Turmeric as a dietary supplement is nothing new. For many cultures, from Haiti to India, the addition of turmeric in their diet is something that happened long before recorded history. It has been used to season food as well as treat certain illnesses. But, the consumption of turmeric isn’t always the same depending on how and when it is done.
As with any supplement, simply eating it in your diet is going to produce a slightly different result than taking it as a supplement. This is the same for vitamins and minerals that we eat as well. So, if you are considering adding turmeric into your diet for health reasons, it’s important to know the difference between adding turmeric as a spice, or turmeric as a capsule into your diet.
Turmeric Vs. Turmeric Curcumin
The important thing to know right off the bat is the difference between general turmeric, and turmeric curcumin. You see, turmeric is the word used to describe the root of the turmeric plant. This root is what is ground up and eaten as a spice all across the world. However, turmeric curcumin is much closer to a turmeric extract.
Within turmeric you will find a compound known as curcumin. This is just one of the several curcuminoid compounds that exist within the root itself. Now, without diving too deep into the scientific jargon, we can break down exactly what the difference is.
Curcumin as a compound is a natural byproduct of the turmeric plant. However, it is also the compound that research suggests is the most important to the health and wellness benefits of turmeric. This is why most medical studies researching the benefits of turmeric are actually using turmeric curcumin, not simply turmeric itself. This is an important distinction to understand when dosing your turmeric as a supplement.
So, in essence, turmeric as a spice is the entire turmeric root dried and ground into a fine powder. Turmeric supplements (capsules), are almost always turmeric curcumin--a concentrated version of the spice to extract the ‘goodies’ from the root plant.
Powder Vs. Capsules
Now that we know the difference in terminology when discussing turmeric and turmeric curcumin, let’s talk about how to look at ingesting it. You see, those who add turmeric to their diet through adding the spice to their food are going to get very different results than those taking supplement capsules. This is due to the volume of curcumin.
In turmeric, there is only about 3% curcumin by weight. This means that about 97% of the remaining spice is made up of other compounds that naturally occur in the root. So, if you are looking to add turmeric into your diet for health benefits, you would have to eat a whole lot of turmeric as a spice. Generally this comes out to about ½ - 1tsp of turmeric as a spice per day. This is roughly 2.5 - 5g. However, remember, that only roughly 3% of that is curcumin.
When taking a turmeric supplement, you can get a whole lot more curcumin into the system with a much smaller dosage. The average turmeric supplement contains up to 95% curcumin by volume. This means that you can take a 500mg capsule and get far more curcumin than you would by simply eating a teaspoon of turmeric spice. In fact, a 500mg capsule of turmeric supplement can contain up to 400mg of purely curcumin. You can likely see the difference that would make already.
However, that does not mean that taking capsules is outright better than eating the powder in your diet. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that eating the powder is plenty effective. This is because when taking turmeric as a spice, you are more often than not going to cook it in with your meals. This allows the curcumin to bind with the healthy fats in your food for easier delivery into the system. This is because curcuminoids are lipophilic, (a fancy word for compounds that bind with fats).
So, there is reason to believe that taking turmeric as a spice can actually help get the compound into your system easier as it has a built in mechanism for delivery. Otherwise, with capsules, that mechanism of delivery would need to be added in by the manufacturer or through your diet as well.
Which Is Better?
So, by now you are probably wondering, ‘which should I take, capsules or powder?’ Well, that answer is far more tricky than it may seem. Ultimately, it all boils down to your own needs and preferences. Afterall, like we said, both methods have shown to be pretty effective.
With turmeric powder, you are going to have to consume more of it in order to get the same amount of curcumin. This means that if you are looking for purely health benefits, it is best to simply take the supplements. They are far more concentrated, and get you the curcumin you need without the bloat.
However, if you are also interested in curcumin for the flavor profile as well as the benefits, then of course taking it in your diet as a spice is also beneficial. Powdered turmeric may be less efficient in curcumin by volume, but it also gets into the system fairly easily in any case.
In the end, the choice is ultimately up to you. The main thing is that you understand the difference, and know what you are getting when you take a turmeric capsule versus adding turmeric powder into your diet.
As with any supplement, it’s always crucial that you do the research and consult medical professionals beforehand to learn if they are right for you. Turmeric has been shown to increase health and wellbeing for millions across the globe. However, it is still important to exercise caution and always dose properly. In the end, turmeric is a wonderful spice that tastes delicious and it can make you feel great on top of that!