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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

6 Health Benefits of Tumeric (And How to Take It For Good)

6 Health Benefits of Tumeric (And How to Take It For Good)

Turmeric has been hailed as a superfood, and it’s all thanks to its powerful active ingredient—Curcumin. Curcumin is what gives turmeric its yellow color, as well as turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

Numerous scientific studies have shown curcumin to have potent anti-inflammatory properties, which are similar to pharmaceutical drugs such as hydrocortisone but without the harmful side-effects.

Turmeric has even been shown to treat arthritis, metabolic syndrome, pain, and even degenerative eye conditions.[1]

Here’s a breakdown of the many health benefits of turmeric.

1. Potent Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Turmeric is famous for its ability to reduce inflammation in the body. It works by scavenging different forms of free radicals, including both reactive oxygen and nitrogen species.

Curcumin also helps to modulate the activity of your body’s detoxifying enzymes. This plays a major role in reducing inflammation because inflammatory cells ‘free up’ many reactive species at the site of inflammation. This process leads to oxidative stress and consequently, inflammation.

Curcumin can also increase your body’s levels of antioxidants, as shown by a recent systematic review of taking turmeric supplements that contained purified curcuminoids. It was concluded that curcumin has a powerful effect on all levels of oxidative stress in the body.

Because inflammation is one of the hallmarks of chronic disease, turmeric has important benefits for many people suffering from painful or inflammatory health conditions.[2]

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2. Antifungal and Antimicrobial

Turmeric may be a helpful treatment for fungal or bacterial infections in the body. Studies have shown that curcumin was able to completely inhibit the growth of Candida albicans, as well as several other fungal strains.[3]

Curcumin has even been shown to prevent Candida from adhering to human cells more effectively than the commercial antifungal drug fluconazole.[4]

Another study found that researchers found that using ascorbic acid alongside Curcumin potentiated its antifungal effects by up to 10 times. This suggests that taking vitamin C supplements with Curcumin may help kill off fungal infections much more quickly.

Turmeric is even being used as a food-safe antibacterial agent thanks to its ability to invade the cell of a bacterial species and eliminate it from within. Applying turmeric formulas to food preparation surfaces such as chopping boards, knives, and countertops has been found to kill harmful bacteria.

3. Relieves Pain Caused by Inflammation

Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties may be able to relieve the pain of inflammatory conditions, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Curcumin works by inhibiting NF-KB, a molecule that controls your body’s production of inflammatory proteins called cytokines. This essentially means that curcumin can ‘turn off’ a bunch of inflammatory molecules.

In fact, the corticosteroids that are often prescribed to treat arthritis symptoms work by inhibiting NF-KB. New research shows that turmeric supplements can have a similar effect. Similar research shows that curcumin may also target specific inflammatory cells and block some types of enzymes that cause inflammation.

Studies involving people with osteoarthritis of the knee found that taking a curcuminoid supplement every day for six weeks resulted in significant reductions in pain. The participants’ physical function also improved greatly. Their systemic oxidative stress was also shown to improve.[5]

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The researchers suggested that this was due to Curcuminoids providing potent local anti-inflammatory effects. It appears that taking standardized turmeric extract over several weeks could be enough to reduce arthritis symptoms of pain and inflammation and may even provide similar relief to ibuprofen and diclofenac sodium.

4. Alleviates Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

Curcumin has been shown to help treat the issues associated with metabolic syndrome, including insulin sensitivity, fat accumulation, high blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress. The curcuminoids in turmeric extract have also been found to help reduce triglycerides and bad cholesterol while boosting levels of ‘good’ cholesterol.[6]

Researchers tested the effects of turmeric by giving a group of patients with metabolic syndrome 1g of turmeric extract (with piperine to aid absorption) for 8 weeks. The patients experienced significant improvement, including reduced overall LDL cholesterol and higher HDL cholesterol. They also showed positive changes in serum lipids and glucose levels, as well as reduced inflammation.

