Livewire - September 20, 2013

Nilima Marshall
Nilima Marshall
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By Nilima Marshall

It’s National Curry Week soon (7-13 October) and it’s a well known fact that Brits adore a curry, but did you know that tucking into the spicy dish could be good for you too?

In 1810, Hindoostane Coffee House, the first Indian restaurant in the UK, opened its doors in central London. Two hundred years later, our love affair with Indian cuisine shows no sign of abating.

In fact, the 2013 Cobra Good Curry Guide recently revealed that Britons spend an average £20 a month cooking an Indian feast at home, and £31 on their favourite curries while eating out - all amounting to a staggering £30,000 lavished on curry across an average lifetime.

So what exactly is it about the eye-watering, aromatic, heat-inducing Asian cuisine that we love - and clearly crave - so much?

One aspect might be our history.

“I think Indian food is so popular in Britain because when the British were in India, they fell in love with the spices and local cuisine,” says Vivek Singh, founder and CEO of The Cinnamon Club and one of the most celebrated chefs of Indian cuisine in the UK. “And when they came back, they wanted to recreate this unique taste. So spices started being imported, along with chefs and cooks who had the culinary knowledge.”

There’s another simple reason we adore our curry too; chillies. Research suggests that when the body defends itself against the heat of a hot chilli it releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. “Spicy meals with chillies can be quite addictive as they release endorphins that make you feel good, and you’ll want to go back for a second helping,” believes Singh.

Delicious and addictive as they are though, curries have also gained a bad reputation over the years, often being associated with high levels of saturated fat, sugar and salt content

This doesn’t mean all Indian fare is bad for you - far from it. Curries contain many spices which boast a huge range of health-boosting benefits.

Turmeric, which is said to have anti-bacterial properties, coriander aids digestion, cumin boost the immune system and cinnamon contains anti-oxidants.