The popularity of Thai food stems largely from the variety and intensity of the flavours but it is also one of the healthiest cuisines due to the properties of the ingredients used and its method of cooking. The following are some of the factors that can make a Thai meal a healthy option.
Thai food is cooked quickly on a high heat. This retains much of the goodness and flavour. Very little oil is used in the cooking of Thai stir-fried dishes. A little oil is added to the wok at the beginning and then a broth is added to ensure the dish does not dry out.
Use of Vegetables
Most Thai curries contain fresh vegetables as well as the main ingredient. Extra vegetables may be served as a side dish. Great if you are trying to achieve your five a day.
Low Sugar and Salt
Thai chefs use natural sweeteners such as palm sugar. This has a lower GI than common refined sugars and also provides a more intense taste. And Thai chefs do not use common salt. Saltiness is achieved by adding fish sauce which is full of protein, vitamins and minerals.
Less Hidden Fats
Thai cuisine does not make much use of dairy products and so the dishes tend to include less hidden fats from ingredients like butter and cream.
But what about deep fried dishes?
The list of starters in Thai restaurants in the west are often dominated by deep fried dishes. Thais would tend not to eat these items on their own but would consume them with dishes that aid digestion or lighten the load. A Thai meal should always be balanced in terms of both flavour and texture.
If you want to stick to the western pattern of ordering separate courses but want to eat healthily you could opt for a soup or starter as your first course. Preliminary studies in Thailand and Japan have indicated that Tom Yam soup might inhibit cancerous tumour growth.
Many ingredients used in Thai cuisine have health benefits. Here are some examples:
- Chillies - Good source of Vitamins A and C. They provide a boost to the immune system and help to alleviate congestion and clear sinuses. Research continues into pain relief potential.
- Lemongrass - Good source of iron and potassium. It is said to help with stomach problems and to ward off the common cold.
- Coriander - Good source of dietary fibre and packed with vitamins and minerals.
- Galangal (Thai Ginger) - Aids digestion and is extensively used in Chinese herbal medicine.
- Kaffir Lime - Promotes gum and is good for digestion.
- Garlic - Antioxidant, aids with digestion and research continues into effect n blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Lime – Good source of potassium and vitamin C.