Use Turmeric Benefits, also called sulfur of the Indies, is a very appreciated plant because it offers great gastronomic versatility and it is attributed medicinal properties against cancer, high cholesterol or osteoarthritis, among other diseases. It is native to southwest India and belongs to the same family as ginger.
By grating and drying its rhizome – a stem that grows below the ground and horizontally – a yellow or orange powder is obtained that contains between 2 and 5% curcumin, a compound that is attributed to the health benefits. This yellow powder should not be confused with curry, which contains curcumin, but it is a mixture of more spices, such as coriander, cumin, fenugreek, ginger … Turmeric in the kitchen
The culinary use of turmeric is more deeply rooted in Asia, but, as Beatriz Robles, food technologist and dietitian-nutritionist, comments, “Although it is not a product of the Mediterranean diet, in recent times they are being introduced into our environment many new dishes thanks to the cultural exchange, some of which incorporate curry or turmeric. ” In his opinion, it is “enriching from a gastronomic point of view”.
The orange or yellow powder that is extracted from the plant is mainly used as a food additive. “The European Union has listed turmeric under the name of E-100, in the category of food additives that serve as colorants. It provides aroma, flavor and yellow color ”, explains Narelia Hoyos, president of the Official College of Dietitians-Nutritionists of Cantabria (Codinucan), member of the General Council of Official Colleges of Dietitians-Nutritionists.
Its flavor is sweet with a spicy and bitter touch, so its use is made in small quantities. Cristina Carrera Igual, treasurer of Codinucan, considers that it is “ideal for seasoning rice, meat, fish … And its color makes the preparations look very good”.
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Turmeric contains fiber, protein, niacin, vitamins C, E and K, sodium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc … But, since it is a condiment to give flavor and aroma, the amount consumed it is very little and, therefore, “its nutritional value is low,” says Hoyos. Robles agrees in qualifying his contribution of nutrients as “negligible” because, “when using such a small amount, carbohydrates, fats, etc. it provides are almost priceless. ”
The proportion of vitamins, proteins, fiber, minerals and other components can be increased if turmeric is consumed in higher amounts, in the form of a nutritional supplement. However, nutritionists emphasize that, at least for the moment, it is not advisable to take it this way. Carrera warns that “increasing the dose too much can cause digestive problems.”
Curcumin reduces, in the words of Robles, “the production of mediators of inflammation and free radicals, which makes it popularly attributed antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that would have beneficial effects in the treatment of diseases such as dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), osteoarthritis, skin diseases, gastric ulcers, diabetes or even cancer ”. The reality is that there is no conclusive evidence on those benefits. “The scientific evidence around its efficacy in reducing inflammation is promising but limited,” concludes the dietitian-nutritionist and food technologist.
A 2012 Cochrane review studied the effect of curcumin as maintenance therapy in ulcerative colitis in the remission stages and concluded that “it can be an effective and safe therapy when administered additionally with mesalamine or sulfasalazine. However, more research is needed in the form of rigorous large-scale randomized controlled trials to confirm any possible benefit of curcumin over non-active ulcerative colitis. ”
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials published in 2016 found that the extract of 1000mg / day of curcumin could be effective in the symptomatic treatment of rheumatic diseases (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis …). But this review could only include eight trials of questionable methodological quality, concluding that “more rigorous and larger studies are needed to confirm therapeutic efficacy.”
Another more recent meta-analysis, from 2018, studied the efficacy of curcuminoids in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee, concluding that “formulations with curcuminoids and boswellia (another medicinal extract) can be valuable additions to therapeutic treatment, by alleviating symptoms and reduce risks ”. But it also indicates that “the current evidence is not adequate in size or quality to make recommendations for use in clinical practice”, and that “research with larger and higher quality randomized controlled trials is required to investigate the synergistic effect of these compounds with other treatments for osteoarthritis. ”
A systematic review and meta-analysis, also from 2018, studied the effect of 20 dietary supplements used in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the hand, hip or knee. Of all of them, turmeric extracts were among those with significant clinical effects in reducing pain in the short term. However, in their conclusions they point out that the quality of the evidence is “very low” and that “supplements do not have significant clinical effects on functionality or pain in the medium and long term”.
The consumption of curcumin as a nutritional supplement is considered safe when administered orally or topically, although in some people it can cause nausea, diarrhea or stomach upset.
However, Robles points out that, when consumed in these therapeutic doses (not used as a spice), “in pregnant women, adverse effects that endanger pregnancy may appear and there is insufficient information on the safety in lactating women, due to what its use is not recommended ”. In the same way, “caution should be exercised in other risk groups such as diabetics, people with clotting problems, cancer patients …”.
Hoyos describes a characteristic of turmeric that can lead to having to increase the ingested dose, with the consequent increased risk of adverse effects: “It has a low solubility and therefore it is very difficult to reach the bloodstream orally.” For this reason, he adds, “other routes of administration are also investigated in the studies.”
The dose of curcumin that could be considered therapeutic -if its promising qualities are confirmed- is 1 gram, that is, about 5 tablespoons of coffee.