Superfoods are foods that are considered to be so dense in nutrients as to be incredibly beneficial for our health. These foods tend to be rich in vitamins and minerals among antioxidants, amino acids and other things, which help to fortify our immune systems, improve our brain function, skin, hair, teeth and nails and even fight the progress of aging.
The only problem? These superfoods are very often rare, exotic and therefore expensive. They almost always involve things that aren’t usually in our diet and this makes them hard to come by and to fit into our regimes.
But there’s actually no reason for this to be the case. We hear the most about these rare and exciting fruits and vegetables mainly because they’re rare and exciting; they make for better headlines!
Meanwhile, the more boring ‘everyday’ items that you can find in your kitchen but that still do a world of good get a little less attention.
It’s time that we celebrated the ‘everyday heroes’ of our kitchen. These are the foods that are affordable and easy to come by but no less potent or impressive.
Let’s start by taking a look at the crazy impressive benefits of turmeric.
Turmeric is also known as curcumalonga and is a perennial (meaning year-round) plant that belongs to the ginger family of ‘Zingiberaceae’. It might be found in your kitchen, but it still sounds impressively exotic when you learn its name and background.
Zingiberaceae and turmeric grow in South Asia, where it gets harvested for its rhizomes. These then get ground down into the yellowish-orange powder that you probably add to your curries. Turmeric powder is regularly used in the place of saffron when making curry; a job that it’s ideal for thanks to its similar taste and cheaper price. Turmeric is also often used as food dye to give various things their color. For example, turmeric is actually what makes mustard yellow!
But while turmeric is popular in cooking and food preparation, it is also very popular as a herbal remedy. It has been used in India for hundreds of years as part of Ayurvedic practices with a range of purported remedies. Many across South Asia likewise believed that Turmeric had healing properties, using it as an antiseptic for cuts and burns in particular.
As is often the case, modern science is now taking a closer look at this substance and finding that there is substance to the claims. More research needs to be done to confirm the research but so far it looks very promising and all signs point to it being fully deserving of the ‘superfood’ title.
The benefits of turmeric come from the active ingredient, which is curcumin. Curcumin is what gives turmeric its colouring in the first place, as well as its pungent smell and distinctive taste.
As it happens, curcumin also has very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are just two of the things that make it so effective as an addition to your diet. As an antioxidant, turmeric works to protect the cell walls against damage. It does this by neutralizing free radicals that move around inside the body and which react with the exterior of the cells when coming into contact. Over time, free radicals can bombard the cell walls to the point that they look aged and deteriorated – this is one of the causes of wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.
Worse, free radicals can eventually penetrate all the way through the cell walls to damage the nuclei of the cells. This then causes mutations in the DNA, which proliferate as the cells divide and replicate. By consuming sources of antioxidants such as turmeric, it may be possible to prevent some of the visible signs of aging and could potentially even help avoid mutations in the DNA that can lead to serious conditions.
As an anti-inflammatory meanwhile, curcumin may help to prevent and reduce inflammation. This could make it a useful dietary supplement for those that suffer with arthritis or other joint issues. Likewise, it could also be useful for combating allergies and for treating the symptoms of various forms of illness. These effects work because curcumin is able to stimulate the adrenal glands to produce anti-inflammatory hormones.
A food or supplement considered to be a ‘nootropic’ is thought to help to boost brain function. Turmeric can apparently do this in a number of ways – both by reducing inflammation (which also affects the brain) and by protecting the cells via antioxidant action for instance. At the same time though, other turmeric benefits include improved blood supply to the brain and also improved transmission of signals across synapses.
Turmeric’s benefits may extend to an ability to reduce blood clots. Turmeric has blood-thinning properties which can help to prevent the formation of clots and thereby reduce a significant risk factor associated with high cholesterol or blood pressure. This is not such a good feature though for those that have very low blood pressure already or who struggle with blood clotting issues.
On top of all that, turmeric is sometimes recommended for those struggling with alcoholism as a form of damage control. Turmeric is able to line the stomach to protect it against toxins including alcohol and as it may also supports live health.
There are many more benefits of turmeric and over 13,000 studies published and counting. Definitely one to consider adding to the diet then!