Sweet, sour and deliciously tangy, tamarind is the pod-like fruit of the tamarind tree. It is one on the common ingredients used in south Asian cooking. In addition to its culinary uses, tamarind is also used in the medical field due to their health benefitting properties. Although native to Africa, this wonderful fruit is also found growing in the warmer regions of Mexico, Asia, and India. Processed tamarind can be brought from the markets and stores but it is always wise to buy fresh ones if you really want to reap the nutritional benefits of this fruit. Fresh tamarind pods will last long if kept in the refrigerator.
Nutritional value of tamarind
The nutritional content of tamarind is pretty dense. It contains many health benefiting chemical compounds, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. It also contains several phytochemicals such as geraniol, limonene, cinnamic acid, methyl salicylate and alkylthiazoles, all of which contribute to the medicinal and therapeutic effects of tamarind. This fruits is an excellent source of tartaric acid that not only gives it the sour taste but also functions as a powerful antioxidant. Tamarind is also a rich source of many essential vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid. It provides good amounts of minerals like copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.
Health benefits of tamarind
Although the most common use of tamarind is to add sourness and tanginess to a dish, not many people are aware of the nutritional value and the resulting health benefits it has to offer. Incorporating tamarind in your daily diet can help in preventing many diseases and also in improving your overall health. Given below are some of the benefits of this exotic fruit:
Tamarind nourishes your skin
Tamarind is rich in antioxidants and nutrients that are extremely beneficial for your skin. The antioxidants fight off the free radicals and prevent cell damage brought about by oxidative stress. This helps in delaying the appearance of aging signs like blemishes, dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles. The anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties of tamarind help in preventing acne and other skin infections. Applying tamarind juice on your skin can make it look smooth and glowing. Tamarind juice can be mixed with lemon juice, baking soda and sugar to form a mixture that can be used as a body scrub. It helps in exfoliating the skin and in removing dirt and dead cells. The vitamin C in tamarind stimulates the production of collagen that helps in improving the elasticity of your skin, making it look healthy and supple.
Tamarind is excellent for a healthy digestive system
Tamarind is used to prevent many digestive disorders like constipation, acid reflux disease and bile disorders. It has mild laxative properties and is also used as a remedy to get rid of intestinal worms in children. Tamarind pulp is a rich source of dietary fiber that helps in increasing the bulk of stools and in improving bowel movements. This helps in pushing out the stools easily and in preventing constipation. The outer covering of tamarind seeds is believed to be beneficial in treating diarrhea and dysentery.
Tamarind promotes cardiovascular health
Tamarind is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that help in lowering the levels of bad cholesterol or LDL and increasing the levels of good cholesterol or HDL. Moreover the fiber in this spice binds to cholesterol and helps to remove it from the blood thus preventing its buildup in the bloodstream. The potassium in tamarind helps to lower blood pressure by maintaining the fluid balance and by neutralizing the effects of sodium in your body. Thus by controlling the blood pressure and cholesterol levels, tamarind protects your heart from heart attacks and heart diseases.
Tamarind is effective in relieving sore throat
Tamarind is a very effective remedy for curing sore throats. Mix half a teaspoon of powdered dry tamarind leaves in lukewarm water and add salt to it. Gargling with this solution can provide instant relief from sore throat and itchy throat.
Tamarind for bile disorders
Tamarind is considered to be a natural remedy for bile disorders and biliousness, a condition characterized by the excess production of bile.
Tamarind has antiseptic and antibacterial properties
Tamarind is found to have antiseptic properties and hence is considered to be an effective remedy for healing wounds and injuries as well as in preventing infections. Studies indicate the fruit extract of tamarind has potent antibacterial properties that help in fighting off bacteria responsible for causing food borne diseases, enteric problems and sexually transmitted infections.
Tamarind and eye health
Because of its potent anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, tamarind has long been used for treating different eye disorders and conditions like inflammation, dry eyes, pink eyes etc. Mucin is a protein found in the eye that helps in protecting the surface of the cornea and keeping it wet. Tamarind contains a chemical similar to mucin that helps in moistening your eye and in providing a soothing effect, thus protecting against dry eyes. This fruit has high amounts of vitamin A in it, which is important for proper vision and also in lowering the risk of eye disorders like cataract and age-related macular degeneration.
