Need to reduce your inflammation? Consider adding turmeric and turmeric supplements to your daily diet. This spice—which comes from the turmeric root—is one of the main ingredients in curries, but its bright yellow color is also used to dye food, cosmetics and more. More importantly, turmeric contains curcumin, a chemical that’s responsible for its medicinal properties. If you want to feel better and ward off a number of diseases, turmeric and curcumin may just be the answer.
Here are some of the scientifically proven health benefits of this powerful duo.
- Ward off depression. That cheerful bright yellow color might put a smile on your face anyway, but it turns out that turmeric is almost as effective as Prozac in treating depression. Patients who took Prozac and turmeric at the same time had even better results than groups who took one or the other, as well as the placebo group. If you’ve tried everything, it’s worth trying a combination of prescription antidepressants and turmeric supplements.
- Beat and treat cancer. Turmeric and curcumin have been shown to contribute to the death of cancerous cells, inhibit tumor growth and even prevent cancer from starting in the first place. While it’s too early to tout turmeric as a miracle drug, it’s entirely possible that it will be used to help prevent and treat cancer.
- Reduce your Alzheimer’s risk. Alzheimer’s is a devastating neurological disease, which can contribute to dementia. Since there’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s, preventing it is of great interest to scientists. Curcumin has been shown to have positive effects on inflammation and oxidative damage, which exacerbate or cause the disease. It can also help remove protein tangles (amyloid plaques) which cause the disease.
- Relieve those arthritic joints. Arthritis is a painful disease that often involves inflammation of the joints. Curcumin has been proven to reduce inflammation—in fact, some studies have shown it to be even more effective than prescription drugs.
- Delay aging. Unless you’re a vampire, Paul Rudd or Pharrell, aging is inevitable. That’s why there’s a $133 billion skincare industry. But what if you could delay aging just by adding some turmeric to your diet? Not only does it reduce oxidation and inflammation, which can wreak havoc on our skin, but it also helps ward off age-related chronic diseases. Plus, since it helps fight off cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, you might just end up living longer, too.
- Boost brain function. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a growth hormone that affects your brain. Depression and Alzheimer’s decrease BDNF lower this hormone level—but turmeric and curcumin can raise it. Scientists suspect that this will not only help ward off neurological diseases, but it may also improve your memory and make you smarter. Hey, any excuse to eat more curry.
- Enhance antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect your body from free radicals, which interact with your fatty acids, proteins and DNA to cause oxidative damage. Antioxidants fight those free radicals off—and curcumin is a powerful antioxidant in and of itself. Plus, it boosts your body’s antioxidant enzymes to add extra protection.
- Banish heart disease. If you’re at risk for heart disease, curcumin can help ward it off. It’s particularly good for improving your blood vessel lining. Problems with your blood vessel linings can lead to clotting, high blood pressure and other heart-related issues. Patients who took turmeric supplements before and after a coronary bypass were 62 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack while recovering.
- Relieve inflammation. Finally, turmeric reduces inflammation. Inflammation is not only a contributing factor to most of the issues above, but it can make your body feel painful, bloated and generally unpleasant. Reducing inflammation can make you feel better instantly.
Here’s the bad news: turmeric is not absorbed well on its own. There’s also a very small amount of curcumin in turmeric, which means it’s impossible to get a significant amount from diet alone. However, you can take turmeric supplements to get the full effect. Just make sure that the supplement includes black pepper—this is key to ensuring that your body doesn’t just flush the curcumin out before it’s absorbed.
Don’t let that stop you from eating more turmeric in your diet, though. Not only is it good for you, but it’s delicious, too. There are plenty of ways to incorporate it into your meal planning—just don’t forget the black pepper.