”
Back then, it was used as a kitchen spice with some religious significance. It was also used medicinally, as early as 250 BC, for relief against food poisoning.
By 700 AD, turmeric reached China, East Africa by 800 AD, and West Africa by 1200 AD. Marco Polo even described turmeric as a spice similar to saffron in 1280.
Fast forward today, turmeric is among the widely used cultivated spice in the world, especially in the tropics. It has been a staple spice in many households and among the most sought after spices in the world. It is also a common ingredient found in many dietary supplements due to its many health benefits.
Turmeric Nutrition Facts
Turmeric has been around for thousands of years. Recently, experts started looking into this spice and found a compound called curcuminoids. This is turmeric’s main active ingredient, which contains strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Apart from these properties, turmeric has more than 300 naturally occurring components in it. This includes but not limited to:
- Vitamin C
Make sure to read the next section to find out how turmeric could be beneficial to health.
You might be thinking what makes turmeric extra special. What’s in it that makes people around the world rave about it?
Here are some of its many health benefits:
The human body works by protecting itself against harmful foreign invaders. Otherwise, they could easily take over the body and cause harm.
Thankfully, turmeric has natural anti-inflammatory properties, specifically curcumin. It helps fight any forms of inflammation at a molecular level. Unlike anti-inflammatory drugs, this spice has no side effects.
Rich In Antioxidants
Aside from anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin is also a potent antioxidant. It helps neutralize free radicals and helps boost the body’s antioxidant enzymes.
These mechanisms ensure that you are protected no matter what.
Lowers Risk Of Heart Disease
Did you know that heart disease is the top cause of death in the world? Thankfully, adding turmeric in your diet, whether in its spice form or as a supplement, could help reduce your risk of developing this condition.
Through curcumin, turmeric helps improve how endothelium or the lining of blood vessels function. This ensures that blood pressure is properly regulated and at the same time, minimizes blood clots. More importantly, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help in ensuring that your cardiovascular health is in the best shape.
Improves Brain Function
Thanks to Science and advancement in technology, we know that neurons could multiply and increase in number. One of the key drivers for this process is brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. It is a kind of growth hormone that functions in the brain.
Did you know that curcumin could increase BDNF? When this happens, brain and age-related diseases may be delayed, if not reversed.
Does this mean it can sure Alzheimer’s disease? There is no guarantee since there’s still no cure for this condition – yet. Nonetheless, a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that curcumin helps in clearing amyloid plaques. This helps slow down the progression of this medical condition.
Helpful Against Arthritis
The truth is arthritis is common, especially in Western countries. Such inflammation of the joints affected thousands of people as well.
The good news is there is a natural way to help you against this condition. Based on a 2012 study published in Phytotherapy Research, curcumin was more effective for patients with rheumatoid arthritis compared to using anti-inflammatory drugs.
Some drugs against this condition contain curcumin and so far, experts reported notable improvements.
May Delay Aging
The fountain of youth is yet to be discovered, but it looks like turmeric is ahead of the race.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits from curcumin help delay not just aging but also age-related chronic diseases.
This is not a guarantee, but adding turmeric in your daily diet could do wonders.
Promising Treatment Against Depression
According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million around the world suffer from depression. Because of this, antidepressant pills are on the rise, thereby making some dependent on it.
Here’s a secret: there is a healthier alternative.
A 2014 study revealed that curcumin, turmeric’s main component, helped improve depressive symptoms. These improvements were similar to Prozac, thereby making this spice an effective and safer antidepressant.
Aside from this, there are studies that showed how curcumin could boost brain neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are essential in helping you improve your mood.
Helps Prevent (And Possibly Treat) Cancer
The World Health Organization reported that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world. Don’t even get started with the cost of treatment because this will definitely put a hole in the pocket.
This is why experts are looking into how effective turmeric is as a form of treatment. Based on a 2009 study, curcumin could help kill cancerous cells. At the same time, it reduces the growth of new blood vessels in tumor, which is also known as andiogenesis, and the spread of cancer or metastasis.
Another study also suggested that curcumin minimizes the growth of cancer cells and prevents the growth of tumor.
