Tamarind Health Benefits: the Nutrient-rich Superfood
What is Tamarind?
Tamarind, native to tropical Africa and the Mediterranean, is actually the name of the tree that produces tamarind leaves and small fruits. Although it is said to have originated from Africa, it has a long history in India, where it is widely used to spice up curries and various other dishes. The tamarind fruit is edible and can be eaten as it is. Though it tastes very sour when young, the mature and ripe fruit doesn't really have an off-putting taste. In fact, it has a tangy, tart taste. The tamarind fruit is found within the brown pods of the tamarind tree. Within the pod is a smooth brown pulp that is encased with hard black seeds.
Which part of Tamarind is Eaten?
Ground Tamarind leaves, the pod-like tamarind fruits and the soft pulp inside the pod are all edible. But majorly consumed is the soft pulp within the pod and it contains numerous nutritional and health benefits.
When ground, tamarind is a spice that has a unique sour and tangy taste. In many popular South Indian dishes, Tamarind is used as a flavouring agent, to season rice and make spicy chutneys and curries. In Mexico, tamarind is popularly used to make sweet dishes especially candy and sweet syrups.
Nutrients Found in Tamarind
Role in the body
Red blood cell generation, helpful in treatment of anemia
Proper function of the brain, boosts immunity, controls diabetes
Protects against cancer, toxins and allergens
For a strong immune system and combats cardiovascular disease
Helps prevent excessive bleeding by coagulating or clotting of blood
For regulation of heart beat and maintaining blood pressure
For proper nerve and muscle funtioning and conversion of blood sugar to energy
For strong bones and teeth, regulation of blood pressure
Used to build red blood cells and for repairing worn out cells
For proper bone and skeletal structure, growth and body repair
Tamarind Health Benefits
Tamarind is a wonderful anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol, anti-bacterial and mild laxative. The health benefits of tamarind and its medicinal properties are numerous and were traditionally recognized long before scientific studies and research were conducted on tamarinds. Let's explore the wondrous health benefits of tamarind:
Tamarind - Quick Facts!
- Tartaric acid gives tamarind it's sour taste and is also a powerful antioxidant.
- Tamarind is a fruit.
- Tamarind was introduced to the US (Hawaii) in early 1797.
- In certain countries like Jamaica and India, tamarind is sweetened and sold as candy.
- Tamarind is a mild laxative.
1. Tamarind and Constipation: Tamarind contains a lot of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber, though not nutritious, is very essential in our bodies. It helps in regulating bowel movements and cleansing our digestive system from various harmful and unneeded substances. Traditionally, tamarind has been used to treat stomach ailments like constipation. Tamarind juice is said to provide instant relief for people suffering from constipation. By cleaning our systems, the fiber also helps eliminate toxins from our body.
2. Tamarind and Cholesterol. Nowadays, people take to snacking on foods that are loaded with carbohydrates and calories which result in being stored in the body as fats. The fat contained in these foods is very harmful and may end up as plaque that clogs arteries surrounding the heart. Tamarind is said to help fight off and decrease the total cholesterol levels especially the bad LDL cholesterol, and conserving the good HDL cholesterol. The bad cholesterol increases the odds of suffering from heart disease and hypertension. Tamarind thereby cuts down the risk of getting heart disease by significantly lowering total cholesterol levels in blood.
3. Tamarind and Sore throat. Tamarind is very effective in curing sore and itchy throats. A simple salt water gargle mixed with dry powdered tamarind leaves or bark can instantly provide relief to sore throats. You can make this tamarind water gargle by simply mixing half a teaspoon of ground tamarind leaves in lukewarm water. Make sure the mixture is stirred well because you don't want the small powdered particles choking you.
