As a native South Asian spice, a relative to ginger and a healthy (but delicious) ingredient in our dishes, there's no surprise turmeric has become a mainstay in our kitchen pantries.
The ancient herb has been used for centuries in spicy Asian dishes but not just for its flavourful taste. Its potent antioxidants and powerful medicinal properties make it excellent for your body and your brain and can even help prevent cancer and heart disease.
But that's not all this humble herb has to offer. We got chatting to in-house nutritionist at leading health and fitness app Lifesum, Lovisa Nilsson to tell us everything there is to know about this powerful herb. And in our opinion, it's the star ingredient everybody needs in their life. Here's why...
1. It's a powerful brain food
If you're a lover of spicy indian food then this will come as good news. Studies suggest that Turmeric can help slow down the ageing process of the brain, which means people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia are in good hands when it comes to eating the herb.
Lovisa explains, "Curcumin, the natural colouring agent of turmeric has been proven to repair brain cells of people with neurodegenerative diseases. Research has also suggested that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in turmeric might be able to break down the amyloid plaques in the brain that contribute to dementia and improve the flow of oxygen to the brain." Never doubt it - its got a lot of brain power!
2. It can help prevent and kill cancer
Cancer is one of the biggest killers out there so if there's something that's going to help, we wanna know about it. And to our surprise, turmeric is the single most powerful ingredient in the fight against cancer. It even beats vitamin D! Studies have proven that the herb inhibits cancer growth and promotes anti-angiogesis (the process of blocking cancer blood vessel growth) which helps prevent development of cell growth.
"Turmeric has been proven to prevent and stop the growth of cancer cells and some studies even suggest they help kill them. Researchers have found that it may help to prevent colonic, prostate, breast and skin cancer due to its active ingredients that protect against outside elements," says Lovisa. So if you're ever on the look out for a strong prevention against cancer, turmeric is your guy.
3. It keeps your heart healthy
If there's one reason to cook with this spicy herb it's got to be its heart-loving benefits. Turmeric can help maintain heart health all thanks to it being a rich source of curcumin, which is known to help reverse the steps of heart disease.
And as well as strengthening the lining of the blood vessels, AKA the endothelium, the curcumin in turmeric is said to reduce cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can lead to some serious health risks so using turmeric as a seasoning on foods can be a simple and easy habit to pick up to help keep your hearth healthy.
4. It aids weight loss
Turmeric, the new secret to weight loss? Yep - keep reading ladies.
Turmeric's anti-angiogesis properties can also aid in weight loss by inhibiting fat cells to feed off the nutrients they need to grow.
Lovisa adds, "Turmeric also stimulates your gallbladder to produce bile acids. Bile acids helps you break down food and digest fat, which is why turmeric can improve your digestion system and help you control your weight and help prevent bloating and gas."
OK, so it's not going to melt off the fat but it CAN help prevent the regrowth of fat once you lose it.
5. Fights colds and flu
Turmeric’s antibacterial and antiviral properties will help amp up your body's immune system and leave you better equipped to fight off cold and flu. Lovisa says, "Turmeric's curcumin helps stimulate the body’s immune system and kicks it in to action (even if you already have a cold) making it a great natural remedy."
Why not stir up a tasty flu-fighting tea then? It's super easy. Just mix a few mugfuls of water with lemon, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, turmeric and manuka honey and bring to a boil. After simmer for 10 minutes. Stir, serve and enjoy! Promise, you'll feel better soon.
6. It fights against diabetes
Turmerics' active compound never ceases to impress.
Lovisa says, "Turmeric has been proven to moderate insulin levels in the body and improve glucose control. It has also been known to help reduce insulin resistance, which can prevent the onset of Type-2 diabetes."
What can't this super spice do?
7. Its' a super healer
For centuries turmeric has been used to treat cuts, burns and wounds and curcumin is who we have to thank for that.
"Its anti-inflammatory and anti-septic qualities make it an excellent natural disinfectant and wound healer," says Lovisa. Turmeric can also help repair damaged skin cells and other skin conditions such as psoriasis or burns. Johnson and Johnson even sell turmeric bandages in India! No joke.
8. It keeps you glowing
Turmeric's powerful antioxidants make it the perfect at home facial for nourishment and exfoliation. As antioxidants work to slow down cell damage, the texture also helps to exfoliate and relieve skin conditions such as acne and dry skin.
Why not try a soothing homemade mask? All you have to do is combine some flour, turmeric, honey, milk and mix it into a paste. Apply and let it dry for 20 minutes. You'll love the glow too.
9. It eases upset stomaches
Not only will chowing down your favourite curry make you feel happily satisfied but it can also help tame your stomach woes too. From tummy aches to bloating to diarrhea, your stomach will LOVE turmeric.
But make sure you take it easy, as with anything taking too much can actually be a bad thing. A good rule of thumb to follow is to try it in small doses and slowly increase to see what works best for you. Add it to your tea, foods or take it as a supplement.
We recommend Nature's Garden Turmeric capsules available at Holland & Barrett.
10. It can help whiten your pearly whites!
Another beauty benefit for you. Despite its colouring powers, ironically, turmeric is a great natural remedy to help whiten your teeth!
Sounds ridiculous to slather yellow paste onto your teeth (we know), but it works! Try it for yourself. Not only will it help sweep away stains but its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can help improve your oral health, killing germs and leaving your mouth cleaner.
Are you going to up your Turmeric? Tweet us @wewomenCA.