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 to chutneys, desserts, beverages, syrups, sauces, and candy. It is a low-glycemic fruit and contains many beneficial micronutrients making it a nutritious whole food ingredient.

Tamarind Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information for 1 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, but not as much as other members of the legume family.

Vitamins and Minerals

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

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 help control inflammation in the body. Antioxidants can protect against heart disease and some kinds of cancer. 

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.

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 do 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 specifically 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 dangerous for children and people who are pregnant, so they should not consume these candies.

Varieties

Tamarind can be purchased in pod form or in 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 it online, in which case 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.

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 and 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.

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