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Benefits of Turmeric

By Casey Thaler, B.A., NASM-CPT, FNS
August 29, 2018
Benefits of Turmeric image

Turmeric is an increasingly popular spice in the health and wellness world. Over the past few years, it has been increasingly included in many recipes, due to its numerous potent (and highly beneficial) properties. If turmeric is foreign to you, you may unknowingly already be a little familiar with it – as it also gives curry its distinctive yellow color. Interestingly, turmeric itself is not what brings the health benefits associated with it – that would be curcumin. Indeed, only about 1/20th of turmeric is curcumin – meaning you can actually see even more health benefits, if you were to supplement with curcumin directly.

However, curcumin does not have the same taste or flavor as turmeric, and is not as frequently used in recipes, as a result. There are numerous studies showing the benefits of turmeric, and it makes sense to add this spice regularly to your meals throughout the week, to get an extra antioxidant boost. Scientific studies have shown that the compounds within turmeric can aid with oxidative and inflammatory conditions, help deal with metabolic syndrome, help ease some of the pain of arthritis – and possibly even help with anxiety.[1] [2] [3]

As science has rapidly advanced in understanding most modern diseases over the last 30 years, it has come to be widely believed that chronic, low level inflammation is a major indicator (and possible cause) of most major health problems.[4] [5] [6] [7] This means that using turmeric regularly as a spice for many of your meals, will slowly (but surely) lessen the inflammation throughout your body – and possibly greatly decrease your risk of incurring disease.[8] [9] [10]

Turmeric, as a spice, works great with a wide variety of dishes, and can be added to just about any recipe. Some of my favorite ways to add turmeric to my daily diet, include sprinkling a small bit of it on scrambled, pasture-raised eggs – or mixing some in with a freshly prepared salad. Interestingly, turmeric also has been shown to help slow the aging process, via its ability to fight off free radicals.[11] [12] [13] Oxidative damage plays a major role in aging more quickly, and turmeric actively fights against cellular and oxidative damage, inside your body.[14] [15] [16]

Interestingly, some research has even shown that turmeric helps to ramp up our body’s own internal activity of beneficial enzymes, which help to ward off inflammation.[17] [18] [19] Since a Paleo Diet already lessens your body’s own internal level of inflammation substantially, adding turmeric sporadically to your meals only increases your health. Some companies have even started experimenting with turmeric as an ingredient in pre-workout supplements, which is truly fascinating!

Of all the new trends in the health world, over the past few years, turmeric is one of the ones backed with large amounts of good scientific data. There is even some research showing that turmeric may help with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.[20] [21] Of course, there is still plenty of research which needs to be done, before we see enough scientific evidence in this specific area, to broadly recommend a treatment involving turmeric like that across the general population.

What is obvious, is that adding turmeric to your daily meals, will certainly help you increase your ability to fight off chronic inflammation – which is the hallmark of almost all modern diseases. Adding turmeric to the (already great) benefits of the Paleo Diet may decrease inflammation, help your memory, spice up your food – and make life a little more interesting! Be sure and try our recipe for vegetable coconut curry – which features turmeric!


[1] Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its' Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017;6(10)

[2] Esmaily H, Sahebkar A, Iranshahi M, et al. An investigation of the effects of curcumin on anxiety and depression in obese individuals: A randomized controlled trial. Chin J Integr Med. 2015;21(5):332-8.

[3] Kocaadam B, Şanlier N. Curcumin, an active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), and its effects on health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017;57(13):2889-2895.

[4] Hunter P. The inflammation theory of disease. The growing realization that chronic inflammation is crucial in many diseases opens new avenues for treatment. EMBO Rep. 2012;13(11):968-70.

[5] Straub RH, Schradin C. Chronic inflammatory systemic diseases: An evolutionary trade-off between acutely beneficial but chronically harmful programs. Evol Med Public Health. 2016;2016(1):37-51.

[6] Lumeng CN, Saltiel AR. Inflammatory links between obesity and metabolic disease. J Clin Invest. 2011;121(6):2111-7.

[7] Libby P. Inflammation in atherosclerosis. Nature. 2002;420(6917):868-74.

[8] Hishikawa N, Takahashi Y, Amakusa Y, et al. Effects of turmeric on Alzheimer's disease with behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. Ayu. 2012;33(4):499-504.

[9] Epstein J, Sanderson IR, Macdonald TT. Curcumin as a therapeutic agent: the evidence from in vitro, animal and human studies. Br J Nutr. 2010;103(11):1545-57.

[10] Mcfarlin BK, Venable AS, Henning AL, et al. Reduced inflammatory and muscle damage biomarkers following oral supplementation with bioavailable curcumin. BBA Clin. 2016;5:72-8.

[11] Shen LR, Parnell LD, Ordovas JM, Lai CQ. Curcumin and aging. Biofactors. 2013;39(1):133-40.

[12] Sikora E, Bielak-zmijewska A, Mosieniak G, Piwocka K. The promise of slow down ageing may come from curcumin. Curr Pharm Des. 2010;16(7):884-92.

[13] Shailaja M, Damodara gowda KM, Vishakh K, Suchetha kumari N. Anti-aging Role of Curcumin by Modulating the Inflammatory Markers in Albino Wistar Rats. J Natl Med Assoc. 2017;109(1):9-13.

[14] Suryanarayana P, Satyanarayana A, Balakrishna N, Kumar PU, Reddy GB. Effect of turmeric and curcumin on oxidative stress and antioxidant enzymes in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rat. Med Sci Monit. 2007;13(12):BR286-92.

[15] Phan TT, See P, Lee ST, Chan SY. Protective effects of curcumin against oxidative damage on skin cells in vitro: its implication for wound healing. J Trauma. 2001;51(5):927-31.

[16] Samanta L, Panigrahi J, Bhanja S, Chainy GB. Effect of turmeric and its active principle curcumin on t(3)-induced oxidative stress and hyperplasia in rat kidney: a comparison. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2010;25(4):393-7.

[17] Biswas SK, Mcclure D, Jimenez LA, Megson IL, Rahman I. Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation and interleukin-8 release in alveolar epithelial cells: mechanism of free radical scavenging activity. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2005;7(1-2):32-41.

[18] Ciftci O, Tanyildizi S, Godekmerdan A. Protective effect of curcumin on immune system and body weight gain on rats intoxicated with 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2010;32(1):99-104.

[19] Agarwal R, Goel SK, Behari JR. Detoxification and antioxidant effects of curcumin in rats experimentally exposed to mercury. J Appl Toxicol. 2010;30(5):457-68.

[20] Mishra S, Palanivelu K. The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer's disease: An overview. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2008;11(1):13-9.

[21] Tang M, Taghibiglou C. The Mechanisms of Action of Curcumin in Alzheimer's Disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;58(4):1003-1016.

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