By Beth Lipton
If you’ve eaten takeout curry, chances are you’ve eaten turmeric. Or maybe you’ve had a golden milk latte? That’s made with turmeric, too. In fact, in recent years, this golden-hued spice has lent its vibrant color to everything from turmeric tacos to turmeric ice cream. It’s safe to say that turmeric has been (and still is) having a moment. If you’ve been wondering what all the hype is about, here’s what you need to know about the health benefits of turmeric — and how to get more of this spice into your diet.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a tropical plant with two parts: a flower and a rhizome — that is, a stem that grows underground. That stem looks a lot like ginger — turmeric and ginger are part of the same family — only the flesh is bright orange. You can often find it fresh in Asian markets, although it’s more commonly dried and made into a powder that’s used as a spice. You’ll also find it in capsule form in the supplement aisle.
The Health Benefits of Turmeric
Along with adding an earthy, slightly bitter flavor to foods, turmeric has several notable health benefits, thanks largely to phytonutrients called curcuminoids. The most well-studied curcuminoid is curcumin, which makes up about 3% of turmeric, according to a study published in Nutrition and Cancer.
Turmeric is probably best known as an inflammation fighter. Research shows that turmeric can help manage inflammatory conditions such as ulcerative colitis, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes. It may also help relieve inflammation and muscle soreness from exercise.
How to Add Turmeric to Your Diet
All that sounds pretty good, right? The problem is, your body doesn’t absorb turmeric well on its own. In other words, you’d have to eat a lot of the stuff in order to get the full therapeutic dose. But, there are some workarounds.
The simplest (and most delicious) solution is to combine turmeric with black pepper and healthy fats. Both increase the absorption of turmeric into your bloodstream. In fact, black pepper may boost turmeric absorption by up to 2000%. (Yes, really.)
Get inspired: 10 Delicious Ways to Eat & Drink Turmeric
You might also consider a high-quality supplement. Integrative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil recommends seeking out a supplement with 95 percent curcuminoids, the pigments that give turmeric its golden color and provide its myriad health benefits.
How Much Turmeric Should You Take?
The proper dose for each individual varies, but according to the Cleveland Clinic, 500 to 1,000 milligrams is the sweet spot for most people. Up to 8 grams per day is considered safe. More isn’t necessarily better, however; too much, especially when you don’t build up to it, can cause stomach upset.
It’s also important to note that turmeric supplements aren’t appropriate for everyone. Watch out if you’re pregnant or nursing, have gallbladder or blood clotting issues, or are under treatment for hormone-related cancer like breast or ovarian. When in doubt, talk with your medical provider before supplementing.