Can turmeric powder TURBOCHARGEhas your latte?
ULTIMATE VITAMIN GUIDE DAY THREE
TODAY, in the final part of this unique series, we look at plant powders, and ask: can taking supplements improve your hair, skin, nails, fertility — and ease the menopause?
How do you like your broccoli? Steamed? Roasted? Stir-fried — or perhaps powdered? It might sound unnecessary but a growing number of people are adding plant powders packed with concentrated nutrients to their food in a bid to boost their health.
It’s easy to see why: when scientists show that a specific compound in a plant could have potent benefits, it seems logical that a few teaspoons of that concentrated extract provides the same, without involving having to eat platefuls of broccoli or seaweed, say.
And while few of us need an excuse to drink red wine, taking a concentrated powdered daily dose of the antioxidant compound, resveratrol, has to be preferable to trying to drink the 500 or so glasses of wine you’d need to consume for the same health benefits.
And then there’s nothing like a celebrity endorsement. Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance, drinks ‘Goopglow’ superpowder every day (her own brand), while the Kardashians sip blue-green algae, known as spirulina.
Social media is also awash with beautiful people sipping vivid yellow turmeric lattes, whipping up matcha green tea pancakes, and spooning brightly coloured plant powders into their breakfast smoothies.
Many of these powdered foods or ‘nutraceuticals’, i.e. foods with a medical or health benefit, are derived from plants, and come with highly seductive claims. It is perhaps not surprising that analysts predict a 4.9 per cent growth in the global dietary supplement market from 2020 to 2025, with nutraceutical powders emerging as the fastest growing area. But can these ‘superfood’ powders really do you good?
This sub-sector of the supplements market has grown out of the world of elite sports, explains Dr Adam Carey, who worked for 20 years as a consultant gynaecologist in the NHS before leaving to work on developing nutritional support for the England rugby world cup team and the England cricket team.
‘It is very difficult for an athlete to get all the nutrients they need from food alone without eating vast amounts, which could impair performance,’ he says. ‘And it was discovered that powdered products could provide a rapid and effective means of delivering nutrients which could give athletes an edge.’
over the past few years, the concept of powdered nutritional boosters has moved from elite sports, via bodybuilders and gym-users, to the wider population.
Instead of promising athletic advantage or bulging biceps, these compounds are offering the nutritional top-ups we might have looked for in a multivitamin: such as enhanced immunity, improved cognition and ‘optimal ageing’.
‘There’s been an explosion in the science looking at the use of food compounds,’ says Dr Carey.
‘And while there aren’t, as yet, a huge number of good studies to support some of the claims, things are moving in the right direction.’
He adds that many scientists are excited about the benefits of resveratrol, which has been shown in numerous studies to have antiinflammatory, anti- microbial, anti-ageing and cardioprotective effects — ‘but you’d need to drink 400- 500 glasses [ of wine] to consume enough resveratrol to create a health impact,’ he says. obviously a powder that means you don’t have to plough through vast quantities of berries or
appeal. But even those in favour of the use of these products urge caution.
Dr Peter Clayton, a pharmacist with an interest in ‘ pharmaco- nutrition’, warns: ‘ The marketing hype is way ahead of the science when it comes to these powders, and many are claiming far more than they can possibly justify.’
These plant compounds ‘ are not magic bullets and they can’t be used as a panacea for all ills’, adds Dr Carey. ‘ But they can be used in a smart way alongside good lifestyle behaviours.’
Here we look at some of the more popular powdered plant extracts: should you be adding these to your latte or smoothie?
MUSHROOMS are now being added to a range of products, including coffee, tea, chocolate as well as extracts and powders.
There is some science behind some of the health claims.
According to immunologist Dr Jenna Macciochi, a senior lecturer at the university of Sussex: ‘Mushrooms and yeasts offer a plethora of antimicrobial properties, including immune-enhancing b-glucans — soluble fibres found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeasts and some plants.’
Many mushroom powders comprise a concentrated form of the active ingredients of fresh mushrooms, making 2g of the
powder equivalent to 16g dried or 85g fresh varieties of mushrooms.
BOTTOM LINE: Might be worth using.
TURMERIC root is an excellent source of curcumin, a plant compound s h o w n t o have antioxidant, antiinflammatory and antiseptic properties. Dr Macciochi says she is impressed by its antiviral and antibacterial activity.
CURRENTLY some of the best evidence is for its benefits for joint pain.
In 2020, scientists at the university of Tasmania in Australia found that turmeric capsules (two 500 mg capsules daily for 12 weeks) reduced knee pain, with no side-effects.
The problem is the compound has poor bioavailability — the rate at which the body absorbs it — making it nearly impossible to get sufficiently high concentrations of curcumin into the blood through food: half a gram of the concentrated extract in a supplement could contain 400 mg of curcuminoids, but the same amount of turmeric powder might provide 15 mg, so you’d need to eat 1.3 kg of turmeric to get the same curcumin hit from food as you would in a capsule.
‘Ideally, have the turmeric in food with a dash of black pepper, which can boost its absorption by up to 2,000 per cent,’ says Dr Macciochi — but we’re still talking small margins of difference when compared with a supplement. BOTTOM LINE: May have a small impact.
THE GREEN CHOICE
CRUCIFEROUS vegetables such as kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts contain potent plant compounds, called glucosinolates, which have been shown to inhibit cancer cells, detoxify chemicals in our bodies and protect cells.
But if you’re not fond of eating green veg, will a spoon of powder do the job? It depends.
Aidan Goggins, a pharmacist and independent adviser to the supplement industry, says that sulforaphane, a type of glucosinolate, is very unstable, so degrades before the consumer gets it.
‘No standard broccoli powder is going to be of any benefit,’ he says. The studies looking at the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables use broccoli sprouts (tiny plants just a few days old which are blended and then frozen). These sprouts contain 100 times more sulforaphane than ordinary broccoli, says Aidan Goggins, whoadds ‘you can’t dehydrate and mill green veg and expect [the same] health benefits’.
He adds: ‘There is a small handful of greens stable enough to retain nutrients in powdered form: moringa [a plant native to India]; matcha [Japanese green tea]; and various forms of nutrient-rich algae such as spirulina.’ spirulina, he says, contains phycocyanin, which is thought to inhibit inflammation. one small human study, published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease in 2007 found that spirulina (4.5 g a day for six weeks) helped reduce cholesterol, blood fats and blood pressure.
separately, a 2021 review of
studies on matcha found it showed promising potential health benefits and ‘with regular consumption, it may support the body’s efforts to maintain health and prevent disease’.
But Aidan Goggins believes the green powder that gets closest to the anti-carcinogenic, detoxifying, cell- rejuvenation effects of cruciferous veg is moringa.
‘Other powders are not reliable, but this does give a spectrum of nutrients,’ he says. ‘It is the only leafy green in powdered form in which the beneficial plant compounds stay stable.’ Around 10g of moringa is roughly equivalent to one to two cups of leafy greens. BOTTOM LINE: Moringa powder could be the best choice.
BOTH cocoa and cacao powder are made from the beans of the cacao plant, but cacao is processed at a much lower temperature, so more nutrients remain. A useful source of antioxidants, fibre and minerals, gram per gram, cacao can contain double the iron and magnesium and up to four times the amount of antioxidants of cocoa.
the antioxidants in cacao have impressive potential benefits, such as cutting heart disease risk. BOTTOM LINE: ‘A nutritious way to add a chocolate flavour, without the extra fat and sugar of other products,’ says dietitian Rosie Martin.