Health Benefits of Turmeric: Curcumin

Turmeric & Back Pepper - Optimize Your Diet Part 4

This post is a part of my Optimize Your Diet | Food Pairing series. In this series my goal is to identify foods that we all eat every day and show you how you can eat these foods in a way that is better for your health.

Previously in part one of this series I discussed the cancer fighting attributes of lycopene as it is found in tomatoes and how fats make lycopene more bioavailable in your body, thus allowing for more cancer fighting action. In this series I will discuss the exact same process but with the spice, turmeric rather than tomatoes. In fact an optimal food pairing of turmeric makes its active and desired polyphenol 1,000 times more bioavailable. That’s pretty significant if you ask me… especially if you want to reap the medicinal benefits in addition to the tastiness of this spice.

Benefits of Turmeric - Curcumin
health benefits of turmeric, curcurmin prevents diseaseThe spice turmeric, typically used in Asian curry dishes and Middle Eastern cuisine is well known to have many medicinal uses. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects traits have been well studied and clinical research is ongoing in investigating the possible benefits of turmeric on fighting and preventing various cancers and diseases such as Breast Cancer, Alzheimer's Disease, and Arthritis among others. Only recently have we understood however that it’s the curcurmin in turmeric that has the ability to fight and prevent disease and research into curcurmin is accelerating.

Until further studies verify many beliefs of the disease preventative effects of adding curcurmin to your diet you might want to get started adding turmeric to more of your meals. A well stocked spice rack probably already has this spice sitting in it and if not it can be found at virtually any market. You don’t even have to find your local Asian market to get your hands on turmeric.

Curcumin And Pepper
The problems however of using turmeric to improve your health is that the active and desirable polyphenol curcurmin is only 3 percent of the spice, and what is actually there has very low bioavailability, meaning your body won’t absorb most of the curcurmin it takes in. That means you really aren’t getting much of the good stuff when you sprinkle turmeric into your sauté pan. To really get the full benefit of this spice you have to make your body accept it and that’s where black pepper comes in.

If you are going to be using turmeric in your cooking anyway, say you’re making curries, or adding the spice to rice or any other dish, you can, and should, optimize your diet by adding black pepper to the mix as well. Black pepper contains an agent called piperine which increases the bioavailability of curcurmin by 1-2 thousand percent. This means that you could eat 1000th the amount of turmeric and still get the disease fighting effects that you would have with a normal quantity without black pepper. This effectually means two things.

You can add a very small amount of turmeric to most any food with a dash of black pepper and get the medicinal benefit all the time without substantially changing the flavor of your foods or you can add black pepper to your normal turmeric spiced dishes to supercharge the disease fighting properties of those dishes. The choice is up to you.

Personally I like the idea of adding a pinch of this mix to most of my sautéed vegetables or rice. I always spice them up anyway so why not use turmeric and pepper; it doesn’t take much after all to optimize your diet. A little prevention goes a long way in life.

Alternatively you can simply buy a Curcumin supplement and take that regularly. You will still have bioavailability issues but taking your supplement with meals including black pepper can help with that. There are many supplements out there but this Curcumin Supplement by Jarrow has a lot of positive reviews and may be a good curcumin supplement for you to check out.

I hope you enjoyed this post, if so I’d encourage you to check out the first three installments of Optimize Your Diet. Each deals with food pairings and disease prevention with many of the foods you probably already eat anyway.

Here’s to having a longer life!

UCLA Newsroom, Oct. 2006 -
Clinical Cancer Research, Oct. 2005 -

Leading Causes of Death

Heart Disease is easily the leading cause of death in America. One of the major contributors to heart disease is cholesterol. See the following posts for more on lowering your risk for heart disease:

How To Lower LDL Cholesterol Levels Naturally

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