Friday, March 6, 2015

A Mixed Review on the Turmeric Health Trend

There is no doubt that the health benefits found in turmeric have been well known for thousands of years in India and now those spice benefits have been widely used here in the United States as both a spice and a medicine. We can now see turmeric's use in a variety of ways from being added to smoothies as a health booster to being added to casseroles or cocktails and certainly as a medicine seen in kitchen/bathroom cabinets. While all of these things are good, instead of merely jumping on the "health bandwagon", it is good to know some of this cherished spices' history.

If you haven't known by now, the turmeric plant is native to India and is also part of the ginger root family. It has been used as a potent healing remedy in Ayurvedic medicine for the past 5,000 years (Ayurvedic medicine is a natural healing system from India), and has been used in Indian kitchens long before its powerful health benefits were discovered here in America.

Another interesting note about turmeric is found in "it's medicinal potential which was documented in Sushrut Samhita, a canonical Ayurvedic text dating back to 250 BC. In Ayurveda, turmeric was used internally as a blood purifier and for so many diseases and also externally in the prevention and treatment of various types of acute as well as chronic diseases. In Ayurveda, turmeric is known to promote a better-functioning immune system, a healthy digestive system, enhanced brain function, a balanced effect of skin flora, as well as an antioxidant."

It has also been found that turmeric has more than 50 healing properties that range anywhere from anti-inflammatory to treatment for depression to Parkinson's disease. In fact, turmeric may even help to prevent/and or treat other maladies from Alzheimer's disease, cholesterol problems, diabetes, type 2, Psoriasis and much much more.

But, in this article, the mixed review on turmeric is discussed by an RDN (registered dietician nutritionist) whose expertise in plant-based diets and breast cancer, gives a different perspective on the spice. While she agrees that turmeric does have promising anti-inflammatory properties among other attributes, it still needs to be better researched surrounding its anti-cancer properties with solid evidence that could be conducted in real, in vivo, human trials as most studies have been conducted on animals.

She also believes in the rule of everything in moderation and not to go extreme on the use of turmeric. She states, "I think pretty much all spices, herbs, and other plant foods have health benefits, and that choosing a variety of them is key. One thing that is important about turmeric is that curcumin, one of the main bioactive components, is poorly absorbed in our GI systems. Interestingly, piperine, which is found in black pepper, is one compound that seems to enhance absorption. (Here is another link to read about the health benefits of using black pepper and turmeric together). All the more reason to include a variety of spices and herbs in your curry. I do believe plant foods have synergistic effects in this way."
All in all, this RDN - (Anselmo) is merely encouraging the use of turmeric in a variety of ways and to not forget the plethora of other spices out there that have good health benefits. Additionally she points out that due to dietary supplement regulations, many times you may not know if you are getting the right spice. Lastly, she warns that those who take pharmaceutical drugs may have potential issues with whether or not the drug used is indeed optimized by the body properly. It's best to talk to your doctor about this.
She states as her closing words of advice: "I am a fan of diversifying one's diet rather than singling out a given food or nutrient as the end all and be all." I certainly agree that proper, good nutrition is all about variety, diversity and portion-control. What do you think?

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