By now you have probably heard about the many health benefits of turmeric. Studies have shown that the popular spice may be able to enhance memory and prevent memory loss, that it aids the heart and circulatory system and that it helps with overall health and well being.
Turmeric true believes have gone even further, claiming that the spice is a virtual cure-all for all kinds of things. Sales of turmeric have soared in recent years, as have the number of recipes that incorporate it. If you have been thinking about joining the turmeric revolution and adding the spice to your daily health regimen, you are certainly not alone.
Root vs. Extract
As the popularity of turmeric has risen in recent years, so has the confusion over its many forms. Whether you shop for turmeric at the local grocery store, look for it online or seek it out at the health food store, you will encounter many different iterations of the popular spice.
So which version of turmeric is the best, and what should you look for when you shop? There is still a bit of controversy about whether pure turmeric root is the best or turmeric extract is a better choice. Both turmeric root and turmeric extract have their boosters and detractors, and there is a great deal of evidence on both sides of the spice aisle. Here is what you need to know about the battle between turmeric root and turmeric extract.
Turmeric in the Spice Aisle
When you find turmeric in the spice aisle at your local supermarket or organic food store, what you are actually getting is a ground form of the turmeric herb. To make this ground spice, the manufacturers take the raw turmeric root and ground it into a fine powder.
This ground form of turmeric is convenient to use, especially in cooking and meal preparation. Many turmeric fans like to sprinkle their ground turmeric in their sauces as they cook, and some even add it to their finished meals as a kind of garnish.
Fans of the ground turmeric from the spice aisle point to many different studies, and their own experience, to demonstrate the positive health effects of their daily habit. They point to studies that show how consuming between half a teaspoon and one teaspoon of ground turmeric powder each day can have a positive impact on the digestive system, aiding with stomach upset and overall digestive health.
What the Clinical Studies Say
While many home chefs, foodies and restaurant owners are click to claim that powdered turmeric from the spice aisle has a number of health benefits, it should be noted that most clinical studies have not used this form of turmeric. While consuming turmeric as part of the daily diet may indeed have positive health benefits, most clinical trials have used the extract instead of the ground version.
The most promising clinical studies, including the ones showing a positive impact on memory and cognition, have used turmeric extract. Turmeric extract is very different from the powdered form of turmeric found at the local grocery stores.
The Curcumin Effect
The difference between ground turmeric root and turmeric extract lies in the curcumin content. In those clinical studies, scientists have identified the most promising parts of the turmeric root, notably the curcuminoid compounds.
It is these curcuminoid compounds that are thought to be responsible for the positive health effects, and that is where the controversy comes into play. The ground turmeric you buy at the local grocery store or organic food store contains only a small amount of these powerful curcuminoid compounds.
Specifically, only about 3% of the weight of that turmeric powder consists of curcumin and its curcuminoid compounds. Pure turmeric extracts, on the other hand, contain a much higher percentage of these healthful curcuminoid compounds. Some turmeric extracts have curcumin concentrations as high as 95 percent, much higher than the three percent average for the ground spice.
The Benefits of Turmeric Extract Supplements
While cooking with ground turmeric is a good thing to do, many people feel that turmeric extract supplements hold more health promise. Ground turmeric is great for adding flavor and fun to your cooking, but if you are looking for a high concentration of curcumin, you need to be sure you’re taking a turmeric extract supplement.
Taking a half gram capsule of turmeric extract could provide as much as 400 mg of those healthful curcuminoid compounds. Adding that same half a gram of ground turmeric yields a far lower amount of curcuminoid compounds, as little as 15 mg in some cases.
The Benefits of Cooking with Ground Turmeric
The amount of curcuminoid compounds in turmeric extract supplements may be much higher, but that does not mean that cooking with ground turmeric is not a healthy thing to do. Fans of cooking with turmeric point out that consuming the spice this way means you are eating not only ground turmeric but fats and oils as well.
These fats and oils help the turmeric get into your body, so you can enjoy the health benefits and improved digestion. Since turmeric easily attaches to fats in the diets, the value of the food additive could be even higher than that of the supplements.
The Best of Both Worlds
For now, the jury is still out on ground turmeric root vs. commercially produced turmeric extract. That is why many turmeric fans seek out the best of both worlds, consuming both powdered turmeric and turmeric extract supplements.
If you want to enjoy the health benefits of turmeric, you might want to follow their example. That means picking up a few bottles of ground turmeric root on your next trip to the supermarket, but also ordering a quality turmeric extract supplement – one with plenty of those wonderful curcuminoid compounds.