In the United States, Thai food is enjoyed by many as it features colorful vegetables, seafood, meats, and more. But is Thai food healthy?
If you are planning to eat out or order food online, then Thai food is one of the healthiest options you can go with. It is traditionally cooked with flavorful and healthy ingredients. The freshness, taste, and usage of organic ingredients make it healthier while the cooking methods ensure that the nutrients do not get lost.
In this article, let us see why Thai food is so healthy, a few of the best dishes you can eat that are healthy, how it benefits, and what to avoid.
Is Thai food healthy?
There are so many different Thai dishes available and they can range from processed, sweet, fresh, and filled with spice. So if you ask, ‘is Thai food healthy?’, it depends on the food you choose. There are healthy foods made with nutritional ingredients while there are also some foods that you should avoid.
Traditional Thai food is known to be healthy because it is made of natural and fresh ingredients. They are cooked with lots of spices, vegetables, and herbs. But there is a problem where the restaurants that provide Thai dishes in America taste good but would contain much sugar, salt, and oil.
The good news is that Thai food contains vegetables and other plant-based Foods. And Thai cooking uses coconut milk and herbs instead of cream and cheese. It is perfectly fine to eat Thai food every day but it depends on the choices you make.
So when it comes to eating healthy Thai food, you should know what to eat and what not to eat.
What makes Thai food healthy?
Here are some of the wonderful reasons to know why is Thai food so healthy.
Thai foods are small in portions but still, they contain everything you need. They can help in satisfying the appetite, stabilize blood sugar levels, and provide nutrients to the body throughout the day.
The Thai foods in your daily eating patterns will be smaller with all the nutrient contents can help in a more efficient metabolism.
Cooked in high heat
Wok cooking is the process that is used to cook foods where they use high heat. All Thai dishes have become popular because they use little oil to make the food healthy.
Even if it is cooked in low oil and high heat, Thai dishes will never be very dry because they add broth to most dishes to keep them juicy. In the beginning, a little oil is added to soften the garlic, and then the heat goes up and it’s over to the broth.
A big pot of broth would be found in Thai kitchens to use throughout stir-frying to ensure the dish never gets too dry.
Usually, we often tend to cook our food too much, losing many nutrients along the way. But Thai foods are cooked so fast to make a healthy meal. In Thai Cuisines, the food is cooked quickly on high heat and this keeps much of the goodness and natural flavor while leaving you with a dish that has plenty of texture too.
A deeper taste and sweet flavor are achieved in Thai foods with the use of natural sweeteners that are healthier instead of using too much salt and sugar. For centuries, Coconut sugar and palm sugar have been used in Thai cooking which have a lower GI than common refined sugars.
The natural sweeteners are in a lovely caramel flavor and a lighter taste making it a favorite throughout Asia. Fish sauce is used to achieve saltiness which is high in vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
The ingredients they use
Most homemade food that tastes special is made using fresh ingredients and so is Thai food. Many Thailand people even today do not own a fridge and so will buy freshly produced ingredients daily.
They give the ingredients a good rinse, let them air-dry for a bit, and freeze them the same day in an air-tight container.
Here are some of the most widely used Thai ingredients.
- Coconut milk
Although in recent years coconut milk has been given a bad reputation, it is extremely healthy. Coconut milk and coconut oil contain fat, but this is good fat and not bad fat. It lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) and promotes good cholesterol. It provides valuable fatty acids and boosts immunity. It helps in metabolic functions and prevents premature aging.
Many Thai food dishes contain a healthy amount of ginger which is used as a base for many pastes. It is a root that is both sweet, tangy, and at the same time a little bit spicy. Thai ginger is called Galangal and is well known for its health benefits. It reduces inflammation and reduces joint pains. It helps people who are trying to recover after heavy exercise sessions.
In Thai cooking, lemongrass is used extensively as a fragrant. Lemongrass has been used since ancient times in Chinese medicine to treat Headaches, fever, Arthritis, stomach conditions, and colds.
Turmeric is used to give its color and provide health benefits. It may have powerful anti-inflammatory effects and enhance brain function and brain cell creation. Some compounds in turmeric help to protect against diabetes and heart disease.
- Thai Holy Basil
Similar to other basil varieties, this herb tastes the same. It is used in curries, fried rice, and stir-fries. The holy basil oils and extracts may help in stress management, protect against high blood sugar in those with diabetes, and exert other therapeutic effects.
Closely related to the onion, plenty of flavor and health benefits are packed in garlic. It is high in manganese, vitamins B6 and C, and fiber. The antibiotic properties support the reduction of cholesterol and blood pressure.
Healthiest Thai food to try
One of the famous Thai dishes is Pad Thai. It is made with pork, eggs, fresh greens, rice noodles, green onions, bean sprouts, cilantro, peanuts, and a sauce made with oil, spices, fish sauce, and chili. This dish is salty, and nutty, with that slightly sweet sauce, and so is created centering around the sweet-savory fusion.
