Turmeric is an ancient spice, but it has seen a recent resurgence in popularity as people discover its significant anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits.
Why is this vibrant, yellow-orange spice so beneficial? Adding turmeric to your diet can help those who live an active lifestyle maintain regular physical activity. It has been shown to reduce inflammation, as well as aid in muscle recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and boost your overall immune system. Overall, turmeric can help keep your body in optimal condition for daily physical movement.
Below, find a guide to everything you need to know about turmeric — including what it is, its health benefits, and how to incorporate it into your diet.
"Overall, turmeric can help keep your body in optimal condition for daily physical movement."
What Is Turmeric?
If you’ve ever eaten curry, you’ve probably consumed turmeric. Turmeric is the spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It’s commonly used in India and known for its medicinal properties. Historically, it was used in India to treat disorders of the skin, respiratory tract, joint, and digestive system.
The medicinal properties of turmeric can largely be attributed to curcumin, the spice’s main active ingredient — the ingredient that gives turmeric its signature yellow color. Curcumin, a type of curcuminoid, has powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
While turmeric is clearly beneficial, it has low bioavailability. That means that if you only consume turmeric as a spice in your food, it can be difficult to ingest the amount of curcumin necessary to receive any of those benefits. Because of this, it can be easier to take turmeric as a supplement, which typically contains a higher concentration of curcumin.
1. Powerful Anti-inflammatory
Inflammation is your body’s response to stress, including strains or overworked muscles. In fact, inflammation is part of your body’s natural healing process — but it can also have negative effects. With regular, repeated physical stress (like long hours in the gym or several workouts in a row with no rest days), inflammation can cause the release of free radicals in your body. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can cause damage to your cells and lead to exhaustion, muscle degradation, and a higher likelihood of injury.
However, taking turmeric for inflammation can lessen those effects, as curcumin has been shown to suppress inflammation. In one study focused on people with symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, curcumin was found to help to a similar degree as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Specifically, 94% of those taking curcumin and 97% of those taking the NSAID (diclofenac) reported at least 50% improvement. In addition, the people who took curcumin reported fewer side effects than those taking the NSAID.
2. Improved Muscle Recovery
For people who are aiming to get healthier through exercise and regular activity, muscle recovery is vital. Your muscles don’t grow during exercise, but rather, while resting between activities. That’s because working out creates micro-tears in your muscles. During periods of rest, those tears heal — and your muscles grow.
One study found that supplementation of curcumin and piperine (a bioavailability enhancer) each day — anywhere between 48 hours leading up to exercise and 48 hours after exercise — can improve muscle recovery. The study analyzed elite rugby players who performed exercises rigorous enough to induce muscle damage. Those who supplemented with curcumin and piperine saw improved muscle recovery and muscle function between 24 and 48 hours after the exercise.
"Those who supplemented with curcumin and piperine saw improved muscle recovery and muscle function between 24 and 48 hours after the exercise."
3. Decrease in Muscle Soreness
Most people who work out are familiar with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This muscle soreness typically sets in several hours to a day or so after a new, unfamiliar, or intense workout. While common, DOMS can interfere with an athlete’s training. While experiencing DOMS, you likely won’t be able to give 100% effort or hit intense paces.
However, research shows that taking turmeric for recovery can help reduce that soreness. A recent study gave participants an oral curcumin supplement twice daily for two to three days. Then, participants were instructed to do a particular exercise designed to induce muscle soreness. Ultimately, the study found that curcumin decreased the symptoms of DOMS.
4. Strengthened Immune System
Especially in the winter season, when colds and the flu run rampant, sickness can significantly impede your ability to stay active. However, turmeric has been shown to boost the immune system. Research shows that turmeric can modulate the activation of T cells, B cells, macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells, as well as enhance the body’s antibody responses.
With a strengthened immune system, you’ll be more likely to stay healthy and be able to maintain an active lifestyle.
"Research shows that turmeric can modulate the activation of T cells, B cells, macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells, as well as enhance the body’s antibody responses.
With a strengthened immune system, you’ll be more likely to stay healthy and be able to maintain an active lifestyle."
How to Take Turmeric
While you can consume turmeric as a spice in your food, that may not be the most effective way to receive the spice’s health benefits. That’s because the spice contains just 3% curcuminoids, compared to supplements, which can be up to 95% curcuminoids. You would have to consume a large amount of turmeric to get the same benefits as a supplement.
Cooking With Turmeric
If you’re looking to consume more turmeric through your diet, consider adding the spice to:
Soups | Scrambled eggs | Rice | Roasted vegetables
Turmeric milk, or “golden milk,” has also become increasingly popular in the last couple of years. You can whip up this warm drink with just a few ingredients: milk (typically coconut, almond, or cashew milk), turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, and maple syrup.
The typical recommended dosage for turmeric ranges from 500mg to 2,000mg per day. However, make sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement.
To improve absorption, it’s often recommended that you take turmeric with healthy fats, like avocado, oils, or nuts.
What Does Turmeric Taste Like?
While the health benefits of turmeric may be enticing, you may still have questions about the taste — especially given its vibrant, yellow-orange color. According to the food experts at Bon Appetit, turmeric tastes earthy and bitter, with a peppery spice.
Fortunately, when turmeric is included as an ingredient in a dietary supplement or drink, you really can’t taste it — so you can get all the benefits without the signature curry-like flavor.
What Are the Side Effects of Turmeric?
Turmeric is generally recognized as a safe addition to your diet. While very few people have experienced side effects from consuming turmeric, some have complained of nausea and diarrhea — but only when taking high doses.
Ultimately, incorporating turmeric into your diet can help you maintain your active lifestyle. With less muscle soreness, a better immune system, and less inflammation, you can keep running, cycling, and exercising with confidence.
Looking for an easy way to add more turmeric to your daily routine? Try Nuun Immunity.