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Benefits of Turmeric

We asked University of Utah Health registered dietician nutritionist Anne Pesek Taylor, RDN, CD, to tell us about the "superfood" turmeric.

What Is It?

"Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that is typically used for flavor and color in Asian cuisine. It has an earthy aroma, and its flavor profile is slightly peppery and bitter, with a subtle ginger taste. Turmeric contains three naturally occurring phytochemicals called curcuminoids, the most notable and researched of which is curcumin."

Does It Have Proven Health Benefits?

"Researchers have found that phytochemicals from natural foods, such as the curcumin found in turmeric, may be a safe and effective way to help reduce inflammation and prevent and treat disease. While acute inflammatory responses are beneficial for the body in that they help heal injury, irritation, or infection, we know that chronic inflammation can contribute to disease onset. There is promising research to support curcumin's use for the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on obesity, to reduce arthritis pain and swelling, and to aid in complications such as diabetic retinopathy, nephropathy, and cardiomyopathy."

How Should You Take Turmeric to Get the Most Benefit?

"Turmeric is typically taken orally; however, a significant amount is excreted in feces due to its fast metabolism and poor solubility." There is no set recommended dosage of turmeric, so "until a concrete dosing recommendation is made, dietitians will continue to encourage people to incorporate turmeric into their home cooking routine to reap some of its potential health benefits. It pairs well with chicken and fish, is often added to lentil and rice dishes, and can add flavor to vinaigrettes, soups, or stews."

Are There Side Effects?

"Turmeric is generally recognized as safe. Few side effects have been reported, however some have complained of nausea and diarrhea when taking higher doses. As with any dietary supplement, ask your health care provider before starting turmeric/curcumin as a supportive or preventive therapy to discuss potential side effects, risks, or medication interactions."