Don’t skip curries if you are trying to lose weight, says Rob Khan, the owner of The Rajdani near Sevenoaks, which was recently named Best Indian Restaurant in the South East at the Asian Curry Awards. He says that contrary to popular belief, Indian food is not fattening, “Some of the richer dishes laden with cream and butter should be avoided if you want to lose weight – and go easy on the lager. Spicy foods are known to stimulate the metabolism, boost the immune system and boost the spirits on cold, damp dark winter days. Popular curry recipes contain turmeric, cumin, allspice, cardamom, ginger, garlic and capsicum – spices with strong anti-bacterial properties.”
Apart from promoting weight loss, the spices use in Indian cookery offer a whole host of health benefits. Natural herbs and spices were used for their health-giving qualities for thousands of years before the invention of modern medicine. Many of the synthetic chemicals used in prescription and over-the-counter drugs, are derived from the active ingredients originally found in popular culinary flavourings. Tasty Indian vegetable and pulse recipes are particularly recommended to enliven a calorie-restricted diet.
Studies have found that garlic, cinnamon and cumin can destroy up to 80% of meat-borne bacteria, while ginger can slow bacterial growth by 25%. This is why they are found in dishes from hot countries, where meat needs to be preserved. Chilli raises the metabolic rate, improves the respiratory systems and stimulates the immune response – mimicking the effect of caffeine contained in many cold relief treatments. Garlic well known for its antibacterial effects, and helps fight disease. Turmeric relieves congestion, in much the same way hay fever treatments work by reducing inflammation of blood vessels in the sinuses. Ginger eases nausea and stimulates the lymph glands that fight infection. Onion skins contain quercetin, a potent anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory, effective in relieving blocked nose. Onion extracts are also recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for providing relief in the treatment of coughs and colds, asthma and bronchitis.
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