Nutrition – Turmeric

Posted on 26 March 2014

… a regular nutrition series for vegans by Anastacia Sampson

Turmeric is a yellow spice that has been used for centuries for culinary use, especially Asian cuisine. Today it is widely available for sale in various food stores for the mass consumer market.

Turmeric is often used as a spice in Indian cuisine - photo courtesy of Lotus Head at Stock.Xchng

This spice is great to add to rice to produce popular yellow rice. Tumeric can be added to almost any food, but it does tend to have a drying effect. It is a hot, dry spice. Besides being a well-known safe adjunct to food, turmeric has special health and medicinal effects.

The constituents of tumeric are about 5% essential oils and about 5% curcumin and the remainder being various antioxidants and other nutrients. A number of scientific studies have shown that the special component known as curcumin has great health benefits. Besides this; research reveals various other antioxidants in this spice, possessing powerful antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory effects.

Other research has indicated that turmeric may enhance liver function and even may protect against cancer cells. There has also been a link of this special yellow spice in protecting people from Alzheimer’s disease formation and further in warding against progression of this neurological degenerating disease. For cases of high blood sugar, turmeric has been said to be possibly effective in reducing blood sugar naturally.

Generally there are no known side effects of tumeric when used in culinary forms so don’t stress over using this spice to add some mild curry like flavour or yellow colouring. Yet when this yellow spice is ingested at medicinal doses and excessively for a long time it may lead to stomach upset and sometimes aggravate or increase susceptibility to ulcers.

Since this spice has been shown to stimulate gall bladder production of bile; it is worth consulting with a relevant health care professional in cases of gall stones or gall bladder duct obstruction when using turmeric at higher intakes.

Naturally as tumeric is a spice and heating in its effect, it may be worth avoiding this spice in some cases of digestive related ulcers. Also in cases when medications are taken to decrease stomach acid, do rather avoid turmeric as this spice has been reputed to increase stomach acid production.

When turmeric is used at high therapeutic dosages it is recommended to not use it while also taking blood thinning medication. The reason is that turmeric also may have blood thinning properties!

It is worthwhile being mindful about where you source your turmeric from. It has been revealed in the past that manufacturers have incorporated toxic colourants into this spice powder to deepen the yellow colour. This may not be beneficial to our overall wellbeing.

Tumeric is known for its natural colouring properties, even used to dye clothing. Try spilling some damp turmeric on linen or clothing and you will notice the distinctly yellow stain. Fortunately this stain isn’t permanent!

It’s always worth having turmeric on your spice shelf rack!

Take care, Anastacia

Visit Vegan SA for more on health and nutrition for vegans.


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