Does Cooking Really Destroy the Health Properties of Turmeric?

How Cooking and Heat Affect Turmeric (and Black Pepper)

Turmeric is considered to be one of the most powerful herbs for fighting and potentially reversing disease. It is also a delicious spice to add depth of flavor and color to any meal. That is why turmeric is a staple ingredient for many Indian and Caribbean dishes and is used as a natural coloring agent for many other food products.

If you conduct an online search for the “health benefits of turmeric”, you will find that it is becoming very popular to use this spice in home remedies. In fact, on this website, I wrote about turmeric and how it may help treat conditions like inflammatory pain, cardiovascular problems, depression, and even as a facial mask. It is also used as a natural antibiotic and natural pain reliever. For all these reasons and many more, turmeric has been called the “Spice for Life”.

This article looks at how cooking and heat affect turmeric and if any of the healing properties of turmeric are lost during the cooking process. In addition to that, we will look at how science backs up many of the claims about the health benefits of turmeric.

Please read on to find out how cooking with turmeric can benefit your health and general well-being.

Turmeric and its Health Benefits

Turmeric is closely related to ginger and grows mainly in southern Asia. The stems, which grow underground, are harvested, and are used fresh or dried and then ground into a fine yellow powder. The main compound of turmeric is curcumin; however, it also contains smaller amounts of zingiberene, which is the main compound of ginger.

Many studies into the therapeutic effects of curcumin have found that it is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent with amazing health benefits. For example, the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology found that enzymes in curcumin help to reduce inflammatory conditions and it also contains powerful antioxidant properties.1 Another study said that curcumin has shown the potential to be used in the fight against diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, allergies, and other chronic illnesses. It also has antiviral, antibacterial, and anticancer activities.2

This means that turmeric is an important ingredient in many natural home remedies to cure various ailments. However, turmeric is poorly absorbed into the body and needs to be used in conjunction with other ingredients to increase absorption.

Turmeric and Black Pepper – The Health Connection

Black pepper is one of the best ingredients to use together with turmeric in order to increase the health benefits of turmeric and boost its potency. Black pepper contains an alkaloid called piperine and helps curcumin to get better absorbed into the body.

One study showed that by combining curcumin and piperine, the absorption rate of curcumin was increased by around 2000%.3

In order to get the benefits of turmeric when cooking, you should add black pepper so that your body can benefit fully from it.

However, there remains an important question: does the cooking process affect the healing properties of turmeric? This is an important question because the heat in cooking food can alter its nutritional content. Some people are concerned that the bioactive ingredients of curcumin and piperine could be lost during cooking resulting in a reduction of their therapeutic and medicinal benefits.

Does Cooking Destroy the Health Properties of Turmeric?

There is a general debate on whether it’s best to consume vegetables and fruits raw or cooked. On the one hand, some vitamins are lost from certain fruits and vegetables during the cooking process. However, many nutrients are actually increased thanks to the cooking process.

For example, lycopene is found in tomatoes and is an important antioxidant that helps prevent heart disease, certain cancers, and other chronic illnesses. However, studies show that cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene and more antioxidants than fresh tomatoes.4

As with all foods, when turmeric and piperine are heated, changes occur in their nutritional value. One study showed that when turmeric is heated between 15 and 30 minutes, about 85% of curcumin is lost in the cooking process. Around 50% of piperine was also lost when cooked together with curry powder.5

However, this doesn’t mean to say that there is a loss in the amount of medicinal and antioxidant properties in these two ingredients. Another study showed that boiling or roasting turmeric actually increases the antioxidant levels by over 50%.6 So although curcumin is broken down during cooking and heating, the antioxidant properties become more intense.

Let’s look a bit more closely to see just how the antioxidant properties of turmeric are increased during the cooking process.

Cooking and Heat Enhance the Antioxidant Properties of Turmeric

When curcumin is heated, certain compounds that are not readily available in its fresh form are released.

