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Experts break down the benefits and drawbacks of this ancient spice
By Alisa Hrustic
Turmeric has been making lots of headlines lately. Touted as a “superfood,” its popularity has surged. The ancient spice has moved well beyond Indian dishes like curry, and you can now find it in everything from soups to smoothies to even lattes.
In fact, it’s become so popular that Starbucks is testing out the turmeric latte trend in the U.K., reports Metro. And that’s actually late to the game: The yellow-hued lattes have been popping up in local U.S. coffee shops for the past year—Los Angeles, New York, and other cities have all hopped on the “golden milk” train. That’s because health-conscious consumers are hoping to cash in on some promising findings from research done on the spice.
Most notably, turmeric is praised for its anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, research shows that 400 to 500 milligrams (mg) of curcumin—an antioxidant and the active compound in turmeric that gives the spice its yellow pigment—may give you pain relief similar to taking 2,000 mg of acetaminophen, or Tylenol, according to nutrition expert Brian St. Pierre, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition.
Plus, one German study found that consuming curcumin may be useful in preventing prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men, according to the American Cancer Society. Other studies have found that turmeric may also prevent heart disease, other forms of cancer, and even kill bacteria or viruses, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
“I love when people want to try new spices,” says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet, “but they should take it with a grain of turmeric. The research has been done in concentrated doses, and that’s not how we consume the spice.”
Plus, depending on how the latte is made, any potential benefits you might get from the turmeric could easily be outweighed by the added sugar and calories from your drink, she says—especially if you like a sweeter brew and add in your own spoonful of sugar. “Whenever we read about something that has so many promises, we should pause, because there’s no one food or spice or herb that is the end all,” says Gans. “It comes down to eating a balanced diet.”
Bottom line: There’s nothing wrong with using turmeric if you like the taste—it adds a nice flavour to your roasted vegetables, eggs, and other savoury dishes. Just don’t assume a sprinkle or shake of the spice is going to do your health any major favours. With any other popular health food, like olive oil, kale, or avocados, it’s not a shortcut that can magically cure all of your health woes.
That said, if you want to try to reap some benefits of the spice, you’d likely need a more concentrated dose than what you’d find in food alone. The commonly recommended dose is 500 mg daily, and you’d probably need a supplement to get there, according to St. Pierre. Like with any new medication, you’d want to talk to your doctor first.
Related: Your Guide To Spices
If you really want to fight inflammation—a common precursor to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—you should be supplementing your diet with fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, says Gans, since research overwhelmingly supports the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Your better bet is sticking to the more tried-and-true ways of protecting your health.
Originally published on menshealth.com