New research indicates that curcumin – a substance in turmeric that is best known as one of the main components of curry powder – may help fight drug-resistant tuberculosis. In Asia, turmeric is used to treat many health conditions and it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and perhaps even anticancer properties.
Investigators found that by stimulating human immune cells called macrophages, curcumin was able to successfully remove Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative bacterium of tuberculosis, from experimentally infected cells in culture. The process relied on inhibiting the activation of a cellular molecule called nuclear factor-kappa B.
The ability of curcumin to modulate the immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis points to a potential new tuberculosis treatment that would be less prone to the development of drug resistance.
“Our study has provided basic evidence that curcumin protects against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in human cells,” said Dr. Xiyuan Bai, lead author of the Respirology study. “The protective role of curcumin to fight drug-resistant tuberculosis still needs confirmation, but if validated, curcumin may become a novel treatment to modulate the host immune response to overcome drug-resistant tuberculosis.”
Article: Curcumin enhances human macrophage control of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, Xiyuan Bai, Rebecca E. Oberley-Deegan, An Bai, Alida R. Ovrutsky, William H. Kinney, Michael Weaver, Gong Zhang, Jennifer R. Honda and Edward D. Chan, Respirology, doi: 10.1111/resp.12762, published online 24 March 2016.
Antioxidants: Health Benefits and Nutritional Information.
Antioxidants are natural molecules found in certain foods that help neutralize free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are byproducts of metabolism and our environment.
Internal factors such as inflammation and external factors such as pollution, UV exposure and cigarette smoke can increase free radical production.
Free radicals can damage cells all over the body and cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been closely associated with heart disease,cancer, arthritis, stroke, respiratory diseases, immune deficiency,emphysema, Parkinson’s disease and other inflammatory or ischemic conditions.5
What do antioxidants do?
Tomatoes are a source of lycopene, an antioxidant that provides them with their red color.
Antioxidants serve as protection against the cell damage that free radicals can cause by terminating the free radicals reaction with those cells. Some antioxidants are products of normal metabolism and others are found in food.
Synthetic antioxidants are widely used in the cosmetic and food industries, but may cause more harm than good due to their high volatility. As a result, it is important to obtain your antioxidants from natural sources as much as possible.5
Micronutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, minerals such as selenium and manganese and many other flavonoids, polyphenols and phytoestrogens found in food all serve as antioxidants.
Each antioxidant serves a different function and is not interchangeable with another. This is why a varied diet is so important.
What are the best sources of antioxidants?
The best sources of antioxidants are plants (fruits and vegetables). Foods that are particularly high in antioxidants are often referred to as a “superfood” or “functional food” and include many types of berries, leafy greens, eggplant, legumes such as black beans or kidney beans and certain teas. Foods with rich, vibrant colors often contain the most antioxidants.
The following foods are also good sources of antioxidants. Click on each one to find out more about their health benefits and nutritional information:
Cooking particular foods can either increase or decrease antioxidant levels. Lycopene is the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their rich red color. When tomatoes are heat-treated, the lycopene becomes more bioavailable (easier for our bodies to process and use).
However, studies have shown that cauliflower, peas and zucchini lose much of their antioxidant activity in the cooking process. Keep in mind that the important thing is eating a variety of antioxidant-rich foods, cooked and raw, so that preparation can be your personal preference.
How to incorporate more antioxidants into your diet
The following tips could help increase your antioxidant intake:
- Make sure you have a fruit or a vegetable every time you eat, meals and snacks included
- Have a daily green or matcha tea
- Look at the colors on your plate; is all of your food brown or beige? If so, it is likely that the antioxidants are low. Add in foods with rich color like kale, beets and berries
- Spice it up! Make turmeric, cumin, oregano, ginger, clove and cinnamon your go-to spices to amp up the antioxidant content of your meals
- Snack on nuts, seeds (especially Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds) and dried fruit (with no sugar or salt added).
Or, try these healthy and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians:
- Cherry-almond smoothie
- Spicy cinnamon-ginger roasted carrots
- Roast beet and red quinoa salad with orange-beet balsamic vinaigrette
- Carrot cake power smoothie
- Chickpea, kale and cashew superfood soup
- Spicy Thai lettuce wraps
- Cure-all juice.
There is no set recommended daily allowance (RDA) for antioxidants.