The journal Food & Function found that when curcumin was roasted, it released 3 antioxidant compounds – vanillin, ferulic acid, and 4-vinyl guaiacol.7 These antioxidants are known to have a beneficial effect on preventing serious diseases. For example, both vanillin and ferulic acid are known to help protect against certain cancers. All three of these antioxidants have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.7, 8

Another study published in the journal Food Chemistry found that heating curcumin releases another cancer-fighting compound called “deketene curcumin”. The study said that this is a more powerful anti-cancer compound than just curcumin and it can be extracted “during common household cooking”.9

Therefore, the cooking process does not lower the levels of antioxidants in curcumin, in fact, it does the complete opposite. Cooking with curcumin causes powerful antioxidants to be released resulting in many health benefits.

To fully benefit from the antioxidant and anticancer benefits of turmeric, it is important that you use turmeric in cooking as this will increase the amount of antioxidants that are available and can be absorbed into the body.

How to Increase the Absorption of Curcumin

Heating turmeric during cooking will help to increase the amount of curcumin that the body can absorb.

This fact was proven by a study looking at ways of increasing the bioavailability (the amount the body can absorb) of curcumin. It was found that the body can absorb 12 times more curcumin and 3 times more turmeric when it is heated to 100°C.10 Therefore, rather than sprinkle some ground turmeric on your salad, you should add it to food when cooking it.

As mentioned at the outset of this article, piperine in black pepper can help the body to absorb more curcumin. That is why, if you are looking to buy a curcumin supplement, you should always look for one with piperine added.

It is also interesting that black pepper also contains antioxidant properties, and clinical trials have also shown that piperine itself can be an effective anti-inflammatory agent.11 Like curcumin, piperine doesn’t lose its antioxidant activities when heated. In fact, information published by the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition showed that piperine has a protective effect against carcinogens that form on foods when they are fried or grilled on a barbecue.12

Oil also helps the body to absorb curcumin as curcumin is practically insoluble in water. 10 So make sure and use healthy oils like olive oil or coconut oil when cooking your food with turmeric.

How to Use Turmeric and Black Pepper when Cooking

The combination of turmeric and black pepper in cooking provides you with powerful antioxidants which can give you many health benefits.

There are many practical ways around the kitchen to incorporate turmeric into your cooking. Here are a few helpful tips to get help your body absorb as much curcumin as possible:

  • Add turmeric towards the end of cooking so that less curcumin is lost in the cooking process but that it heats up enough to release antioxidants.
  • Add turmeric to gentle cooking methods like steamed food to make sure that none of its antioxidant properties are lost in the cooking process.
  • Consume “golden milk”, the famous Ayurvedic drink which has many health benefits – see the recipe and instructions here.
  • If you want to consume turmeric without cooking, you could add some to buttermilk. This is because a study in 2016 showed that buttermilk stabilizes the compounds in curcumin and helps more of it to be absorbed into the body.13 Alternatively, you can try some of my delicious anti-inflammatory smoothies that contain turmeric or these turmeric dressings.
  • If you plan to grill or barbecue meat, marinade the meat with a combination of oil, turmeric, black pepper and other ingredients and spices to prevent carcinogenic compounds forming.
  • You can make a refreshing turmeric and ginger tea to ease pain and inflammation.

You can spice up your meals and give your body a health boost if you use more fresh as well as cooked turmeric. If you make sure and add black pepper to your recipes, you will find that you not only create delicious, tasty meals, but your health may improve as well.

It appears to be that gentle cooking process which is not too prolong doesn’t degrade the medicinal properties of turmeric. In fact, it can only enhances its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Related articles:
1. How to Optimize Turmeric Absorption for Super Boosted Benefits
2. How to Make Anti-Inflammatory and Pain Relief Turmeric Ginger Tea
3. Turmeric Golden Milk – The Ancient Drink That Will Change Your Life

Article Sources

Healthy and Natural World