One glance at an Indian restaurant menu will tell you one thing: there are seemingly endless varieties of curry dishes. But how healthy is curry? While some spiced curries are practically superfoods, other dishes are high-fat and calorie-laden. Learn more about the benefits of curry powder below and how to make curry a healthy part of your diet.
Curry is one of our favorite dishes. Why? It's full of spiced flavor, savory herbs, and rich, stewed vegetables in a one-pot meal that you can leave to simmer on the stovetop.
We love a low-maintenance dinner that still manages to deliver big on flavor!
While a curry spice blend is full of nutritional value and health benefits, this dish can quickly become unhealthy when mixed with the wrong ingredients.
Learn more about this delicious dish and how to make or order the healthiest version of curry.
What is in Curry?
Curry is a highly-adaptable stewed vegetable and (sometimes) meat dish that you can make a thousand different ways, making it a little harder to define.
The word curry itself means 'spiced sauce,' which is the basis for every excellent curry dish.
In general, curry can contain several different ingredients.
Still, it always starts with a Middle Eastern spice base of turmeric, cumin, or coriander, usually combined with other spices into what we know as curry powder.
What is Curry Powder?
Curry is a standard spice blend we use to cook Middle Eastern dishes that vary from region to region.
It usually contains turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and chili pepper, but other commonly added spices are ginger, black pepper, mustard seeds, curry, and fennel seeds.
Curry isn't generally that spicy, but some taste hotter than others, like Vindaloo and Madras.
The variety of curry powders available is another reason there are so many vastly different curry dishes we can make or order at our favorite Indian restaurant.
Is Curry Good for You?
Is curry fattening?
Curry nutrition facts will vary from dish to dish, and while some curries are light and full of nutrient-dense veggies and spice, others can get quite fattening and high in calories.
- Curry is much like a potato – you can bake or boil it, keeping it reasonably healthy, or you can chop it up, deep fry it in oil, and slather it in sugar and fat-laden sauces.
- Curries often contain full-fat coconut milk and oil, which can be beneficial in small quantities but quickly get out of hand if you eat a larger portion.
- Curry powder itself is incredibly beneficial for our bodies – curry properties are full of anti-inflammatories and other nutrients that aid a load of our bodily functions.
Here are a few of the best reasons to load up a plate and enjoy some curry health benefits:
- Fights Inflammation. Turmeric is a handy yellow spice that tastes delicious while cutting down on pain and inflammation in the body. Some experts suggest it may work as well as mild anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen.
- Aids Digestion. Cumin, black pepper, bay leaves, cinnamon, and coriander all help cut down on excess gas, bloating, diarrhea, and general digestive discomfort.
- Builds Bone. While it's not clinically proven, some studies suggest that turmeric may promote bone growth, regrowth, and repair.
- Prevents Cancer. One curry health benefit comes from the famously healthy spice, curcumin. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that fights cancer-causing free radicals, and research shows that cancer levels are generally lower in countries that eat curcumin in their diet daily.
- Boosts Heart Health. Cardamom and sweet basil are vasodilators, which can lower pressure and promote better heart health in our bodies.
- Strengthens the Microbiome. Coriander is a well-known fighter of harmful bacteria, which can help stave off bacterial infections and keep healthy bacteria levels strong in the gut and body. It also has some pretty strong antifungal effects.
- Lowers Blood Sugar. Though we need more research, regularly eating curry powder may help lower and regulate blood sugar levels.
- Promotes Fullness. Some studies show that eating curry may help reduce our hunger and desire to eat, compared to other foods.
Which Curry is Healthiest?
There are plenty of reasons to eat some of the healthier curry versions regularly, with some space for less healthy curries as a treat in moderation, too.
Keep a few simple aspects in mind when considering eating a healthy VS unhealthy curry:
- Packed with vegetables. Up the fiber and nutrition of your curry by filling it with lots of healthy, nutrient-dense veggies. Try to include several different colors of veggies for two reasons: they'll taste great and it’ll vary the types of nutrients you're eating.
- Go heavy on the spice. Since we know that curry powder blends provide plenty of benefits, add as much as possible to the dish to maximize your intake.
- Choose the lean protein. Use chicken or shrimp as a protein base. For a vegetarian option, try beans, peas, lentils, or tofu, all extra-lean and high in protein and micronutrients.
- Top with herbs. Add fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley into the mix for a pop of color and vibrant taste with some added health benefits.
- Keep oil to a minimum. Curry is already flavorful; it doesn't need a bunch of added oil to make it taste better. Use a small bit to start, and add water or low-sodium broth as required instead.
- Light-fat instead of full-fat. Swap out the full-fat coconut milk for light coconut milk, low-sodium broth, or a little bit of water. Coconut milk is one of the biggest culprits in terms of multiplying the calories and fat in a curry quickly.
- Choose whole grains. Serve your healthy curry with whole grains for an extra dash of fiber, which will help you avoid overeating. Swap out the naan and white rice for brown rice, brown rice noodles, or quinoa.
Enjoy Your Healthy Curry!
A curry powder blend’s nutritional benefits are enormous, from the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties to the digestive help and an improved microbiome.
Pair that with its deliciously rich flavor, and it's tough not to want to eat this meal every day.
Fortunately, if you keep our tips in mind when preparing or ordering a healthy curry, there's no reason why you can't!