Tamarind Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Tamarind

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Tamarind pods come from the tamarind tree, which originated in Africa and now grows in many tropical regions. Tamarind is used in Asian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, and South American cuisines.

The sticky pulp of the brown pods has a sweet and sour flavor. It provides tang and acidity to entrees such as pad Thai and chutneys, desserts, beverages, syrups, sauces, and candy. It is a low-glycemic fruit with many beneficial micronutrients, making it a nutritious whole food ingredient.

Tamarind Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information, for one cup (120g) of raw tamarind pulp, is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 287
  • Fat: 0.7g
  • Sodium: 34 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 75g
  • Fiber: 6.1g
  • Sugars: 46.6g
  • Protein: 3.4g
  • Potassium: 754mg
  • Vitamin C: 4.2mg

Carbs

While 1 cup of tamarind pulp has 75 grams of carbohydrates (nearly 47 grams of sugar), the fruit's glycemic load is low, meaning it doesn't cause blood sugar to spike.

Pure tamarind usually contains no added sugar or other ingredients, but always be sure to check the label. Tamarind is a popular ingredient in candy, drinks, syrup, and sauces, such as barbecue sauce—all of which often have added sugar.

Fats

Tamarind has a negligible amount of fat, less than 1 gram per 120 grams of pulp.

Protein

Tamarind provides some protein, about 3.4g per cup, but not as much as other members of the legume family.

Vitamins and Minerals

Tamarind is an excellent source of B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, thiamine, phosphorus, riboflavin, and fiber.

Calories

One cup (or 120g) of raw tamarind pulp provides 287 calories, 94% of which come from carbs, 4% from protein, and 2% from fat.

Summary

Tamarind is a great source of B vitamins and vitamin C, and is a potassium-rich fruit. Raw tamarind pulp provides carbohydrates and fiber, and minimal amounts of fat and protein.

Health Benefits

Tamarind is a traditional medicine remedy with a long list of uses, including treatment of sore throats, constipation, and sunstroke. Animal studies have shown that tamarind may help lower cholesterol and blood sugar, but no research on humans is available. However, some evidence exists for other health benefits.

Fights Inflammation

Tamarind contains polyphenols, antioxidants that may help control inflammation in the body. It has long been used medicinally in cultures for its anti-inflammatory effects. These effects are due to several bioactive compounds in tamarind, including alkaloidsflavonoidstannins, phenols, saponins, and steroids. 

Researchers believe that tamarind has a good basis for use in traditional medicine as a remedy for pain and inflammatory-related diseases such as arthritis. They also suggest future clinical studies and possible drug development be considered.

Relieves Pain

While eating tamarind pulp alone does not offer pain relief, there is evidence that extracts made from many parts of the plant might help with pain. For example, one 2013 study found that extracts from tamarind seed could help ease arthritis pain.

May Support Heart Health

Thanks to its polyphenol, flavonoid, and antioxidant properties, tamarind may help support heart health by preventing oxidative damage caused by LDL cholesterol. A 2013 study found that tamarind may aid in preventing cardiovascular atherosclerosis disease (but this was a lab study; it did not investigate how tamarind might affect human heart health).

May Improve Liver Function

One of the tamarind fruit's lesser known potential health benefits is its ability to improve the function of the liver. Tamarind pulp contains protective polyphenols shown to boost liver function and health, while providing antioxidants that fight oxidative stress, boosting glutathione levels and easing the toxic load on the liver.

May Help Fight Cancer

Studies have also linked tamarind's antioxidant properties to helping fight cancer, specifically renal cell carcinoma. A 2012 study used the fruit's seed extract and found that its polyphenol compounds both decreased the progress of cancer and helped prevent it. Tamarind also contains many antioxidants, which are known to help prevent cancer.

Allergies

Tamarind is a legume, and some people will experience an allergic reaction to it. However, if you are allergic to another legume (such as soy), this does not mean that you will also be allergic to tamarind or other legumes.

If you have a tamarind allergy, read labels carefully since it can be an ingredient in commercially prepared sauces (like Worcestershire sauce) and other foods. Because it is not one of the eight major allergens, labels do not have to warn that it is present, but it must be included in the ingredient list.

Adverse Effects

Tamarind pulp can have a laxative effect. Larger amounts are more likely to cause issues. Some tamarind candies imported into the U.S. have been found to contain lead (in either the candy or the wrappers). Lead is especially dangerous for children and people who are pregnant, so they should not consume these candies.

Varieties

Tamarind can be purchased in pod form or as a purée, paste, sauce, concentrate, or block. Many grocery stores stock it, and it can also be found in Indian and Asian markets. You can also order tamarind online. It will most likely ship frozen if in pulp form. Tamarind pastes are usually shelf-stable until opened.

When It's Best

As the fruit ripens, it becomes less sour and more sweet while the pulp dehydrates slightly and goes from green (unripe) to brown. The pods are easiest to open when the fruit is fully ripe as they become more brittle.

Storage and Food Safety

Store whole tamarind fruit at room temperature and out of direct sunlight or heat. To keep your tamarind fruit and pulp fresh, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator once opened.

How to Prepare

The simplest way to enjoy tamarind is in the pod form. Break off the brown outer pod and remove the stringy part that looks like a small root wrapped around the pulp. You will be left with a long piece of pulp that has rock-hard seeds inside the size of large corn niblets. Cut it into sections, eat, nibble around the seeds, and spit them out.

For cooking, it may be easier to purchase tamarind pulp or paste. It pairs very well with spices, such as curry, ginger, and red pepper, in sauces, marinades, and salad dressings.

13 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Woolley
Elizabeth Woolley is a patient advocate and writer who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.