Day 2. Turmeric, The Brain Spice.

Day two, and feeling… horrific. My husband and I both woke up with a miserable case of the sneezes and sniffles. Between the two of us and our dog, who recently got diagnosed with Lyme disease, we’re a sad bunch.

For a quick boost, I brewed some Turmeric Coffee. Paleo folks typically add grass-fed butter to theirs. But Whole30 is dairy-free, so mine is simply a cup of coffee, a little less than a teaspoon of turmeric, a few pinches of cinnamon, and a splash of unsweetened natural almond milk. The spices go in the bottom of the glass, then the liquids on top so they don’t get clumpy, then stir. My sinuses always clear after I drink it. Plus, it’s a BRAIN FOOD. Here’s the scoop.

Turmeric root and powder

The Brain Science Behind Turmeric

Commonly known as “that stuff that makes curry yellow,” Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in India as a spice and medicinal herb, which brings it to the top of my list of to-try “Brain Foods.” Its secret lies in curcumin, a chemical compound known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

But how does that relate to my brain? Studies have shown that curcumin increases neurogenesis, or the production of new neurons in the brain. This TED Talk explains it in layman’s terms (more on this talk later, it’s fab). But, in summary, yes! we can still grow new neurons after we’re children! And yes! Curcumin has been identified as one of those magic brain helpers that will help us do so.

To dig deeper, we get into something called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is essentially a growth hormone in the brain. Curcumin has been identified to increase BDNF levels. Depression and Alzheimers have been linked with decreased levels of BDNF. Simple math, which highlights curcumin as potentially effective in delaying or reversing brain disease and age-related brain deterioration, as well as improving general cognitive function.

Studies also note that curcumin helps stimulate production of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) from ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). What? I know, explain. Basically, both of these acronyms are omega-3 fatty acids. DHA has been proven to be especially important in nervous system function. It’s the kind of fatty acid we get from salmon and sardines, but not much else. ALA, on the other hand, is way easier to get in our daily diets. Its found in small amounts in a large number of foods. Curcumin can stimulate enzymes that help turn more-common ALA into less-common (and brain-powering) DHA. Done and done.

OK. Now What?

Before we all start pounding turmeric (ech), let it be known: Turmeric only contains about 2-5% curcumin per root weight. Sources vary greatly on the recommended amount of turmeric to consume per day, but several recommend 1-3 grams per day, or about .5 to 1.5 teaspoons, which fits perfectly with my morning turmeric coffee ritual.

Here are the other recipes on my list for the weeks ahead (most are Whole30-approved, but some will need tweaks):

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potato, Apple, & Turmeric Soup by  Real Food Whole Life


Healing Bowls with Turmeric Mashed Sweet Potatoes by Pinch of Yum


Turmeric Deviled Eggs by Just Paleo Food




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