Healthiest Thai Dishes – What To Choose!
May 30, 2019
Thailand offers a famously mystical South-East Asian culture, and an elaborate cuisine. Here’s how to experience it to the fullest with some of the healthiest Thai dishes.
Hello everybody and welcome back to this, the Healthy Ronin blog! I hope you’re all having a fantastic day and are ready to get straight into today’s post – I know I am!
We’re going to be talking about some of the healthiest Thai dishes, as we uncover this increasingly popular asian cuisine. For those of you that like Vietnamese, Japanese, or even Chinese food, Thai is a no-brainer!
Below I’ve included some of the healthiest dishes, and the best recipes from around the web.
These are 5 of the best dishes to choose when exploring Thai cuisine, and at the end of this article we will talk about some of those to steer clear from.
1. Yum Talay ยำทะเล
‘Yum’ literally means mix or blend – here translated as salad! And ‘Yum Talay’ is a (spicy) Thai Seafood Salad, often including anything from mussels and squid to prawns and scallops!
These ocean-dwelling critters are excellent sources of minerals such as zinc and selenium, as well as iodine.
Many of us do not get enough iodine in our diets, and fortunately seafood is a great source. This essential mineral aids in our thyroid function and metabolism.
Furthermore, These seafoods provide a fair amount of heart and brain-healthy Omega-3 Fatty Acids!
The vegetables and herbs often used in this recipe include onions, shallots, garlic, lettuce, and lime leaves (and juice).
These provide us with a range of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C. Garlic is even known for its powerful therapeutic effects, ranging from improving heart health two fighting harmful bacteria. Some of these may even apply to shallots, too!
For those also looking to get more antioxidants, protein, and improve digestive health, this anti-inflammatory dish is perfect! No doubt is it one of the healthiest Thai dishes.
2. Kaeng Liang (or Gaeng Liang) แก่งเหลียง
This soup or curry is a mix of vegetables, so sometimes may be a vegetarian dish. However, it is often made with shrimp.
The great thing about this dish is it simplicity. You will find this made with some sort of fish paste or sauce, mixed with vegetable stock. The vegetables included in this may vary, but some sort of squash, gourd, and baby corn are common. As with a lot of Thai recipes, basil leaves are a perfect edition to Kaeng Liang.
As with Yum Talay, this dish will provide you with Omega-3s and some essential minerals. The vegetables found in this (such as different types of squash) contain beneficial antioxidants, Vitamin C, and minerals like Manganese. Getting enough of these can boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, improve growth and recovery, and promote the health of your heart!
As our second addition to the list, Kaeng Liang is certainly one of the healthiest Thai dishes. It is well-rounded and nutritious!
3. Chicken and Rice (Khao Man Gai) ข้าวมันไก่
For bodybuilders and athletes (or anyone highly active), this dish is no doubt quite familiar. Chicken and rice is a classic fueling pair.
This is because of the amount of minerals, protein, and energy-releasing carbohydrates.
In this case, one of the simplest Thai dishes is also one of the healthiest Thai dishes!
Chicken is an excellent source of protein, B-vitamins (particularly Niacin B3), and essential minerals like Selenium, Choline, and Phosphorus. This benefits the body in many ways.
Protein is of course used for building tissues, providing energy, and producing hormones, whilst the B-vitamins aid in metabolism, heart health, and other biological processes.
The mineral Selenium is important for our immune system and heart, partially as it is a potent antioxidant that helps to fight free radicals.
Choline is also something many of us do not get quite enough of. One of its most researched benefits is for brain health. It has been shown to improve cognitive performance and may help those with neuro-degenerative illnesses. It even made it into my list of the best foods for brain health in the form of eggs!
Additionally, Phosphorus helps to produce energy.
Do note that Thai cuisine often uses white jasmine rice. It has a higher glycemic index and provides fewer nutrients than other kinds of rice such as brown rice and basmati. Having it often may not be good for blood sugar levels.
P.S. Brown rice is one of your best bets when prepared properly by soaking, fermenting, or sprouting.
4. Yum Mamuang ยำมะม่วง
If you guessed that this would be another salad, you are absolutely right! Anything named ‘Yum’ will more than likely be a salad in Thai cuisine.
This is a mango salad, believe it or not! In Thailand, mangoes are quite a popular delicacy, and as such there are many different kinds.
It would have been unfair to talk about Thai cuisine and exclude one of their healthy sweet dishes, given their abundance. In Thailand, sweet food seems to be preferred, and when the season is right, I can only imagine this dish is eaten all the time!
Note: Unfortunately, it may often have added sugar – if you try this dish out or make it yourself, see if you can do so without it.
Eating the mango fruit may help to boost the immune system, aid in digestion, lower cholesterol, and improve memory and concentration.
