Tamarind is a delicious, sweet, and sour fruit that has a wide variety of uses, both for medicinal and culinary purposes. It is a medium-sized bushy tree with evergreen leaves and a fruit that develops in pods characterized by long, brown shells. Inside is a sticky, fleshy, juicy pulp, which is the tamarind fruit. This is where the nutrition and taste reside! As it is both sweet and sour in taste, people either tend to immediately like it or have a natural disposition against it!
It is a member of the Fabaceae family and its scientific name is Tamarindus indica. The tamarind tree is indigenous to tropical regions of Africa, particularly Sudan, but its cultivation has spread to almost all tropical areas of the world since it is such a useful and desirable source of nutrition and unique flavors. It has been cultivated for thousands of years and likely made its way to Asia about 5,000 years ago. It wasn’t until 500 years ago that it made its way to the Americas via Spanish explorers. South America and Mexico remain the largest consumers and producers of tamarind in the world.
It can be consumed as a raw fruit, added to desserts once it is fully ripe or can be dried and ground into a spice. It is often used in jams and sauces and is even dried and processed into candies in some parts of the world. It is a normal ingredient in soups and dishes throughout Asia and South America, owing to the health benefits this little seed pod contains. Let’s find out more about the components that make tamarind such a powerful and essential part of your diet!
Health Benefits Of Tamarind
The health benefits of tamarind are explained in greater detail below.
Tamarind has long been considered a natural laxative and its dietary fiber content is a major reason for this property. Eating tamarind as a fruit or as a spice can increase the efficiency of your digestive system, while the fiber can bulk up your stool, making it move through the smooth muscles of the intestinal tract easily. Tamarind is also a bilious substance, meaning that it stimulates the activity of bile, which can help dissolve food faster, and the fiber stimulates gastric juices to speed up digestion. All of this together means that things run through your digestive tract faster, making it a powerful laxative if you are suffering from chronic constipation. Oddly enough, the fiber can also reduce loose stools, and studies have shown tamarind to be effective against chronic diarrhea as well!
Tamarind Protects Heart Health
Studies on tamarind have shown it to be effective in reducing blood pressure and cholesterol. The fiber content in tamarind certainly has something to do with the reduction in cholesterol, since it is known to scrap excess LDL cholesterol from the veins and arteries. The potassium in tamarind may be responsible for a reduction in blood pressure since it is known as a vasodilator that reduces the stress on the cardiovascular system. The impressive level of vitamin C in tamarind also has something to do with it as well. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can reduce the impact of free radicals, the pesky by-products of cellular metabolism that have been linked to heart diseases and a number of other health conditions.
Tamarind is a very good source of iron and a single serving can provide more than 10% of your daily requirement. A healthy supply of iron in the body guarantees proper red blood cell count in the body, which can ensure appropriate oxygenation of different muscles and organs to function properly. Also, iron deficiency results in anemia, which is characterized by weakness, fatigue, headaches, cognitive disorders, and stomach issues. So, eat plenty of tamarinds to keep anemia at bay!
Improves Nerve Function
One of the most significant vitamins in tamarind is the B complex. Thiamine, an important part of the vitamin B family, is found in high quantities within tamarind. Thiamine is responsible for improving nerve function, as well as muscle development, which can help you remain active, maintain your reflexes, and stay strong.
One of the unique compounds that can be extracted from tamarind or gained as a benefit from it when used as a spice is called hydroxycitric acid (HCA). HCA is connected to weight loss because it has been shown to inhibit an enzyme in the body that specifically helps to store fat. Furthermore, tamarind has been known to suppress the appetite by increasing the neurotransmitter serotonin. Research is still ongoing in these respective areas, but it shows promising signs as a weight loss supplement!
Along with its ability to stop weight gain, it also inhibits the enzyme alpha-amylase, which mainly stops carbohydrates from being absorbed. A carbohydrate-heavy diet can increase the chances of uncontrolled glucose and insulin levels, which is the biggest problem for people suffering from diabetes. Tamarind can help to monitor and control these fluctuations.
The essential oil of tamarind has been connected to a number of anti-inflammatory abilities, including the reduction of joint pain and inflammation, arthritis, rheumatic conditions, and gout. It also reduces eye irritation; one of the most common forms of which is conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. Tamarind has shown a definite soothing and anti-inflammatory ability and is, therefore, used in many herbal remedies for inflammation.
High levels of vitamin C, as well as other antioxidant effects in the essential oils, make tamarind a wonderful way to boost your immune system and ensure long-term health, keeping away from microbial and fungal infections. It also reduces the occurrence of parasites in the body due to its antiseptic and antimicrobial effects. It has specifically been linked to eliminating stomach worms in children in tropical areas where tamarind is cultivated.
Word of Caution: The main concern is that tamarind lowers blood pressure and is a blood thinner, so it can be difficult to reduce bleeding in case something happens. If you are taking aspirin or other blood thinners, be careful while ingesting an excessive amount of tamarind.