Is Turmeric Good for Thyroid Thrivers?
You’ve probably heard about turmeric as a superfood or supplement, but is it worth consciously adding it to your thyroid-friendly diet? In this blog post and podcast episode, we'll take a closer look.
- The reported health benefits of turmeric
- Curcumin: The bioactive component of turmeric
- Is turmeric beneficial for Thyroid Thrivers?
- 3 ways to add more turmeric to your life
- Is occasionally cooking with turmeric enough to see benefits?
- How to get the most benefit from cooking with turmeric
- Fresh vs. dried turmeric
- Turmeric recipe ideas
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Disclaimer: This content is for educational and informational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before making changes to your diet, health care, or exercise regimen.
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Reported Health Benefits of Turmeric
If olive oil is the Liquid Gold of the Mediterranean, turmeric is the Solid Gold of India. Turmeric is also known as Indian Saffron because of its strong yellow color, which infuses any dish you add it to. It’s added to Indian curries for both color and flavor. It’s also used in many Moroccan and Thai dishes. Sometimes it’s used as a natural additive to things like mustard, cheese, and butter to make them more yellow. I add a pinch or two to my chicken bone broth to give it a touch of color.
The benefits of turmeric have been known for millennia. Some say it’s like culinary ibuprofen in terms of what it can do for inflammation. It’s also recommended for heart health, gastrointestinal health, as well as cancer prevention. It may even reduce the brain plaque associated with Alzheimer’s, and the arterial plaque (clogged arteries) associated with atherosclerosis (heart disease).
This vibrantly colored spice is commonly used in Chinese medicine to treat dozens of ailments including liver issues, respiratory issues, skin problems, wound healing, and muscle and joint pain. It has anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties. It lowers blood sugar and helps with diabetes. It may even help lower cholesterol.
The list of turmeric's health benefits is long, and though the spotlight that’s been put on this spice is not misplaced, it’s important to keep our expectations realistic. The internet has a way of over-inflating certain claims. Many of the studies on turmeric have not been of the gold-standard, double-blind, placebo-controlled variety, so before we dig in, let’s add a grain of salt to the pot.
Curcumin: The Bioactive Component of Turmeric
The bioactive component of turmeric responsible for that long list of potential health benefits is curcumin, a term sometimes used interchangeably in reference to turmeric and turmeric supplements. Curcumin is truly amazing stuff. And powerful. In studies, it often outperforms pharmaceuticals.
Is Turmeric Beneficial for Thyroid Thrivers?
According to experts like Dr. Izabella Wentz, turmeric addresses some of the most common issues associated with thyroid disease and autoimmune thyroid conditions. For example:
- It can help protect and heal the intestinal barrier (leaky gut).
- It can reduce inflammation throughout the body, in joints, muscle tissue, and even from GI conditions like Crohn’s, IBS, and ulcerative colitis.
- Studies have shown it to be as effective as Prozac in treating depression without the dangerous side effects.
- Turmeric can help decrease brain fog by improving oxygen intake to the brain, helping it heal, reducing the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and improving memory.
- Turmeric may help reduce high cholesterol (though there is some debate on this).
- It can reduce heavy metal toxicity in the body and help it recover from the effects of heavy metals. Dr. Wentz used turmeric in her recovery from arsenic poisoning!
So, the answer to our primary question is a resounding YES: Turmeric is worthy of a place on your thyroid-friendly menu.
3 Ways to Add More Turmeric to Your Life
- Supplementation: People take turmeric extract or curcumin in capsule form, and it is, in many cases, considered safe. However, it can have uncomfortable side effects and drug interactions, including risks for pregnant or nursing women. Consult with your trusted physician before taking a turmeric supplement (or any supplement).
- Drinking: You can drink turmeric in the form of an ancient Ayurvedic beverage called Golden Milk Tea. This is a middle-of-the-road way to achieve a substantial intake of the stuff without either taking a capsule or eating loads of curry. Check out my recipe Easy Instant Golden Milk Mix.