Research also suggests that polyphenols found in Mango varieties may combat the growth of cancer. This is particularly true of Hayden and Ataulfo (Yellow/Baby Mango). This is because of components such as pectin found in large amounts in mangoes. Pectin may have anti-carcinogenic properties, and as a soluble dietary fibre can help in digestion and in lowering cholesterol levels.
This fruit is also a good source of vitamins C and A, both of which help to produce collagen. Collagen is essential for the formation of connective tissues found throughout the body. This can help to prevent ageing, maintain overall health, and even combat certain conditions such as arthritis. My post about bone broth covers does this in-depth.
*Added sugar (or syrup) is common in this dish – feel free to skip it! Mangoes are naturally very sweet.
5. Kuay Teow Lui Suan (Guay Tiew Lui Suan) ก๋วยเตี๋ยวลุยสวน
This is one of the ultimate Thai party foods! Next time you invite friends round and want to impress with your cooking skills, why not try out some Fresh Spring Rolls! The name literally means garden noodles. They’re made with Thai Garden vegetables and wrapped in wide rice noodles.
These are often filled with ground meat, mushrooms, carrot, lettuce, basil leaves, garlic, and coriander. The white rice noodles are best if made fresh without additives.
Now, these are a form of refined carbohydrates so are not the best for those with high blood sugar. A delicious, effective, and nutritious alternative is simply wrapping them in lettuce or cabbage leaves.
I honestly love to make wraps of all kinds this way, ranging from Mexican-style “tortillas” to loaded meat or veggie tacos.
What To Avoid…
Deep-fried Foods (Often Including Those Labeled as ‘Spring’)
This one is an obvious for most. Deep-fried food destroys health and almost always are the oils used terrible for the heart (see next).
Fried Rice (Often Made with Unhealthy Oils)
This one depends.
Most places you will find fried rice will use unhealthy fats and vegetable oils such as sunflower or rapeseed/canola oil. These contain detrimental distorted fats that are particularly prone to oxidation.
Such oils therefore release high amount of free radicals within the body. These destroy cells and accelerate ageing, whilst also increasing inflammation and leading to impaired immunity, natural functions, and eventually chronic illness.
When buying or cooking fried rice, look for these fats and oils instead:
A staple ingredient in much of asian cuisine, may also be found in Thai food. Tofu is made from soybean curd. Traditionally, this was fermented before being made into tofu, but nowadays this process is skipped in mass manufacturing efforts.
Because of this, many soybean products such as soy milk and tofu contain large amounts of phytoestrogens, goitrogens enzyme inhibitors, and anti-nutrients.
Some research points to phytoestrogens having beneficial effects, but there is also a research concluding on their risks. This is because those found in soy products may act as endocrine disruptors. The main worry for most people is their potential link with hormonal issues. Goitrogens found in unfermented soy interfere with the thyroid gland and therefore also disrupt hormone production.
Enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients negatively affect digestion and nutrient absorption. Exposure to these in large amounts or over an increased period of time can therefore have detrimental effects on health.
It is perhaps better to avoid this product in large amounts to stay on the safer side.
However, if you can get it traditionally made (or better yet, learn how to make it yourself), then by all means it is an excellent choice!
Important: Check The Ingredients!
Thai food often includes its fair share of white and/or brown sugar. This is not good for many reasons, as most of us might know. It may also use harmful oils and fats.
High-sugar dishes such as some curries, sauces, and soups are best avoided too. This won’t go for all dishes, but it’s best to always check the ingredients when you can.
Key point: Focus on whole ingredients and minimally processed recipes and dishes.
Wrapping It Up Like ‘Kuay Teow Lui Suan’
So, what have we learnt today? Well, the first thing is that Thai cuisine is varied and can oftentimes be healthy!
We have covered 5 separate beneficial dishes and also how to be food-savvy and avoid the unhealthy options. Now, go out with your new knowledge and dive into the healthy Thai foods!
It’s important to remember that all ethnic cuisines – in particular, those that are globalised (thus altered and mass-produced) – will have some unhealthy dishes.
However, when we can stick to simple and natural ingredients and enjoy the traditional dishes of each country, we do ourselves and the country’s a true service.
Think of any country. Think of the food it is associated with. Most of the time, you might think of unhealthy dishes such as pizza, deep fried chicken balls, etc. However, some of these dishes can be made healthily and otherwise, there are many healthy alternatives within the same ethnic cuisine!
It’s important to enjoy foods from around the world and experience other cultures. Check out my other world-exploring cuisine posts here, if you’re interested!
I hope you all enjoyed this post about the healthiest Thai dishes! I enjoy writing these, so do let me know if you did!
Comment below with your favourite Thai dishes, and let me know what Cuisine you’d like to read about next! 🙂
Until the next one, stay healthy
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