Turmeric or Curcumin - What's The Difference & What Should You Take?

turmeric or curcumin

In recent years, turmeric has gained recognition for its many health benefits. It grows as a tuber and can be grated onto food or dried and ground up for use as a spice. Doctors, lifestyle bloggers, and the general public have excitedly noted its effects on the body. One of the three most popular supplements on the market since 2015, more people seem to discover it every year. Turmeric can reduce inflammation in conditions like arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. Turmeric also has properties that can lower cholesterol levels. The compounds this root contains, known as curcuminoids, are responsible for its anti-inflammatory and other beneficial properties.

The problem with turmeric is that it doesn't always absorb well when it's added toturmeric with black pepper foods. There are workarounds for this, of course. When it's paired with black pepper, it becomes more bioavailable. However, since one of the most common methods of consumption is in tea, adding black pepper is not always an option. The other issue when cooking with turmeric is that the amount of curcumin is not standardized. Each curry you eat will have a different amount of the beneficial, active compounds. Taking turmeric extract as a supplement solves both of these problems. You get a standard dose, in a formulation designed to absorb efficiently.

Turmeric Versus Curcumin

The active compounds in turmeric that confer health benefits are known as curcuminoids. They include curcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and demethoxycurcumin. Curcumin, which has been the subject of extensive study, is particularly active and is by far the most famous compound in turmeric. As anti-inflammatories go, it's hard to beat. It also occurs in higher quantity than the other constituent compounds of turmeric.

turmeric root

Although it's possible to get curcumin as a standalone supplement, it's always preferable to take whole turmeric. That is because the bisdemethoxycurcumin and demethoxycurcumin, although occurring in smaller quantities, provide benefits of their own. Other chemicals contained in this spice, including certain naturally occurring oils, may also offer health benefits.

There's no downside to taking whole turmeric, which ensures that you're getting the benefits of everything this root has to offer. Nature has packaged the curcumin perfectly, surrounding it with complementary compounds including other curcuminoids. In fact, it seems that taking whole turmeric can provide a host of medical and lifestyle benefits that curcumin alone does not. For example, turmeric appears to help regulate blood fat levels after meals. This spice also contains small amounts of beneficial elements and even some B vitamins that will support your health in general. But of course, we're back to the problems of absorption and dosage. How can you take whole turmeric and still control for those issues? 

Benefits of Turmeric Extract 

Turmeric extract is an excellent solution to any and all of these issues. Itturmeric benefits preserves the full benefits of the root, rather than isolating just one curcuminoid. The extract also has a longer shelf life and will remain potent much longer than a simple tuber will. In fact, some extracts can be stored several years with no loss in potency. Of course, if you're using this supplement daily, that three-year shelf life won't be an issue. But it's good to know that the supplement is in no danger of expiring. A tuber bought at the store degrades much more quickly. And spices that are processed and dried in facilities overseas can raise all kinds of questions about quality control.

Whole turmeric extract supplements are also formulated for maximum absorption. Many turmeric extract capsules are formulated to contain bioperine, that compound in black pepper that makes it more easily absorbed into the body. They also specify what dosage you're receiving. Many supplements contain 1000mg turmeric extract. Other formulations are liquid and preserve the contents of the plant correctly. These suspensions absorb much more rapidly than capsules. They also engage the senses of smell and taste, which some people believe helps your body recognize and process the extract more effectively. Finally, natural plant alcohols safely preserve the supplement in this state for years.

Increased Potency

turmeric extract benefits

Turmeric extracts concentrate and standardize levels of curcuminoids. Many even include unique formulations of 95% standardized curcuminoids, which is a much more potent concentration than is naturally found in the turmeric tuber. In its natural form, turmeric is usually made up of just 2% to 3% curcuminoid compounds. Although it's a great idea to incorporate whole foods and spices into your lifestyle, in some cases a little processing can be preferable, and this is one of them. Reputable supplement companies that market turmeric extract have stringent quality control procedures. Because of this, you always know, exactly, what you are getting and what you're not.

The increased potency of turmeric extracts is one of their most significant selling points. People who struggle with joint pain, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and other issues might feel that more of a good thing is better. So far, there is no reason to disbelieve this. Turmeric extracts allow you to get more of the anti-inflammatory benefits than merely grating the root or shaking some dry powder onto your food. 

Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive. Although extracts are best for health benefits, turmeric itself can still be useful for its flavor and color in cooking. There's no unsafe level of turmeric for healthy adults.





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