As an oncology dietitian, a common question I am asked is, “Are there any supplements you recommend?”
The truth is, I am a huge believer in naturally obtaining nutrients through food whenever possible. Research proves, in most cases, supplemented nutrients fail to provide the same level of nutrient-rich benefits as the organic consumption of food. Thus, even though I wish I could tell you that all you needed to do was order supplement x, y or z through Amazon, it’s not the best approach in terms of your complete health.
The medical findings to date point towards the belief that nutrients work synergistically [together] to promote optimal health in the body. A vitamin, mineral, or other nutrient isolated all on its own is not nearly as beneficial as it is found in a whole food. Actually, these isolated nutrients can sometimes even have adverse effects!
For example, a 2013 study from the World Journal of Gastroenterology found dozens of reported cases of liver toxicity linked to the use of green-tea extract pills (1). Yet, we do know green-tea contains cancer fighting properties, specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) (2).
If you’re one of the people who takes these extract pills, I highly recommend replacing the supplement with a steamy cup of green-tea itself!
Now let’s touch on something I can recommend you take everyday, turmeric...
Benefits of Turmeric/Cucumin
Thousands of studies have been published in medical literature supporting the use of turmeric and/or curcumin. Turmeric is the yellow spice traditionally used in many Indian dishes. Curcumin is the component of turmeric that gives turmeric its bright yellow color.
(Fun fact: It’s also what gives yellow mustard its signature color.)
Do you remember reading ‘Our Top 5 Anti-Inflammatory Foods’ blog post? If so, you may recall turmeric/curcumin is anti-inflammatory which is incredibly beneficial for our health. Why? We go a little more in depth about this in our post titled ‘Pro-Inflammatory Foods’, but since inflammation has been identified as the root cause of numerous chronic diseases we need to incorporate plenty of anti-inflammatory foods into our diet.
Additionally, curcumin has been found to block angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels (3). While the creation of new blood vessels may sound like a healthy phenomenon, it can actually be detrimental in fighting cancer cells. When a tumor creates its own blood supply (through new or existing blood vessels) it thrives, grows, and eventually metastasizes, or spreads. Curcumin has been found to play a role in preventing a tumor from creating its own blood supply.
👍🏻Two thumbs up for anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic properties! 👍🏻
Related to its anti-inflammatory + anti-angiogenic properties, curcumin has been shown to play a role in preventing or treating lung disease, brain disease, and a variety of cancers, including multiple myeloma, colon cancer, and pancreatic cancer (4).
But that’s not all...
Curcumin has also been found to effectively treat:
Rheumatoid arthritis - better than the leading drug of choice (5)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (8)
Before you rush to the store to stock your shelves with curcumin supplements, let’s take a look at some interesting details regarding this component of turmeric...
Curcumin vs. Turmeric - What’s More Effective?
While curcumin is believed to contribute most of turmeric’s health properties, research suggests that curcumin is not as effective when isolated from turmeric as a whole - sound familiar? Just like other nutrients are best consumed in tandem with their other naturally occurring ingredients, the same is true of curcumin as it relates to turmeric.
In a study conducted by MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, turmeric vs. curcumin was trialed against seven different human cancer cells in vitro (a petri dish). Curcumin itself was effective, but turmeric was even better. These findings suggest turmeric as a whole may contribute more to anticancer activities. (9)
Dosing is something we should also be concerned with. Within research studies, doses of turmeric range from less than 1/16th of a teaspoon upwards to 2 tablespoons per day (10). Studies are limited when assessing high turmeric doses for long periods of time. Therefore, it is recommended to consume turmeric in standard culinary amounts, which is to say, about ¼ teaspoon each day--similar to the average consumption in Indian diets (11).
Why Make Your Own Supplements?
If you are the type of person that leans towards the simplicity and ease of use supplements provide, you might want to consider making your own. We advise this is because there has been conclusive evidence of contaminated turmeric supplements containing all sorts of toxic metals like arsenic, cadmium and lead. Thankfully, none of the powdered turmeric samples tested in the U.S. were found contaminated--only the supplements. (12)
Whew! Another win for food over supplements!
How Can I Incorporate Turmeric Daily?
I enjoy adding ground turmeric:
Sprinkled on avocado toast
Added to soups--like this Gingered Butternut Squash Soup!
Sprinkled on roasted, mixed vegetables
When I enjoy some Indian take out such as, Yellow Lentil Dal or Chana Masala (Yum!)
California Burritos (See Recipe Below)
There are a variety of ways to include it in your diet. However, if you’re like me, you find it challenging to incorporate it into foods every single day. So, after a little while, I decided I would try making my own turmeric supplements, you know, for the days when I just didn’t feel like adding it to my food.
After all, you’ve got to have options, right?
So, here’s what you need:
Size ‘00’ is the perfect size to fit ¼ teaspoon.
