Curry powder isn’t a single spice, as you might assume. It’s actually a combination of several different powerful spices, including turmeric, cumin, black pepper, and coriander.
When prepared in a traditional sauce, the dish “curry” is most closely associated with South Asia – particularly India – but it’s eaten around the world on a regular basis. Not only do millions of people love the dish, it’s also closely linked with a lot of different health benefits.
A Worldwide Phenomenon
The Western world started getting a taste for curry in the 19th and 20th centuries. Curry powder was exported as a seasoning as visitors to the East started to discover it – and love it. By the 1950s, curry was incredibly popular across the globe.
Ingredients Typically Found in Curry Powder
If you’re thinking of trying to make homemade curry powder, you’ll run across a lot of different spices that you can (and should) incorporate into your meal. Some of the most common ingredients in curry include:
There are two main types of cardamom that are usually used in a curry, green and black. Green cardamom is the one more commonly used in everything from curry dishes to even desserts. It features a sweet, light flavor with a hint of eucalyptus. Black cardamom has a powerful, smoky taste that can be extremely hot.
Clove has a strong flavor due to the potent essential oils it possesses. Cooks are advised to use caution when it comes to cloves, because the taste can easily overpower other spices in a curry dish – a little goes a long way.
Cumin has a unique, funky smokey flavor that can overpower dishes if not used carefully. It is used in cuisines from around the world, including Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Mexican cuisines.
Coriander is one of the oldest spices known to man, characterized by gentle ridges and a gold-yellow color. Its seeds are also unique in that they feature a very aromatic, citrus-like scent. Ground coriander is commonly used in a wide variety of Indian dishes. Cilantro is the leaf of the coriander seed (though both are called coriander in some countries).
Mustard seeds are usually distinguishable by their yellow color, but there are brown and black mustard seeds as well. The outside color really doesn’t make a lot of difference when it comes to taste, however. All mustard seeds produce a nutty, spicy, smoky flavor.
Turmeric is another ingredient found in most curries. It’s known for its pungent aroma and strong flavor – and also for the fact that it can stain clothes very easily if you’re not careful. Turmeric is what gives most curry powder its vibrant yellow-orange color.
What Kind of Health Benefits Can You Get By Eating Curry?
Thanks to the powerful blend of potent spices, curry powder is a nutritional powerhouse – with a huge number of health benefits, including:
1. Brain Health
One major health benefit of curry, according to research, is that it may help combat neurodegenerative conditions. Turmeric is a major component of curry powder, and curcumin is a major component of turmeric.
Research shows that curcumin may help reduce plaque that can build up in the brain over time, possibly due to its ability to help rid the body of amino acids that develop into plaque. As a result, this could help reduce cognitive decline. People in India have a lower rate of issues related to cognitive decline than in other parts of the world, and they tend to consume a great deal of curry. Scientists are in the process of determining whether there’s a connection.1,2
2. Pain Relief
Turmeric is well known for its ability to relieve pain and inflammation. It can also protect against the deterioration of the joints.3
Research indicates that turmeric could help to relieve the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of arthritis. In one study, patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis were given either curcumin or an anti-inflammatory drug. The results showed that the RA patients responded better to curcumin than the drug.4
Clinical trials also suggest that turmeric could help reduce some of the symptoms of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and inflammatory bowel disease.5
3. Cardiac Health
Another major health benefit associated with curry powder is that its ingredients could play a role in protecting the cardiovascular system. Cardamom, one of the more common components of curry, is recognized as a vasodilator – a substance that helps relax and widen the veins, promoting healthy blood flow. As a result, this helps lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of several different cardiovascular problems, such as strokes, heart attacks, and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).6
And another benefit of curcumin is its apparent ability to help the endothelium, the substance that makes up the lining of blood vessels, function better. Research indicates that curcumin is not only as good as exercise in helping improve the functioning of the endothelium, it also might be as effective as a drug typically used to treat endothelial dysfunction.7,8
Research suggests yet another possible cardiac health benefit linked to curcumin – the potential ability to lower the risk of heart attack after coronary artery bypass surgery. One study involved 121 bypass patients who received either a small amount of curcumin each day or a placebo both before and after their procedures. The group who took curcumin, according to the results, had a significantly lower chance of suffering a heart attack while still in the hospital than patients in the placebo group.9
4. Healthier Bones
Turmeric found in curry powder could also help improve bone health and lower the chances of developing osteoporosis. Studies indicate that the spice can help slow bone loss while promoting growth as well. One study involving postmenopausal women showed that turmeric enriched with curcumin was extremely effective in preventing the loss of bone density in the study subjects. In addition, the curcumin-enriched turmeric also appeared to substantially enhance the structure of the subjects’ bones, greatly reducing the risk of a fracture.10
5. Fighting Harmful Microbes
Another health benefit of curry, according to research, centers on coriander. Scientific evidence suggests that coriander essential oils can help protect the body from severe bacterial infections such as E. coli. It appears that making curry a part of your diet could help improve the strength of your “gut,” or gastrointestinal system, and help it ward off harmful bacteria.11
6. Helping the Liver
Curcumin has also been associated with improved liver function. It appears to do so by helping reduce inflammation, which, in turn, can also reduce toxicity in the organ. According to research, curcumin may be able to reduce the effects of liver injury induced by such things as iron overdose such as iron overdose, and it could possibly reverse some of the effects of cirrhosis.12 However, more studies are needed in order to further establish that curcumin can provide a health benefit to the liver.
