Tamarind is a little known tropical fruit that is most popular in Asia and Africa and one that boasts a range of great health benefits.
This fruit is native to Africa but grows prolifically in India, Pakistan and other tropical areas. The tree grows pods filled with bean-like seeds, buried in a fibrous pulp. When ripe, the pulp turns into a juicy paste with a sweet-sour flavour. You may hear of Tamarind called the date of India.
Tamarind pulp is used in cooking a variety of dishes, most commonly in sauces, marinades and desserts. The seeds and leaves of the plant are also edible.
Tamarind is a traditional medicinal ingredient used to naturally relieve constipation, fever and peptic ulcers. The bark and leaves are also used on wounds to prevent infection and promote healing.
Researchers are exploring tamarind for its potential medical uses. So far they have found that extracts from tamarind seeds may help lower blood sugar, aid in weight loss and aid in reversing fatty liver disease (source)
Tamarind Has Anti-Fungal, Anti-viral, Anti-bacterial Properties
Researchers are interested in plants like tamarind that display anti bacterial, viral and fungal attributes, especially in times where antibiotic resistance is growing.
Studies show promising trends that this plant has antimicrobial effects (source). A compound called lupeol found in tamarind is what creates these effects and is why tamarind has been used in traditional medicines to treat diseases like malaria.
48% of people in the US do not reach their daily recommended intake of magnesium. Magnesium plays a role in more than 600 bodily functions and so has a multitude of health benefits.
Importantly magnesium helps lower blood pressure and provides anti inflammatory and anti-diabetic effects. Just one ounce or 28 grams, that’s a ¼ cup of the pulp will provide 6% of your recommended intake (source).
Nutritional Value Of Tamarind
Tamarind is an excellent source of many vitamins. 120 grams of tamarind contains the below percentages of your daily recommended intakes (source for nutrition data):
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin):
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin):11%
- Vitamin B3 (niacin):12%
As well as trace amounts of vitamin C, K, B5, Folate, Copper and Selenium.
Tamarind is made up of 6 grams of fibre, 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat – and comes to 287 calories, mainly because its high in natural sugars. For this reason, tamarind may be an issue for people attempting to reduce their calorie intake.
Forms of Tamarind
Tamarind comes in several different processed forms like syrups and candies.
The natural forms of tamarind are available as:
- Raw pods – the natural state of the plant and therefore the least processed. The intact pod holds the seeds and pulp which is easily extracted.
- Processed block – these are made by removing the shell and seeds and using just the pulp. The pulp is pressed into a block, so still in a somewhat natural state in that there are no additives.
- Concentrate – the pulp of the tamarind is boiled down, some preservatives or additives might be included. (not recommended)
Ways To Eat Tamarind
The great news is that tamarind is a fruit which is delicious to eat raw. Just like most fruits and vegetables, raw straight from the pod is the healthiest way to eat tamarind
The naturally occurring pulp paste makes it a great addition in cooking – either from the pod or from a block the health benefits remain.
It is used in any dish that is complimented by the sweet-sour combination of the tamarind flavor. Popular in chutney, curries or sauces, it can also be used to make a natural candy with fewer calories and no added sugar like most sweets.
Warnings About Tamarind Candy
Imported tamarind candies might have unsafe levels of lead in them. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) investigated in 1999 and found tamarind candies as a cause for lead poisoning in several children.
Two types of tamarind suckers and their packaging were tested for lead content. They found more than 50% of the products exceeded the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acceptable levels for lead in edible products.
The wrappers were the issue, where lead was leaching into the sweets and making them unsafe to eat (source). This is particularly harmful for children and pregnant women but should be avoided altogether. Instead you can make your own tamarind candies as a healthy treat.