This week I am doing a Spice Special! Each day there will be a short post (as opposed to my usual 1500 work essays!) about a specific spice, what it's benefits are and how to incorporate it into your daily life. Today's spice is turmeric!Turmeric is the bright yellow spice that's part of the ginger family. It is most commonly used in curries as well as mustard to give it that deep yellow colour. Turmeric is related to ginger biologically and is used for a multitude of things in Asia, especially China, India and Indonesia, from spicing food to dying clothes to curing illnesses. It's relatively new to me, but it's fast becoming one of my favourite spices.
What it does for you
Prevents Fat Forming
Turmeric helps to prevent the formation of fat cells by inhibiting them from diving and creating new cells. This is done by a chemical in turmeric called curcumin, which is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It won't necessarily make you lose fat, but it will slow down your body from adding more fat. This has been proven in mice, who's biological systems are incredibly similar to ours. Mice who were given turmeric had lower levels of blood glucose, LDL-cholesterol, fatty acids, liver fat and triglycerides as well. (Note: adding turmeric to your diet is not a free pass to gorge on junk food and stay healthy!)
Studies done on rabbits, mice and humans showed that turmeric lowered the levels of LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and triglycerides in the blood and stopped LDL from being oxidised. In the liver, turmeric increases the amount of LDL cholesterol receptors, so LDL cholesterol to breaks down and doesn't enter the blood stream.
Detoxes the Liver and Blood
We can use turmeric to detox as it cleanses the liver. It produces enzymes that break down toxins in the liver and therefore the blood. This makes it a great hangover cure!
Curcumin has many medicinal purposes. It's a strong anti-inflammatory, targeting several steps in the inflammatory pathway at a molecular level. Curcumin has similar effects to drugs like hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone, but without the side effects. Reducing inflammation removes the cause and symptoms of many diseases such as arthritis, IBS and even obesity and diabetes. It can even soothe an upset stomach by reducing the irritation
Benefits Your Skin
Turmeric can also benefit your skin in many ways. You can mix it into a face mask or even make your own with natural ingredients from your fridge, like yoghurt, honey and milk. In India, it's often added to face creams and Thandie Newton has said she mixes it with tinted moisturiser to get the right shade of foundation for her skin. And it's not just for your face. You can add it to body scrubs and soap too to make your skin extra soft after washing. You can also use it as a dandruff treatment. Just mix it with your favourite oil (I like coconut oil, but you can use jojoba oil or argane oil or any one you like), massage it into your scalp and leave for 15 minutes before shampooing off again.
How to use it
Obviously, curries are a great way to use turmeric, but you can also use it to spice up lentil soup or make a dip from it by adding it to yoghurt with a bit of mayonnaise, salt and pepper. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, makes up only about 3% of its constituents so you should take turmeric with black pepper as it contains piperine that helps curcumin be absorbed by the body.
So that's turmeric! Isn't it pretty awesome? What's your favourite spice to spice up your food with? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to subscribe to keep up to date with the awesomeness of Spice Special week and much, much more!
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