Curcumin: Health Benefits and Food Sources
You may have already heard that turmeric contains curcumin, a phytochemical with almost endless health benefits. But exactly how much curcumin does turmeric contain? And are there foods, other than turmeric, that contain curcumin? In this article, we first look at the amazing health benefits of curcumin (also known as diferuloylmethane), and then provide a list of food sources of curcumin.
6 Health Benefits of Curcumin
Benefits of Curcumin for Arthritis Patients. A large body of evidence suggests that curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritis properties. So, if rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis is causing pain in your joints, make yourself a cup of arthritis-fighting turmeric tea, and see if your symptoms subside.
Curcumin in Cancer Prevention. Test tube experiments have shown that curcumin can interfere with certain molecular pathways involved in the development, growth and spread of cancer, while animal studies suggest that curcumin can inhibit the formation of carcinogenic enzymes in rodents. Human studies evaluating the potential benefits of curcumin in cancer prevention and treatment, however, are still in the early stages.
Anti-Depressant Effects. Several animal studies have documented the anti-depressant effects of curcumin, but a 2013 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research suggests that curcumin may also fight depression in humans. This study found the anti-depressant effects of curcumin to be comparable to those of fluoxetine, an anti-depressant drug commonly marketed under the brand name Prozac.
Protection Against Age-Related Degenerative Diseases. Evidence suggest that curcumin may also provide protection against certain age-related degenerative diseases including cataracts, Alzheimer's disease, and cardiovascular disease. Curcumin and its metabolite tetrahydrocurcumin have also been shown to increase the life span of rats and roundworms. For more detailed information about the ability of curcumin to fight age-related diseases, check out the article Health Benefits of Turmeric Root Powder.
The Anti-Allergy Properties of Curcumin. High levels of histamine are known to trigger allergies and asthma attacks, and curcumin has been shown to inhibit histamine release from mast cells. As a result, herbalists sometimes recommend foods that contain curcumin, such as turmeric, to allergy and asthma sufferers.
Curcumin and Ulcerative Colitis. A study published in the December 2006 issue of the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that curcumin was effective at preventing ulcerative colitis flare-ups in people diagnosed with this inflammatory bowel disease. Only 5% of the patients who received curcumin (plus sulfasalazine or mesalamine) daily during the 6-month trial experienced a flare-up. By contrast, 21% of the patients who received a placebo (plus sulfasalazine or mesalamine) experienced a relapse.
Foods That Contain Curcumin
Turmeric (Curcuma longa). Turmeric, sometimes called "poor man's saffron", is the best known natural source of curcumin. Ground turmeric is a common ingredient in curry powders, but also fresh turmeric has some culinary uses. According to a study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 2006, the curcumin content of turmeric powder is around 3.14% of the total weight.
Curry Powder. As turmeric is commonly used in curry powder blends, also curry powder contains curcumin. However, the same study that found the curcumin content of pure turmeric powder to be around 3% reported most curry powders have relatively low levels of curcumin. A good way to boost the curcumin content of your chicken curry is to use homemade curry powder that contains generous amounts of turmeric (check out HealWithFood.org's recipe for homemade curry powder rich in turmeric and black pepper).
Mango Ginger (Curcuma amada Roxb.). Mango ginger, also known as Curcuma amada, is a member of the ginger family Zingiberaceae and is closely related to turmeric. Consequently, it is not surprising that also mango ginger has been shown to contain curcumin. The rhizomes of mango ginger resemble ginger rhizomes and impart a flavor reminiscent of raw mango. In Southern India, the rhizomes of mango ginger to spice up pickles.
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