Think of Thai food and you could be forgiven if red or green curries are all that immediately spring to mind. While curry is justifiably thought of as ubiquitous across much of the country, the reality is that Thai cuisine has so much more to offer and teach us about health and diet.
Thai culinary culture is among the most vibrant and diverse of any country on earth, featuring bold spice, huge flavour and, at its core, simple ingredients. Here's our brief introduction to some of the healthier habits within Thai cuisine that are guaranteed to change your eating habits for the better.
1. Devoid of dairy
In the West, we have a deep seated love of dairy products - from milk to cheese to everything in between. While undoubtedly delicious, a lactose heavy diet is notoriously trying for the Western waist band. Thailand does not share our dairy obsession, leading to a diet that is devoid of one of the most potentially fattening food groups.
2. Whole lotta coconut
As a replacement for dairy, Thai cooking relies almost exclusively on the coconut. Coconut milk and cream is what helps give Thai curries their distinctive taste and texture, but coconuts feature in every aspect of Thai cooking - from starters to desserts. What makes coconut milk such a healthy alternative is the presence of essential fatty acids as well as electrolytes, making the coconut a grenade of goodness.
3. Gluten free
Much as dairy is largely ignored by the Thai diet, so too is gluten. Rather than the West's often wheat-based food, the majority of starch and carbohydrate in Thai cooking comes from rice. The people of Thailand are incredibly adept at working with rice, turning it into noodles, desserts, and a host of different dishes. This approach means that the people of Thailand do not have to deal with the many health issues commonly associated with gluten.
4. Spice obsessed
Thai chilli peppers are among the hottest in the world. As a result, Thai cooking can produce some seriously spicy dishes. However, there are a great many health benefits to regularly consuming hot peppers. The capsicum present within the spiciest chillies has been shown to increase the body's metabolism, helping you to digest as well as burn fat and calories.
5. Ginger kings
There are a number of natural, healthful spices that play a significant role in Thai cooking, but none are arguably more important than ginger. The root is known as a potent defense against colds and chest problems, but is also a great digestive aid and anti-inflammatory ally. Ginger's prevalence in many of the country's most beloved dishes is a great reason to eat a whole lot more Thai food.
6. Variety show
It's not just the individual components that make Thai cooking such a healthy cuisine. Rather than a single plate, a typical Thai meal will feature a host of different dishes, all packed with their own unique blend of nutrients and ingredients. This means that a diner benefits from all sorts of different elements, contributing to a balanced diet that ticks a great many nutritional boxes.
With so many benefits to eating Thai food, it's clear that the singular association with green curry does this nation a great disservice. Next time you find yourself tempted by Thai, branch out. There's a whole nation's worth of hearty, healthful dishes to inspire you.