Turmeric, aka “the golden spice,” is known for its medicinal qualities, vibrant yellow color, and use in Asian and Indian cuisine (anyone else suddenly craving spicy chicken curry?).
But is the golden spice also a golden ticket to weight loss?
So before you put your favorite Indian restaurant on speed-dial, let’s get into the science on whether or not turmeric can actually help shed pounds.
What we’ve heard from the lab
Results from research completed in humans and animals shows that turmeric and curcumin may be beneficial for weight loss.
Multiple animal studies have indicated that curcumin may not only promote weight loss, but it may help to hinder regaining weight, reduce the growth of fat tissue, and boost sensitivity to insulin when used in high doses.
Curcumin’s also known as an anti-inflammatory, and test-tube studies suggest that this may help to hold off certain inflammatory markers that may result in obesity. These same markers are present in those who have excess weight or obesity, indicating that curcumin may be beneficial in curbing their weight gain.
What human studies have to say
For us human folks, curcumin doesn’t absorb well into the bloodstream without a little help. This is why curcumin is often combined with pepper, which contains a compound called piperine, that helps boost curcumin absorption by up to 2,000 percent.
In one study, 44 peeps who’d been unable to lose a significant amount of weight before the study were given 800 mg of curcumin and 8 mg of piperine twice a day for 30 days. After the 30 days, participants had lost a significant amount of body weight, had smaller waistlines and hip circumferences, and had lower body mass indexes (BMI).
Other studies have shown similar weight loss potential in curcumin, with a review of 21 studies in 1,600+ people linking curcumin use with not only lower weight, but also a lower BMI and waistline.
Again, while these initial results may say “outlook good,” more research is still needed on turmeric’s effect on human weight loss.
Following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are the best ways to safely lose weight. Turmeric may be used to supplement diet and exercise, but it alone is not a fast-pass to weight loss. There’s still a lot more research needed on this mysterious spice before it can be fully recommended for weight loss.
Both turmeric and curcumin are generally considered safe to use, but more research is still needed.
Findings suggest that taking up to 12 grams of curcumin daily for shorter periods of time are unlikely to put your health at risk. However, there isn’t enough info on the effects of prolonged use, so you should avoid taking high doses of turmeric for more than 2-3 months at a time.
It’s also best to avoid turmeric supplements if you have any of the following conditions:
- Iron deficiency: Turmeric and certain other spices may prevent proper iron absorption.
- Bleeding disorders: curcumin may affect blood clotting, meaning it might cause issues for those with bleeding disorders.
- Kidney stones: turmeric can increase your urine’s oxalate levels, which can put you at a higher risk of forming kidney stones.
- Pregnancy: the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health suggests that you avoid high doses of turmeric if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, as there’s not enough research available on whether or not it’s safe for them.
Research also shows that curcumin may interact with medications like antibiotics, anticoagulants, antihistamines, chemotherapy drugs, or cardiovascular drugs.
It’s also important to note that some turmeric products may be made with mysterious “filler ingredients” that might not show up on the label – yikes. To avoid being clueless, opt for supplements that are certified by NSF International, Informed Choice, or another trusted third party.
Before adding turmeric or curcumin supplements into your diet, talk to your doctor to ensure it’s safe for you.
Turmeric is available in several forms, so getting your fix in is super simple. While it’s easiest to use as a spice, you can also use raw turmeric root or a turmeric/curcumin supplement or extract.
Keep in mind that recipes that contain turmeric are not the same as turmeric or curcumin supplements. Foods that contain turmeric are much less concentrated than turmeric supplements and are unlikely to have the same therapeutic effects as high-dose curcumin supplements.
To help you get started, we’ve rounded up a couple of our fave tasty turmeric recipes:
Turmeric golden milk latte
Packed with immune-boosting goodness, not only is a golden latte super delish, it’s also super good for you. This easy to make drink combines all the benefits of turmeric with those of ginger, cinnamon, and milk (or your fave milk alternative!).
- ½ cup (120 ml) unsweetened milk of your choice
- 1 tsp ground, grated, or powdered turmeric
- ½ tsp of ginger powder (or 1 small piece of freshly grated ginger)
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Pinch of black pepper (gotta get that piperine in!)
- Optional: honey or maple syrup to taste
Add all ingredients into a small pot or saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes, so it gets nice and fragrant. Then strain it into your fave mug and enjoy! (For a pinch of extra-ness, top your latte with a pinch of cinnamon.)
Turmeric ginger tea
This flavorful drink’s not only jam-packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and a punch of Vitamin C, but it can also be enjoyed either hot or cold depending on your preference (or the weather!).
- 6 cups water
- Thinly sliced medium (about 2 inches) ginger root
- Thinly sliced medium (about 2 inches) turmeric root
- 1 sliced lemon
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- Optional: honey to taste
In a saucepan or pot, combine the water, ginger, turmeric, half of your lemon slices, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Then strain into a glass, add honey to taste (if you’d like), and top with a fresh lemon slice. You can also strain the mixture into a glass pitcher or other storage container to refrigerate and serve over ice later!
Mushroom curry (vegetarian)
There are endless uses for using turmeric as a spice in any dish, but the most popular is in curries. While a traditional curry is always a comforting go-to, this mushroom spin is great for both vegetarians and meat lovers alike. Plus, it’s packed with fresh produce and herbs for a flavorful and filling meal.
- 600g button mushrooms
- 3 large tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
- 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
- 6 cloves roughly chopped garlic
- 3 tbsp ghee (or olive oil)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- Pinch chilli powder or dried chilli
- Sea salt (to taste)
- Muscovado or unrefined raw sugar (to taste)
- Cooked basmati rice and coriander leaves
In a food processor, blend the tomato, ginger, and garlic (or finely chop, if a food processor isn’t available). Over medium-high heat, cook fennel and cumin seeds for 20 seconds, then add the mushrooms. Cook for 2-3 minutes while stirring often, then add coriander, turmeric, chili, and salt. Mix together well, then add your tomato/ginger/garlic mix.
Stir well, then cover and reduce heat. Let the mixture cook for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Feel free to add sugar to taste, if you’d like. Serve over rice and enjoy the deliciousness!
There are many different turmeric supplements on the market, most of which include black pepper to give the curcumin that piperine boost.
A turmeric supplement will deliver a higher dose of curcumin than a simple spice will – in fact, turmeric spice only contains 2-8 percent curcumin, while a supplement can contain as much as 95 percent!
There’s no “official” guide to what dosage to take. While most research suggests a daily intake of 500 – 2,000 mg, it’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s directions and talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions.
When shopping for turmeric or curcumin products, it’s important to choose high-quality supplements that are third-party tested for purity. Although supplements are monitored by the FDA, they are not as strictly regulated as pharmaceuticals, meaning that supplements aren’t always safe and effective. This is why it’s essential to consult your doctor before starting a new supplement and always to choose trusted brands. And always check the label to make sure that your supplement’s been verified by an independent third party (like NSF International or USP) to ensure its safety and quality.
The popular spice turmeric contains the compound curcumin, which is touted for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. It’s these abilities that make turmeric chock-full of healthy benefits, from heart and brain health to promoting glowing skin.
While curcumin has been shown to be possibly effective for boosting weight loss in some human and animal research, much more high-quality human studies are needed to fully verify these claims.
Turmeric and curcumin are considered safe to use (curry lovers rejoice!), but may interact with certain medications or conditions if taken in high amounts. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.