I love curry. It’s safe to say the majority of us do, considering the dish’s proliferation across the globe. Curry originated in India, and it’s strongly associated with Thai, Indonesian and other Southeast Asian cuisines, but today curry is a popular dish nearly everywhere in the world. Many curries are defined by their inclusion of a curry spice mix, typically made up of turmeric, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cayenne and sometimes mustard. Aside from the obvious reasons to eat curry—it’s delicious and infinitely versatile—there are many health reasons to indulge in a curry craving. Here is a collection of my favorites.
1. Fight Cancer: Curry is an effective (and delicious) delivery mechanism for turmeric, one of the most effective medicinal spices on the planet. Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is a potent and well-researched antioxidant, making it useful in cancer prevention. Two other curry spices are also cancer fighters: Cardamom contains phytochemicals thought to specifically ward off hormone-responding cancers such as breast, ovarian and prostate cancers; and cumin is particularly good at preventing colon cancer. Most curries also include a number of highly antioxidant vegetables such as bell peppers, chilies, snow peas, carrots, broccoli, garlic and more.
2. Up Your Uptake: Many people take turmeric supplements, yet our bodies utilize curcumin much more effectively when it’s consumed with fats (this helps the curcumin be directly absorbed into the bloodstream rather than through the intestines) and piperine, a constituent of black pepper—in fact, curcumin’s bioavailability increases by about 2,000 percent when it’s consumed with just 1/20th a teaspoon of black pepper. Guess what’s in nearly every curry recipe you might care to eat? Turmeric combined with fat and black pepper.
3. Alleviate Pain: Ginger is ubiquitous in curries, and both ginger and turmeric (which are related plants) are potent anti-inflammatory herbs, making them effective in relieving the pain of arthritis.
4. Improve Digestion: Curry contains a number of herbs thought to improve digestion, including ginger (one of the world’s most well-known digestive aids and nausea-fighters), cumin and cardamom.
5. Improve Brain Health: Turmeric helps reduce a buildup of plaque in the brain, meaning it can enhance cognitive function and help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, cumin contains iron, which increases blood circulation, leading to enhanced cognitive performance.
6. Eat Good Fats: Curries contain coconut milk, a type of healthy fat thought to aid in weight loss by helping us feel satisfied and even possibly increasing metabolism.
7. Stay Well: A number of ingredients in curry are antiviral and/or antibacterial. Coconut milk is a rich source of lauric acid, which our bodies convert into monolaurin, thought to fight influenza viruses. Likewise, curry’s garlic and onions may help ward off sickness. The cumin and bell peppers in curry also make it a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C.
8. Stay warm: Herbalists call some foods “warming,” because they help improve circulation, making us feel warmer from the inside out. Curry contains several of these foods including ginger, cayenne, cardamom, garlic and black pepper. This winter, warm yourself with a hot, comforting bowl of curry.