The authors concluded that turmeric was a natural, safe, and effective treatment for improving the health of those with metabolic syndrome, mainly by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.[7]

5. Improves Cardiovascular Health

Curcumin may help to reverse many factors involved in the progression of heart disease by improving the lining of blood vessels, known as the endothelium. Endothelial dysfunction is a major driver of heart disease as it’s involved in regulating blood pressure and blood clotting.

Several studies have now indicated that curcumin may be highly beneficial to endothelial function. Some evidence suggests that curcumin supplements may provide similar benefits to the drug Atovastin, while other studies show it may be as effective as exercise. Curcumin also appears to reduce both inflammation and oxidation, which are major drivers of heart disease and dysfunction.

A study involving people undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery found that taking curcumin before and after surgery lowered the risk of experiencing another heart attack by 65%.[8]

6. May Slow the Effects of Aging

Although there is no possible way to ‘stop’ the body aging, it may be possible to slow down its negative effects. Turmeric’s antioxidant properties may be an important means of reducing the lifelong accumulation of molecular damage and oxidation.

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As a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, Curcumin may be able to slow down aging. It boosts the level of antioxidant enzymes in your body while also scavenging free radicals that cause oxidative stress.

It also helps prevent these free radicals from causing lipid peroxidation – the oxidation of fats in the cell membrane, which leads to death of the cell.

How to Take Turmeric

Here are ways you can take turmeric to maximize its health benefits.

1. Golden Milk

Add coconut milk, almond milk, ground turmeric, ground ginger, cinnamon stick, coconut oil, black pepper, and a pinch of stevia to a small saucepan.

Whisk to combine all ingredients thoroughly, then place over medium heat. Heat until hot to the touch but not boiling, while stirring continually. This should take about four minutes.

Turn off heat and taste. Adjust flavor if necessary with more turmeric or ginger for greater intensity, or more sweetener.

Serve immediately. This recipe should make enough for two glasses. You can store leftovers in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and reheat on the stovetop.

2. In Your Meals

Turmeric is often added to curries for both flavor and color. Here are some examples of tasty recipes that include turmeric:

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  • Vegan Low Carb Eggplant Curry[9]
  • Cauliflower Curry[10]
  • Golden Baked Chicken and Leeks[11]

3. Turmeric Tonic

Add turmeric, ginger, lemon juice and leftover lemon rind, chosen sweetener, black pepper, and filtered water to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer (don’t boil!) over medium to medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Turn off heat and pour the tonic through a small strainer into two mugs.

If the tonic is too strong, dilute with more hot or warm water. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Reheat on the stovetop until just warm.

4. Turmeric Supplements

If you wish to take turmeric as a supplement, look for a quality product that includes BioPerine. Bioperine is a compound from black pepper that maximizes the bioavailability of curcumin.

It’s also important to choose a supplement that’s standardized to 95% curcuminoids. This means that it will provide a highly concentrated dose of curcuminoids. Watch out for turmeric supplements that claim to be turmeric extract but only contain a tiny amount of turmeric extract.

Final Thoughts

There are numerous health benefits of Turmeric, and anyone who wants a healthy diet should consider including it in their meal plan. I hope this article helped you know more about the benefits of Turmeric and convince you to try it out, along with the various ways you can take it for a healthier body.

More About Turmeric

Featured photo credit: Osha Key via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Lisa Richards

Nutritionist, Creator of The Candida Diet, Owner of TheCandidaDiet.com

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Published on January 14, 2021

How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

Meal plans are a great way to cut down waste, make shopping for food quicker and easier, and help you to stick to healthy choices. But where do you start? What makes a healthy meal plan for the week, and how do you know what to include?

Firstly, there is no healthy meal plan that works for everyone. At different stages of your life, you will need different levels of nutrients, but there are some general principles that you can follow, and then adjust as necessary. Here’s how to create a healthy meal plan for the week.

