Whether you’ve seen it on restaurant menus, heard about it through food culture or have actually tried it at home, curry, the classic Asian stew dish, is a popular mainstay of world cuisine. What you may not have been aware of is the fact that curries are extremely healthy.
Curry powder depends on the region you buy it. It is a mixed spice powder, similar to garam masala, but where turmeric is the main ingredient. Common curry spice blend includes coriander, turmeric, cumin, red pepper, garlic, caraway, cinnamon, clove, and other ingredients.
One of the most loved aspects of curry is its versatility. Using a fairly simplistic mix of essential and healthy ingredients, such as coconut milk and the all-important curry power, a curry sauce can be prepared with any type of protein or vegetables you can imagine. Your imagination is the only limitation when dealing with curry.
This dish is most popular in Indian cultures and throughout other Southeast Asian cultures, but curries have exploded around the world in popularity much like the Eastern European stew dishes of 100 years ago.
For cooks and connoisseurs of good-tasting food out there, curry is near the top of the list. However, curry not only provides a powerful punch for the palate, it’s also a dish with many health benefits.
Individuals dieting or looking to improve their health will find that curries, once thought to be grease-riddled dishes, are actually good for you.
Why is Curry Healthy?
The health benefits of curry can be found through its many ingredients. Of course, a “curry” is not a set recipe. It’s derived from a word meaning “sauce,” and we take it to mean a soup or stew in this age. But there are a few set ingredients found in the vast majority of all curry recipes that offer plenty of health and wellness benefits.
An important tip to remember: Although the ingredients of a traditional curry will provide health benefits, any such potential gain from the food can be negated with too much fat, too many carbohydrates, and/or other unhealthy substances. In short, curries loaded down with bad ingredients will be, of course, bad for you.
The Healthy Benefits
Turmeric is the herb in curry that helps give it that yellowish/orange-like color. It is a main ingredient in most premade curry powders, and virtually no curry you fix or eat will be made without this herb.
Turmeric is healthy for you because it is a natural anti-inflammatory. It works great to reduce the painful effects of arthritis. And it also helps to naturally clean and restore the body’s liver. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is also rumored to fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is another one of those essential curry ingredients that most likely will not be left out. It’s pretty self-explanatory where coconut milk comes from. But what’s not so obvious is that coconut milk helps to aid in digestion of foods, and the anti-viral and anti-bacterial fatty acids, among others, will help your body’s immune system.
This may not seem like a health benefit at first, but one of the biggest reasons people have trouble staying on a diet is because they find low-fat and low-carb meals to be less appetizing. Curry doesn’t have this problem. With the many spices used in cooking, an all vegan curry is actually one of the preferred varieties, and there are limitless variations you can make to tailor the dish to any diet.
There are a variety of chilies used in curry powders, depending on which cook you’re speaking to, but any chili you use is going to have health benefits. The capsicum contained within a hot pepper, providing the proverbial heat, is well known in many cultures for its medicinal qualities.
In powdered form, the benefits do lose a bit of their punch, along with their heat, but chilies are still able to aid in sleep. And as any medical professional will tell you, regular sleep patterns are important to your health. There are also still some anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities to the powder.
This is another benefit of the chilies, but is important enough to stand on its own. It’s a separate benefit because these benefits aren’t found in all peppers like the capsicum – only in red, yellow and sometimes green (of the milder verities) chilies.
Fruit for fruit (berries, more precisely), these peppers pack more vitamin C than citrus fruits. And not just a little more; some of these peppers have exponentially more vitamins than a fruit like an orange, lemon, cumquat or grapefruit.
Almost everyone who knows a little bit about food knows that garlic has some truly magical medicinal qualities. Okay, so this mythical member of the onion family can ward off Dracula. But on a serious note: garlic is known to help reduce high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and has a truly powerful punch that can destroy cancerous cells in the human body.
This tuber, kin to cardamom and turmeric, is garlic’s best friend in Asian cooking – you will rarely find one without the other. Other than the unmistakable appealing taste, ginger is able to act as a pain reliever, helping with problems like arthritis, and it is also very effective in staving off nausea and motion sickness.
Depending on what type of curry you’re eating, there may or may not be a lot of cinnamon in it. However, after hearing about its health benefits, you may want to up the quantities of this spice.
Cinnamon is great for lowering blood sugar levels, thus being an essential ingredient to any healthy diet. It also helps to lower a person’s total cholesterol levels and is a favorite ingredient in holistic Type 2 diabetes.
When using meats in curries, whether red meat (beef, lamb, deer, buffalo, etc) or poultry (duck, chicken, turkey, etc), most cooks trim off the fat and what you’re left with is lean meat. Other than some cholesterol, everything else is very healthy for you when prepared this way.
You’re cutting out the fat and receiving only the essential vitamins – A, B, C, D, and E vitamins. Most importantly, meat contains a powerful dose of B12 vitamins, helping your immune system and providing your body with energy.
- Ten: Filling
This is another benefit that doesn’t really sound like beneficial at first. However, when dealing with the battle again obesity, you’ll find that meal portions are one of the many enemies of a healthy weight.
Because of the ingredients used and its consistency, curry is a very filling dish. Even those among us with big appetites find that a bowl of curry is extremely satisfying.