What Color is Turmeric?

turmeric powder with a beige background

​​Turmeric is a versatile spice with a culinary, medical, and ceremonial history that stretches thousands of years. But despite how long it's been around, some may wonder what gives turmeric its bright, distinct yellow coloring. The answer lies in the chemical curcumin, an important compound that yields turmeric's golden color and is responsible for its many health benefits.

Below, we dive into all things turmeric, its signature golden hue, and whether or not to incorporate turmeric into your diet and wellness routine.

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric, also called Curcuma longa, is a perennial plant belonging to the ginger family. This native Asian plant has been used for centuries – as a culinary spice, textile dye, and medicinal herb.

​​Turmeric is a versatile spice most often used in the kitchen. It's a key ingredient in many Indian dishes, such as curry, where it adds a warm, earthy flavor and a beautiful golden color. It's often added to soups, stews, vegetables, and smoothies for a spicy, earthy flavor. Turmeric can also be used to make a healthy, invigorating tea or as a supplement in capsule form.

Going beyond the realm of the kitchen, the golden color of turmeric has found significance in various cultural and religious practices. Particularly in India, the birthplace of turmeric, it is used in celebratory events like weddings and festivals. Indeed, the beauty industry has taken note of turmeric and infused it in many skincare products for added wellness benefits.

Why is Turmeric Yellow?

Turmeric's natural vibrant hue lies in a natural chemical called curcumin. Curcumin is a polyphenolic compound that provides a yellow color and is responsible for many of the health benefits associated with using turmeric.

So why are we so interested in turmeric's color? Besides providing an enticing visual in cooking, the presence of yellow is a reliable indicator of turmeric's curcumin content. The deeper the yellow or orange color of the turmeric powder or root, the higher the concentration of beneficial curcumin. So not only is turmeric's color stunning, it's also an informative tool.

Health Benefits 

Traditional medicine practices have used turmeric for centuries for its numerous health benefits. 

Anti-inflammatory

One of turmeric's key benefits is its anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has been shown to fight inflammation at the molecular level, helping to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's.

Antioxidant

Another essential health benefit of turmeric is its strong antioxidant capacity. Curcumin's potent antioxidant capabilities can neutralize free radicals, damaging compounds that can harm cells and contribute to aging and diseases. Additionally, curcumin boosts the activity of the body's antioxidant enzymes, enhancing the body's defense against oxidative stress.

Immunity boosting

Several studies suggest that turmeric can help boost the immune system, provide resistance against common illnesses, and improve digestion.

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Potential Drawbacks

While turmeric is generally safe for consumption, it's always smart to consult a healthcare provider before incorporating any new supplement into one's dietary regimen, especially for those with underlying health conditions or who are using other medications. 

Curcumin is also poorly absorbed into the body, meaning that higher amounts of the chemical may be needed to achieve benefits. Studies have found that combining yellow curcumin with black pepper helps improve absorption. A proprietary, highly bioavailable form of curcumin also available on the market is called NovaSOL curcumin.

The Bottom Line

Turmeric, a vibrant spice known for its bright yellow color, is a culinary delight and a powerhouse of health benefits. Its distinctive color is attributed to the presence of curcumin, a bioactive compound that also offers a myriad of medicinal properties.

The color of turmeric is an indicator of its quality: the brighter the yellow, the higher the curcumin content, and thus, the more potent its health benefits.

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