- - The Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin

The Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin

article by Christine Zimmerman

You’ve likely heard the saying “everything old is new again.” That’s especially true for the Ayurvedic spice turmeric. From trendy golden milk smoothies to snack foods, turmeric has found its way into an array of products geared for the health-conscious consumer. Why all the buzz about this golden spice? The secret is a pigmented compound in turmeric known as curcumin, responsible for the spice’s anti-inflammatory antioxidant activity.  

Curcumin is the most popular of the three curcuminoids, composing about 80% of all three, and is the king of many health benefits. Because it is so powerful, you will often see supplements solely composed of curcumin, rather than turmeric.

Fun Fact: The popularity of curcumin in traditional and integrative medicine may be attributed to its beneficial effects on low-level inflammation and free radical damage, two factors linked to many chronic illnesses. Curcumin reduces inflammation by downregulating the COX-2 enzyme, similar to the medications – acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Better yet, you can combine turmeric with your Omega-3’s, the ultimate anti-inflammatory powerhouses, and it will have an even stronger effect. It’s also been shown to effectively help decrease inflammation associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. 

Curcumin also acts as an antioxidant, scavenging free radicals that can lead to cellular damage.  Free radicals are unstable atoms that are missing one electron. They have been implicated in a host of diseases such as arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and dementia.  

Recovery From Exercise

In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, done on 20 healthy males who were relatively active, they found a reduction in onset of muscle soreness when given 400 mg a day of curcumin (200 mg at breakfast, 200 mg at dinner) for four days (2 days prior, the day of the event, and 1 day post). While more research is needed in this area, it’s one study specific to exercise that has promising results. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014:11(1):31

Turmeric can be purchased in three main forms

  1. Turmeric Root (this looks similar to ginger)
  2. Ground Turmeric (a powder you can mix and dust onto your food)
  3. Turmeric or Curcumin supplements (some have the extract, root, and curcuminoids all in one)

Ways to eat turmeric

  • Add the root or ground turmeric to smoothies
  • Add to lentil, bean, and poultry dishes
  • Add to hummus, Greek yogurt dips, and dressing
  • Sprinkle on top of sweet potatoes

Spicy Tip: The beneficial curcumin compounds found in turmeric can change depending on many factors. Most dried herbs and spices lose their antioxidant power after six months. When you open them, date them! You can still use them for flavor, but they won’t have the same health benefit.

The good news is there are ways to increase the amount of turmeric your body is able to absorb and metabolize.  Two simple ways to do this are:

  1. Take it with black pepper (which contains a compound called peperine) – this elimination time of turmeric in your body. Your body will hold onto it for longer, which means it can absorb more at that time.
  2. Take it with foods containing fats or oils- think of turmeric as a fat lover that binds to the fat in the food you eat. This helps it travel through your body to make itself more available to you.

Added benefits in 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric powder include:

  • 2 micrograms of folate
  • 16 milligrams calcium
  • 20 milligrams of magnesium
  • 5 milligrams iron
  • 28 milligrams phosphorus
  • 196 milligrams of potassium

For advice on curcumin supplements please go to sign up and check out my favorites for inflammation support.


Christine Zimmerman is the team Dietitian/Nutritionist as well as an Intuitive Eating Counselor with Thomas Endurance Coaching. She works to encourage athletes and non-athletes alike on their journey of wellness, developing a peaceful and satisfying relationship with food, their bodies, and movement. To schedule your Nutrition Consultation click HERE



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