Popular in most Southeast Asian kitchen, tamarind is a treasure for its versatility both in culinary and health. This pod-like fruit grows from the Tamarind tree, scientifically referred to as Tamarindus indica. The tree, native to Africa but widely cultivated across Asia, may grow as tall as 80 feet and bears curved edible fruit we know as the tamarind.
The tamarind fruit is characterized by its pod-like features. The pods are covered by a hard protective shell with deep brown soft pulp inside holding about two to ten seeds. The fruit pulp is edible and distinguished from other tropical fruits through its paste-like texture and sweet-sour taste. The fruit is used as an ingredient in juice, jam, soup, and snacks. More than its distinct taste that adds depth and element of surprise to any dish, tamarind is loaded with several vitamins and minerals that flourish the body inside and out.
Top 12 Health Benefits of Tamarind
Tamarind aids weight loss
When it comes to weight loss, tamarind is of value. Tamarind, often used as a spice, features the hydroxy citric acid (HCA), which is closely associated with weight loss. The said element was found to inhibit an enzyme in the system that stores fat. Tamarind is likewise effective in suppressing the appetite as the serotonin neurotransmitter is increased. While studies continue to prove the effectivity of tamarind in managing weight, incorporating it in the diet may yield positive effect.
Tamarind is also a great tool to fight inflammation. Its essential oils, in particular, has anti-inflammatory properties that are effective in reducing discomfort or pain on the joints as well as in diabetes, gout, and other rheumatic conditions. The anti-inflammatory abilities of tamarind can be traced from its ability to break down inflammatory chemicals including interleukin, which is responsible for the creation of enzyme that damages the bones and cartilage.
Improves nerve function
This fruit is a load of essential vitamins especially the vitamin B complex. It is high in Thiamine, which is a key factor in improving nerve function and muscle development to further strengthen them and sustain activity. Niacin found in tamarind is significant in increasing the good cholesterol in the body and to reduce the risk of any cardiovascular disease. Tamarind guarantees the protection of body from Pellagra or the lack of niacin supply in the body often manifested in the form of insomnia, diarrhea, and dementia. The substantial amount of folic acid present in tamarind promotes production of red blood cells and prevents anemia. Folates are particularly essential during pregnancy and infancy. Otherwise, this may result to underweight infants or neural tube defects.
Helps with digestion
A healthy digestion is also vital in achieving overall health. Good thing that tamarind possesses a substantial amount of fiber. Fiber gives way to peristaltic motion and at the same time increases the secretion of gastric juices. This yields smooth digestion and prevents constipation. Moreover, it reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. The huge amount of dietary fiber reaching up to 13% of the recommended daily value will make a great difference in your digestive system.
Promotes heart health
Tamarind is also believed to promote heart health by significantly lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. The effect of lowering the blood cholesterol has something to do with the high content of fiber present in tamarind. Fiber works to scrap excess bad cholesterol that blocks the arteries and veins. Moreover, a load of antioxidants in tamarind like vitamin C eliminates free radicals that cause heart-related diseases.
Improves eye health
Did you know that tamarind is used as a key ingredient in eye drops? This is because of vitamin A packed in the same. It supplies the body with beta-carotene, which helps ensure that your eyes or vision is healthy. Apart vitamin A, other essential vitamins present in tamarind reduces the risk of developing macular degeneration.
Boosts the immune system
As previously mentioned, tamarind is rich in vitamin C about 3.5mg or 6% of the RDV. Vitamin C has antioxidant effects that protect the body primarily the immune system. This is to prevent fungal or microbial diseases from weakening the entire system. In some countries, tamarind is used as key ingredient in treating stomach worms. Moreover, this natural antioxidant helps fight free radicals that are considered as the culprit of cancer.
Ensures proper circulation
In order that all the muscles and organs get the required amount of oxygen for them to function properly, you need to have enough supply of iron in the body. A 100g serving of tamarind comes with 2.80mg or 35% of the recommended daily value of iron. When you have enough iron content in the body, proper red blood cell count is expected. As a result, the organs and muscles receive the appropriate oxygen due them in order to function at an optimum level. Furthermore, lack of iron results to anemia that is often manifested by headache, weakness, and even cognitive irregularity.
Helps prevent or manage diabetes
Tamarind may be a source of carbohydrates, however with proper use and limiting its content in a balanced diet, the carbohydrates found in it may work to your advantage. Tamarind is an alpha-amylase inhibitor. Alpha-amylase is an enzyme that breaks down the alpha bonds in starchy food. This means that the said enzyme helps prevent the carbohydrate from being absorbed and later on turned into simple sugar, which is responsible for spiking up the blood sugar level. Tamarind will help control the fluctuations on your blood sugar levels.
Regulates blood pressure
Another vital element is potassium. For every 100g serving of tamarind, there is 628mg of potassium consisting of the 13% of the recommended daily value. Potassium is a vasodilator that reduces blood pressure. The high potassium content and low content of sodium make it a great food to regulate blood pressure. This way also, the blood vessels are relaxed. At the same time, the potassium-packed in tamarind helps wash out toxins from the kidneys.
Help improves quality of sleep
One less known benefit of tamarind is that it improves the quality of sleep. Tamarind has 92mg of magnesium, which makes up 23% of its recommended value. This mineral has been linked to improvement in quality and duration of sleep. As tamarind regulate metabolism in the body, there is a lesser chance of occurrence of sleep disorder or even insomnia.
