As athletes are starting to keep better track of — or sometimes limit — the amount of caffeine they intake, there’s interest in finding hot pick-me-ups that don’t give you a jolt. Many are starting to look to the East, to a traditional Ayurvedic drink called golden milk. Also known as a turmeric latte, the main ingredients are milk and turmeric, which is a spice that comes up frequently in traditional Indian medicine. The yellow root is what gives the drink its yellow color; it is so vibrant that it’s also used to dye textiles. People swear by turmeric as an anti-inflammatory. You might just swear by golden milk because it tastes so good.
What does Golden Milk do?
Golden Milk is an integral part of Ayurvedic medicine. The secret behind the hot drink is the Asian ginger plant turmeric. It contains curcumin, a natural antioxidant. Curcumin “aids in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia” — meaning fats in the blood like cholesterol and triglycerides, explains a review of research in the journal Foods. Much of the excitement around curcumin is that it’s an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation happens when the body sustains an injury, like a sprained ankle. But there’s also systemic inflammation, which can present as conditions like arthritis, and may be linked to cancer. Curcumin may help people who have digestive inflammation disease called ulcerative colitis stay in remission, according to researchers at the Hamamatsu University School of Medicine in Japan. And researchers in China have linked curcumin with protecting against cardiac disease. It may even reduce social stress and anxiety, finds research in Neuropsychopharmacology.
It’s also why people whose joints are tired after a big workout often turn to curcumin, since it’s a non-pharmaceutical aid for inflammation and may help you bounce back naturally. Athletes who got supplements of curcumin “displayed reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, decreased pain and muscle damage, superior recovery and muscle performance, better psychological and physiological responses (thermal and cardiovascular) during training, and improved gastrointestinal function,” finds a review of research in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
If that weren’t enough, Golden Milk often contains other ingredients, such as ginger, cinnamon, honey, cardamom, star anise, nutmeg, coconut oil, and black pepper, all of which boast an impressive nutritional profile in their own rights. In order to get the most out of your Golden Milk, you need to add some fat, since the curcumin in turmeric is not water soluble. A little coconut oil (or even butter) can help the body better absorb curcumin.
Golden milk recipe (makes one serving)
1 cup milk (dairy or plant-based)
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh turmeric, finely chopped, or ½ tsp turmeric powder
1 slice of fresh ginger, finely chopped, or ¼ tsp ginger powder
½ tsp coconut oil, flaxseed oil, CBD oil, or butter
¼ tsp ground cardamom or 1 cardamom pod (optional)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon or ½ cinnamon stick (optional)
½ tsp honey or agave syrup (optional)
1 pinch ground nutmeg (optional)
1 star anise (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring milk to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Add turmeric and ginger and whisk. When milk turns bright yellow, fat, and remaining spices and sweetener, if using. Whisk constantly, 3 minutes. Strain golden milk into a mug. Drink immediately.
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