Turmeric has been a prominent spice and Ayurvedic medicine in Asian cultures for centuries, but it could also be a key ingredient for athletic performance. When added onto a healthy performance diet and smart training plan, turmeric can help support bone health, gut health, reduce excess inflammation, and enhance recovery. The benefits of turmeric stem from its main active ingredient: a family of phytochemicals called curcuminoids, including the curcumin compound.
Research around curcumin, from turmeric and concentrated supplemental sources, shows benefits for athletes’ overall health and recovery. Of main focus, studies have shown curcumin to help reduce muscle soreness and exercise-induced inflammation through its anti-inflammatory properties. While some inflammation is both necessary and beneficial for cells to adapt and become more robust, excessive inflammation in athletes can increase muscle soreness and decrease recovery and general immune health. Including anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric in a regular diet can help balance this process during times of increased stress (high intensity or volume training phases, competition season, frequent travel, increased psychological stress, or increased immune risk). Additionally, 1 tablespoon of turmeric provides roughly 26% of daily manganese needs, a mineral that plays a crucial role in supporting bone restructuring, so turmeric could also support overall bone integrity throughout growth and development.
Powdered turmeric, found in most grocery store spice aisles, is made by drying and grinding up the roots of the turmeric plant, a relative to the ginger root. Most turmeric only contains about 3-5% of the beneficial agent curcumin, so including 1-2 teaspoons turmeric on a regular or daily basis shows greater health benefits when supplementing curcumin from food sources. Additionally, curcumin is better absorbed when combined with bromelain (an enzyme found in pineapple and papaya), black pepper, and healthy fats (coconut, avocado, nuts & seeds). Popular recipes including turmeric are curries, marinades for meat or tofu, and vinaigrettes. See below for some quick sweet and savory ideas to start including turmeric in your sports nutrition plan today!
Tropical Turmeric Smoothie
Makes 1, 16oz smoothie.
1 cup milk or milk alternative
1/2 cup plain Greek or soy yogurt
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 handful of dark leafy greens
1-2 tsp Turmeric power
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
Savory Turmeric Trail Mix
Makes 4 cups trail mix.
2 cups raw nuts or seeds (any)
1/2 TBSP oil
1 TBSP turmeric powder
Salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
2 cups other mix-ins (Chex cereal, pretzels, popcorn, Goldfish, sesame sticks)
Pre-heat oven to 350F. On a baking sheet, toss raw nuts with oil, turmeric, and spices until all nuts are evenly coated. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until nuts start to roast and become aromatic. Let nuts cool completely, then stir into a large bag or container with other mix-ins.