Turmeric is everywhere. It's in smoothies, food and even in supplements. People are finally realizing what Ayurvedic practitioners in India have known for thousands of years: turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can potentially help combat inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, slow the rate of cancer growth, and improve cognitive function (i-iv). More recently, researchers have even been examining the potential for turmeric to enhance weight loss and decrease insulin and leptin resistance (v).
But before you start sprinkling turmeric on everything you eat, you need to know what most people don’t: turmeric is poorly absorbed in the body and has minimal impact on blood levels when taken alone (ii). The good news is that there are ways you can enhance its absorption. Here are four things you can do:
- Sprinkle Black Pepper: piperine, a compound found in black pepper that’s responsible for its pungency, can greatly improve absorption of turmeric in the body. In one study, when taken with 20 mg of piperine per 2.2 pounds of body weight, piperine improved the bioavailability of turmeric by 2000% (i)(vi-vii)!
- Add Some Fat: turmeric is fat-soluble and thus much better absorbed when taken with fat, such as coconut or almond milk (i).
- Heat It Up: heat is said to increase the solubility of curcumin (the primary active constituent in turmeric) by 12 times, which may also increase its bioavailability in the body (viii).
- Eat Quercetin-Rich Foods: quercetin is a flavonoid found in many plant foods such as onions, capers, and Serrano peppers, and is known to inhibit an enzyme that inactivates curcumin. Adding turmeric to quercetin-rich foods can increase the absorbability of turmeric in the body (vii)(ix).
A hot coconut curry made with coconut milk, black pepper, turmeric and onions is a great option for maximizing your body’s ability to absorb turmeric. Golden milk is also another delicious way to help you reap the benefits of turmeric. Here’s my go to Golden Milk recipe:
- 2 cups homemade coconut milk
- 1 Tbsp each of coconut oil, ghee, turmeric powder (or a shot of cold-pressed turmeric juice), and Ceylon cinnamon powder
- 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 pinch black pepper
- Stevia drops to taste (I like Sweet Leaf brand)
Directions: Blend all ingredients in Vitamix or other blender on high for 3 minutes. If not hot when finished, add to stove over low heat until hot. Enjoy!
i) Carter, A. (2008). Curry Compound Fights Cancer in the Clinic. JNCI J Natl. Cancer Inst., 100(9), 616-617.
ii) Linus Pauling Institute (2015). Curcumin. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/curcumin
iii) Ng, T.P., Chiam, P.C., Lee, T., Chua, H.C., Lim, L., & Kua, E.H. (2006). Curry Consumption and Cognitive Function in the Elderly. Am. J. Epidemiol., 164(9), 898-906.
iv) Rinaldi, A.L., Morse, M.A., Fields, H.W., Rothas, D.A., Pei, P., Rodrigo, K.A., . . . Mallery, S.R. (2002). Curcumin activates the aryl hydrocarbon receptor yet significantly inhibits (-)-benzo(a)pyrene-7R-trans-7,8-dihydrodiol bioactivation in oral squamous cell carcinoma cells and oral mucosa. Cancer Res., 62(19), 5451-5456.
v) Yu, Y., Hu, S.K., & Yan, H. The study of insulin resistance and leptin resistance on the model of simplicity obesity rats by curcumin. Zhonghua Yu Fang Yi Xue Za Zhi, 42(11), 818-822.
vi) Shoba, G., Joy, D., Joseph, T., Majeed, M., Rajendran, R., & Srinivas, P.S. (1998). Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med, 64(4), 353-6.
vii) Mehta, A., Kaur, G., & Chintamaneni (2012). Piperine and Quercetin Enhances Antioxidant and Hepatoprotective effet of Curcumin in Paracetamol Induced oxidative stress. Int J Pharmacology, 8(2), 101-107.
viii) Kurien, B.T., Scofield, R.H. (2009). Oral Administration of heat-solubilized curcumin for potentially increasing curcumin bioavailability in experimental animals. Int J Cancer, 125(8), 1992-1993.
xi) Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (May 2014). USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods. U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.