Keeps hair and skin strong and healthy
Tamarind also finds a good place when it comes to keeping the hair and skin healthy. This is because of the vitamin C content of this tropical fruit, which creates and maintain collagen. Collagen is a type of protein found in our hair and skin. Skin rashes and sunburns may be relieved through the anti-inflammatory effect of tamarind. Moreover, the vitamin A present in this fruit increases production of sebum retaining the moisturized feel of the hair.
Tamarind may not be as popular as other tropical fruits in the market, but for those who have knowledge about its health benefits and uses would appreciate its true value. Tamarind is a great source of the some of the most fundamental vitamins and minerals that our body needs. It has zero cholesterol and low fact content.
For every 100g serving of tamarind, there are…
- 239 calories
- Carbohydrates– 62.50g or 40% of the recommended daily value
- Protein- 2.80g (5% RDV)
- Total fat- 0.60g (3% RDV)
- Dietary Fiber- 5.1g (13% RDV)
- Vitamin A- 30 IU (1% RDV)
- Vitamin B1 or Thiamin- 0.428mg (36% RDV)
- Vitamin B3 or Niacin- 1.938mg (12% RDV)
- Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid– 0.143mg (3% RDV)
- Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine– 0.066mg (5% RDV)
- Vitamin B9 or Folates– 14 µg (3.5% RDV)
- Vitamin C- 3.5mg (6% RDV)
- Vitamin E- 0.10mg (<1% RDV)
- Vitamin K– 2.8 µg (2% RDV)
- Iron- 2.80mg (35% RDV)
- Copper– 0.86mg (9.5% RDV)
- Magnesium- 92mg (23% RDV)
- Calcium- 74mg (7% RDV)
- Phosphorus– 113mg (16% RDV)
- Selenium– 1.3 µg (2% RDV)
- Zinc- 0.10mg (1% RDV)
- Potassium-628mg (13% RDV)
History of Tamarind
Tamarind was found to be native to Africa and Asia. There were traces of tamarind discovered in the early historic site of Ter in Maharashtra. Wood charcoal point to the origin of tamarind in Ganges valley in 1300 B.C., where it was believed that tamarind tree was rather planted than occurred naturally.
In 400BC, tamarind was grown in some parts in Egypt, which was even mentioned in the Indian Brahmasamhita Scriptures from 1200 to 200 BC. No mention, meanwhile, was made of tamarind to the ancient Greeks.
It is believed that the Arabs were the one ones who introduced tamarind across the Persian Gulf from India. Hence, its use in many dishes in Iran and Egypt. It was only in 1615 when the first reference to tamarind in America was made with a belief that it was the Spanish who brought it after their voyage in Asia. From Mexico where tamarind first arrived, the fruit was transported to tropical America and other Caribbean islands.
The medicinal attribute of tamarind was recognized first by Arab physicians. They then brought it to East Indies calling it as “Tamari hindi,” or Indian date.
Fun Facts about Tamarind
- Tamarind comes in different forms including the raw pod, pressed block as when the shells and seeds are removed and only the pulp is left to form a block, and concentrate or that which has been boiled.
- Tamarind is also referred to as the “date of India.”
- The pods of tamarind may contain two to ten seeds.
- In the past, beverage form of tamarind was taken to treat diarrhea, constipation, and fever.
- The tartaric acid found in tamarind is a natural solution to polish metals and effectively remove tarnish from bronze or copper.
2 Popular Tamarind Recipes
The distinct sweet and sour taste of tamarind makes it a big hit for people who want to be adventurous when it comes to food. There are many ways to incorporate tamarind in your diet. Some use it to make juices and jams, while others take it as a key ingredient in soups or in main dishes. Here are two easy recipes you can try at home to experience the taste, and benefit from the nutrients of tamarind. The first is FoodOlic’s Tamarind Iced Tea perfect for the summer days. The next one is a simple Peanut-Tamarind Sauce by Serious Eats. This is a must-have if you want to achieve an instant Asian dinner at home. You can use it as dipping sauce or base for your spring rolls or satay.
Tamarind Iced Tea
- 2 cups of tamarind (or tamarind paste)
- 2 cups hot water
- 5 tbsp sugar (or 3 tbsp stevia)
- Some lime slices
- Coriander leaves
- Ice cubes
- Remove the protective shell and braches from the fruits. Add the hot water and leave it there for about 15 minutes. Using your hand, squeeze the pulp until it becomes paste and detach the pits.
- Make it smooth by passing the mixture through a sieve.
- Place the paste in the pitcher. Add water, sugar, and lemon.
- Put it in the fridge and let it cool for a few hours.
- Add the coriander leaves and ice cubes before serving.
- ½ cup shelled peanuts
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 medium garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp curry paste
- 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Dry chili flakes
- Toast the peanuts in 375°F oven or toaster oven until deep golden brown for about 5 minutes. Let it cool on a plate.
- Combine peanut, sugar and garlic in a food processor to make a chunky paste mixture. Add the soy sauce, curry paste, tamarind concentrate and oil. Add some water about 1 tbsp at a time to achieve the desired consistency. You may add chili flakes if you want it to be spicy.
- Place it in a sealed container and store it in the refrigerator. The mixture may last for several weeks.
Side Effects of Tamarind
The consumption of this edible pod must be taken with caution. First, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers may want to consult their doctors before eating the same. There is more to be done in terms of studies to support the safety of consuming tamarind if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Another thing is that tamarind significantly reduces blood sugar level. So it is necessary to monitor your blood sugar level especially if you are dealing with diabetes.