Sunday, November 1, 2009
TUMERIC: MAGIC INCARNATE.
Whenever anyone asks me why I'm so into nutrition, there's two answers that come up. The first, I've already discussed, which is Maitake mushrooms, which was the first food that made me realize that eating the right way can have immediate benefits to your health, as opposed to some far off "it's good for you" empty promise. The second, which I believe now to be just as magical, is turmeric. Used primarily as a spice, it posses powers unparalleled by near anything I've found (yet?). The rhizome(let's just call it a root), which I tried and failed to find fresh in the greater Portland area, looks a lot like ginger, except oranger. The powder, which can be found in damn near any grocery store's spice aisle, looks like that brilliant orange stuff in my hand there. I recommend ALMOST everyone (I'll clear that up later) go and get some, as soon as possible. Let me tell you why:
i.) CURCUMIN. This is where the awesome comes from. To the best of my knowledge, everything listed below is because of Turmeric having this wonderful curcuminoid.
ii.) LET'S FIGHT CANCER! Every single report the medical industry machine says about curcumin starts out with: "uh, yeah, so we did all these tests, and curcumin like, totally kicks the shit out of cancer. but, like, we don't really know exactly why, and like, we don't wanna be wrong, or think that you guys could beat cancer at home, so, like, don't sue us, and, you know, keep up the chemo." And I get that, they're greedy fucks, and are paranoid about being wrong, and you might as well keep up the chemo while you're at it (a recent study showed that curcumin also lowered the side effects of chemo. how rad is that?). HOWEVER. They do studies on rats. They do studies on other animals. They do studies on test tubes. They do studies on people. And in a lot of cases, the results look good, and many doctors also believe that there is a high potential for curcumin to not only kick the shit out of existing cancer, but to also prevent the formation of cancerous cells. Believe it or don't (I do). Just don't be surprised when some drug company makes a super curcumin that is easily bioavailable, and "cures cancer".
iii.) LET'S FIGHT HIV! So, the best way my brain understands this, and I could be dumbing it down to much, so, if yer wicked smart, feel free to explain it to me better, but it appears that curcumin could block a gene that makes HIV replicate, or that it's antioxidant properties are really what's helping. I read one study that claimed that it might block HIVs ability to replicate by protecting healthy cells. Again, this is all early research, but it's good to know, and I'm sure Harvard (and everyone) will continue doing research till it's all figured out. Right guys?
iv.) LET'S FIGHT DIABETES! No, really, turmeric and curcumin aren't anywhere near done yet. Blood sugar levels drop after some good curcumin (sorry Alice, and other hypoglycemics!), which is a plus for people trying to keep their blood sugar levels on the level. It's also a negative for people with diabetes who are on medication that lowers their blood sugar, as turmeric + this medication COULD drop your blood sugar lower than it should be, so talk to your doctor, etc.
v.) LET'S FIGHT MALARIA! Okay, so, odds are good, that no one reading this has had malaria. However. Turmeric has been shown to inhibit some of the parasites that have been known to cause malaria, including Plasmodium falciparum, a drug resistant parasite that causes cerebral malaria. So, um, that's good for people that are worried about malaria (I'm totally waiting for the one person that's had it to give me shit for down playing it's existence in western culture, I'm just saying that I've never heard of anyone I know having it).
vi.) LET'S FIGHT GETTING FAT! If you haven't ran to the pantry and started eating spoonfulls of turmeric yet, this maybe will be the one that pushes you over the edge. A recent study (man, there's apparently no end to the funding for medical studies, I tell ya) showed that curcumin seemingly has the ability to make it more difficult for your body to create fat cells. Basically, they fed a bunch of fatty foods to rats, and half of them got curcumin added in. The curcumin did NOT lower appetites, as both sets of rats ate the same amount of food. However, the curcumin rats gained considerably less weight. Does that mean it's going to work the same way in humans? Should we rely on turmeric to make us thin? No, and no, but I was already busy fighting cancer and everything else, so why not fight getting fat at the same time?
vi.) LET'S FIGHT ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE! No, really. Did I not promise magic? UCLA study says that this gem has the ability to break up harmful plaques and beta-amyloid both associated with the disease.
vii.) LET'S FIGHT HPV! HPV uses proteins to bond to healthy cells. Curcumin uses those same proteins, and is more aggressive, blocking HPV's ability to bond to those cells. They've done tests on individual cells, which show that HPV's bonds to human cells break, we'll see what happens in human trials.
viii.) LET'S FIGHT HERPES! I mean, seriously, spoonfulls, right guys? HSV-1: studies show that it works on not only suppressing the virus, but also interfere with the replication of the virus. HSV-2: studies in animals show that it's effective in protecting from infection. I love turmeric, but keep wearing condoms.
ix.) LET'S FIGHT DEPRESSION, STRESS, and ANXIETY! My god (curcumin) is also an anti-depressant. It has a positive effect on neurogenesis in the hippocampus, which, I don't really know what it means, but it's like, really good, look it up. And if that weren't enough, it increases concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is good for your mood, as well as you memory.
x.) LET'S FIGHT PSORIASIS! Turmeric's anti-inflammatory abilities can help! It seems that it doesn't actually remove the discoloration, and the "unsightliness", so if those are your biggest problems with your skin, I'm sorry, but it does seem to help with swelling, itching, and potentially diminishing, though the jury's still out on that last part.
IS THAT ALL?!
No, actually, it's not. But if I really have to keep prattling on about it to convince you this is something you ought to include in your diet, then I really just think that I'm going to have to give up on you. I mean, c'mon. WHY AREN'T YOU EATING THIS STUFF ALREADY?
WHAT TO DO WITH TURMERIC:
Okay, so the first thing, is that you're going to want to also invest in a little black pepper. Pepper has pepperine, which helps A LOT (up to 2000%) with curcumin's absorption. You don't need a lot, something along the lines of 1 part pepper for every 4 parts turmeric, but without it, it's pretty difficult for your body to work out the good stuff. The next OPTIMAL thing to do (which I miss out on a lot) is to add your turmeric to some heated olive oil, which also adds to bioavailability, though not as dramatically as the pepper.
Once you have your black pepper and turmeric, the sky's the limit. I mostly include this combo in soups, but I've added it to everything from curries (obviously) to on top of a cheese burger. Basically, just get it in you. Really. If you find that you like turmeric and pepper in your coffee, make it happen. Also, that's gross.
Curcumin IS available in pill form, but it's so incredibly more expensive than turmeric, that I just can't imagine how you could hate it's taste THAT much. But hey, however you don't get cancer is good by me.
SOME OF YOU SHOULD NOT BE EATING TURMERIC!!!
Okay, so there's some small problems. The first, is hypoglycemia. A magic food that lowers blood sugar can be bad for people with lowered blood sugar to start with. I would contend that the health benefits are so much that you might want to talk to a doctor about how to deal with this hurdle, but that's the most important part. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR. PLEASE.
Also, this could be bad for people who are diabetic and on medication for their high blood sugar already. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.
Individuals with gallstones, bile duct obstruction, or are pregnant should also TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.
Also, I was mostly joking about the eating this by the spoonful. There has been some research into overdosing on curcumin extracts, and so it's a good idea to take the recommended amount. It's unlikely that one will get so much curcumin just from turmeric that there will be any problems, but if yer eating it (and pepper) by the pound, you probably have other problems besides what the too much curcumin will do.
AGAIN, with everything that I, some dude at his computer, recommends, if you have any existing medical conditions, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR. I know this can be expensive. And your doctor COULD be an idiot. And it's a pain in the ass. Please just don't blindly listen to things I say. Please.
And on that note, go eat some curry.