Good news for fans of Indian food, your favourite curry may not be as much of a guilty pleasure as you originally thought. It is hard to believe that there was once a time, many years ago, that a trip to an Indian restaurant would probably involve nothing more than the local curry house and recipes that were distinctly Anglicised for our western tastes. Dishes like the chicken tikka masala, a recipe said to have been invented in Scotland, became the nation’s favourite curry and an evening of Indian cuisine would often involve stodgy naan bread and dishes swimming with oil.
However, the world has woken up to the lighter side of Indian cuisine. The heavy, thickening creams of yesteryear have been replaced with the coconut milk curries of the southern states, whilst fatty meats are eschewed for leaner cuts. Although there are certainly a few decadent choices on the traditional Indian menu (butter chicken anyone?), authentic Indian food does not have to be unhealthy – just visit one of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants and you will see for yourself.
Additionally, you will also find that there are a surprising number of health benefits associated with Indian curries – the versatility of the dish means that a variety of delectable curries, catering to all manner of tastes, can be created using a range of health-boosting ingredients. So, next time you make your order, check to see if it contains one of these beauties and you can rest assured that sensational flavour does not have to mean compromising your health…
1. Chillies – One of the top ingredients associated with an Indian curry, chillies are used all over the sub-continent to add a little kick to curries, stews, pickles and street food. From the spicy, Indian green chilli to the smokiness of the Kashmiri red, you will find chillies in many of your favourite Indian curries. The hot peppers contain capsicum, a health-boosting compound that can help speed up your metabolism and even help you shift excess weight. They are also rich in vitamins and antioxidants and contain anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Cumin – One of the big players on the Indian spice scene, cumin plays a central role in many of our favourite curries. With its nutty, earthy flavour and distinctive aroma, cumin can add a noticeably Indian flair to all manner of dishes and drinks. This spice is known for aiding digestion, improving appetite and is believed to help relieve respiratory problems too.
3. Garlic – How many times has your mother told you, eat garlic to ward off a cold? Although current research cannot say that this is strictly the case, the NHS reports on their website that some studies have shown the link between garlic and improved circulation, lower blood pressure and a healthier cardiovascular system.
4. Coconut milk – Rich in fibre and high in a whole host of vitamins and minerals, including iron, coconut milk makes an excellent addition to your curry sauce. Although it does contain fat, it is a type of fat that actually has a rather positive effect on the body, when consumed in controlled amounts. Unlike saturated fat, this type of medium chain fat can help break down other fats in the body and is metabolised quickly by the liver. Eat fat to burn fat – sounds good to us.