Ask the Diet Doctor: The Truth About Turmeric Juice
Q: Would I get any benefits from those turmeric drinks I've started seeing?
A: Turmeric, a plant native to South Asia, contains serious health-boosting benefits. Research has identified more than 300 bioactive antioxidant compounds in the spice, with curcumin being the most studied and most famous. And while curcumin certainly has potential anti-inflammatory powers, there are three things to consider before stocking up turmeric juices or drinks.
1. Curcumin's solo benefits. Curcumin is one of the most underrated daily supplements. It has broad effects on our body's central inflammatory processes and has potential benefits for inflammatory diseases like Crohn's. In addition, curcumin may help with arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, and has shown promising effects in blocking key pathways in cancer cells. At the molecular level, curcumin works to fight inflammation by blocking the COX-2 enzyme-the same enzyme that anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and Celebrex work to block. [Tweet this fact!]
While people with specific illnesses would particularly benefit from curcumin supplementation, I suggest it to all of my clients because of its general anti-inflammatory effects. Even if you are already taking a fish oil supplement for this purpose, you can still benefit from adding a curcumin supplement. The two fight inflammation via different mechanisms, so you might get an additive effect.
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2. Drink dosage. When selecting a turmeric drink, make sure that you are getting enough curcumin to make an impact on your health. A major problem with curcumin is that it's very poorly absorbed; this is why you will see the addition of piperine (an extract from black pepper) or theracurcumin (a nanoparticle curcumin) in many curcumin supplements to enhance absorption. For a supplement with piperine, aim for 500mg curcumin.
If you are getting curcumin from a turmeric drink or supplement, you can expect a yield of about 3 percent (so 10g turmeric, the amount found in common turmeric drinks, will give you 300mg curcumin). Without an absorption enhancer such as piperine, you can't expect much of that curcumin to be taken up by your body, although not all is lost, as the spice can still provide benefits to your intestinal track.
3. Form. Since curcumin's effects are seen with chronic intake, not one occasional swig after yoga class, the key is to be realistic about your consumption. If you want to get the therapeutic effect from a beverage, you need to commit to drinking it every day, which is difficult unless you have a personal stock at home. A supplement is your best bet if you are looking to benefit from curcumin, as capsules have the inherent benefit of having a low barrier to success: Pop the pill, drink some water, and you're done. [Tweet this tip!]