Everyone is talking about turmeric: The golden spice, with golden benefits. So, can drinking a turmeric latte every day help you become a model of health? As you know, I love the science behind things and diving into the health effect of a certain type of food is just up my alley. So, without further ado, let’s start dissecting…
Turmeric originates from India, that still produces (and consumes) the vast majority of this yellow spice. In itself, it has a lovely flavour and adds a little something to many dishes. But what of its health benefits? To learn more about that, we have to dive into the plant itself to find out more about its components.
Whether eaten fresh or as the dried spice most of us associate its name with, turmeric possesses digestive and anti-inflammatory traits. We could therefore quickly jump to the conclusion that sprinkling turmeric in your tea or on your food is a good idea – and it generally is. However, the stuff most of us are really after when consuming turmeric is curcumin. This is the bioactive ingredient, meaning that is has an effect on us living organisms. It is curcumin that generally gets the good press, and it is this little component that tends to receive page after page of articles praising its health effects.
Curcumin belongs to a group that goes by the name curcuminoids (curcumin/curcuminoids – human/humanoids. Easy to remember, right?). This is an antioxidant, and I think it’s safe to assume most of us knows that this is a good thing. It combats free radicals and can prevent some types of cell damage, thereby slowing down processes such as aging. Not to forget, curcumin gives turmeric its characteristic yellow colour.
When we eat turmeric, curcumin make up only a small percentage (3-5%) of what we put in our mouth. Therefore, in order to allow curcumin fully do its job, it may be wise to take it in a distilled form such as a vitamin supplement. Your body absorbs it best with a fatty meal (I’m thinking olive oil or salmon rather than a steak…) or together with black pepper. Yes, that’s right – pepper. Mother nature can be a funny one.
So, what else can curcumin do for you? Here are a few powerful potentials:
Weight control. After a meal, you may feel satiated for longer. As a result, you’ll eat less, and over time – shed a few kilos.
Anti-inflammatory. It helps with digestion and acts anti-inflammatory, which in turn can prevent conditions such as IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome). Low levels of inflammations in your body can play a role when it comes to avoiding serious diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer.
Sugar sensitivity. Curcumin increases your cells’ ability to absorb sugar, thereby decreasing your blood sugar level.
Happiness. There’s also been some studies claiming that curcumin boosts the brain transmitters serotonin.
Now, some of you are probably thinking: This is all very well, but is it scientifically proven? Most of the research articles I’ve digested on this topic agree on one thing: Further research or more extensive studies is needed in order to stamp above results with the scientific seal. But given the health benefits listed above, I for once will continue drinking my daily cup of turmeric tea. Not only does it taste amazing; it makes me feel good.