Monday 16 April 2018

Get The Most From Turmeric Root With These Foods

Turmeric root is a plant in the ginger family, and in the culinary world it is best known for adding a rich golden color and flavor to Indian and Chinese cooking (especially curry). But even though turmeric is delicious, there’s another reason that turmeric root gets a lot of attention: its many purported health benefits.

Turmeric root is used to support the body’s “many disorders involving pain and inflammation including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), acute injuries to the muscles and joints, headaches, and fibromyalgia.” Science supports this, backing up that turmeric root has “proven properties like anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, immunostimulant, antiseptic, and antimutagenic.”

A tumeric root post typically contains one of two things: a list of the herbs touted potential health benefits, or a list of recipes that utilize turmeric root so that you can add it to your diet. With this turmeric root post, we’re going to split the difference: we’ll talk about the best ways that you can take turmeric root to access its health benefits.

Method Matters

The reason we’re focusing on how you take turmeric is because if you’re looking for health benefits, the way that you take it matters. This all has to do with the “active ingredient” in turmeric, the flavonoid that’s behind the health benefits. The name of that flavonoid is curcumin.

Curcumin lends a lot to turmeric root, not least of which is its bright yellow color. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that composes about 0.3-5.4% of raw turmeric. Curcumin does a lot of the heavy lifting for turmeric, as it has the therapeutic properties of “antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic activity, and anticarcinogenic activity.”

But there is a downside to curcumin: it’s quite difficult for the body to absorb it. Curcumin metabolizes quickly; in fact, so quickly that it can be hard for your body to absorb it. Here are some ways to take turmeric root in a way that your body can absorb the curcumin (and, by extension, all of its potential benefits)!

Turmeric Root + Pepper

Turmeric root and black pepper are a match made in heaven, at least in terms of curcumin absorption. Melissa Rifkin, RD, a bariatric dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City tells Time Magazine, “If you pair the turmeric with the piperine, it improves the bioavailability of curcumin by 1000 times.” She recommends a simple recipe - chicken prepared with turmeric and black pepper. It’s that simple.

Turmeric + Fats

Curcumin is also fat soluble, meaning that it dissolves in fats. So to help your body better absorb the curcumin in your turmeric, try it with a fatty meal. A dish like Indian Butter chicken -- which is typically made with butter and heavy cream -- fits the bill, and is the perfect context for turmeric anyway.

Or, you might try a high fat version of golden milk. Golden milk is a traditional Ayurvedic recipe that has recently gained popularity in the West. Golden milk is a milk-based herbal tea: usually made with milk of any sort (dairy, almond, pecan, coconut), turmeric powder, black pepper, ginger, cayenne, and an optional sweetener like honey or maple syrup. The black pepper usually recommended in this tea will help your body absorb the curcumin, but if you really want to help the process (and you aren’t following a low-fat diet), then try using whole milk.

Curcumin Supplements

To access a higher amount of curcumin, it may be best to consider taking a turmeric extract as a supplement. This is an easy way to guarantee a higher concentration of curcumin than is found naturally in turmeric. This will free you up to use turmeric root in your cooking in any way you please -- from curries to chickens to golden milk, and all the possibilities beyond that.

What’s your favorite way to use turmeric?


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