Adding turmeric to your diet is an excellent and delicious way to boost fat burning and weight loss. Turmeric is a yellow-orange spice derived from the root-like rhizomes, or underground stems, of a plant called Curcuma longa. It has a mild, aromatic, slightly bitter flavour and a rich, vibrant, saffron colour.
Turmeric contains a blend of different curcuminoid pigments, of which the most active is curcumin, a yellow, antioxidant pigment. Curcumin has many beneficial effects on health that it is now one of the most researched dietary ingredients. Curcumin interacts with cell signalling systems to regulate their growth and activity, damp down inflammation, and ramp up your metabolism.
Turmeric is a SIRT food
Turmeric is traditionally used to support weight loss, and scientists are now beginning to understand how it works as a powerful SIRT food.
Turmeric contains over 2,200 mg of curcumin per 100g, plus over 3000mg of other beneficial curcuminoid derivatives. These have been found to activate five different SIRT proteins (sirtuins 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7) to boost your metabolism, stimulate cell repair and reduce premature cell ageing.
- Turmeric curcumin interacts with white adipose tissue (WAT) to reduce fat accumulation and the release of inflammatory chemicals.
- Turmeric increases the activity of brown adipose tissue (BAT), boosting your metabolic rate so you burn more fat as fuel
- Turmeric increases the amount of energy used to generate heat – contributing to the increased sweating you may experience when eating a curry
- Turmeric prevents the formation of new fat cells (adipocytes) from a precursor cells known as pre-adipocytes.
- Turmeric preferentially stimulates fat loss while preserving lean muscle.
- Turmeric improves the fatty liver changes which are often present in people who are overweight, through improved metabolism of fat.
Within fat cells, turmeric also regulates the production of hormones linked with obesity, such as resistin and visfatin (which affect insulin sensitivity), leptin (a satiety hormone whose levels increase in obesity), apelin (a hormone that may inhibit food intake), omentin (a hormone that is decreased in obesity) and adiponectin (a hormone involved in fat breakdown whose levels decrease in obesity).
Because of its effects on SIRT proteins, curcumin mimics the beneficial metabolic effects of caloric restriction without having to drastically cut back on calories. As a result of all these beneficial actions, and others (involved in pruning out abnormal cells) turmeric extracts have been shown to lengthen the lifespan of roundworms by 39%, fruit flies by 20% and mice by 11%. Whether or not it can enhance human longevity remains to be seen!
Turmeric and weight loss
Turmeric extracts, consisting of highly purified and bioavailable curcumin, were tested in 44 people with metabolic syndrome who had insulin resistance and a tendency to store fat around their waist (visceral fat). They had previously failed to lose a significant amount of weight (0.7% body fat) while following a simple diet and lifestyle program for 30 days. They agreed to continue this diet for a further 30 days while also taking curcumin supplements (complexed with phosphatidylserine to boost absorption) or placebo (plain phosphatidylserine without curcumin).
Those receiving the active turmeric curcumin extract showed a significantly increased weight loss (4.91% body weight from 85.2 kg down to 83.6kg) and enhanced reduction of body fat (8.43%) as well as significant reductions in their waistline (2.5cm) and hip circumference (0.8 cm). There were no significant changes in those not taking curcumin.
Curcumin is not that well absorbed, so that only around 1% of the curcumin present in turmeric powder is absorbed. Adding a black pepper extract, piperine, boosts curcumin absorption by as much as 2000%. Some supplements also use solubilised turmeric, or other clever ways to increase the amount of curcumin absorbed.
How to add turmeric to your diet
Use turmeric powder that is as fresh as possible to obtain the most benefits. Ditch any old turmeric in your spice cupboard which has faded in colour or scent, and buy your spices in small quantities, little and often. Store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
To maximise absorption of curcumin, use the spice in a dish that also contains white or black pepper – the piperine in the pepper makes it easier for the body to absorb any curcumin that’s present in a meal.
Sprinkle a teaspoon turmeric powder onto any individual serving of food and stir in. Try it in muesli, porridge, salad dressings, yogurt, soups, stews and sauces.
Turmeric SIRT paste
Mix together 1 tablespoon freshly ground turmeric, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add this paste to soups, stews, casseroles, curries or other dishes to provide colour and SIRT activation.
Mix 1 tablespoon turmeric powder with 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence, the juice and grated rind of 1 lemon, and a good pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Use to marinade tofu, fish or meat before cooking.
When cooking rice, add 2 teaspoons turmeric to the water to colour the grains.
This increasingly popular drink is available as ready to mix powder or you can make your own using this recipe:
- 350ml almond milk (or any other milk according to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric or curcumin powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/5 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or a Stevia alternative for no sugar)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat gently, while whisking. When hot (don’t allow to boil) pour into a mug and sprinkle with extra cinnamon or cacao powder to serve.