- Cooking: This is my favorite way to obtain the healing powers of turmeric. Because of its strong, pungent flavor, it’s used in small doses in cooking, which begs the next question:
Is Cooking with Turmeric Enough to See Benefits?
If you’re wondering whether adding those small, culinary “doses” of turmeric to your diet is enough to make a difference, here’s some food for thought:
A medical study entitled “The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s Disease” compared the rate of Alzheimer’s in curry-loving India versus the United States. Among adults aged 70-79, India’s rate of Alzheimer’s is 4.4 times lower!
This study went on to say that test subjects who ate curry on an occasional (less than 1x/month) or frequent (more than 1x/month) basis performed better on cognitive function tests than those who ate curry rarely or never.
Bottom Line: Yes, cooking with turmeric, even once a month, may benefit your health.
Further reading: Tuna: Is It Thyroid-Safe?
How Much Turmeric is in Curry Powder?
That depends. Turmeric is often the primary ingredient in curry powder, a blend of spices that can contain twenty or more ingredients. In creating a curry powder, turmeric serves as a base layer upon which to build all the other flavors in the curry powder. Its flavor profile is bittersweet and fruity with a subtle, ginger-like heat.
There are endless variations of curry powder recipes; some contain more turmeric than others. One way to make sure you are getting plenty of turmeric from your curry powder and a much more vibrant flavor is by making your own.
In this recipe for Curry Powder from Alton Brown, turmeric comprises nearly half of the spice blend. Other ingredients include cumin, cardamom, coriander, dry mustard, and cayenne. I would also add black pepper to Brown's formula, which increases the length of time curcumin remains in the body (i.e., its bioavailability).
You can also use store-bought curry powder and add extra turmeric powder and pepper to the dish to ensure you get adequate turmeric.
How Can I Get the Most Benefit from Cooking with Turmeric?
One thing to remember is that turmeric's bioavailability—or absorbability—is somewhat low. It flushes right through our systems. To help your body absorb and retain more beneficial curcumin from turmeric, there are a few things you can do when cooking with it to increase the benefits:
- Add healthy fat (ghee, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, etc.). Curcumin is fat-soluble.
- Add black pepper. The piperine found in pepper can increase the bioavailability of curcumin in humans by up to 2000%.
- Add heat. In other words, cook with it to increase solubility.
Fresh vs. Dried Turmeric: Does it Matter?
In terms of flavor, the difference between fresh and dried turmeric is similar to the difference between fresh and dried ginger. Fresh turmeric root has a much brighter and more bold flavor. Dried turmeric is muted but still manages to infuse flavor when cooked with moisture of any kind.
Dried turmeric is also more convenient, easier to find, and easier to store than fresh turmeric root.
Rule of Thumb for fresh vs. dried turmeric:
1 inch fresh turmeric = 1 tablespoon freshly grated turmeric = 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
If you have access to both fresh and dried turmeric, you can experiment and decide which type of turmeric is best for which application. If you can find fresh turmeric, it’s worth a try. Otherwise, sticking with dried turmeric is just fine.
Thyroid-healthy Recipes Featuring Turmeric:
- Red Lentil Rainbow Soup
- Turmeric Hot Chocolate
- Salmon, Sweet Potato and Watercress Salad with Turmeric Cream
- AIP Lamb Hash with Carrot and Celery Root
- Easy Instant Golden Milk
- Chicken Bone Broth
- Mild and Creamy Butterless Butter Chicken (Low FODMAP)
I’ll leave it up to you to decide which of these recipes best fits your current dietary needs. Hope this has inspired you to try cooking with more turmeric and to believe in the healing potential of what we choose to eat.
Happy healing and bon appetit!
P.S. Need more thyroid-friendly recipe inspiration? I’ve got you covered. My Thyroid-friendly Everyday eCookbook features over 50 quick and easy, thyroid-friendly recipes your whole family will love. To take a peek at what’s inside, CLICK HERE.