It is unclear as to how or in what capacity can turmeric help against cancer. There are also limited studies involving humans yet, so precaution is advised.
Turmeric Side Effects
Given these benefits, is turmeric safe for consumption? The answer is yes. Still, this doesn’t mean you should drink several glasses every day or take turmeric supplements freely.
When taken in high doses, turmeric may cause gastrointestinal problems. It could upset your stomach since turmeric encourages the stomach to produce more gastric acid.
Turmeric could also be a blood-thinning agent. Experts have yet to discover how turmeric affects and functions in the blood since it helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. In case you are taking blood-thinning medications, then reduce, if not avoid taking turmeric.
Despite the health benefits, pregnant women were cautioned from taking anything with turmeric. This spice is known to ease PMS symptoms. Although this may be “old wives’ tale,” it could potentially stimulate contractions and lead to early labor.
More importantly, consult your doctor. Do not take turmeric supplements without informing your doctor, especially if you have existing medical condition or taking prescription medicines. There is a possibility that curcumin will adversely react to your body and may cause more harm than good.
Storage will depend on the type of turmeric that you have.
Fresh turmeric offers the livelier and more potent flavor. Make sure you place it inside an airtight plastic or container to prolong its shelf life. It could last up to two weeks if you place it in the refrigerator or months if in the freezer.
On the other hand, dried turmeric lasts longer than the fresh variant. This is because essential oils and pungency are lost during the drying process. Just make sure you put it in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dark place. This will help the spice last for up to one year.
Given this information, are you now wondering how to use this spice?
One of the easiest ways to use turmeric is by making your own turmeric tea. Simply boil three to four cups of water and add two teaspoons of turmeric. Let it simmer for five minutes. Add lemon, honey, sugar, or milk to taste.
If you’re more on smoothies, then you can use turmeric, too. Try this superpower morning smoothies by placing chopped kale or spinach, frozen banana, one cup of unsweetened coconut water, two tablespoons of almond butter, one tablespoon flax oil, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a blender. It will surely get you pumped and running throughout the day.
Additional Ingredient in Your Favorite Dishes
You can easily add turmeric in your favorite dishes. Sprinkle a pinch of turmeric in your scrambled eggs or frittata and you’re good to go. Adding a pinch on your rice could add color and flavor to it.
Turmeric also works well with veggies particularly potatoes, cauliflower, and root vegetables. Adding this spice on your sautéed greens will bring out a different flavor as well.
Apart from being a staple ingredient at home, turmeric can be used in a non-edible way. It can be used as a dye in many Indian clothing and robes of Buddhist monks.
You can also use turmeric on paper, thereby turning it yellow.
Given these benefits and many uses, what happens if you run out of turmeric?
Below are your alternatives:
Although it is often used in curry dishes, curry powder can be an alternative because of its turmeric content. In fact, turmeric is the main ingredient, thereby giving you that taste and color – with a twist.
Cumin and turmeric are often used together because of their complementing flavors. In case you run out of turmeric, you can replace it with cumin. Still, take note that cumin has a stronger flavor, so make sure to reduce the amount.
Ginger and turmeric have similar organic chemistry, thereby making this a good alternative. The difference is that ginger is used in root form while turmeric is in powder form.
This spice provides the same color as turmeric. However, mustard powder has stronger flavor and color, so make sure you use this sparingly.
This is one of the best substitutes for turmeric. It has a similar taste and color with turmeric while providing an aroma to the dish. It is also packed with tons of health benefits. Unfortunately, saffron comes with a heftier price tag compared to the other alternatives.
The Bottom Line
To end, turmeric is among the most sought after spices in the world – and it’s not surprising why. Its nutritional components, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, provide tons of health benefits.
Nonetheless, take note of the side effects. If you are pregnant, currently taking blood-thinning medications, or prone to tummy issues, then adding turmeric in your diet must be avoided.
Turmeric is also readily available in markets and grocery stores. Just make sure you choose the right source to be able to enjoy these benefits.
In the meantime, enjoy this spice and let its components do wonders in boosting your health.