Superfoods are healthy food concepts brought to you from several parts of the world, which partly explains the hype associated with some of them. We’ve borrowed soy from the Japanese to keep our cholesterol levels in check, embraced olives from the Mediterranean to help us fight off cancer, turned to chickpeas from the Middle East to fend off weight gain, and adopted traditional Mexican black beans-infused dishes to stabilize our blood sugar levels.
But this particular superfood that has enjoyed the spotlight for centuries now can be found in your very own spice drawer. One of the prominent spices of Indian cuisine, turmeric has charmed the world with its ability to live up to all its promises from banishing acne to inhibiting cancer cell growth to even treating depression.
And with research claiming that consuming as little as a pinch of turmeric every day can be as potent as an hour of cardio in terms of making your heart healthier, this knobbly root is making headlines all over again.
Details Of The Study
An 8-week long study involving 32 postmenopausal women was conducted where the women were either assigned to a turmeric group, an exercise group, or a control group (where there was no change in diet or exercise).1
Women assigned to the turmeric group received 1 teaspoon of turmeric a day, while those assigned to the exercise group underwent supervised aerobic exercise training 2-3 times a week, in addition to any other activity they might have done at home such as cycling or walking. The training sessions lasted for about 30-60 minutes each with an intensity of 60-75 percent maximal heart rate.
An ultrasound was conducted to measure any changes in the endothelium or the inner lining of the blood vessels. This way, the researchers hoped to record flow-mediated arterial dilation in the participants as a way of evaluating arterial elasticity, which in turn would ultimately determine the health of the participants’ blood vessels.
Findings Of The Study
The researchers observed a significant improvement in endothelial function in both the turmeric group and the exercise group. Furthermore, the improvement recorded in the turmeric group was nearly identical to that observed in the exercise group.2
What Does This Mean?
The results of the study discussed above clearly prove that consuming turmeric every day is just as effective as exercise in preventing, reducing, and perhaps even reversing endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis (plaque build up inside the arteries), and can, therefore, help keep your heart healthy and strong.
Turmeric, Curcumin, And The Heart
Turmeric is not completely unknown to the world. Most of us may recall the name of this spice from mustard and curry recipes or from our recent visit to the local spice markets. But what many people still don’t know is that the benefits of turmeric go way beyond adding fantastic flavor to food preparations.
For centuries, Chinese folk medicine recognized turmeric for its ability to treat heart disease, and today, researchers have finally found the answer to their question: “What does turmeric have that other spices don’t?”
Turmeric contains curcumin a compound that lends the root its vibrant yellow color.3 It is this compound that is responsible for lending turmeric its potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, and anti-cancerous properties.4 Thus, it can help your body fight inflammation and oxidative damage – two main factors that contribute to developing heart disease and strokes.
Thanks to the relaxing effects it has on our blood vessels, curcumin also helps to reduce the incidence the clotting blood platelets, one of the main causes of strokes. This property of curcumin, combined with its ability to force the liver to get rid of bad cholesterol from the body is very helpful in reducing cholesterol – another contributor to bad heart health.5 6
How To Get Your Daily Dose Of Turmeric
Now that we’ve established the fact that consuming turmeric every day is good for your heart, let’s look into how one can reap the healing benefits of this root when it’s not being sprinkled into curries.
- Drink it: Turmeric can be added as an ingredient to herbal teas and protein shakes. You can also add a sprinkle of it to your morning glass of milk to get an immunity boost as you get ready to start your day.
- Eat it: Turmeric can also be added to a variety of everyday dishes such as soups, gravies, and even salads.
- Pop it: Turmeric is available in the form of supplements as well. However, do speak to your doctor about the dosage, and the side effects that you may need to be aware of.
Note: Please note that no amount of spices or supplements, however healthy, will ever completely take the place of exercise. So even though turmeric has been proven to enhance cardiovascular health, please keep in mind that it is not a substitute for exercise and therefore, should not be relied upon entirely to stay healthy.
|↑1, ↑2||Akazawa, Nobuhiko, Youngju Choi, Asako Miyaki, Yoko Tanabe, Jun Sugawara, Ryuichi Ajisaka, and Seiji Maeda. “Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women.” Nutrition research 32, no. 10 (2012): 795-799.|
|↑3, ↑4||Gupta, Subash C., Sridevi Patchva, and Bharat B. Aggarwal. “Therapeutic roles of curcumin: lessons learned from clinical trials.” The AAPS journal 15, no. 1 (2013): 195-218.|
|↑5||Kang, Qiaohua, and Anping Chen. “Curcumin suppresses expression of low‐density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor, leading to the inhibition of LDL‐induced activation of hepatic stellate cells.” British journal of pharmacology 157, no. 8 (2009): 1354-1367.|
|↑6||Soni, K. B., and R. Kuttan. “Effect of oral curcumin administration on serum peroxides and cholesterol levels in human volunteers.” Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology 36 (1992): 273-273.|