Turmeric vs. Curcumin
OK – you’ve probably heard of turmeric. It’s been touted all over the “health waves” recently to be helpful for all sorts of diseases.
Got pain? Have some turmeric.
What about cancer? Have some turmeric.
Diabetes? Have some turmeric.
And the list goes on…
You probably also know it’s the golden coloured powder in curry spices. You may even enjoy eating curry (I do!). BUT, what if you don’t like it? (Oh, the horror!) 🙂
Turmeric: It’s NOT Just for Curry Anymore…100+ ways to eat turmeric!
You may wonder:
Does it work?
Should I supplement?
Should I eat it?
And most important of all:
“If I should eat it and DON’T like curry, how the heck can I even consider it?”
(If you want to skip the answers to these questions and go straight to the recipes, just scroll down the page a bit)
What is turmeric and what does it do?
Turmeric is a spice, and it’s not a “spicy-hot” strong-flavoured spice either. I personally find the strength (not the flavour) to be similar to ginger. Turmeric is a rhizome (1) that is dried and ground to make turmeric powder. The main and most studied ‘active ingredient’ in turmeric (2) is called curcumin, which makes up less than 7% of the dried weight of the spice.
Curcumin supplements have been shown in many, many scientific studies to have anti-inflammatory (3), anti-oxidant, anti-cancer (4), and pain-relieving effects. It is also being studied to protect your brain and heart, as well as to prevent and reduce the side-effects of diabetes (5).
It has been studied for dozens and dozens of other health uses – check out the table in this link.
It is fat-soluble and not well absorbed from your gut, and it seems to be quite safe for most people even at higher doses (see “Foods vs. Supplements” below). If you want to actually absorb the curcumin into your bloodstream, you should add a bit of black pepper (6), otherwise most of it will go right through you, which can still be helpful for your gut (7).
Turmeric vs Curcumin - What's the diff? Find out here! #turmeric #curcumin #supp #recipe Click To Tweet
Foods vs. Supplements; Turmeric vs. Curcumin
We all know that food is NOT a supplement (8).
As mentioned earlier, the amount of curcumin in turmeric is under 7%. The actual quantity of the curcumin in the supplement should be stated on the label. Of course, this is not the case when you eat the actual ‘root’ or the dried/powdered turmeric from the spice section of your grocery store.
In Canada, where we have fairly strict Natural Health Product Regulations, curcumin supplements have been approved for use as an antioxidant, as well as to help relieve joint inflammation (10).
There are a few cautions to consider before taking curcumin as a supplement (9). They are if you:
Are pregnant (9, 10);
Are taking anti-platelet medications or blood thinners (10);
Have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction (9, 10); or
Have stomach ulcers or excess stomach acid (10)
Eating turmeric itself will NOT be as potent as taking the approved dose of 300 mg supplement of curcumin 3 times a day. According to some scientific reviews, eating turmeric may help to prevent some diseases (11), and there has been some efficacy shown (12). But most of the effects mentioned above have been shown with curcumin supplements and not dietary turmeric.
Here’s a quick calculation:
If you want 300 mg of curcumin, and it’s up to 7% of the actual turmeric powder, you’d need: 300/0.07 = 4.3 g of turmeric root, at least. And if you’re taking that at the approved therapeutic dose of 300 mg 3x/day, you’re looking at 4.3g x 3 = 12.9 g of turmeric powder a day.
My bottle of turmeric is 67.5g total. (If you’d like one, here’s an affiliate link to pick one up, and here’s the non-affiliate link to the same product).
This means that I myself (as one person) needs to eat 12.9g/67.5g = 0.19 bottles every day. That’s just under 1/5 of the bottle if I want to get that approved dosage for anti-oxidation or relief of joint inflammation.
I’d be going through an entire bottle every 5 days to get those results!
BUT, if you’re game to try a bit of disease prevention (and honestly, why not?) and aren’t specifically looking for anti-oxidant, anti-inflammation or pain relief outcomes right now, then maybe you should add a bit of it into your meals?
Summary of the NUTRITION Interactions of Turmeric (the food) vs. Curcumin (the supplement)
Curcumin, the most widely studied ‘active ingredient’ of turmeric has many scientifically proven health benefits relating to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Curcumin supplements have been shown to help with pain, cancer and diabetes, amongst other conditions. They have Health Canada approval to be sold as an anti-oxidant and to relieve joint inflammation. Caution is advised when considering curcumin supplements if you are pregnant, taking blood-thinner medications, have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction, or if you have stomach ulcers or excess stomach acid. Turmeric (the food, not the supplement) is not as potent as curcumin since the curcumin is no more than 7% of the spice. Turmeric (the spice) may play a role in disease prevention and food deliciousness.
Are you taking too many supplements?
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Or that they may interact or cause an unwanted side effect?
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I’ll go through your supplement regimen with both my scientific and medical safety hats on to give you the real evidence-based evaluation on your supplements.
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If you’d like a quick consult as well, we can book one to go over the chart and answer your questions
OK, enough of the science and regulations – on to the recipes!
(What’s next for the “Foods vs. Supplement” series you ask? I have lots of ideas, but let me know what you’d like to see in the comments below.)
If you want to get the next installment of “Foods vs. Supplement”, then be sure to add your name and email address to sign up for NUTRITION Interactions updates, right here, or over on the right-hand side of this web page.
100+ Ways to Eat Turmeric (including a couple of curries…for good measure) 🙂
Personally, I don’t just eat turmeric in my curries, I also hide turmeric in whatever orangy or creamy food I make. I add a few dashes to quiches, creamy soups, and anything with a cheesy sauce.
But, for a bit of inspiration, I’ve compiled a list of over 100 recipes that use turmeric.
Have you had turmeric for breakfast yet?
Have you had any to drink?
Well, here are lots of ideas to choose from to get started adding a bit of turmeric to your food.
Of course, if turmeric is new to you, you may need some time for your taste buds to adjust (13), but as I said, it’s not a spicy kind of “hot” spice. Don’t worry, introducing new and different-tasting foods often needs to be done gradually over and over before it becomes really enjoyed (14).
BUT, maybe not – maybe you’ll just love it…
IMPORTANT NOTE: FRESH turmeric stains! My poor Vitamix blender permanently turned bright yellow that time I was all excited to see fresh turmeric ‘root’ at my local health food store. It was such a novelty to find fresh organic turmeric root on the island (I live in Newfoundland, off the East Coast of Canada). I’ve never had a problem with the dried/powdered turmeric staining anything.
My kids and I love this recipe (see video at 2:11) – Apple Pie Chia – SexyFoodTherapy
Mains – Vegetarian
Mains – Meat
And there you have it! Over 100 ways to eat turmeric, and NOT just in your curry. There has GOT to be something here that you’ll like.
And if you know someone else who may need some inspiration to try new and exciting turmeric recipes, please share this post! 🙂
Did I miss your favourite recipe??? If so, PLEASE post it in the comments below. Thanks! 🙂
What’s next for the “Foods vs. Supplement” series you ask? I have lots of ideas, but let me know what you’d like to see in the comments below.
If you liked this post and want to get the next installment of “Foods vs. Supplement”, then you can sign up right here.
Leesa Klich is a science-based holistic nutritionist living at the intersection of science and holistic health (it’s really, really interesting here!) 🙂
At Nutrition Interactions she empowers women to optimize their bone health using foods, supplements and lifestyle upgrades. She also helps holistic-minded people taking medications maximize the benefits of good nutrition; as well as holistic health professionals find and understand science-based health information.
She has a MSc in Toxicology and Nutritional Science, over a decade experience in drug/supplement safety, and is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. For a list of free health resources, click here.
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