Ask the Diva: What's the Best Way to Get Curcumin?
Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound that shows promise as a therapy for Alzheimer's disease. What's the best way to get it from your diet?
Q. "I have been advised to take a curcumin supplement. Is it possible to get this from foods? If so, which foods?"
A. As far as I know, curcumin is found in only one food: turmeric. Like its cousin ginger, turmeric is a rhizome--a fleshy root that grows underground. You can sometimes find fresh turmeric root in grocery stores (especially Asian or ethnic groceries) but most people use turmeric as a dried ground spice, either all by itself or as one of the spices in curry powder. It's the curcumin that gives turmeric and curry powder their vivid orange color. One teaspoon of ground turmeric contains about 100mg of curcumin.
Unfortunately, curcumin does not seem to be very well absorbed in the body--so you have to take in a fair amout (up to 4,000 mg per day) in order to raise blood levels of curcumin and its metabolites. That's probably a lot more turmeric (or curry powder) than most people could work into their daily diet. For those who are trying to use curcumin therapeutically, supplements are probably more practical.
However, it can't hurt to incorporate turmeric and curry powder into your diet as well. Try adding a teaspoon or two of turmeric to your next batch of rice--it turns the rice a beautiful yellow color and adds a warm flavor. Or, try adding a teaspoon or two of curry powder (along with a handful of golden raisins) to ordinary tuna salad for an exciting twist on an old standby.