It is Turmeric season right now!! Fresh, juicy turmeric root harvested from Hawaii is finding its way into my local natural food stores. Usually, if I can find turmeric root fresh, its small, somewhat shriveled up, and dried up a bit. But not these! When it’s turmeric season, and the Hawaiian grown roots are vibrant in color and plump with juice, I do a happy dance almost every time I see them. And perhaps go a wee bit crazy with the amount I purchase. However, its for good reason.
I am sure if you are reading this blog, you have already heard about the laundry list of benefits that turmeric root provides. Perhaps you have even tried my Liquid Gold Latte recipe that I have posted many years ago. But just as a friendly reminder, I will review a few of the researched benefits of turmeric and its active component curcumin.
Enhancing Turmeric (Curcumin) Absorption
Before I dive into the research, I just want to talk about something that is often overlooked and very important when it comes to absorbing the beneficial compound curcumin from food. Firstly, curcumin is a fat-soluble compound, therefore it requires fat to be absorbed. If no fat is present in the food product that turmeric is in, you will simply eliminate turmeric in your stool. But wait, there has been some research indicating that undigested turmeric may reduce cancers along the digestive tract and help in cases of inflammatory bowel diseases such as colitis. So perhaps if not all is absorbed during transport along the intestinal tract and the colon, the host will still be able to benefit. However, for other health benefits, consuming turmeric as part of a fat containing meal or beverage, is important to increase blood concentrations.
Secondly, adding black pepper to turmeric, allows curcumin to be present longer in the system before it is metabolized by the liver and eliminated via the urine. Pepper, or the active component piperine, acts on the liver during phase one of detoxification, by slowing the metabolism of bioactive components (including curcumin). Therefore, pepper simply allows curcumin to be active longer and therefore communicate its benefits for a longer period of time throughout the body. Even a pinch of pepper can significantly boost levels.
Pain and Inflammation Relief: Curcumin has been found to inhibit the inflammatory cascade at the same enzymatic reaction as over the counter NSAIDs, without the side effects associated with chronic NSAID use. These include stomach pain and heartburn, stomach ulcers and bleeding, high blood pressure, and more. Therefore, turmeric root can be a great addition to anyone dealing with chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, autoimmune conditions, and joint pain.
Cancer Prevention: As mentioned before, curcumin can be beneficial in preventing colon cancer and cancers along the digestive tract. Specifically research has found that turmeric inhibits cancer/tumor growth in all stages of tumor development. Therefore, in terms of cancer prevention, turmeric can be a great addition to any diet.
Cardiovascular Health: Elevated LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. Research has found that a daily supplementation of turmeric can help reduce total LDL cholesterol and increase HDL, while also reducing triglyceride levels.
Weight Loss: Overweight individuals with metabolic syndrome may benefit from daily turmeric consumption. A recent research study found an increased weight loss and enhanced percentage reduction of body fat after consuming curcumin daily for 30 days in addition to diet and lifestyle changes versus simply just diet and lifestyle changes alone. If weight loss is a part of your health goals, then the addition of turmeric to a whole foods diet can be helpful.
Detoxification: The liver has two phases of detoxification. The first phase metabolizes xenobiotics (chemicals, toxins, hormones, pesticides, alcohol/drugs, bacterial end products, etc) into intermediates, which often are even more toxic than they were prior to phase 1. This step creates a lot of free radicals and therefore good antioxidant status is important. Then during phase 2, these intermediates are converted to water soluble compounds for excretion via the urine or via the bile for elimination with the stool. Curcumin increases phase 2 activity and can be very supportive when someone is struggling with a large xenobiotic load.
How to get MORE Turmeric into Your Life
Generally, I recommend using the fresh root if it is available to you. However, organic ground turmeric powder can be used as well. Use 1 teaspoon ground turmeric in place of the 2-3 inches of fresh turmeric root. Turmeric is found in curry blends, but you can also use turmeric to add color to any dish. Add a teaspoon of turmeric to your pot of rice or quinoa during cooking for a bright yellow color and added health benefits. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, ground turmeric, salt and pepper for added flavor and brightly colored yellow florets. Or use the recipes below for more TURMERIC inspiration.
Turmeric Miso Dressing
Makes ~ 1 cup
This tasty dressing is made with a combination of three very potent anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and heart healthy ingredients turmeric, ginger, and garlic. Use this dressing for salads or simply drizzle over steamed rice, roasted veggies, or anything your heart desires.
1 thumbs length fresh turmeric root (~2-3 inches)
Juice of 1 medium navel orange (~1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
1 ½ tablespoons white mellow miso
2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon sea salt (I used Eden’s)
Fresh ground pepper
Using a spoon, gently scrape as much skin off the turmeric root as possible. Coarsely chop and place into a high-speed blender. Add the juice of 1 medium orange. Using a microplaner, grate the garlic clove into the blender. Using the same microplaner, grate 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger root (use the same spoon technique with the ginger root to scrape off the skin prior to grating) and add to the blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste if desired. Store in a glass jar.
Zesty Turmeric Citrus Tonic
Makes 2 servings
This tonic is potent and powerful. If you feel a cold coming on, or simply need a detox boost after the holidays, this is a great way to do it. It is an easy way to get a large amount of fresh turmeric in just a few minutes. Best is to drink this fresh to get as much vitamin C as possible, as the vitamin C from the oranges quickly degrades after processing. Therefore, I recommend sharing the other half with your significant other.
1 thumbs length fresh turmeric root (~2-3 inches)
Juice of 2 medium navel oranges (~ 1 cup)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon MCT oil
Pinch fresh ground black pepper
Place all the ingredients into a high-speed blender. If needed add a little filtered water to make 1 cup total volume. Blend until smooth. Divide into two glasses and enjoy immediately.