Turmeric is the spice that gives curries their gloriously deep yellow colour; it’s not known as the golden spice for nothing. If you’ve ever spilt curry on your clothing, that stain is all down to turmeric. But stains aside, turmeric is amazingly beneficial to our health.
This spice contains thousands of active ingredients, but the most studied is curcumin, a known potent anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant. These properties mean that turmeric is being seriously considered as an adjuvant drug alongside regular cancer treatments to help bolster the chances of survival. They also mean that consuming turmeric on a regular basis can help to prevent cancer.
To maximise the benefits of eating turmeric, studies suggest that a substance called piperine that’s present in black pepper will increase the ‘bioavailability’ of curcumin. That is, piperine helps the body absorb the curcumin better, helping to boost its health benefits. It’s thought that piperine enhances curcumin absorption by 2,000% by helping it to cross from the gut into the bloodstream and preventing it from being broken down by the liver.
Curcumin is best taken as a supplement that also contains piperine since supplements are more concentrated than eating turmeric in curries. But by all means, enjoy home-cooked curries regularly too, and don’t forget a liberal sprinkling of black pepper!