Health Benefits of Tamarind

Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) is a leguminous tree that originated from the fertile lands of tropical Africa. The genus Tamarindus is monotypic, meaning that there is only one specie under this genus. The tamarind tree produces a pod-shaped fruit (similar to that of peas) that produce a sour pulp that is used in many cuisines. (1)

In India, tamarind is ground into a kind of paste that is then used to flavor stews and soups. Syrian Jewish cuisine thrives on tamarind as one of its main flavors. In the Philippines, tamarind is candied and is served as a sweet or it is more commonly juiced and the juice is used to flavor sinigang, a certain sour stew. (2) (3) (4) 

While tamarind is easily overlooked as just a flavor fruit, it is actually a medicinal plant. It is used to treat diarrhea, constipation, fever and peptic ulcers. The bark of the hardwood tree has also been used in Ancient India to heal wounds. (5)

Aside from being a flavor fruit and medicinal plant, did you know that the tamarind is actually filled with nutrients and minerals that is beneficial to your health? 

Here are the many different health benefits of tamarind.

Tamarind is jam-packed with nutrients

One cup of tamarind contains the following nutrients and minerals: magnesium (28% of the recommended daily intake or RDI), potassium (22% of RDI), iron (19% of RDI), calcium (9% of RDI), phosphorus (14% of RDI), Vitamin B1 or thiamin (34% of RDI), Vitamin B2 or riboflavin (11% of RDI), Vitamin B3 or niacin (12% of RDI) as well as Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, copper and selenium in trace amounts. (5)

Aside from the vitamins and minerals stated above, for one cup of tamarind, there are 6 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat. For a one cup tamarind, there are 287 calories, most of which come from its sugar components. (5)

Magnesium is good for the body as it is important in bone formation and keeping the bones healthy. It also combines with calcium, further strengthening the bones and teeth. Because of this, magnesium is good for preventing osteoporosis. It also plays a vital role in the different enzymatic reactions of the body, including the metabolism of food, synthesis of fatty acids and proteins, as well as fast transmission of nerve impulses. (6)

Iron is important for treating anemia, raising hemoglobin levels, and helping the immune system. This is because iron binds easily with oxygen, to deliver the needed oxygen throughout the different parts of the body. This reduces the feeling of lethargy, fatigue, dizziness and normalizing the heart rate. It is also a good mineral to be taken by menstruating women to stimulate the production of white blood cells. (7)

Calcium, on the other hand, is a mineral important for building and maintaining strong bones. It is also essential for the heart, muscle and bones for them to function properly. Some studies have also concluded that calcium, along with Vitamin D, may have benefits beyond of bone health: such as preventing cancer, lowering the risk of diabetes and lowering blood pressure. (8)

Tamarind almost completed the eight vitamins found in the Vitamin B group supplement, with exemption of Vitamin B4, B7 and B8. This abundance in the B Vitamins keeps a healthy body as B Vitamins directly impact on the energy levels, brain functions and metabolism of the cells. B Vitamins also prevent infections and just generally promotes cell health. (9)

While a single cupful serving of tamarind contains 69 grams of carbohydrates, in the form of sugar (that is equivalent to about 17.5 teaspoons of sugar, tamarind is still considered as a fruit, and not as an added sugar, which is the type of sugar that causes the development of Type 2 Diabetes or Diabetes Mellitus. (5)

Tamarind contains polyphenols

Polyphenols are antioxidants that prevent serious diseases from developing in the body. These are certain micro-nutrient foods that can be sourced from plants, one of which is tamarind, that contains high levels of polyphenols. (10)

Polyphenols are thought to help treat digestion issues, weight management difficulties, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and cardiovascular diseases. (10)

Polyphenols as antioxidants are effective in preventing cancer. Antioxidants prevent the oxidative state of cells, causing the formation of free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that can potentially harm the cells, activating dormant cancer cells in the body. (11)

For the past few decades, much interest about polyphenols as antioxidants have taken the research world by storm. This lead to the deeper understanding of polyphenol as an antioxidant containing the polyphenolic substructure. (12)

Tamarind can boost heart health

As mentioned earlier, tamarind has polyphenols, some of which are flavonoids or antioxidants. Antioxidants are effective in regulating cholesterol levels. A high buildup of cholesterol in the arterial walls can lead to a blockage within the arteries, delaying the blood flow or ultimately restricting it. (13)

One study conducted to hamsters have found out that the tamarind fruit extract lowers the total levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides. High levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides are risk factors to developing hear diseases. (5) (13)

Tamarind may have anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties

Tamarind contains compounds that have natural antimicrobial effects. This is one of the reasons why it is used as a metal shiner, and is used in healing wounds and treating malaria. (5)

Studies have also shown that tamarind may have anti-fungal and antiviral properties as well. The compound lupeol is the one that is responsible tamarind’s antibacterial properties. (5)

Because bacteria have built up resistance against the available antibiotics in the market, researchers are particularly interested in medicinal plants, such as tamarind, that have not yet been explored in the creation of antibiotics. (5)

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