A Delicious Sweet Fruit with Many Benefits
I absolutely love tamarind. Whether we eat it dry or add it to a nice creamy curry, the fruit has an absolutely delicious and very powerful sweet flavor that I know is doing me plenty of good. If you are not familiar with tamarind, then this is a good place to start. This article will tell you why it is good for you and give you plenty of advice regarding the best way to eat it.
What is Tamarind?
Tamarind is a delicious, tangy fruit that grows across Southeast Asia, India and Mexico. It is highly valued in these areas for its incredible sweetness and its versatility. It is commonly eaten dry or fresh and can be added to a variety of delicious savory recipes or sweet deserts. The name tamarind comes from Persia – ‘tamar-I-hind’ means the ‘date of India’.
The tamarind fruit grows on extremely tall tamarind trees. They grow in long, curved pods where their seeds are surrounded with a very sticky, sweet pulp. The pods themselves look something like very large, brown beans. The taste and sweetness of the fruit can vary considerably depending on the area where they are grown and the time at which they are harvested.
People in Thailand insist that the very best tamarinds come from a province called Petchabun. My wife steadfastly refuses to accept that tamarind from other provinces is anywhere near as good but I will admit that I can’t really tell the difference.
Tamarind is not only delicious but it also contains an impressive variety of essential vitamins and minerals. For each 100 grams that you eat, you will be getting around 36% of your recommended daily dose of thiamine, 35% of your iron, 23% of your magnesium and around 16% of your recommended phosphorus. Tamarind also contains calcium, copper, niacin and Vitamin C while it is also an excellent source of healthy, dietary fiber.
The Health Benefits of Tamarind
It has traditionally been used to combat a variety of health problems including digestive complaints, inflammation, rheumatism, sore throats and fevers. Several recent studies have examined the therapeutic use of tamarind extract and have found that it may have various applications including on stomach pain, diabetes and wound healing.
1) Digestive Issues
Tamarind is a lovely little snack to take with you on the go. It is especially beneficial for your digestive system and can do your health the world of good especially if you are prone to bouts of stomach pain or constipation. Tamarind is a great source of essential dietary fiber.The fact that the majority of us get too little fiber in our diets is probably down to the convenience of eating fast food on the go but why not replace your unhealthy snacks with a few delicious tamarind fruit.
The fiber content helps ease constipation by bulking up the stools and helping them move through the body more comfortably. Tamarind also helps to stimulate the bile in the stomach which makes it easier to digest your food properly. Tamarind can also help add mass to the stools in order to treat bouts of diarrhea while early research has linked fiber intake with a reduction in the risk of serious diseases like cancer.
2) Heart Health
Eating tamarind may also help keep your heart in better shape and in the long term help reduce the risk of heart disease. Because of its high fiber content, it can help reduce cholesterol by scraping excess cholesterol from the arteries. The potassium which is found in high levels in tamarind can also help to reduce blood pressure because of its ability to dilate the blood vessels meaning that less strain is put on the system.
Tamarind also contains antioxidant polyphenols and vitamin C which can help protect the heart and other organs from disease. Many diseases have oxidative stress at their root and eating more antioxidant products can do a great deal to reverse and protect against this type of damage.
3) Circulation and Blood Health
Tamarind is an excellent source of blood healthy iron with a single serving providing you with at least 10% of your recommended daily amount. Making sure you get plenty of iron into your diet helps promote the production of red blood cells which the muscles and organs need in order to function to the max. A deficiency in iron is linked to anemia which causes people to feel fatigued, weak and generally sick.
4) Weight Control
Being so rich in dietary fiber, you can add tamarind to your diet without feeling guilty. Despite being so incredibly sweet and delicious, eating tamarind is likely to help you control your weight rather than putting on the pounds. One particular compound that has been extracted from tamarind is called hydroxycitric acid. Research suggests that this compound may play a part in weight management because it inhibits an enzyme that stores fat in the body.
5) Diabetes Management
Tamarind has traditionally been used to counter obesity and also diabetes. Recent research into the effects of tamarind seed extract demonstrate some promise in the management of diabetes probably as a result of its high flavonoid and polyphenol levels.
The researchers found that the tamarind extract produced a significant anti-diabetic effect and believe that it represents a promising basis of a natural diabetic treatment. (1)
6) Nerve Function
Tamarind are a great source of thiamine which is a member of the B family of vitamins. Thiamine plays an important role in brain function and many of our cognitive abilities. Thiamine is absolutely vital to effective nerve function and also the development and health of muscles.
Eating tamarind whether fresh or in spice form can can help relieve a slew of inflammatory conditions including inflammation of the joints like rheumatism and arthritis. Studies have demonstrated that tamarind extracts have a significant anti-inflammatory ability and internal inflammation is often the root cause of numerous severe illnesses.
8) Immune Health
Like any fruit with a high level of vitamin C, tamarind can help boost the immune system and protect us against illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses. Tamarind also has antimicrobial properties which further enhances the body’s ability to deal with harmful organisms.
A review published in 2011 has linked tamarind consumption to a range of illnesses including dysentery, diarrhea, stomach pain and fevers. (2)
How to Eat Tamarind
At first sight, eating a tamarind looks a little bit of a tall order but once you get the hang of it, it is well worth your time. Tamarind is available in dried and paste form but if you can get your hands on the fresh pods, I recommend doing so.
- First crack open the tamarind pod.
- The fruit is surrounded by a stringy substance that you need to remove.
- Break a piece of the fruit off and chew around the seeds which you can spit out.
Tamarind is also a very popular ingredient in a sweet Asian curry called massaman, which is one of my personal favorites. There are plenty of recipes online if you would like to try making it for yourself. It is also eaten dried as a snack or added to yogurts or cereals.
Have you ever tried tamarind either fresh or dried?
Let us know what you thought of them and how you ate them.