Surprising superfoods : turmeric

What is it?

Turmeric belongs to the ginger family, and looks like a miniature version of fresh ginger. Although it lacks ginger’s zing, it boasts a distinctive orange flesh that has the ability to stain bright yellow everything that comes into contact with it. Native to Southeast Asia, turmeric is used extensively in both medicine and cooking. It can be found fresh at many Asian markets, increasingly, in the produce section of larger organic markets

Dried and pulverized, the turmeric root becomes the spice that imparts the yellow colour to many mustards and to curry powder. That might be all you know of it. But across Asia and Africa, turmeric has long been prized as a medicine noted for antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric’s scientific name is Curcuma longa, and the polyphenolic compound that imparts the yellow colour is called curcumin. It’s become the focus of much research for its ability to fight inflammation and cancer and to interfere with the onset of cognitive decline associated with neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s

How does it help?

Turmeric plays an important role in traditional Chinese medicine as a component of herbal formulas that fight stress and depression. Ongoing research has shown that curcumin greatly reduces the effects of stress and the inflammatory cascades implicated in depression and other behavioural disorders

In studies of Alzheimer’s disease, curcumin is proving to halt the buildup of amyloid-beta plaque that clogs the brain’s neural pathways and triggers the condition. Amyloid-betas are basically chains of amino acids, or proteins. They are to neurodegenerative diseases what fatty arterial plaque is to heart disease

Traditional Indian medicine - Ayurveda(that’s sanskrit for “science of life”) — has used the spice for its medicinal powers for thousands of years to cure inflammation-based conditions ranging from irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune disorders to arthritis and tendonitis. Chronic inflammation is thought to be responsible for many serious illnesses, including heart disease and some cancers, so adding turmeric to your diet can help relieve the pain, swelling, and redness that may come with inflammation. Plus, it may help fight infections and help treat digestive problems

More modern studies have found this magical compound can prevent the growth of cancer cells by decreasing swelling and inflammation. Other research suggests turmeric’s antioxidant powers may also help slow cancer growth and, for those already suffering, make chemotherapy more effective and help protect the body’s healthy cells from radiation therapy damage. Aside from its antioxidants, tumeric’s anti-estrogen compounds can help fight the growth of breast tissue tumors thought to be caused by estrogenic compounds found in food, pesticides, and other chemicals

Curcumin also promotes fat loss, prevents cellular damage caused by pesticides in food, controls cortisol levels and prevents muscle loss, improves blood vessel function and improves gut health

Turmeric - a real superfood

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May 16, 2012

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