To most people in India, the tasty bright yellow spice turmeric is affectionately known as “the kitchen queen” because everyone there uses it in cooking. It’s, of course, the main spice in any curry dish and has long been one of my favorite spices in a heart healthy diet plan. Why? Because turmeric contains a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin.
What Are the Health Benefits of Turmeric?
Researchers attribute the impressive health benefits of turmeric to its active compound curcumin. In one study, researchers at the University of Toronto found that curcumin blocks a wide range of biochemical reactions involved in cardiac hypertrophy (enlargement of the heart chambers), inflammation, and fibrosis. In another study, investigators at Japan’s Kyoto Medical Center found that curcumin helps support healthy blood pressure in addition to preventing cardiac hypertrophy.
Curcumin has also been found to reduce the excess platelet aggregation that occurs in sticky, clot-forming blood. And it appears that curcumin helps keep NF-kappa B production, a protein complex involved in the body’s inflammatory reactions, in check. Elevated NF-kappa B production has been linked to cancer as well as inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
How to Get the Health Benefits of Turmeric
Since inflammation is the root cause of so many conditions, including heart disease, curcumin’s well-established anti-inflammatory abilities make it an important component in a heart healthy diet plan. That’s why I cook with plenty of turmeric, and suggest you do the same.
You can add turmeric to chicken recipes, soups, roasted vegetables, and scrambled eggs. For the best absorption, you want to add turmeric to warm dishes that contain healthy fats, such as olive oil, since turmeric's health promoting compounds are fat soluble. But you can also add turmeric to cold dishes like salad dressings and smoothies.
But it's tough to get the health benefits of turmeric through foods alone. So, you may want to consider taking a supplement that contains curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. Just keep in mind that curcumin in supplement form tends to pass quickly through the gastrointestinal tract without being fully absorbed, meaning you miss out on many of its health benefits. So, you want to look for a supplement that's highly bioavailable, meaning that it's easy for your body to use and absorb.