Turmeric is what gives curry dishes their characteristic bright yellow color and strong taste. The health benefits of turmeric are primarily due to its exceptional antioxidant content. These include benefits for the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimers and other degenerative neurological diseases.
It's not well known that herbs (and spices) such as turmeric have far greater concentrations of antioxidants than any common fruit or vegetable. Turmeric also contains a particularly wide variety of antioxidants as well.
Antioxidants, specifically the flavonoid antioxidant called curcumin, are primarily responsible for the health benefits of turmeric. Antioxidants are nutrient compounds found in virtually all plant foods (and also manufactured in your body). Their primary job is to protect your cells against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals, considered to be the primary cause of the aging process. Turmeric may also function indirectly as an antioxidant by enhancing your body's production of glutathione, your body's most abundant antioxidant.
The benefits of antioxidants include protection against all types of degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, macular degeneration, Alzheimer's disease, and many more.
Antioxidants work together, synergistically, and each one has its own specific characteristics and benefits. One antioxidant may work in places in the body where another one can't go, and neutralize free radicals that other antioxidants miss. Therefore, getting the widest variety of antioxidants is just as important as how much of any one antioxidant you get. See my page on How Do Antioxidants Work? to learn more about this.
Some of the general health benefits of turmeric include:
Turmeric Has Cancer-Fighting Properties. Turmeric is one of the most-frequently used spices in India, where the prevalence of cancers — especially colon, breast, prostate and lung — is far lower than in most developed countries.
Numerous studies have found distinct benefits of turmeric that may explain why it's recommended as an essential part of any anti-cancer diet. Turmeric (curcumin) benefits include:
The Benefits of Turmeric Help Improve Liver Function. Poor diet, allergens, pollution and stress can cause your liver to become sluggish. Studies have shown that turmeric increases important detoxification enzymes in your liver and increases bile flow — this helps your liver break down toxins and helps you digest fats.
Turmeric Helps Prevents Heart Disease. Turmeric inhibits free radical damage of fats, including cholesterol. Research suggests that preventing the oxidation of cholesterol may be the single most common cause of heart disease. It’s also rich in vitamin B6, which is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. See my page on Heart Attack Prevention for more information.
Turmeric Protects Against Neurological Diseases, including Alzheimer's. The benefits of turmeric have the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and relieve Alzheimer's symptoms caused by inflammation and oxidation. In India, where consumption of turmeric is very high, the rate of Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases are very low.
Other Benefits of Turmeric. Turmeric may play a beneficial role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, cataracts and gallstones.
The health benefits of turmeric are so numerous, ideally you'd want to have some every day. However, as with any herb or spice, you may find it impractical to include turmeric in your meal plans that often. There's an easy way to accomplish this — by making yourself a fresh smoothie every day and adding some turmeric and other spices to your recipe.
Fresh smoothies make for some of the most nutritious, delicious and easy-to-make meals you could imagine. They're a great way to get more of those "good for you" antioxidant-rich foods (that you may not get enough of) into your diet.
I personally use herbs such as basil, cilantro and parsley in my green smoothie recipes to give them more of the benefits of dark green leafy vegetables. Because they're so concentrated with antioxidants, you can use a much smaller amount than you would with other greens like kale or spinach, and they won't overwhelm the flavor of your smoothie recipe.
I don't stop there, either. I like to use other spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, as well as turmeric and others in my smoothie recipes, mostly for their added antioxidant benefits. Once they're blended in with all the other ingredients, you can't really distinguish any one particular taste. You just need to experiment a little to get the flavor just right for you.
To learn more about the art of making smoothies, skip on over to my page on How to Make a Smoothie the Healthy Way and learn all my tricks for making delicious and nutritious smoothies!
IMPORTANT! How to get all the benefits of turmeric. Unfortunately, turmeric is not well absorbed when eaten on its own. But there's an easy solution — adding black pepper to turmeric enhances turmeric's bioavailability by literally 1,000 times! It's no coincidence that pepper is almost always used with turmeric in curry recipes.
To learn more about turmeric and ways to use it, check out
The World's Healthiest Foods/Turmeric
If you want to get all of the health benefits of tumeric, you'll want to stay away from typical supermarket brands. Most of them are irradiated in order to destroy microorganisms, bacteria, and viruses that might be present. Irradiation, however, damages the integrity of the spice — destroying vitamins, minerals, proteins and other beneficial micronutrients. Irradiation also creates more free radicals, just the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish by eating spices.
Fortunately, I've got a wonderful source online for premium-quality, bulk organic turmeric — Starwest Botanicals and iHerb.com.
Starwest Botanicals started as a small retail herb shop in 1975 in Sacramento, California. From the beginning, their focus has been on quality; they source their products directly from around the world and process them in-house with their own herb mill to have more control over the finished product.
The Starwest company actively supports sustainable organic farming; as much as possible, they select ingredients from natural renewable sources and use renewable sources of energy.
The benefits of turmeric are also available in curcumin supplements. If you want to use turmeric to treat a health problem, you might have to eat more than you'd like in order to get a beneficial effect. In that case, the same benefits of turmeric are available from curcumin supplements. Curcumin is a flavonoid that acts as the main active ingredient in turmeric.
You can find a great selection of turmeric products, as well as thousands of other nutritional supplements and natural health products at iHerb.com. There's many reasons why iHerb is a great place to shop:
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