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Fish and Rice: A Healthy Diet

Chapter 2, part 5, from Dancing Shrimp

by Kasma Loha-unchit

A growing body of research points to the healthful properties of seafood, especially fish, making the traditional Thai diet of rice and fish appear more and more appealing to people concerned about fat intake and calories. The Thai way of dining, in which plain, unseasoned, no-fat-added, steamed rice is the centerpiece of the meal, with the nonrice dishes as accompaniments, cuts down further on calories. Furthermore, because much Thai food is spicy, smaller quantities of the highly flavored protein dishes are eaten. There are also plenty of nutritional benefits to be gained from the herbs, spices, and other ingredients liberally used in Thai cooking.

Seafood is an excellent source of complete protein, which is easily digestible, making nutrients readily available to the body. Compared to meat and poultry, seafood is significantly lower in fat and calories; this includes oily fish with a relatively high fat content. Seafood is also rich in iodine, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, potassium, and B vitamins, especially niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, and B12. Moreover, the fat in fish is a good fat, containing essential omega-3 fatty acids, recognized by medical experts as fundamental in maintaining good health. These fats play a role in keeping arteries clear, and also benefit the central nervous system.

In addition to the healthfulness of seafood, the many fresh herbs used in Thai cooking contribute nutritional benefits and healing qualities. For instance, chillies and garlic – two generously used flavoring ingredients – are known for their antioxidant properties, which help neutralize damaging free radicals before they can harm healthy cells. Each has become the focus of studies addressing the most critical health concerns of modern times – heart disease, cancer, and immune dysfunction.

High in vitamin C, chillies have been known through the ages to benefit the circulatory system – cleaning the blood of undesirable cholesterol, keeping the blood vessels supple and healthy, improving circulation and, thereby, increasing the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the cells of the body. Garlic, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels by gobbling bad LDL cholesterol and increasing good HDL levels. Besides chillies and garlic, numerous other herbs have healing properties.

The Thai diet, therefore, combines the goodness of seafood and beneficial herbs in grain-based meals. I hope the recipes, information, and ideas contained in this book not only enable you to make delicious Thai seafood dishes, but inspire you to incorporate more seafood into your daily diet.

Previous: (part 4) A Fish and Rice Culture  |  Start: (part 1) A Seafood Culture

Copyright © 2000 Kasma Loha-unchit in Dancing Shrimp. All rights reserved.

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