Do Turmeric and Hemp Prevent Cancer?
Published on August 28, 2018
Updated on October 13, 2020
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People are in love with turmeric and hemp seed these days. And so am I! It’s a good habit to include these healthful plant foods in your diet more often. But are they potent enough to keep you from getting chronic diseases? Today, I’m answering your top nutrition questions about whether turmeric and hemp seed can prevent you from getting cancer and diseases.
Question: Do you know anyone who eats turmeric and hempseed and still got cancer? Do you believe that by eating turmeric and hempseed you will be disease free? –Okeda
Your question is about two of my favorite plant-based ingredients: turmeric and hemp seeds. Let’s start with turmeric. There’s no denying that turmeric is hot! I remember the first time I heard about this flavorful spice at a nutrition conference several years ago, when a nutrition researcher discussed it’s anti-inflammatory potential in fighting disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Today, turmeric is ubiquitous as a supplement and ingredient in everything from skin products to tea to smoothies.
Preliminary research has noted that turmeric has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. However, the research is very young in this area, and we lack clinical trials to demonstrate the efficacy of turmeric’s ability to prevent cancer. Diet is just one factor among many in the development of cancer. You can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer by a healthy lifestyle and diet rich in whole, anti-inflammatory compounds, but that doesn’t mean that something like turmeric is a “silver bullet” in terms of cancer. Individuals in countries like India—where turmeric is part of the traditional diet and consumed widely—still have been known to develop cancer, despite their intake of turmeric.
While we need more research to know for sure if turmeric can help manage diseases, such as cancer, there is certainly nothing wrong with including this spice in your diet more often.
Turmeric comes from the turmeric root. You can find it in dried form in most markets, and it’s a key component of the Indian spice curry powder. It’s what gives curry powder that gorgeous amber-orange shade and warm spicy flavor. Increasingly, you can find fresh turmeric root in markets today. But what do you do with it? Check out my crash course on using the turmeric root in my blog here. I love to use turmeric in soups, stews, stir-fries, curry dishes, smoothies, salads, roasted vegetable dishes, baked goods, and more. Try my recipe for Golden Milk, which is a spicy, aromatic plant-based chai featuring turmeric and other spices. Follow along with me on my video for this recipe, too. And read my turmeric dirt report here and learn how to cook with fresh turmeric here.
Hemp seeds, Sharon Palmer, RDN
When it comes to hemp, this healthy seed has overcome its somewhat negative reputation based on its relative, the marijuana plant, to become the latest “it” ingredient, too. While both of these plants belong to the cannabis plant group, they are very different. Hemp plants have an extremely low cannabinoid content (the substance that gives marijuana plants their potency), meaning that hemp seeds do not cause a psychoactive effect when ingested and are completely safe. Hemp, which is grown primarily in Canada, is highly sustainable; it requires lower inputs of water, fertilizer, and pesticides than other common crops. Check out my blog on my visit to the hemp fields of Manitoba, Canada here.
Hemp has been found to have anti-cancer effects, but these have not been explored well in human, clinical trials. Like turmeric, there is not enough research to indicate that hemp seeds are a “silver bullet” in cancer protection. But, as part of a healthful lifestyle, you can reduce your odds of cancer by consuming hemp seeds, along with other healthful whole plant foods.
Hemp seeds provide an impressive nutrient load: 10 grams of protein and 10 grams of heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fats per ounce (about three tablespoons), along with fiber (3 grams), iron (20% DV), thiamin (25% DV), magnesium (45% DV), zinc (20% DV), manganese (110% DV), and various phytonutrients.
Hemp oil, which is cold-pressed and unrefined, has a fat profile similar to the seed, containing only 1 g of saturated fat per tablespoon; most of the fat content is the healthy kind, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, with an impressive 2 g of omega-3 fatty acids per serving. When hemp is pressed into oil, powder, or “butter,” a unique emerald green color is released, signaling its rich chlorophyll compounds.
This Tofu Kale Power Bowl is sprinkled with hemp seeds.
If you’re wondering about how to eat to fight cancer, I really like this resource from AICR.
Eat and Live Well,
Check out the other nutrition questions I’m answering at The Plant-Powered Dietitian:
About Ask Sharon
As part of my program “Ask Sharon”, I am answering the top question of the month submitted through my blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to answer here. You can even win a prize! Don’t forget to submit your burning nutrition question this month via my blog, or other social media. Here is my favorite question this month.
I’m answering your top nutrition questions about whether turmeric and hemp seed can prevent you from getting cancer and diseases.