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What is tamarind?
Tamarind is a type of tropical fruit that comes from the tamarind tree, native to Africa but it also grows in other tropical regions including India. The tamarind tree produces bean-like pods which contain seeds and a fibrous pulp. As these pods ripen, the pulp becomes paste-like and takes on a sweet-sour taste.
Tamarind is probably best known for its use in Asian, Mexican and Caribbean dishes, and it is typically bought as a paste or a purée, but it can also be bought as raw pods, a pressed block and as tamarind concentrate.
Nutritional benefits of tamarind
100g of tamarind contains approximately:
• 238 kcal/1011 KJ
• 2.3g protein
• 62.5g carbohydrates
• 5.1g fibre
• 0.6g fat
• 1.9mg niacin
• 14ug folate
• 3.5mg Vit C
• 30IU Vitamin A
• 628mg potassium
• 74mg calcium
• 92mg magnesium
• 2.8mg iron
What are 6 main health benefits of tamarind?
1. A rich source of antioxidants
The pulp of tamarind is rich in numerous phytonutrients that act as potent dietary antioxidants, and can enhance the efficacy of the body’s natural immune defences. Antioxidants are needed to reduce the inflammatory impact of oxidative stress.
2. May have anticancer properties
In a 2014 animal study, tamarind seed extract reduced both the oxidative stress markers and delayed the progress of Renal Cell Carcinoma. This is down to its antioxidant effect, and that tamarind seed extract has antioxidant enzyme induction properties and cancer-related signal pathway blockage effect.
3. May improve heart health and cholesterol
Being rich in polyphenols and flavonoids, tamarind has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol, thereby lowering the risk of atherosclerosis. The dried pulp was also found to have anti-hypertensive effects, reducing diastolic blood pressure.
4. Offers liver protective benefits
Fatty liver disease, or hepatosteatosis, is increasing in the Western world, and tamarind fruit extract has been shown to provide a protective effect for the liver, as it contains antioxidants called procyanidins, that counter free radical damage to the liver.
5. Provides natural antimicrobial benefits
Natural compounds present in tamarind extract have the potential of being used as a natural antimicrobial against pathogenic microorganisms. Specifically, a compound called lupeol has been identified for its antibacterial properties.
6. May offer anti-diabetic effects
The anti-inflammatory effect of tamarind seed extract has been shown to offer potential protective benefits and improve blood sugar regulation in those with diabetes.
Is tamarind safe for everyone?
As a food, tamarind sits within the legume family and so has the capability to cause an allergic reaction in some people. Tamarind may lower blood sugar levels and so should be used with caution if you are diabetic. It can also have a laxative effect if consumed in large amounts.
How to use tamarind
The simplest way is to buy tamarind paste and use this to make sauces, marinades, curries and other dishes such as pad Thai. If using a compressed block, tear off the required amount and soak in warm water for 10 minutes. Then mix it together, strain through a sieve, throw away the pulp and use the liquid. For tamarind concentrate, mix 15ml of tamarind with 4-6 tbsp of warm water.
Why not try some of our tamarind recipes?
This article was reviewed on 15 August 2022.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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