Include Tamarind For a Healthy Heart

Tamarind, derived from the Arabic word Tamar Hindi (Indian date) is extensively used in cuisines around the world to impart a sweet and sour taste. It is available in stores as seeded and paste form, mostly as tamarind blocks. Some of the familiar recipes, Tamarind rice, Rasam, Sambar, Tamarind chutney, Caramelized onion and tamarind chicken, all have tamarind as the souring agent imparting a tang to the dish. The use of tamarind is not limited to adding sourness but in traditional medicine it is useful for constipation, digestion, dry eye syndrome, among many of its health benefits.   

Ancient Ayurveda has been supporting the use of tamarind juice for the treatment of high cholesterol and to prove this theory; an animal model was used to study the effect of tamarind extract on hypercholesterolemic hamsters. The hamsters were fed a high-cholesterol diet for ten weeks increasing their triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol before administering tamarind fruit pulp. A reduction in the triglycerides (60%), total cholesterol (50%) and LDL cholesterol (73%) was observed, and HDL cholesterol showed an increase of 61%. Lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and high HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) are good for the heart as the levels prevent the formation of plaque; a condition that block the arterial vessels of the heart and causes atherosclerosis. 

Even if we believe the theories that argue that high cholesterol does not cause heart diseases but oxidative stress and inflammation do, higher level of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agents in hamsters on a tamarind pulp diet reveal its potential to be used against diet-induced high cholesterol causing heart diseases.

Sometimes the results of an animal study rarely translate on humans with failures reported on quite a few cases involving natural products. To counter this, a study on human volunteers on the effect of tamarind pulp on lipid profile and blood pressure was performed, and it was found to reduce the total cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol to a significant extent. On the other hand, the systolic blood pressure was unaffected (the upper number of a blood pressure reading), but the diastolic blood pressure lowered by 5% suggesting that tamarind has a potential in the treatment of heart diseases if consumed in safe doses. 

Another benefit of tamarind is that it can be used to remove the itchiness from certain varieties of yams and taro leaves when boiled in tamarind water or used as a paste.