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Turmeric: Making a Good Thing GREAT!

Recipes for the perfect turmeric latte abound, ever since Gwyneth Paltrow published her own recipe in 2008.  Since then, Dr. Andrew Weil has appeared on Dr. Oz to introduced us to golden milk and everyone from Victoria Beckham to Sir Michael Caine have chimed in on their favorite turmeric-based beverages.  So, what do you really need to know about consuming turmeric and is there a nutritional difference between powdered and fresh turmeric?

Turmeric is said to reduce muscle, skin and joint inflammation and even help with anti-aging and the prevention of memory loss. It has been used for over 4000 years in Ayurvedic medicine to promote digestive health.  Naturally high in a phenol called curcumin, turmeric is one of the most powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents of any food stuff on the planet.

That’s a pretty powerful statement and you might be inclined to go buy turmeric supplements, but there’s a better (and cheaper) way to get curcumin.  Curcumin has low bioavailability, which is to say it is not easily absorbed by humans.  There are a few reasons for this, but in short, the liver is too good at its job here.  The fast metabolism of curcumin means the liver converts the powerhouse nutrient into a water-soluble state and excretes it before it is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Thankfully, there are two great ways to increase the absorption of curcumin.  One way is to combine it with piperine, a compound found in black pepper.  Piperine inhibits metabolism so nutrients stick around long enough to be useful to the body.  Anytime you are using powdered turmeric, you should also be adding a dash of black pepper.  It doesn’t take much, as even small amounts of black pepper have tremendous impact on curcumin absorption.

Another approach is to combine curcumin with fat, which increases its bioavailability seven-fold.  Curcumin in fresh turmeric root (juiced, grated, or chopped up) is absorbed directly into the blood stream because it is about 10% fat by weight.  When that happens, it bypasses the liver all together making black pepper unnecessary.  Adding fat to powdered turmeric root achieves the same affect.

Doctors of integrative medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center recommend  at least 1.5 to 3 grams of turmeric per day, and studies point to no negative impacts of consuming high levels of curcumin.

Here’s what you’ll find on the Verde menu every day to help you increase your turmeric intake (and make sure your body absorbs it):

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