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© 2017 Vancouver Dietitians

Blog & Recipes

  • by Danica Davies, Alexandra Inman, Stephanie Dang

Turmeric - the Golden Spice


This vibrant spice is getting loads of attention lately, and a lot of people are interested in finding out what all the buzz is about!

Let’s start with the basics…

Turmeric is a yellow spice which has been used in India for many, many years. It can be incorporated into countless dishes, but is primarily found in curries. Within turmeric, there is an active compound called curcumin. Curcumin is what provides most of the health benefits associated with turmeric.

Health Benefits of Curcumin

  • Inflammation

  • Many studies have discovered the anti-inflammatory abilities of curcumin. The Arthritis Foundation states that curcumin can help reduce and even prevent swelling and joint pain.

  • There is limited evidence which shows that curcumin may also be beneficial for patients with ulcerative colitis and asthma.

  • Cognitive function

  • A study in the journal Biogerontology tested rats by giving them curcumin supplements. Their findings showed a decrease in cell damage, which in turn, may lead to improved brain function. But remember - humans are not rats! So we are still unsure about the cognitive effect in humans.

  • Cancer

  • Curcumin has been found to kill and stop the growth of tumor cells in animal studies, all while not harming the normal, healthy cells. However, not enough research has been done on humans. The conclusions from animal studies has shown great hope that curcumin can be helpful in future drug development.

  • Heart Health

  • Curcumin has been found to lower the “bad” cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) and help stop plaque buildup which can prevent heart attacks and strokes. However, again, not enough testing has been done to humans. The findings from experiments involving animals have been promising, but more evidence needs to be found before curcumin can be directly linked to lowering cholesterol in humans.

Health Cautions

  • Commercially produced Turmeric powder can contain additional fillers. These unwanted additives can include colourants and even wheat. If you have celiac disease, this can be a hidden risk you’ll have to watch out for.

  • Turmeric may interfere with other medications. If you are taking other medications, it is important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects.

  • If taken in high dosages, turmeric/curcumin may cause blood thinning - please be aware of this if you are on anticoagulation therapy, planning to have surgery, are pregnant, or have gallbladder disease.

  • Another side effect of taking turmeric in large doses can be gastrointestinal upset.

The Verdict

Curcumin adds many health benefits to turmeric. However, there is NOT as much curcumin in turmeric as you’d think! A study in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found this compound only made up approximately 3% of pure turmeric powder. This means having turmeric might not be enough to get all the health benefits curcumin provides; taking a supplement of solely curcumin would be more beneficial. Even though turmeric isn’t a ‘superfood’ or ‘perfect cure’, it’s fun to experiment and add new flavours to your food! This spice can make your meals look more appealing and can be used in place of food dyes for a more natural alternative.

Turmeric Ideas

Turmeric can be used in cooking as well as baking. Try adding it to warm milk to create the popular “Golden Milk”, or using it as a spice in curries. Incorporating turmeric into baked goods will create a gorgeous, natural yellow colour. Try out some of these ideas from BBC, and tag us in your favourite turmeric recipes on Instagram (@vancouverdietitians)!

Want to learn more about other anti-inflammatory foods? Book an appointment with Alex or Stephanie today!

Works Cited

  1. The Arthritis Foundation - Turmeric

  2. Curcumin and Cancer Cells (study by Ravindran J., et al.)

  3. Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders (study by Tayyem R., et al.)

  4. Curcumin improves spatial memory and decreases oxidative damage in aged female rats (study by Belviranli M., et al.)

  5. Healthline - 10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin

#goldenmilk #turmeric #curcumin #healthychoices