Common Curry Dishes
Curry is an extremely versatile dish with an almost limitless amount of combinations. These are just a few of the more common ones:
· Banana Flower Curry
Banana flower curry is very popular in several regions in India, and it’s also extremely easy to make, with a combined prep and cooking time of only about 20 minutes. It includes banana flower mixed with buttermilk, curry leaves, coconut oil, mustard seeds, and red chili peppers.
· Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry
This dish should only take about 10 minutes to prepare and about 45 minutes to make. Ingredients can vary, but chicken and sweet potato curry will usually include curry powder, sunflower oil, onions and garlic cloves, tomatoes, and spinach. Some people will include Korma paste and basmati rice.
· Curried Cod
Yes, you can include cod fillets or other kinds of seafood in a curry. This dish will typically include curry powder, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, chickpeas, coriander, and lemon. It’s an extremely fast dish to make, usually taking only 35 minutes total, including prep and cooking time.
· Indian Butternut Squash Curry
You can also have a curry completely free of any sort of fish, or poultry. This particular dish includes squash, red onions, olive oil, basmati rice, curry paste, tomatoes, chickpeas, coriander, and Greek yogurt. Total prep and cooking time is usually about 40 minutes.
Talk to Your Doctor
While millions of people around the world know that they can obtain health benefits from consuming more curry, you’ll still need to speak with your doctor before introducing it into your diet. The reason is that you might experience some side effects. For example, curry powder is an anticoagulant, so if you take a blood thinner, you might be at an increased risk for bleeding excessively.
In addition, curry could be irritating to those who have gallbladder problems. Curry stimulates contraction of the organ, and while this is not an issue for people with a healthy gallbladder, it could cause problems for people with bile duct obstructions or gallstones.
The bottom line is that while the vast majority of people can consume curry with no problems, you should still speak to your doctor to make sure you stay on the safe side.
Want more spice health news? Keep reading on the Spicefit blog here:
1.Ono K, et al. “Curcumin Has Potent Anti-Amyloidogenic Effects For Alzheimer’s Beta-Amyloid Fibrils In Vitro. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
2.Sanmukhani J, et al. “Efficacy And Safety Of Curcumin In Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
3.N, Chainani-Wu. “Safety And Anti-Inflammatory Activity Of Curcumin: A Component Of Tumeric (Curcuma Longa). – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
4. A, Chandran. “A Randomized, Pilot Study To Assess The Efficacy And Safety Of Curcumin In Patients With Active Rheumatoid Arthritis. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
5. JS, Jurenka. “Anti-Inflammatory Properties Of Curcumin, A Major Constituent Of Curcuma Longa: A Review Of Preclinical And Clinical Research. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
6.”Gut Modulatory, Blood Pressure Lowering, Diuretic And Sedative Activities Of Cardamom – Sciencedirect.” Sciencedirect.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
7. Akazawa N, et al. “Curcumin Ingestion And Exercise Training Improve Vascular Endothelial Function In Postmenopausal Women. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
8. Usharani P, et al. “Effect Of NCB-02, Atorvastatin And Placebo On Endothelial Function, Oxidative Stress And Inflammatory Markers In Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mell… – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
9. Wongcharoen W, et al. “Effects Of Curcuminoids On Frequency Of Acute Myocardial Infarction After Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
10. “UA Study Shows Benefits Of Turmeric In Preventing Osteoporosis | UAHS Office Of Public Affairs.” Opa.ahsc.arizona.edu. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
11.”Coriander (Coriandrum Sativum L.) Essential Oil: Chemistry And Biological Activity – Sciencedirect.” Sciencedirect.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
12.P, Rivera-Espinoza. “Pharmacological Actions Of Curcumin In Liver Diseases Or Damage. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.