Pad Thai is prepared differently in some places where they use ingredients like fish, and chicken and some use tofu. But the basics are always the same. It is a signature dish of Bangkok street food and is sold in small Thai villages. It’s an all-around dish that tastes extraordinary.
Is Pad Thai healthy? Pad Thai is a healthy recipe as long as it is not cooked in tons of oil. It is better if it is kept simple and with natural ingredients. Calories vary a lot depending on what it contains but the ingredients that are used to prepare the dish are full of vitamins, the chicken and egg have a lot of protein, and those rice noodles will fill you up.
Summer rolls contain a medley of veggies like carrots, lettuce, and cucumber, with noodles and shrimp. All of these would be wrapped in a rice-paper skin. Summer rolls are fewer than 140 calories each.
They use thin sheets of rice paper and it is stuffed in a burrito style with vegetables and shredded chicken that has been tossed in sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, and a touch of honey. You can serve it with chili-garlic dipping sauce.
Choosing summer rolls over fried spring rolls will save you both calories and saturated fat. To have some extra protein, you can choose tofu or shrimp summer rolls. keep it simple with straight-up veggie rolls, for an easy appetizer.
Pad Kee Mao
If you are trying to get fit, Pad Kee Mao is probably the last thing you would think of eating. It is easy to make a low-calorie macro-friendly version of the dish if you portion it with careful ingredients.
Pad kee mao can be a very healthy dish and it consists of 472 calories, 37 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat, and 58 grams of carbs. A well-balanced nutrition profile consists of proteins and carbs. It helps to satisfy your cravings for Thai Noodles.
The right proteins and portioning of high-calorie ingredients are the keys to making this dish healthy.
This is a famous and healthiest Thai food that is widely available throughout the country. It is known as Thailand’s green papaya salad. Shredded green papaya, tomatoes, dried shrimp, string beans, peanuts, garlic, and chilies are the fresh ingredients that are used in the Som Tam dish.
Preparation of Som Tam has many variations where some use fermented fish sauce or crab. There is a Loas version that uses fermented shrimp paste and not the crab. It has a bold and spicy flavor and not sweetness.
They are eaten along with sticky rice and other Thai Isan dishes. Another version is Som Tam Thai which is the Thai green papaya salad. This is the least fishy flavor and is pretty much slivers of green papaya dressed in a sweet and sour lime juice dressing.
Usually, the full recipe is quite healthy, but sometimes, it includes palm sugar and can be a little too sweet.
Tom Yum Soup
This is a classic Thai sour soup and it is made with a spicy broth, shrimp, and lots of veggies. If you want a light meal, you can opt for the coconut milk-free version which is lower in saturated fat and is packed with more satisfying sour flavors.
So you can choose between soup made with or without coconut milk. The soup tastes with a fusion of tangy, savory, sweet, and salty for perfect proportions and it takes 30 minutes to prepare. It tastes like simmering for hours.
When you make this at home, you can customize it to be spicy or keep it super mild. You can add more or less sour, ginger, garlic, and add veggies. You can serve Tom Yum Soup with sticky rice as a main dish and you can even double or triple this recipe for meal preparation.
Pad kra pao
Pad kra Pao also known as Thai basil chicken is a classic Thai stir fry dish that is fragrant with the aroma of basil with Thai chilis. This is a popular choice for those who are into meal preparation and want the dish to be simple and flavorful.
This dish consists of ground chicken sautéed in a soy-based sauce. This is special due to the spiciness as well as the flavors. This is a healthy dish as it is packed with proteins and relatively low in calories. It consists of 310 calories with 47 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbs, and 9 grams of fat. If you are into finding foods that are consumed for weight loss, then this dish makes a great option.
Pad Kra Pao can be paired with a side of fried egg and rice for a well-balanced meal. So this dish is best to go towards your fitness goals if you portion each ingredient properly and use the right type of protein.
What Thai food should you avoid?
You cannot completely answer a yes if you ask is Thai food healthy. Because some meals include fried calamari or fried fish cakes. Sometimes the peanut dipping sauce should be avoided as it can contain a lot of calories, fat, and sugar.
Traditionally Thai cuisine is made with healthful ingredients and it may provide you with a variety of benefits. Is Thai food healthy? This depends on the ingredients and the type of food you choose. Because there are healthy foods as well as foods that are not healthy.
Thai cuisine is known for using herbs and spices, lean proteins, and fresh vegetables that add flavors and nutrition to meals. Westernized Thai foods are prepared deeply fried and served in large portions while they may contain excessive amounts of sugar and salt.
You need to opt for dishes that are loaded with plant foods and foods that contain protein sources and consist of herbs and spices.
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