Tamarind, or Tamarindus indica L., is a tree native to tropical Africa and also grows in India and Mexico. Tamarind fruit is the edible portion of the plant, and it adds dietary fiber, thiamin and niacin to a variety of dishes. Tamarind also contains the essential minerals iron, potassium and magnesium.
A 1-cup serving of raw tamarind provides 3.3 milligrams of iron, or 18 percent of the daily value. Iron is part of hemoglobin, which is the part of your red blood cells that delivers oxygen to the cells in your body. Iron is necessary for proper energy metabolism in your body, and deficiency can lead to symptoms of fatigue and muscle weakness, according to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. Eating tamarind with animal-derived protein sources, such as beef, helps your body absorb the iron from tamarind, although the exact reason for this is not clear. Vitamin C is another nutrient that increases absorption of iron from tamarind.
Raw tamarind pulp supplies 754 milligrams of potassium in 1 cup. Potassium is an electrolyte, which means that it helps regulate fluid balance in your body. Potassium balances the effects of sodium to help prevent high blood pressure. Adequate potassium also helps prevent muscle cramps, according to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. Healthy adults should get at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day, and tamarind dishes made with other potassium-rich foods, such as tomato paste, potatoes and beans, can help you meet your recommendations.
Each cup of raw tamarind provides 110 milligrams of magnesium, or 28 percent of the daily value for magnesium. Magnesium is necessary for proper muscle function and for producing energy in your body, according to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. It may also promote heart health and help regulate blood sugar. Plant-based foods provide magnesium, and dishes with tamarind and spinach, beans or rice are high in this mineral.
The edible part of tamarind fruit is the pulp, and tamarind paste made from the fruit’s pulp is available in Asian markets. Thai recipes with tamarind include chicken satay and pad thai, and Indian lamb vindaloo, chicken and fish curries and chutneys can contain tamarind. Tamarind adds flavor to some Mexican sauces, and tamarind candy is a popular sweet in Mexico. Ingredients such as sugar, salt and oil make tamarind dishes higher in calories and sodium. Make dishes healthier by using herbs and spices to flavor them and including nutrient-dense ingredients, such as lean proteins and vegetables.
- California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.: Tamarind
- USDA Nutrient Data Library: Nutrient Data for 09322, Tamarinds, Raw
- Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: Iron
- Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: Potassium
- Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: Magnesium
- Food and Drug Administration: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients
Natalie Stein specializes in weight loss and sports nutrition. She is based in Los Angeles and is an assistant professor with the Program for Public Health at Michigan State University. Stein holds a master of science degree in nutrition and a master of public health degree from Michigan State University.