Turmeric is a bright orange spice that has been used for thousands of years in Indian cooking, both for its flavor and its medicinal qualities. In recent years, a growing body of research has reflected the science behind the traditional wisdom that has made turmeric so popular.
Turmeric’s health benefits spring largely from its anti-inflammatory properties, and range from helping with the treatment of arthritis to preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Recently, a new report has highlighted yet another benefit of turmeric – as a booster for omega-3 fatty acids.
Turmeric And Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, seafood, and high-quality oils like extra-virgin olive oil. The two most biologically active omega-3s are known as EPA and DHA, which play important roles in heart and brain health, respectively.
Omega-3’s are also found in plants, including flax and walnuts, but plant-based Omega-3’s (ALA) need to be converted by the body into the more usable EPA and DHA.
What most people don’t know is that plant-based omega-3 fatty acids aren’t easily converted into EPA and DHA. For example, only about 5% of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids are converted to EPA, while less then 1% is converted to DHA(1).
Fortunately, turmeric may be able to help. A recent animal study showed that when turmeric was consumed alongside plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, it increased the amount of omega-3 that was converted into DHA by a significant amount(2). The effect was major – with about 50% additional DHA when turmeric was added to the diet.
These results are especially significant for vegetarians, who may benefit from consuming plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids along with turmeric. Although the study was performed in animal models, it does give us some insight into how biological needs may be met in a variety of ways.
Making Turmeric Part Of Your Diet
There’s almost no reason not to incorporate turmeric into your daily diet; as a spice, it’s fairly mild, so even the most sensitive to spice can enjoy it, and its complex flavor can add an extra dynamic to the blandest of dishes. Here are some foods that pair particularly well with turmeric:
- Whole grains (like quinoa)
- Salad Dressing
- Soups or Smoothies
It’s interesting to see how turmeric has been used for thousands of years and science is only now beginning to uncover the health boosting properties of this spice.