What’s Thai Food
What’s Thai Food? Thai food is usually enjoyed within the US, but you’ll ponder whether this cuisine is healthy.
The traditional diet of Thailand features colorful vegetables, seafood, and meats that are served with rice or noodles and seasoned with herbs and spices like turmeric, galangal, Thai basil, and lemongrass.
Food served at Western Thai restaurants shares many aspects of authentic Thai cuisine, although it’s some notable differences. Thai menus in America may have larger portions, more fried foods, and recipes that are higher in salt and sugar.
Nutrition of common Thai ingredients
Thai food is known for its emphasis on herbs and spices, many of which have been studied for their benefits. Other common ingredients in Thai dishes, like tofu, seafood, and bean sprouts, also boast impressive nutritional profiles.
Here are a number of the foremost widely used Thai ingredients and knowledge about their nutrition and possible health benefits.
Galangal (Thai ginger).
Similar in appearance and flavor to ginger and turmeric roots. Galangal is often used in sauces, curry pastes, and dishes like tom yum soup. Test-tube studies show that this root contains compounds that may kill cancer cells. Human studies also suggest that galangal may help fight inflammation and relieve pain.
Thai holy basil.
This herb tastes like other basil varieties but with a licorice-like undertone. It’s used in curries, fried rice, and stir-fries. Research shows that holy basil oils and extracts may aid stress management, protect against high blood sugar in those with diabetes, and exert other therapeutic effects.
Turmeric gives curries their color and may provide health benefits related to its main active compound curcumin. Specifically, curcumin may have powerful anti-inflammatory effects and enhance brain function and brain cell creation. Other compounds in turmeric show the potential to protect against diabetes and heart disease, but more human studies are needed.
Lemongrass adds a fresh, citrus flavor to Thai soups and may boost your health at the same time. Rodent studies suggest that lemongrass essential oil may help protect against stomach ulcers and decrease high blood cholesterol levels, a risk factor for heart disease.
Coconut milk can be found in Thai curries and soups. While the health effects of coconut are widely debated thanks to its high level of saturated fat, coconut milk may have benefits. A study in 60 healthy Asian adults found that consuming porridge made with coconut milk.
5 days a week over 8 weeks significantly lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased HDL (good) cholesterol, compared to their baseline. Yet, these effects might not apply to Western cultures.
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Mung bean sprouts are used in soups, stir-fries, and pad Thais. They’re rich in several vitamins and minerals, providing over 30% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K and 15% of the DV for vitamin C in 1 cup (104 grams). Vitamin K is a vital nutrient for proper blood clotting, while vitamin C is necessary for collagen production, a healthy immune system, and healthy skin.
Chili peppers (Thai chilies).
Fresh and dried chilies are added to many Thai dishes for heat and flavor. Chili peppers contain a spread of plant compounds that will have health benefits, including capsaicin, which provides them their spice, also because the pigment capsanthin, which is responsible for the color of red peppers. Some studies suggest that consuming spicy foods with capsaicin promotes fat-burning and decreases appetite, but research is mixed.
Green papaya salad is a popular Thai dish. Papaya is rich in antioxidants, such as lycopene, that can fight reactive cell-damaging molecules called free radicals. Lycopene may exert anticancer effects and protect skin from aging and damage.
Tofu, which often appears in pad Thai and other dishes, contains compounds called isoflavones, which act similarly to the hormone estrogen in the body. Isoflavones may improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of diabetes. A large study in over 40,000 Chinese adults found that eating unsweetened soy foods at least once a month over 5 years was associated with a decrease in type 2 diabetes risk.
Many Thai dishes feature shrimp, prawns, white fish, and other shellfish. Seafood is a superb source of lean protein and provides vitamins, minerals, and healthy omega-3 fats. Research has linked regular consumption of seafood to a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Other Benefits of Thai food.
- Several of the foremost common Thai ingredients are nutritious on their own, but there are other healthy aspects of Thai food generally.
- For one, Thai meals often feature a good balance of macro-nutrients — protein, fats, and carbs.
- Curries, stir-fries, and soups are made with a variety of vegetables, include a protein source like tofu, lean meat, or seafood, and contain coconut milk, peanut sauces, or other fat.
- The most commonly used veggies in Thai meals are non-starchy, such as peppers, tomato, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and onions. These veggies are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a variety of compounds that contribute to good digestion and overall health.
- Eating meals that largely comprise non-starchy veggies and also contain protein and fat can help you maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. This, in turn, leads to sustained energy and may aid weight loss.
Possible downsides of Thai food.
- While several Thai dishes include an honest balance of nutrients and health-promoting ingredients, there are some downsides to Thai cuisine.
- Fried rice and pad Thais are often made with larger proportions of white rice and rice noodles, compared with other ingredients.
- Eating too many refined carbs, such as white rice and noodles, has been linked to weight gain and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and other diseases
- Furthermore, many Western Thai restaurants offer deep-fried foods, such as cream cheese wontons, egg rolls, and fried pumpkin, that aren’t necessarily based on traditional Thai foods.
- Several studies have linked the consumption of fried foods to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain cancers
- Fried foods also tend to be high in sodium, a nutrient that when consumed in excess may contribute to high blood pressure and damage blood vessels in the heart and kidneys. Depending on their ingredients, Thai curries and soups can also be loaded with salt.
- Finally, some Thai foods contain added sugar, especially desserts and Thai iced tea made with sweetened condensed milk and black tea. Eating too much added sugar may lead to weight gain, cavities, and other adverse health effects.
Healthy Thai dishes.
Healthy Thai meals are veggie-centric, low in calories, and made with lean proteins and Thai herbs and spices. Here are some nutritious options.
- Spring rolls: fresh veggies wrapped in rice paper
- Papaya salad: shredded papaya mixed with chilies, green beans, peanuts, and a fish sauce dressing
- Tom yum soup (hot and sour soup): shrimp, broth, lemongrass, galangal, chilies, and other ingredients
- Chicken larb: stir-fried ground chicken, vegetables, herbs, and spices
- Steamed fish and veggies: often made with white fish steamed with aromatic spices
- Beef and broccoli: lean beef, broccoli, and several veggies
- Red, green, or massaman curry: a mix of curry paste, veggies, coconut milk, herbs, and spices
- Pad Thai: rice noodles, veggies, peanut sauce, bean sprouts, and a choice of lean protein
Many Thai dishes are served with rice. Fried rice and pad Thai, in particular, often contain large amounts of refined carbs from white rice or noodles.
To boost the nutrition of these dishes, opt for brown rice, which has more fiber and nutrients than white rice, if it’s an option. What’s more, you can mix in extra veggies to increase the volume and split the dish into multiple portions.
It’s also important to watch your portions of curries, soups, and sauces that may be high in sodium and calories. Ask for heavy sauces or dressings on the side so that you can decide how much you use.