Fast-Food Curry House
Ping! Dietician Sian Porter breaks down the benefits of your curry-in-a hurry.
Don’t write off microwave meals as a nutritional vacuum. Supermarkets have cleaned up their ingredients in the last few years, removing trans-fats and artificial colours. So pretty far from your usual, suspect glow-in-the-dark takeaway then. Here’s what you’ll find inside and how to max your nutritional meal on-the-go.
The seasoning: Usually packed with sugar, paprika, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek, garam masala, salt, turmeric, coriander, chilli and bayleaf. Most are superfood spices that protect your liver.
The sauce: Contains single cream, onion, honey, tomato puree, rapeseed oil, butter, yoghurt, ginger, garlic, cornflower, water. These help offset the fat and help strengthen your heart.
The bulk: Chicken which provides 88% of your daily protein and rice where if you go brown, it’ll help you shed some pounds.
All seems well but you can still improve the recipe (you can use this for your home-made curry as well). Here’s how.
Problem: Too much salt | Solution: Mango chutney
Your RDA of salt (6g) is about a teaspoon, and this curry provides a third of that. Too much raises your risk of high blood pressure, so add a dollop of mango chutney. The UK Blood Pressure Association says the potassium in it helps lower blood pressure and combat fluid retention, making you feel less bloated. Or choose a curry with spinach, aubergine or potato, such as a saag, to ease the pressure.
Problem: Beer on the side | Solution: Turmeric
This aromatic member of the ginger family is ground down to add flavour and the vivid yellow-orange colour to your curry. A study in shows that curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice, protects against liver damage – allowing you to wash your meal down with a bottle of Tiger risk-free. But beware: turmeric is also used as a textile dye, so mind the white shirt if you’re eating in a hurry.
Problem: Creamy sauce | Solution: Tomatoes
The cream and butter in the Tikka Masala give it that velvety texture, but are also the main contributors to the saturated fat. Choose a rogan josh, or any other curry with a tomato base instead, to cut fat and boost your lycopene intake. Lycopene is associated with a decreased risk of cancer. A European Commission study also found that people with the highest lycopene levels had half the risk of a heart attack than those with the lowest levels.
Problem: Garlic breath | Solution: Milk
The sauce is lined with garlic pureé, which contains an aromatic compound called allyl methyl sulfide (AMS) that your gut cannot break down. This is then released fragrantly from your body via your breath and sweat. If you have a date, prevent this by downing a glass of semi-skimmed before you go. Researchers from Ohio State University found that drinking 200ml of milk reduced the presence of AMS on the breath by 50%. That’s half a chance she won’t run out on you…
Problem: Cancer risk | Solution: Cucumber raita
The British Dietetic Association says grilled poultry, as found in ready-made curries, produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These increase your risk of cancer, especially if consumed every Friday after your post-work drinks. Add a raita yoghurt dip: its bacteria protects your insides from the chemical sludge.
Problem: Lost vitamins | Solution: Lassi
Microwaving food can lower the meat’s vitamin B12, the nutrient that combats fatigue and aids mental sharpness. Luckily, you also retain more vitamin A and E, so your curry offers greater protection against flu than if you cooked on the hob. To replace the lost B12, serve with a glass of lassi.
Food styling and photography by David Cook. Ingredients courtesy of Sainsbury’s.