What is Tamarind?
Pronounced TAM-uh-rihnd, tamarind trees have an African origin. But tamarind trees also grow in other tropical regions around the world, particularly in India and Mexico. The tree produces and buds a pod-like fruit appearing similar to peanuts. The leguminous pods stay intact upon maturity, housing seeds and a sticky pulp. The taste of tamarind is described as potently sweet but tart, and sometimes even sour. So how are tamarinds used and what nutritional benefits follows?
How to Use Tamarind
The fruit pulp and seeds are both considered to be edible portions, though suggested to be more palatable when ripened. Upon reaching maturity, tamarind is used to sweeten drinks, ice creams, sorbets, and blended into juices. Interestingly, the Westernized region utilizes tamarind in Worcestershire sauce. But mostly used in Indian cuisine, tamarind is used to flavor both meals and snacks. The potent extract and pulp are key ingredients in chutneys, curries, and tamarind rice. The Middle East incorporates tamarind into meat-based stews, as it is a valuable meat tenderizer.
Inspired and ready to put tamarind into use in the kitchen? First off, remove the inedible hard shell that houses the pulp and seeds. Soak the tamarind in warm water then squeeze and separate the pulp from the fibers with fingers or use a spatula to push pulp through a sifter. The pulp can be used in a variety of desired ways such as a dipping sauce or marinade and meat tenderizer. The leftover water can also take the place of water or broth in recipes.
Calorie and macronutrient distribution are broken down below. It is prominent to notice tamarind is a rich carbohydrate source, offering trace amounts of protein and lacking fat:
*Adapted from the USDA's National Nutrient Database
Beyond the macronutrients identified, tamarind also has a valuable vitamin and mineral profile. Also based on 100 grams, tamarind offers the following recommended dietary allowances (RDAs): 36% thiamin, 35% iron, 23% magnesium, 16% phosphorous, 12% niacin, 9.5% copper, 7% calcium, and 6% vitamin C.
Tamarind Health Benefits
The sticky pulp is a rich fiber source, especially in the form of gums, hemicelluloses, and pectin. Diets rich in fiber are shown to promote bowel regularity and specific to tamarind, it has been used in traditional medicine as a laxative. Additionally, thiamin is used in digestive issues including ongoing diarrhea.
The fiber content may also lower cholesterol levels, ultimately lessening the risk of heart disease. Additionally, preventing a thiamin deficiency can reduce the odds of heart failure. And if managing heart failure, diuretic-induced thiamin excretion may increase the risk of a thiamin deficiency and the disease severity.
Tamarind is commonly used as an alternative cold remedy. The compilation of nutrients and antioxidants may also boost the immune and respiratory systems, ultimately preventing colds in the first place.
Specific to the seeds, tamarind is often used in the preparation of eye drops. The drops show an association in dry eye treatment. Its mineral content also counteracts vision problems such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Optimized Physical Performance
The high iron content helps carry oxygenated blood throughout the body. Available oxygen, especially during exertive workouts, can help optimize performance and delay or minimize fatigue.
Though tamarind is generally recognized as safe, there are special precautions and warnings to consider. Firstly, there is no determined safe level of consumption in pregnant and breast-feeding women. For this reason, large amounts of tamarind should be avoided until more is known. Tamarind may also lower blood sugar levels, which may be of concern when trying to regulate diabetes or manage blood sugar control during and following surgery. It is recommended to stop using tamarind at least two weeks prior to a scheduled surgery.