The Backbone of Your Healthy Meal Plan

For the vast majority of adults, these practical tips should be the backbone of your meal plan:

  • A range of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, brown bread, millet, bulgar wheat, etc)
  • Fermented food such as kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut
  • Unsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocados, and nuts
  • Two portions of oily fish such as salmon per week (or nuts and seeds if you don’t eat fish)
  • A handful of nuts and seeds a day
  • Aim for 30g of fiber a day
  • Eat a range of beans and pulses (such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, and lentils)
  • Drink approximately 8 glasses of water a day[1]

Calorie Counting

A calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1g water from 14.5 to 15.5°Celsius. This is calculated in a laboratory, by burning the food. However, the food is not “burnt” in our bodies, and people’s metabolism and energy expenditure vary, so it’s a very rough estimate.

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The absorption and, therefore, how much energy is available for you to use, is also affected by how the food is processed. An example of this is sweetcorn. If you grind it down into a powder and make a tortilla, you will absorb far more calories than if you eat whole sweetcorn kernels. Instead, you will see most of the kernels untouched, in the toilet!

Another concern with calories is that instead of thinking about nutrient quality, it promotes prioritizing quantity. For example, there is a huge difference in the number of nutrients you could consume in 500 calories of fruit and vegetables, versus 500 calories of ice cream.

Also the number of calories you need varies according to so many factors, such as age, gender, lifestyle, and activity level, that it is hard to accurately predict exactly how many you need. Instead, I prefer to recommend a general principle of how to balance your plate and a reminder to eat mindfully when you are physically hungry, not because of an emotional trigger.

How to Balance Your Plate

When thinking of your healthy meal plan, for each meal your plate should contain approximately:

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  • Fruit and vegetables (1/2 plate)
  • Whole grains (1/4 plate)
  • Lean protein (1/4 plate)
  • A spoon of unsaturated oil

This will help you when you think of each meal to work out what to include and approximate portion sizes.

An Example Day

Breakfast

  • Overnight oats, with chia seeds, quinoa and milk or fortified plant based milk
  • A piece of fruit

Snack

  • A handful of mixed nuts

Lunch

  • Grilled tofu with a mixed salad and bulgar wheat
  • A piece of fruit

Snack

  • Apple slices with nut butter

Dinner

  • Chicken / tofu / salmon with miso brown rice and spring greens
  • OR vegetable curry, daal, and brown rice
  • OR stuffed aubergine with mixed vegetables and millet or quinoa
  • A piece of fruit

How to Adjust Your Meal Plan

There are certain phases when more or less nutrients are needed, so it is important to consider your changing needs.

When You’re Pregnant

During your pregnancy, you should limit oily fish to once a week, and only 2 tuna steaks or 4 medium sized cans of tuna per week, because of the risk of pollution.

You should also avoid the following food groups:

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  • Raw or undercooked eggs
  • Unpasteurized cheese
  • Raw or undercooked meat
  • Pâté
  • Swordfish, shark, and marlin
  • Homemade ice-cream with raw egg
  • Soft-serve ice cream from vans or kiosks
  • Vitamin A supplements
  • Liquorice root
  • Alcohol

When You’re Breastfeeding

While you are breastfeeding, your body needs more calcium (1250mg), selenium (70mcg), and iodine (200mcg). Ensure that you include these in your meal plan.

When Going Through Menopause

Menopause

changes your long-term risk of disease, so it is important to focus on items that help support bone and heart health. The framework above already sets out a diet to support long term heart health, but for bone health aim for:

  • 1200mg calcium per day
  • High-quality protein at every meal
  • Foods rich in vitamin K
  • Foods rich in phosphorus
  • Foods rich in magnesium

Organizing Your Shopping

Once you have completed your healthy meal plan for the week, you can save the ingredients that you regularly need to an online shopping list, in order to make repeat ordering simpler. Some recipe books also now have a QR code so that you can easily synchronize the ingredients needed with your online shopping.

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Try to eat seasonal fruit and vegetables where possible, but canned beans, frozen, dried, and freeze dried fruit make great substitutes for fresh, retaining most of the nutrients.

Final Thoughts

Creating a healthy meal plan for the week may be daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become a fun addition to your weekly planning, and one that will ultimately improve your overall lifestyle. Try to use the general feedback above and adapt it to your own specific needs. Enjoy looking for new and exciting recipes to include in your plan!

More on Healthy Eating

Featured photo credit: Ello via unsplash.com

Reference

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