If you enjoy dishes with curry in them, then chances are you are already consuming some turmeric as part of your diet. Turmeric is the spice that gives curry a bold, yellow color. However, recent research indicates that turmeric can do much more than add flavor to your diet. According to Michelle Pearlman, M.D., a gastroenterologist with the University of Miami Health System, the spice may have some benefits for your health, as well.
"Turmeric is considered a nutraceutical because of its proposed anti-inflammatory effects," she says. "Curcumin is one of the active components found in turmeric and is responsible for these effects."
The studies that have shown the benefits of turmeric primarily involve turmeric supplements.
In a 2017 review article of 10 studies on the impact of turmeric supplements on osteoarthritis, the researchers found a significant improvement in physical function and overall pain among the patients in the studies who took turmeric.
Turmeric also appears to be very well-tolerated by patients, with almost no adverse side effects found among the study participants. Considering some of the side effects that can occur with prolonged use of over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, this makes turmeric worth a closer look.
Other studies have shown turmeric to have a direct effect on inflammation within the body. In a study on turmeric's impact on colorectal cancer in animals, for example, the researchers discovered that turmeric was directly inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals known as cytokines within the body. This may explain how turmeric can so effectively counteract pain.
Turmeric in meals
Though the studies that have shown benefits primarily involved turmeric supplements, it's easy to get more turmeric in your daily life by eating more dishes that contain the ingredient. Curry, which contains turmeric, is found in a variety of Indian stir-fries and other dishes. These dishes usually contain fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and other healthful herbs and spices, as well.
In addition, Dr. Pearlman says turmeric powder is easy to add to other foods for a simple, healthful boost. "Depending on whether you enjoy the taste of it, you can either add it to meals like stir-fries or roasted vegetables with other herbs," she says, "or you can mask the flavor by adding a small amount to frozen smoothies with other foods that can hide the taste, such as frozen berries with frozen spinach. It's a great alternative seasoning to food that adds depth of flavor and doesn't have sodium, which can cause water retention and high blood pressure."
Tumeric - a little kick for your health?
While turmeric seems to have health benefits, Dr. Pearlman says more research is needed. "Although data suggests that turmeric supplementation has anti-inflammatory effects, several factors remain unclear, such as formulation, frequency of administration, dosing and timing, to name a few."
Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks before adding turmeric supplements to your routine.
Wyatt Myers is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News.
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