Turmeric, a plant of the ginger family and made from the roots of the Curcuma longa plant, is a native plant of Southeast Asia and grown primarily in India. Curcumin is the key component of turmeric which gives turmeric its yellow colour. Turmeric has been in use since ancient times as a part of traditional Indian medicine in Ayurveda.
Today, turmeric is promoted as a dietary supplement for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, digestive disorders, etc. Curcumin, the major component of turmeric, is a strong antioxidant and is responsible for the majority of turmeric’s potential benefits. It may be noted that Turmeric and Curcumin are often used interchangeably because the primary constituent affecting turmeric’s properties is curcumin and hence it is rightly called the “star of turmeric”.
Nutrition Facts about Turmeric
Turmeric, sometimes called “Indian saffron” or the “Golden spice” is a store of nutrition as well. To give a fair idea, here is a breakdown of the nutritional content of turmeric per 100 grams:
- Energy: 355 calories
- Protein: 8 grams
- Total Carbohydrates: 70 grams
- Total Fat: 10 grams
- Dietary Fiber: 21 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
- Iron: 230% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA is the recommended daily intake of a nutrient for a healthy body)
- Vitamin B6: 90% of RDA
Not only this, turmeric also contains other essential nutrients including calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E. This clearly shows that a regular intake of turmeric can cover almost all the nutrients required by the body. Let’s know more about the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin.
Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin
1. Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Turmeric and curcumin have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be helpful in reducing inflammation throughout the body. Curcumin can be a more effective anti-inflammatory treatment than any other medicine at the right dose. Curcumin helps in reducing inflammation in the body by inhibiting the production of inflammatory molecules. This may be especially beneficial for people suffering from arthritis and asthma.
2. Anti- Oxidant property
Oxidants are free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. These cause oxidative stress, believed to be the reason behind ageing and many heart diseases. Curcumin is a strong anti-oxidant which neutralizes these free radicals and counters their effect. Curcumin also protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. Turmeric and curcumin are found to have a stronger anti-oxidant effect than Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
3. Preventing Diabetes
According to many studies, curcumin may help in preventing diabetes and associated disorders like diabetic nephropathy (also called diabetic kidney disease). Continuous intake of turmeric may lead to a significant decrease in blood sugar levels, and an increase in plasma insulin which helps in fighting Type 2 diabetes. Not only this, but turmeric may also reduce the risk associated with diabetes, such as heart disease and kidney damage.
4. Cancer Prevention
Cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth. Research has suggested that turmeric has anti-carcinogenic properties and is effective in stopping tumour cells from growing. Also, curcumin in turmeric contributes to the death of cancer cells and reduces metastasis (growth of cancer). Studies have found that turmeric may help to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer including breast, colon and prostate cancer.
5. Cardiovascular Health
Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. Turmeric helps to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels and improving blood vessel function. It may even help to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Curcumin does this by improving the function of the endothelium ( inner lining of blood vessels). Studies have found that people taking curcumin have a 65% decreased risk of experiencing a heart attack.
6. Role in Depression Treatment
Depression is associated with lower levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is a protein found in the brain and spinal cord that keeps the nerve cells healthy) and turmeric is able to boost levels of BDNF. Curcumin is effective as an anti-depressant and has shown some promise in treating depression. Curcumin also boosts brain neurotransmitters and has a positive effect on cognitive function, including brain and memory function.
7. Arthritis Treatment
Curcumin shows promise in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder characterized by joint inflammation that commonly affects the joints but may spread to other areas as well. Curcumin is found to treat arthritis better than many inflammatory drugs.
8. Improve Skin Health
Turmeric, as many of us are aware, is a key ingredient of cosmetic products like soaps, face wash, scrubs, etc. The anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties of turmeric are helpful in improving the appearance of skin and reducing the signs of ageing. It is also found effective in treating a variety of skin conditions including acne, dermatitis, and psoriasis (a skin disease marked by red itchy patches).
Not only turmeric has numerous health benefits, but its culinary uses are also impressive.
Culinary Uses of Turmeric
Turmeric has a warm, slightly bitter taste and a bright yellow colour and is often used to add flavour and colour to dishes. Here are some culinary uses of turmeric:
1. Curry Powders
Turmeric is a key ingredient in many curry powders and is used to flavour a variety of dishes, including vegetables, meat, and rice. It is also a key ingredient in various sauces, pickles, and other relishes.
2. Soups and Stews
Turmeric can be added to soups and stews to give them a warm, aromatic flavour. It is often used in dishes like lentil soup, chickpea stew, and chicken curry.
3. Baked Foods
Turmeric is even added to baked foods like bread and pastries to give them a bright, yellow colour.
Turmeric can be added to beverages, such as smoothies and lattes, to give them a warm, spicy flavour and a golden colour.