Superfood: Turmeric

Superfood: Turmeric

You probably know turmeric as the main ingredient in curry powder.  It’s the orangey-yellow spice that gives curry powder it’s unique color and flavor.  In addition to being a great culinary ingredient, Turmeric has long been thought to have numerous healthy properties – and science is backing that up!

Countries that consume a lot of turmeric per capita, India for instance, have a low rate of diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.  While the benefits of turmeric are still being studied, there is certainly enough evidence of its health benefits that it’s a great idea to incorporate it into your diet.

Anti-inflammatory properties

According to studies published by the National Institute of Health, circumin (a substance common in turmeric) has anti-inflammatory properties.  Inflammation is a leading cause of many ailments, and natural substances with anti-inflammatory properties can do wonders for your health. Anti-inflammatory substances can have a wide range of health benefits.


In this study, it has been shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of circumin are also anti-arthritic. The study took patients who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and treated some with circumin and others with standard RA treatments and compared the results.  The result was that “the curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement.” Not only that, but “curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events.”  Meaning that the study showed no side effects from the treatment. Granted this was a small study, but the results are very promising.


The anti-inflammatory effects of circumin may also fight cancer. A study of colon cancer in lab rats has shown that circumin treatments significantly inhibited tumor growth. Of course this doesn’t mean that eating turmeric will cure cancer, but the evidence that it’s been shown to inhibit tumor growth is certainly a good thing.

Cognitive effects

Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s been long-rumored that turmeric helps prevent alzheimer’s.  Countries that consume a great deal of turmeric, like India and Bangladesh, have very low rates of the disease.  Scientific studies are now backing this up, and more and more research is being done on the matter. According to this study, circumin “improves the cognitive functions in patients with AD.”


According to this study, “Curcumin … has shown potential antidepressant-like activity in animal studies.” The study also “provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD” (major depressive disorder).  So the idea that turmeric can help with depression and cognitive functioning isn’t just anecdotal – it’s backed up by science. And not only that, unlike a lot of other treatments for depression, turmeric has no known side effects.

So, is turmeric a magic cure-all? Of course not.  And if you suffer from any of the above afflictions, your should follow your doctor’s advice.  But taking supplemental circumin – or better yet, incorporating turmeric into your diet – can potentially have some very positive long-term effects on your health and mental well-being.  Plus, turmeric is delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet!

Here are some amazing dishes featuring turmeric:

Sloppy Jai – Indian Sloppy Joe


Image by: Simon A. Eugster, used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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