Turmeric lattes and the golden age of health drinks
The golden latte has become the morning drink of choice for health aficionados. While turmeric has been used in cooking and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries in India, it’s a relatively new addition to the growing list of healthy hot drinks on offer at trendy Sydney cafes – alongside chai, matcha and the bulletproof coffee.
In their latest report on Food Trends, Google dubbed turmeric as a “rising star” and a top trending ingredient after searches for the spice grew 56 per cent from November 2015 to January 2016.
The rapid rise hasn’t gone unnoticed by Sydney baristas. Michael Johnston, head barista at Ruby Lane, an organic eatery in Manly, recently told the Sydney Morning Herald that he makes upwards of 50 turmeric lattes per day – compared to 15 which was the standard when they first opened doors at the beginning of the year (2016).
Made from a blend of turmeric and other spices such as cinnamon, pepper and ginger the earthy taste could be responsible for some of the hype. It’s the touted health benefits, however, that are more likely luring in the masses.
TRY IT NOW: Goodbye coffee, hello turmeric latte
Heralded for its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric is also held up as a cancer preventative, a weight loss supplement, a cognitive booster and a treatment for diabetes, amongst other things.
And as it turns out, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that may back up these claims.
What the science says
In 2012 the Nutrition Journal conducted a study of healthy people aged 40 to 60 and found that a low dose of a curcumin (80 mg/day) can “produce a variety of potentially health promoting effects in healthy middle aged people.”
In 2009, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that curcumin could ease inflammation in arthritis suffers. When compared with ibuprofen for pain relief, it was found that the curcumin eased pain and improved function almost as effectively as the over-the-counter medication.
Other research published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine has confirmed the important role of curcumin in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. The study found that curcumin could favorably affect most of the leading aspects of diabetes, including insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and islet apoptosis and necrosis
In fact, as far back as 1994 studies suggested that curcumin can also inhibit the development of chemically-induced cancer in animals of oral, stomach, liver, and colon cancer. However, despite promising results in animal studies, there is little evidence that high intakes of curcumin or turmeric are associated with decreased cancer risk in humans.
What the doc says
Most of the clinical trials claiming that curcumin is useful for humans are premature according to Dr Barbara Delage, a scientist with the Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Information Center.
Curcumin has “very poor bioavailability,” Dr Delage told the New York Times, meaning that it doesn’t stick around in the human body for very long, and is hard to absorb.
While Dr Delane acknowledged that preliminary studies show potential health benefits of curcumin, she clarifies by saying “You can’t conclude anything with one or two small studies, and you have to be very skeptical because you know the bioavailability is terrible.”
According to nutritionist Lyndi Cohen, pairing turmeric with pepper can potentially increase its bioavailability with the “ideal” ratio being approximately one quarter of a teaspoon of pepper, to one teaspoon of turmeric. In terms of a daily recommended dose, she suggests we would need to ingest around five grams (or one teaspoon) of turmeric per day to yield its benefits. That’s only one to two turmeric lattes per day, which seems easy enough.
The flavour however, is definitely not everyone’s cup of yellow tea. A colleague recently likened it to “drinking a cup of chicken tikka,” although he wasn’t “completely averse to the flavour”.
For him – and others – who prefer to stick with their traditional lattes, there is no shortage of great food recipes containing turmeric. We recommend Salmon with Indian spiced rice (containing 2 teaspoons) or Fragrant fish stew (containing 1 teaspoon) for anyone wanting to embark on the turmeric spice trail.
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