Turmeric root: A natural cancer, diabetes fighter
It’s one of the most researched healing foods out there, but Americans use it at incredibly lower rates than other people around the world. Turmeric, in the Standard American Diet (SAD), is often only seen in mustards and canned peppers. It gives these things their rich yellow hue. But, when taken out of the processed foods and added as a natural spice, it provides far more than color.
Turmeric is a root and part of the ginger family. It is native to South Asia and is popular in the cuisine there and in the Middle East. It is used abundantly in curries—a staple in those regions. It has an earthly, slightly smoky and tangy flavor, and a bright orangey-yellow color.
Modern science has researched the benefits and properties of turmeric in a variety of uses, and they continue to publish studies on the spice on nearly a monthly basis. But long before we ever tested spices in a lab, people of the East were using turmeric for traditional medicine and general health.
Health benefits of turmeric root
So, what’s so great about turmeric root and why should you consider adding it to your diet?
There are many proven and many more suspected benefits of turmeric root. Some of those include:
- Alzheimer’s prevention: Scientists believe (and their work substantiates) that the significantly lower incidence of Alzheimer’s in middle-eastern populations may be due to their consumption of turmeric. Alzheimer’s disease rates in India, for example, are less than one-quarter of those in the U.S.
- Diabetes prevention: In patients that were diagnosed as being pre-diabetic, regular turmeric consumption was shown to prevent them from developing Type II diabetes. Researchers also found that curcumin (the active component of turmeric) stopped and even reversed liver damage in diabetic rats.
- Cancer prevention: Numerous studies have been published on the anticancer benefits of turmeric and curcumin. These have found that it could be useful in preventing and treating melanoma, breast cancer and lung cancer. Studies have also indicated that curcumin makes cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy.
Many of the health benefits of turmeric root are attributed to its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s this that scientists believe can help with:
- Digestive distress
- Skin disorders
To sum it up, “curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic illnesses,” according to a study in Advanced Experimental Medical Biology.
Where to find turmeric root
As with nearly every other beneficial food, there are turmeric root and curcumin supplements on the market. However, their quality and concentration vary widely. For use as a preventative “medicine,” simply add the spice to some of your regular cooking.
Obviously, it goes great in all kinds of curries. But you can also add it to soups, chilis, casseroles, stir-fry, and nearly anything complimented by a smoky, earthy flavor. You can sprinkle it on eggs or use it in a marinade or rub.
If you want to try your hand at Indian or Caribbean cuisine, most prepared curry powders already contain turmeric. But, you can also get fresh turmeric root or powder at Indian and Asian specialty markets, or the ground spice in your local grocery store.