If you already love Thai food, you probably don’t need too much convincing about the benefits of eating tom yum kung, som tam, green curry and various other Thai favourites. And you’re in good company because scientific evidence backs up the fact that not only does Thai cuisine taste delicious, it can also give your health and immune system a boost.
Let Thai food be your medicine
The different ingredients used in Thai cuisine provide a range of health benefits and has led to Thai food being dubbed the ‘World’s Tastiest Medicine’.
Food is our best medicine. The best hospital is our kitchen … Thai people are very lucky because we have many food ingredients that can help strengthen immunity.Prof. Dr. Prachya Kongthaweelert, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University
10 common Thai food ingredients and their benefits
- Chilli: Rich in Vitamin A and C and boosts immunity and metabolism
- Fingerroot: Relieves coughs and cold symptoms
- Galangal: Prevents inflammation from bacteria and viruses
- Garlic: Natural antibiotic with the allicin found in garlic helping the body’s immune system
- Ginger: Works as an anti-inflammatory and reduces coughs and colds
- Holy basil: Contains calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc. Helps relieve cold symptoms and protect against the influenza virus
- Kaffir lime leaves: Antibacterial qualities and good for oral hygiene
- Lemongrass: Packed with antioxidants and also known for for its cleansing properties
- Tamarind: Contains Vitamin C and antioxidants which help boost the immune system
- Turmeric: Contains curcumin which can help improve the efficiency of the body’s immune system
5 popular Thai dishes to boost your health
Tom yum kung (spicy shrimp soup)
If there is one dish above all others that epitomises the idea of Thai Taste Therapy, it is tom yum kung. With ingredients including galangal, lemongrass, bergamot, star mushrooms, kaffir lime leaves and shrimp, this nutritious sour and spicy soup is a pick-me-up packed with health benefits. And as an added bonus, it’s also low in calories.
Try this recipe for tom yum kung
Gai pad med mamuang (stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts)
A healthy serving of stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts is good for the body and soul. Cashew nuts are rich in zinc and help strengthen immunity and nourish the nervous system. Chicken is an excellent source of protein and bell peppers help to reduce mucus and can help prevent infections in the nose, mouth and throat.
Pad kaprao moo (stir-fried holy basil with pork)
A simple, but tasty plate of pad kaprao moo is another lunchtime favourite which can help fight colds thanks to the essential ingredient of holy basil. Top it off with a fried egg for added protein and to balance the spice.
Try this recipe for pad kaprao moo
Lemongrass and turmeric grilled chicken or fish
Turmeric is a popular ingredient in Thai cooking and is often used for grilling fish or chicken. Turmeric contains curcumin which helps the body’s immune system work efficiently. Similarly, lemongrass is full of antioxidants and adds another delicious and healthy dimension to the taste when combined with grilled chicken or fish.
Try this recipe for lemongrass and turmeric grilled chicken
Low in calories, but high in fibre and vitamins, a serving of som tam can be good for health when eaten in moderation. With ingredients including raw papaya, tomato, garlic, palm sugar, lime, fish sauce and chillies, this spicy Thai dish can be deliciously addictive.
Try this recipe for som tam
Legal cannabis and kratom use in Thailand
The use of marijuana and kratom for medical purposes has been allowed in Thailand since 2019. And in 2021, the Thai government relaxed the regulations further allowing cannabis and kratom to be used in food products. A number of cannabis-based medicines are now included in the list of national drugs which means that public hospitals in Thailand can prescribe cannabis remedies to patients under the universal healthcare scheme.
Culinary cannabis and kratom
Cannabis leaves and oil can legally be used in medicine, cosmetics and food. However, the buds and flowers remain off-limits and smoking cannabis for recreational purposes is currently not permitted in Thailand. Now that its use is permitted in food, a number of restaurants and coffee shops across Thailand have added cannabis-infused drinks and dishes to their menu with the special ingredient containing medicinal properties that can reduce nausea and help people relax.
Kratom is a herb which has traditionally been used as an energy boost and also used for ailments including stomach aches, coughs, and diabetes. It’s a herb which has both opioid and stimulant-like effects and before the change in law was previously regarded as an illegal narcotic. Kratom’s newfound legal status means the herb can be used as a natural painkiller and can also be used in food and drink products.
Discover more about the health benefits of Thai food
Visit Thai Taste Therapy to find out more about the medicinal properties of Thai food and check out these links for more ideas on what and where to eat on your next trip to Thailand:
Eat Thai, Visit Thai
Thai Taste Therapy cookbook (e-book)
Culinary cannabis restaurants
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