I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the health benefits of curcumin, the deep yellow pigment in turmeric. Apparently this ingredient, paired with black pepper, is just shy of magical. I’ve known for a while about its anti-inflammatory properties, but I had no idea that its benefits don’t stop there. Read on!
Because it’s not always easy to fit turmeric or curry into our everyday diets, I’m sharing a way to drink it as a warm, delicious beverage that tastes like autumn and gives you all of the health benefits of curcumin, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper!
There is a lot of information about curcumin on nutritionfacts.org, one of my favorite sites for up-to-date nutrition research summaries. Whenever I visit this site, I end up reading articles or watching Dr. Greger’s short videos for hours — so consider yourself warned!
The research results from curcumin studies are fascinating. I decided to share with you some of my favorite facts, all of which came from Dr. Greger’s website.
- Researchers in Japan recently compared the endothelial (arterial lining) benefits of exercise to those of curcumin ingestion. One study group consumed about a teaspoon a day’s worth of turmeric for eight weeks, while the other group completed 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise per day. Surprisingly, the magnitude of the improvement achieved by curcumin treatment was comparable to that obtained with exercise! Therefore, regular ingestion of curcumin could be a preventive measure against cardiovascular disease and may be a potential alternative treatment for patients who are unable to exercise. Of course, it’s best to do both!
- In a 2012 study regarding rheumatoid arthritis, researchers found that curcumin was not only safe and effective at alleviating joint pain and swelling, but was surprisingly more effective compared with the leading arthritis drug, diclofenac.
- Turmeric may work as well or better than anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis.
- Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant, which has shown to reduce DNA destruction (strand breaks) by 50% and boost free radical-destroying enzyme catalase by 75% (consuming 3/4 tsp. per day).
- Curcumin is a strong blocker of TNF (tumor necrosis factor) and other pro-inflammatory biomarkers.
You can increase the bioavailability of turmeric by combining it with black pepper, which contains piperine, a potent inhibitor of drug metabolism, meaning it slows the liver’s ability to eliminate the curcumin. Even just a pinch of pepper increases bioavailability by 2000%! Also eating it with fat helps it travel through the lymphatic system, bypassing the liver and increasing absorption.
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There are a few contraindications, however. Curcumin is best when used in cooking rather than taken as a supplement, especially while pregnant. Large amounts of turmeric can cause DNA damage or increase the likelihood of developing gallstones or kidney stones if you’re prone to do so. Turmeric is high in soluble oxalates, which can bind with calcium to cause kidney stones. Limit to no more than 1 tsp. per day.
One way to consume turmeric is to cook it in a curry dish or, say, my Ethiopian Stuffed Cabbage!
But since most people don’t eat curry every day, there’s an easier way to fit curcumin into our diets — golden milk!
Ever since I discovered this delicious spice combination, I’ve been drinking this milk in the evenings when I’m craving something sweet. It’s a nice break from hot tea, especially when you know all of turmeric’s many health benefits!
- 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or plain w/ vanilla extract added)
- 1 t. ground turmeric
- ½ t. ground ginger
- ¼ t. ground cinnamon
- Pinch black pepper
- Honey or maple syrup to taste
- Option 1: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk all ingredients into the almond milk until the milk is near boiling. Pour into two mugs, sprinkle with cinnamon, and enjoy! Alternatively, heat milk in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave, then whisk in remaining ingredients.
- Option 2: For cold golden milk, combine all ingredients in a mason jar, tighten the lid, and shake vigorously until well mixed.
Cheers to good health!