Tamarind promotes weight loss
Tamarind has zero fat content and hence it is a perfect addition to your diet, if you are trying to lose weight. The hydroxycitric acid, or HCA found in tamarind has the ability to inhibit the activities of amylase, an enzyme that is associated with converting carbohydrates into fats and storing it in the body. The high amounts of fiber in this fruit helps to prevent overeating by making your feel full for long hours. Tamarind is also found to control appetite by increasing the levels of serotonin neurotransmitter and in promoting the burning of stored fat during exercise.
Tamarind and diabetes
Tamarind is found to have carb-blocking effects, which is considered to be highly beneficial for preventing diabetes. Excess intake of processed foods and foods that are high in carbohydrates are considered to increase the blood glucose levels and develop insulin resistance. Your body needs an enzyme known as alpha-amylase to absorb carbohydrates. Tamarind has the power to inhibit this enzyme, thus blocking the absorption of carbohydrates and helping in controlling the blood sugar levels.
Tamarind for colds and flu
Tamarind has high amounts of Vitamin C that is known to boost the immune system, thereby preventing common colds and flu. A mixture of tamarind and pepper is beneficial in clearing blocked nasal passages. Drinking herbal tea containing tamarind paste is a great way to get relief from the symptoms of cold.
Tamarind fights cancer
Free radicals in your body cause oxidative stress to the cells, leading to cell and DNA damage. Such damage can cause many serious diseases including cancer. The high levels of antioxidants in tamarind help in fighting off these free radicals and hence are helpful in reducing your risks of developing cancer. According to studies, a phytochemical known as geraniol found abundantly in tamarind may be beneficial in suppressing the growth of pancreatic cancer.
Tamarind ensures proper blood circulation
Tamarind is an excellent source of iron. A single serving of this fruit can provide you with more than 10% of your daily requirement of iron. Iron is an important mineral that helps in maintaining the proper count of red blood cells in your body. A healthy level of these blood cells ensures proper blood supply which improves the supply of oxygen to the different organs and muscles in your body. A healthy supply of iron also helps in preventing anemia caused by deficiency of iron.
Tamarind improves nerve function
Tamarind contains high amounts of B complex vitamins. Among them Thiamine is considered to be responsible for enhancing nerve function, as well as supporting muscle development. Researchers have discovered a biomaterial from the seeds of tamarind that has the potential to regenerate nerve cells. This finding is considered to be a major breakthrough in medicine that could be useful in the treatment of many diseases affecting the nervous system including Parkinson’s disease.
Tamarind keeps your bones strong and healthy
Tamarind is one of the richest sources of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, three minerals that are associated with improving bone density and promoting stronger and healthier bones. High intake of these minerals is considered to be helpful in preventing osteoporosis.
Tamarind provides relief from rheumatism
The anti-inflammatory properties of tamarind make it useful for providing relief from the painful symptoms of rheumatism. Combine together two teaspoon of tamarind pulp and one teaspoon of salt and apply this mixture on the affected area. This is an easy home remedy that will provide instance relief from the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatism.
Also known by the name ‘Manila sweet’, tamarind is used widely in southern Asia as a condiment and spice. The tangy extract obtained from the seeds of this fruit is a highly valued ingredient in Asian cooking. Tamarind is an herb with a unique sweet and tangy taste. This delicious fruit, being a storehouse of essential nutrients should be added to your diet to improve your overall health and well being.
Healthy Tamarind Ice Cream recipe – Mix 2cups of heavy cream, 1 cup of milk and ¾ cup of sugar. Heat and bring this to boil. Reduce heat now and stir till sugar is dissolved. Then stop heating and allow to cool for 5 minutes. In another bowl, whisk 7 egg yolks. Add small amount of hot cream mixture to yolk and continue whisking. Now mix all cream to yolk mixture. Heat this mixture on low heat for 4-5 minutes. Continue stirring. Strain the custard and chill in refrigerator for 3 hours. Mix with a cup of tamarind puree and add to ice cream maker.Image Credits: Flickr - Lamentables, Wikimedia - Sanjay Acharya