Curcumin Foods

Indian Food: Turmeric and Curcumin

When you don’t know where to look, finding Curcumin can be a challenge; however, once you discover Curcumin and all of its’ health-promoting benefits, finding it and using it will become second nature. So where is this miracle of nature to be found? Indian food is one very dependable source. Curcumin is hidden as a chemical compound in the much more familiar Indian spice, known as turmeric. Curcumin is what gives the spice and some Indian foods their deep golden yellow hue.

Tumeric is one of the most cherished and commonly used spices in Indian foods. The spice’s aesthetically appealing yellow tint is used to convey color, as well as flavor in preparing a multitude of dishes, especially curry, which as a foundation of the Indian diet, appears in many Indian foods. Turmeric can also be found in garam masala, a mixture of ground spices common to India, and used in a variety of Indian foods.

In addition to spicing up Indian food Curcumin has the ability to prevent and possibly treat numerous afflictions including Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible disorder of the brain that progresses slowly, resulting in memory loss, erratic behavior, and cognitive dysfunction.

According to the National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Aging, approximately 5 million people in the United States may be living with Alzheimer’s disease. Elderly residents in India, where Indian food and subsequently, turmeric are eaten on a regular basis, have rates of Alzheimer’s as low as 1%.

The Benefit of Eating Indian Food

The Curcumin in Indian food may be directly linked to this lower incidence of Alzheimer’s. “What’s unique about Curcumin,” says Gregory Cole, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), “is that it binds directly to beta-amyloid deposits in the brain and reduces their size.”

Beta-amyloid deposits are the protein fragments that build up between the brain cells of people with Alzheimer’s disease. These protein deposits (plaques) are responsible for the memory loss that is representative of the disease. The latest studies suggest that Curcumin might not only prevent the build-up of these plaques in patients already experiencing symptoms, but may also prevent the plaques from occurring altogether.

As early as 2001, UCLA found a low-dose of Curcumin as part of a treatment plan decreased the amount of plaque by almost half. “The prospect of finding a safe and effective approach to both prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is tremendously exciting,” said principal investigator Gregory Cole. Due to the promising results gained from animal studies, research has been prompted for studying humans.

In earlier studies the same research team found Curcumin’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists believe these properties help ease the Alzheimer’s symptoms caused by oxidation and inflammation. These findings lead researchers to believe there is great potential for Curcumin to play a role in preventing people from developing Alzheimer’s disease.

References

National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, “Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet.” Last modified March 30th, 2012. Accessed April 18, 2012. http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet

World Health Organization, “Alzheimer’s Disease: The Brain Killer.” Last modified December 20th, 2004. Accessed April 18, 2012. http://www.searo.who.int/en/Section1174/Section1199/Section1567/Section1823_8066.htm

McBarron, M.D., N.D., Jan. Curcumin The 21st Century Cure. Brevard, N.C.: To Your Health Books, 2011.

Curcumin Tea

For hundreds of years, the phytochemicals in plants have been utilized to accelerate the natural inflammatory response of the body, either when it is injured or just plain worn out. A good example of this goes back thousands of years to the Greeks and the Romans. Both societies reduced pain and inflammation with the help of the bark of the willow tree, which eventually evolved into what we now know as aspirin.

Residents of the islands of Okinawa in Japan have utilized the phytochemicals in plants, specifically the curcuma plant, to increase their longevity and live a healthier life. Curcumin is a standardized extract from the dried root of the curcuma plant, the root being the portion used for medicinal purposes. The curcuma plant is a perennial originating from India and is found throughout Southern and Eastern Asia. The plant, a member of the ginger family, can mature and grow up to 3 feet tall.

Curcumin belongs to a class of compounds known as curcuminoids. Other than being an important component of turmeric, Curcumin is a natural polyphenol, in other words a group of chemicals which provide many health benefits. The Okinawans partake in these benefits by drinking Curcumin tea. Curcumin tea is a simple, yet effective way these islanders have found to enjoy the multitude of benefits Curcumin has to offer.

American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD, tells us,

There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea. I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking.”

Curcumin Tea Recipe

Curcumin tea is quick and easy to prepare.

All that is needed is: 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric and 2 cups of water.

Preparation:

  • Boil water.
  • After the water reaches the boiling point, reduce to simmer.
  • Add ground turmeric.
  • Continue to simmer for approximately five to ten minutes.
  • Use mesh strainer or cheesecloth to strain.
  • Enjoy as is or add any additional desired flavors, e.g., lemon juice.

Curcumin tea can be enjoyed twice a day; however; women who are pregnant or nursing or those diagnosed with serious health concerns, e.g., heart disease, gallstones, or bile duct problems, should stay away from Curcumin tea.

Curcumin as Food Coloring

Curcumin is a chemical compound which finds refuge in the Indian spice known as turmeric, and is what gives the spice its aesthetically pleasing yellow tint. Tumeric has been used in India for thousands of years and is one of the most appreciated and frequently used spices in Indian cuisine. The spice is used for visual appeal as well as to bring taste to a great number of dishes, many of which include curry.

Beyond adding color and flavor to Indian fare and facilitating health and wellness in our lives, it may surprise you to find the versatility Curcumin has as a food coloring in a myriad of foods.

The capacity to serve as food coloring stems primarily from the polyphenolic compounds in Curcumin and is acquired from the root of its home, the Curcuma longa plant. While saffron is sometimes used as a food coloring to give foods a slightly yellowish tint, Curcumin is utilized more often due to its less expensive price tag and the variety of health benefits it brings with it.

These foods include:

  • Prepared yellow mustard
  • Indonesian foods in the form of chili paste, yellow rice and various meat dishes
  • Thai dishes with curry sauces
  • Carribean curries, including pumpkin
  • Dairy products, cereals, packaged fruit and vegetable products, candy, soups,  fats, oils, pickles, sauces, protein shakes, beverages, essential oils, edible ices, dry mixes, salad dressings, and canned broths

Curcumin as food coloring provides function beyond adding color. It can also protect food from the sun as well as make up for the fading that accompanies certain foods e.g., pickles and relishes. Other cultures are on board with using Curcumin as food coloring, including Nepal, South Africa, and Iran.

Just add using Curcumin as food coloring to its other roles as a flavor enhancer and bearer of good health.