Why black pepper? Research shows the bioavailability (or, the body’s ability to use) of turmeric increases by 2,000% when combined with black pepper due to the compound piperine! (13)
Research doesn't specify the quantity or ratio of black pepper and turmeric. If you add 1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric to foods daily make sure you add a pinch of black pepper. [Technically speaking, 'a pinch' is equal to 1/8 teaspoon.] If you decide to make your own turmeric capsules, consider adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup ground black pepper per pound of ground turmeric.
To help you walk through the steps on how to actually make the capsules, we made a video to show you. You can find the video here.
*Update: Please note, the video mentions a size 0 capsule. However, a size 00 capsule will be needed to equal 1/4 teaspoon serving. However, a size 0 is still great if that’s what you have!
Grab a family member or a good friend, turn on some music, and enjoy making some turmeric capsules. It is actually quite therapeutic to make them--not just to take them!
Rather watch all of the videos at once? Check out the Full Video on how to make your own turmeric capsules.
This turmeric may cause increased pain for individuals who have gallstones obstructing the bile duct. (14)
Too much turmeric may increase the risk of certain kidney stones as turmeric is high in soluble oxalates.
Turmeric is considered safe during pregnancy, but curcumin supplements may not be. (14)
Check with your doctor or health care provider before taking any supplements.
Please review our medical disclaimer here.
Want to make a meal with turmeric tonight? Here is one of my favorites!
Adapted from forksmealplanner.com | Serves: 6 | Ready In: 30 minutes
1 large onion, diced
¼ cup vegetable broth
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups frozen organic corn (yes, we recommend organic!)
1, 15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed & drained
1, 15.5 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
Salt, to taste
6 Angelic Bakehouse wraps (or, whole grain tortillas)
In a large saucepan, cook the onion in vegetable broth over medium heat for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir occasionally and add more broth if onions begin to stick.
Add chili powder, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper (if using); cook and stir 1 additional minute. Stir in corn and beans; cook 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. If desired, stir in nutritional yeast. Season with salt.
In a dry non-stick skillet over medium heat, warm tortillas one at a time for 40 seconds or until warm. Cover with damp cloth to keep warm.
Now it’s time to dish it up! Add the ‘filling’ and add your desired toppings.
Patel SS, Beer S, Kearney DL, Phillips G, Carter BA. Green tea extract: a potential cause of acute liver failure. World J Gastroenterol. 2013;19(31):5174-7.
AICR's Foods That Fight Cancer™. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2018, from http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/Tea.html
Bhandarkar, S., & Arbiser, J. (2007). Curcumin as an inhibitor of angiogenesis. Adv Exp Med Biol,(595), 185-95. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-46401-5_7
Greger, M., MD. (2015). Herbs and Spices. In How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease (p. 351). New York, NY: Flatiron Books.
Chandran B, Goel A. A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012;26(11):1719-25.
Kuptniratsaikul V, Dajpratham P, Taechaarpornkul W, et al. Efficacy and safety of Cucuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study. Clin Interv Aging. 2014;9:451-8.
Khajehdehi P, Zanjaninejad B, Aflaki E, et al. Oral supplementation of turmeric decreases proteinuria, hematuria, and systolic blood pressure in patient suffering from relapsing or refractory lupus nephritis: a randomized and placebo-controlled study. J Ren Nutr. 2012;22(1):50-7.
Vecchi Brumatti L, Marcuzzi A, Tricarico PM, Zanin V, Girardelli M, Bianco AM. Curcumin and inflammatory bowel disease: potential and limits of innovative treatments. Molecules. 2014;19(12):21127-53.
Kim JH, Gupta SC, Park B, Yadav VR, Aggarwal BB. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) inhibits inflammatory nuclear factor (NF)-kB and NF-kB-regulated gene products and induces death receptors leading to suppressed proliferation, induced chemosensitization, and supressed osteoclastogenesis. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012;56(3):454-65.
Gupta SC, Sung B, Kim JH, Prasad S, Li S, Aggarwal BB. Multitargeting by turmeric, the golden spice: from kitchen to clinic. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013;57(9):1510-28.
Siruguri V, Bhat RV. Assessing intake of spices by pattern of spice use, frequency of consumption and portion size of spices consumed from routinely prepared dishes in southern India. Nutr J. 2015;14-7.
Turmeric and cucrumin supplements and spices. https://consumerlab.com/reviews/turmeric-curcumin-supplements-spice-review/turmeric/. July 4th, 2018. Accessed July 30, 2018.
Shoba, G., Joy, D., Joseph, T., Majeed, M., Rajendran, R., & Srinivas, P. (1998). Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. [Abstract]. Influence of Piperine on the Pharmacokinetics of Curcumin in Animals and Human Volunteers.,353-6. doi:10.1055/s-2006-957450
Asher GN, Spelman K. Clinical utility of curcumin extract. Altern Ther Health Med. 2013;19(2):20-2.