If you blinked you may have missed it: yes, we're talking about turmeric's rise to healthy fame. Turmeric has gone from a superfluous spice to a must-have superfood, and now enjoys a premium spot in the cabinet of just about every wellness guru, as well as in-the-know restaurants alike. But aside from giving every food it touches an illustrious golden glow, does this special spice really live up to the hype? A quick look at its nutrition, and you may find yourself on the turmeric train too.
Turmeric is a truly ancient food. With its use reported for thousands of years in India and Southeast Asia – and still among the most popular spices today – turmeric is used frequently in both cooking and Ayurvedic Medicine. Although most people consider it a root, the edible portion of turmeric is actually considered a rhizome, which is a root-like part of a plant that grows above ground. The papery skin on the exterior of the turmeric rhizome is mostly comprised of tasteless fiber, but peeling it away reveals a vibrant orange interior, with a distinctive color primarily due to the presence of a phytochemical called curcumin, which is at the core of turmeric's health benefits.
Curcumin is a strong anti-inflammatory nutrient, which has increasingly gained attention for its healing potential in arthritic conditions and movement-related stress (whether from lifestyle or exercise). Its anti-inflammatory effects have also recently shown promise in neurological protection as well. Traditionally, turmeric and its curcumin concentration have been used to support liver health, aid circulation, lower cholesterol, and build the blood. And as a powerful antioxidant, turmeric also fights free radicals, with impressive antibiotic and potentially anti-cancer properties, too. Some turmeric is better than others, with the value really found within the curcumin concentration, but regardless of the source, you can amplify the bioavialabity of the antioxidant by using it alongside black pepper to help with absorption. And lest we forget, as turmeric is a whole food and not just an isolated supplement, this beautiful superfood contains many other “bonus” micronutrients as well, such as beta carotene, caffeic acid, vitamin C, and potassium.
Although the definitive studies exploring turmeric's potential are still progressing, one look at turmeric's incredible nutrient cocktail and it's hard to deny that its golden glow is as powerful as it looks. Looking to explore turmeric in cooking? Try some it one our most popular turmeric-infused recipes.