1. It acts as an anti-inflammatory
Research has found that curcumin – the main active ingredient in turmeric – helps the body fight foreign invaders, repair tissue damage and reduce inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to a range of chronic conditions and diseases, including arthritis and heart disease.
2. It boosts brain function
Turmeric consumption helps increase our levels of Brain-Derived Neutrophic Factor (or BDFN) – a type of growth hormone that improves the functioning of the brain. Low levels of BDFN have been linked to brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
3. It lowers the risk of heart disease
In one study, patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery who were given curcumin reduced their risk of having a heart attack by 65 per cent. This is because turmeric helps improve the function of the endothelium (aka, the lining of the blood cells).
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4. It may prevent cancer
Turmeric is often used as an alternative medicine in the treatment and prevention of cancer, especially those affecting the digestive system, e.g. colorectal cancer. A 2011 study out of the American Association For Cancer Research found that patients who took 4 grams of curcumin a day for 30 days had 40 per cent fewer colon lesions (which have the potential to turn cancerous) by the end of the experiment.
Research also indicates curcumin has the capacity to kill and reduce the growth of tumour cells.
6. It can ease symptoms of depression
Evidence suggests curcumin may be effective as an anti-depressant. A study involving 60 people with the mental illness showed that curcumin was just as successful as Prozac in alleviating symptoms of the condition.
This may be put down to turmeric assisting with the increase of serotonin and dopamine, two of the brain's most important neurotransmitters.
Are there any risks associated with consuming turmeric?
Turmeric usually doesn’t cause any significant side effects, although some may experience nausea, dizziness or diarrhoea if consumed in large quantities.
What’s the best way to consume turmeric to retain its nutritional value?
Heating turmeric can destroy some of its benefits – in fact, after just 10 minutes of cooking, around 25-30 per cent of the curcumin is lost. To avoid this, add turmeric last to cooked dishes where possible.
How do you cook with turmeric?
Inspired to cook with turmeric? Why not give these recipes a go.
- Kale and freekeh soup with turmeric
- Vegetable and turmeric fritters
- Roasted sweet potatoes with turmeric spiced chickpeas
What’s the best way to select/store turmeric?
Much like ginger, turmeric can be bought fresh from supermarkets and grocers or as a ground powder. If buying whole, avoid any dark patches and ensure it still feels crisp – it should have bright orange flesh and be earthy, peppery and slightly bitter to taste.
Fresh turmeric should keep for up to a month when stored in the fridge, while the powder will stay ‘good’ for up to a year in the pantry. Generally, turmeric root has a more intense flavour, although both varieties are still beneficial for your health.
As a general rule, 1-inch fresh turmeric = 1 tablespoon freshly grated turmeric = 1 teaspoon ground turmeric.
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