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Optimising the health benefits of Turmeric

How to optimise Turmeric absorption for super boosted health benefits

Amanda McCredie – Dietician

There is more to turmeric than spicing up a curry! Turmeric has been used in Asia  for more than 4000 years and is a major part of Siddha or Ayurvedic Medicine. First used as a dye and then later for its medicinal properties it has been touted as one of the new “super foods”, and a “powerful anti-oxidant”.  There is emerging evidence for its amazing health benefits in treating depression, warding off Alzheimers disease, combating inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and it may help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and even has some merit in cancer prevention.

However if you’ve heard about these wonderful health benefits of turmeric and are running to the store to get your fix, you may be overlooking one crucial fact about turmeric that could mean the difference between simple consumption and full-absorption! Curcumin is the active ingredient that you need to absorb from the turmeric itself. While curcumin is a powerful and effective compound for treating a wide array of disease, studies have revealed that it has low absorption and rapid metabolism that lead to low bio-availability in the body. One of the main reasons is due to its low solubility in water. Therefore turmeric is known as fat-soluble and needs fat to dissolve. Without fat the active component in turmeric, curcumin has a difficult time making it past the stomach, into the small intestine and into the blood where it can offer its greatest benefits. So in order to make the most of turmeric, you must take it with a bit of fat!

Another way to increase the absorption is to mix turmeric with black pepper. Piperine, which is the key chemical in black pepper, aids the absorption of curcumin and will thus in turn increase the amount of curcumin the body can absorb. So if you are cooking with turmeric, be sure to add some black pepper too – Indian Curry anyone?!

While turmeric can be added to many dishes, curcumin is moderately heat sensitive so don’t expose turmeric to prolonged heat.

So how much turmeric do we need to have to encompass these health benefits?….

  • Cut root: 1.5 to 3 g per day
  • Dried, powdered root: 1 to 3 g per day
  • Standardized powder (curcumin): 400 to 600 mg, 3 times per day

Curcumin Dosage for healthy people is typically one 900mg capsule a day. It is not advisable to use repeatedly without food in the stomach because it tends to cause upsets to the stomach if taken on empty stomachs. To maximize its absorption, it is recommended that patients accompany curcumin with fatty foods or ideally used simultaneously with fish oil supplement.

Other ways to get the most out of your turmeric:

  • Sprinkle some on an avocado
  • Stir it into olive oil and toss them in freshly steamed vegetables
  • Dissolve it in coconut oil before adding to your smoothie

Or why not try the new “The golden latte” which consist of turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and milk — preferably coconut, almond or soy.

One of the coolest things about nutrition is discovering the incredible health benefits of foods we already love and use in our everyday cooking!