Is Thai Food Healthy?: The 10 Healthiest Thai Dishes

by Millie
chicken satay
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Thai food is often praised for being healthy and flavorful. But is Thai food healthy as some people say? The short answer is yes – traditional Thai food can be healthy. It’s low in calories and fat, and it’s packed with fresh vegetables and lean protein. However, there are also a lot of unhealthy dishes out there masquerading as “Thai food.” So, how can you tell the difference?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the nutritional value of Thai food and dispel some of the myths about its health benefits. We’ll also give you some tips on how to order healthy Thai food when you’re eating out.

The Surprising Health Benefits of Thai Food 

green papaya salad on white plate
Green papaya salad

Thai cuisine is incredibly healthy and diverse, and it includes a wide variety of dishes from all over the country. However, not all Thai food is created equal. 

There are plenty of dishes out there that are loaded with sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. But there are also a lot of healthy Thai dishes out there. These dishes are usually made with fresh ingredients and lean protein. And they’re often packed with nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

In fact, the spices and ingredients typically used in Thai cooking have been shown to have a positive effect on our health. Let’s take a closer look at the basic ingredients of Thai food.

Turmeric

Turmeric, a popular spice in Thai food, is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to help treat a wide variety of medical conditions. There is a lot of scientific evidence to support the health benefits of turmeric. Studies have shown that it can help improve brain function and even fight cancer.

Thai Ginger

Thai ginger, also known as galangal, has a long history of medicinal use. It is said to help improve digestion, relieve pain, treat nausea, and boost the immune system. It is also used as a natural remedy for colds and flu. 

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is packed with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It can also help boost your immune system, aid in digestion, fight free radicals, support cardiovascular health, and even help you lose weight.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk, another common ingredient in Thai cuisine, is a good source of healthy fats. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and has a range of health benefits.

Some of the health benefits of coconut milk include improving heart health by lowering cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, aid digestion and relieve stomach problems. Coconut milk may help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism and curbing your appetite.

Bean Sprouts

You might not think of bean sprouts as being particularly healthy, but they actually offer a variety of health benefits. For one, they’re a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium and folic acid. They’re also low in calories and fat and high in fiber.

Bean sprouts have also been shown to have a number of other health benefits, including helping to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of cancer, and improve digestive health. 

Papaya

Papaya is a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and magnesium. Papaya also contains the enzyme papain, which has anti-inflammatory and digestive properties. It’s also a good source of antioxidants, which can help to protect your cells from damage. Furthermore, some studies have shown that the antioxidants in papaya can help to prevent cancer.

Cooking Methods

But the health benefits of Thai food go beyond just the ingredients. The way Thai dishes are cooked can also be good for you. For example, steaming and stir-frying are both healthy cooking methods that preserve the nutrients in food. And because Thai dishes are often made with fresh ingredients, they tend to be lower in calories than other cuisines.

The Healthiest Thai Dishes

pad Thai on blue plate
Pad Thai

If you’re trying to eat healthy Thai food, avoid dishes that are loaded with sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. Stick to dishes that are made with fresh ingredients and lean protein. And be sure to order a side of fresh vegetables. 

There are also plenty of healthy Thai dishes that you can enjoy without guilt. Here are some of the healthiest Thai dishes that you should try:

1. Tom Yum Soup

This soup is packed with healthy ingredients like lemongrass, ginger, coconut milk, and chili peppers. If you wish to reduce the calories, ask the chef to skip the coconut milk.

2. Green Papaya Salad 

Papaya salad is typically made with green papaya, chilies, fish sauce, and lime juice. Other common ingredients may include string beans and tomato.

3. Fresh Summer Rolls

These rolls are made with fresh vegetables and lean protein. They’re usually served with a dipping sauce on the side. It’s a healthier alternative to deep fried spring rolls.

4. Thai Green Curry 

Thai green curry is made with fresh vegetables, lean protein, and a healthy green curry paste. Thai curry pastes usually have some sugar so moderation is key.

5. Pad Thai

This popular Thai dish is actually quite healthy, as it’s made with rice noodles, vegetables, and protein. Chicken pad Thai is one of the most popular Thai options.

6. Chicken Larb

Chicken larb is a salad made with stir-fried chicken, fish sauce, lime juice, chilies, and herbs. It’s served with lettuce or cabbage warps.

7. Steamed Fish

The fish is steamed with ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves and served with a sweet spicy sauce. This is one of the healthiest ways to have fish.

8. Grilled Chicken Satay

This is usually an appetizer but order some brown rice and vegetables and have it as a meal. Go easy on the peanut sauce.

9. Spicy Beef Salad

The beef in this dish is complemented with cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, and the best spices with a citrus-like dressing.

10. Basil Tofu

Even meat lovers will enjoy this tofu dish. The tofu is usually fried, but you can request the chef to not fry it.

Unhealthy Thai Foods to Avoid

Substitute white rice for brown rice

Although Thai food is often applauded for its health benefits, but like any cuisine, there are also some unhealthy Thai food that you should be aware of. 

The biggest problem with Thai food is that it is often very high in sodium. This is because many of the dishes rely on fish sauce, oyster sauce, and other salty ingredients for flavor. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, so if you’re watching your salt intake, you should be careful with how much Thai food you eat.

Another unhealthy aspect of Thai food is that it often contains a lot of sugar. This is especially true of Thai desserts, which can be loaded with sugar and calories. If you’re trying to eat healthily, you should limit your intake of Thai sweets. 

Thai food can also be high in fat, as some dishes are deep-fried. If you’re trying to eat healthily, you should limit your intake of fried Thai food.

And finally, Thai food also often contains MSG, which can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea in some people.

Here are the most unhealthy Thai food to avoid:

1. Deep-Fried Foods

Many popular Thai dishes, such as spring rolls and fried chicken, are deep-fried. This means they’re high in saturated fat and calories.

2. Sweet Sauces

A lot of Thai dishes are served with sweet sauces, such as honey or palm sugar. These sauces are high in sugar and can add a lot of extra calories to your meal.

3. Salty Dishes

Some Thai dishes can be quite salty, due to the use of fish sauce and other salty ingredients. This can cause high blood pressure and other health problems.

4. White rice

Substitute white rice for healthier, high fiber brown rice.

Is Thai Food Healthy?

summer rolls on a plate showing is Thai food healthy
Summer rolls

So is Thai food healthy?  Yes! Thai food is typically made with fresh ingredients like herbs, spices, and vegetables. This combination of fresh and healthy ingredients makes Thai food a good choice for people who are looking for a nutritious meal.

There are a lot of options that are healthy and delicious. From soups and salads to stir-fries and curries, there is something for everyone. And the best part is that you can easily find healthy Thai dishes at most restaurants.

However, Thai food can also be high in sodium, fat, and calories and there are a lot of unhealthy options out there. But don’t worry, you now have a list of the best Thai meals for your healthy lifestyle.

Thai cuisine is incredibly versatile and can be made to suit any diet or lifestyle. Whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, Paleo, or on a weight loss journey, there’s a Thai dish out there that’s perfect for you.

Is Thai Food Healthy?: The 10 Healthiest Thai Dishes
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