UPDATED JANUARY 2019
We look for efficiency and value in every part of our lives, so it’s no surprise that more consumers than ever are choosing “superfoods” that maximize their nutrients. Superfoods have become one of the hottest trends in the United States and the rest of the world. When one or two of these ingredients are advertised in smoothies, toasts or packaged health products, ears perk up and wallets quickly open.
Superfoods are flying off the shelves at grocery stores. Quinoa, for example, has been hailed as a top superfood for the past five years; between 2014 and 2015, sales of the seed rose 27%. The same year, sales of chia seeds soared by over 70%. The next year, the United States saw a 202% rise in “superfood” product launches. More than 30% of all nutrient-packed food and drinks launched globally now feature superfoods.
Calling a food or ingredient a “superfood” is the highest form of flattery—and will clearly clear the shelves. This title is now being handed over to turmeric. Turmeric may be the latest superfood to boast impressive sales, but not everyone is just learning about the benefits of this spice. Ayurvedic medicine has used turmeric for thousands of years as a healing supplement, with Indians long using it to spice up traditional dishes like curry.
Hot on the superfood bandwagon, Instagrammers are now using turmeric in “golden lattes,” “unicorn toast” and other dishes that need an extra boost of health, nutrients and that signature yellow color. Turmeric is trending, and it’s not long before you’ll find it on your dinner plate (if you haven’t already).
What are superfoods?
A superfood is known for the long list of health benefits or nutrients you can receive by adding it to your diet. The nutrients are naturally found in the food, and have always been around, but have been receiving extra attention in the past few years.
Examples of the hottest superfoods on the market include:
- Chia seeds
- Acai and goji berries
Turmeric is currently leading the pack as the top superfood for 2018.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is typically used as a spice, but this vibrant member of the ginger family is also used as a natural dye in everything from clothing to those golden lattes you’re seeing in local cafes. But it’s not just looks that have elevated turmeric’s superfood status.
The secret behind turmeric’s superfood success is an active component called curcumin, an antioxidant that protects cells from damage and aging. The effects of taking turmeric are overwhelmingly positive, and taking too much turmeric will not have negative side effects. People with everything from Crohn’s disease to certain cancers to skin conditions are turning to turmeric for the cell-based benefits of curcumin. It’s also been shown to have powerful brain-boosting effects.
The science behind turmeric
Unlike many health trends that promise the world, turmeric’s popularity isn’t just the product of gossip or colorful Instagram photos. More than 10,000 peer-reviewed articles have studied how curcumin and turmeric affect the body. Based on this enormous body of research, turmeric has been shown prevent or help to treat a variety of conditions.
- Anti-inflammatory disorders: Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties put it on the map as a superfood. Turmeric has been attributed to treating a long list of inflammatory diseases. One of these diseases is rheumatoid arthritis. While patients with arthritis are often referred to medications with high risks of side effects, using turmeric as an alternative has proven to be a safer and effective treatment. Turmeric may also have positive benefits for people with other inflammatory disorders, including high cholesterol and inflammatory bowel diseases.
- Alzheimer’s: A recent study from UCLA looked at how turmeric affected memory. Participants who complained about memory loss were given either 90 milligrams of curcumin twice a day or a placebo. The participants who took the curcumin experienced a 28% increase in memory abilities in just 18 months. Numerous studies on curcumin and memory make it a promising herb for preventing Alzheimer’s.
- Depression: A number of studies, including the UCLA study we just mentioned, have attributed turmeric to fighting depression and other mood disorders. Clinical studies offer evidence that turmeric can be used to manage depression symptoms after six weeks with the same effectiveness as current therapies and medications on the market.
- Acne and Psoriasis: The anti-inflammatory properties in curcumin can benefit the body inside and out. Studies have linked turmeric to calming psoriasis flares, giving the skin a healthy glow, and even curing scabies on the skin.
If you want to add turmeric to your diet, add one to four grams a day to your smoothies, curries or salads. Eat black pepper in conjunction with turmeric to help digestion. Give the curcumin time to work through your body; don’t expect your mood to improve or health disorders to disappear overnight. After a few weeks or months, you may start to see your overall health improve and symptoms decrease, thanks in part to this vibrant ancient herb.