Despite its use in cooking for several thousand years, turmeric continues to surprise researchers in terms of its wide-ranging health benefits. While once focused on anti-inflammatory benefits, decreased cancer risk, and support of detoxification, studies on turmeric intake now include its potential for improving cognitive function, blood sugar balance, and kidney function, as well as lessening the degree of severity associated with certain forms of arthritis and certain digestive disorders.
Use of turmeric in recipes can help retain the beta-carotene in certain foods. For example, one study has shown that the beta-carotene in carrots and pumpkins is better retained when those vegetables are cooked using recipes that include turmeric.
Studies on satay—the very popular grilled meat dish that is often marinated in a spice mixture containing turmeric—have demonstrated a unique role for turmeric in providing health benefits. The grilling of meats is well-known for its potential to produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs) from protein substances in the meats. These HCAs are also well-known for posing potential health risks. Researchers now know that turmeric helps prevent formation of HCAs in grilled meat, including satay that has been marinated in a turmeric-containing spice mixture. About 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric per 3.5 ounces of meat was used to produce this helpful outcome in one study.
Whole turmeric is likely to provide you with a different set of benefits than its best-studied constituent—namely, curcumin. That's because turmeric includes three different curcuminoids: curcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and demethoxycurcumin. It also contains volatile oils like tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone. These different substances are all associated with their own unique health benefits.
The amount of turmeric that you need to receive health benefits is not a lot. While researchers are accustomed to looking at countries like India where intake of turmeric often reaches a level of 1-2 grams every day (2.2 grams of the turmeric powder that we profile on our website equates to one teaspoon), studies show potential health benefits at much lower amounts. In some situations, as little as 50 milligrams of turmeric over a period of several months have been linked with health benefits. This small amount would be the equivalent of approximately 1/50th of a teaspoon.