News of the health benefits of this spice are spreading its appeal.
Turmeric in herbal teas and protein balls — really? This bright yellow spice is gaining popularity not just for its flavour and colour (yes, — it stains hands and tablecloths badly), but also for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
It’s the bright yellow pigment in turmeric, called curcumin, that’s thought to bring about so many health benefits. Research shows that these include helping with Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease — and it may also help to lower cholesterol.
Emerging research on turmeric’s anti-cancer properties looks promising. So far, trials have been mainly lab-based, but there is reason for more human trials. Curcumin seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing, with the best effects seen with breast, bowel, stomach and skin cancer cells.
US physician and author, Michael Greger, is getting excited about this ‘potent stuff’, too. “Since 1987, the National Cancer Institute has rigorously tested more than 1000 different compounds for cancer-preventing activity,” says Greger. And guess what? “The most promising has been found to be curcumin,” he says. These results are based on realistic intakes of between a sixth of a teaspoon and two tablespoons per day. What’s more, adding just a touch of black pepper boosts absorption of curcumin. “Even the smallest pinch [of pepper] can boost curcumin levels in blood,” says Greger.
How to eat more of it
While often used in curries and other Asian recipes, try adding turmeric to omelettes, soups and lentil dishes. Or add it to rice while it’s cooking, or mix it into salad dressings. You can even knead it into homemade pasta dough for a lovely yellow colour.