4. Tamarind and Heart Disease: Tamarind is a good source of anti-oxidants, fiber and potassium that are all significant in promoting a healthy heart. Due to its natural anti-inflammatory properties, Tamarind is very effective in treating inflammations, in the heart arteries or walls, caused by heart disease. Tamarind also has carb-fighting properties that make it a very good food to prevent cardiovascular diseases. It's anti-cholesterol properties help destroy plaque that may accumulate in the arteries surrounding the heart. What's more, tamarind contains zero fat so it can be freely added to soups or curries without having to worry about the fat content.
5. Tamarind for Colds and flu: Because of its high amounts of Vitamin C that enhances the body's natural defence and immune system, tamarind is very good for naturally curing running noses caused by colds. The combination of tamarind and pepper can work wonders in clearing blocked nasal passages. For dry nose, tamarind can help moisten the nasal passages enabling easy breathing. A simple soup containing tamarind and pepper, boiled with other vegetables of your choice can provide immediate relief. Other ways of using tamarind for colds and flu are: simple chewing or sucking on the tamarind (if you really don't mind the slightly tangy taste),making a simple tea with the tamarind pulp made into paste and making an easy ready-to-drink herbal drink by mixing the tamarind paste into warm water.
6. Tamarind for Skin: Tamarind is a rich source of anti-oxidants, flavonoids and carotene that can nourish and rejuvenate damaged skin. One of the useful health benefits of tamarind is having anti-inflammatory properties, which make it a potent remedy for treating skin inflammations naturally. The seeds or fruits can be ground into a paste and applied on the infected area. Tamarind is a good source of vitamin C that promotes naturally healthy glowing skin. Additionally, Tamarind contains dietary fiber that helps cleanse the bowel and promote regular bowel movement, thereby eliminating toxins. High amount of toxins in the body causes pimples and acne break outs that are very unsightly.
Like the Superfood, Date Fruit, Tamarind is packed with so many nutrients, that it's also known as the "Indian Date"!
Homemade Tamarind Juice
7. Tamarind and eye infection: Tamarind has been used traditionally in treating various eye conditions and infections like, dry eyes, pink eyes and inflammations. Because of it's significant anti-inflammatory properties, it is of great value when it comes to curing inflammations in various parts of the eye. Tamarind has been identified to be similar to mucin, a substance that covers and moistens the surface of the cornea. Artificial eye drops may provide relief but it brings the need to constantly apply the drops. Using tamarind, a natural eye drop can be made to provide wonderful soothing relief.
8. Tamarind and Diabetes. Although there is limited research concerning the health benefits of tamarind for diabetes, tamarind has long been used as a natural and traditional medicine to treat diabetics. High intake of high-carb foods including oily and very sweet foods are known to increase blood glucose and insulin resistance. Tamarind contains blood-glucose lowering and high-carb fighting properties that may have a significant effect on lowering high blood sugar levels in blood. Further, tamarind may help deactivate amylase, a body enzyme that absorbs carbohydrates. By deactivating the effects of amylase, tamarind may help lower blood sugar levels.
9. Tamarind and Weight Loss. Aside for being very nutritional and packed with B-complex vitamins, tamarind has absolutely no fat content, hence can be added to your diet without having to worry over the fat contained. Tamarind, added to your diet, can be very helpful in inhibiting the activities of an enzyme, amylase that absorbs carbohydrates and store it in the body as fats. Tamarind is also a great food for preventing overweight as it helps binge-eaters to control excess eating and by promoting serotonin neurotransmitter levels and helping burn excess calories and fat stored in the body.
10. Tamarind and Blood pressure. One of the major underlying causes of high blood pressure today is high intake of sodium in our diet. As much as sodium is essential in our bodies, high amounts can seriously harm body organs and result in increase in blood pressure. Adding foods rich in potassium to our diets can reverse the negative effects of sodium in our blood and normalize blood pressure. Tamarind is a rich source of potassium. A half cup of the soft brown pulp contains about 377 mg of potassium.
Where to Find Tamarind?
Tamarind can be generally bought in the pod or paste form. You can find it available in Indian or Mexican stores and supermarkets around town. The brown pods containing seeds are mostly used in cuisine, so you'll most likely find them in the market.