After a hard week many of us look forward to our Friday night take-away curry. There appears to be a perception that comfort foods and healthy foods are mutually exclusive — not always true! Irrespective of the healthy ingredients, this is genuinely one of the all-time favourite curries at Cardiologist’s Kitchen. It’s versatile and the basic base-sauce can be combined with different meat or vegetables. This version pairs beautiful, clean, white-fish with rich curry and Okra for a delicious contrast.
It’s important to emphasise a point here— a truly healthy diet has balance. Those of us who love food and eating but are equally passionate about health have a unique perspective. Problems occur if you become too evangelical about health concepts as this becomes restrictive, effects your quality of life, is usually inconvenient and ultimately non-sustainable. This classically results in a pattern of indulgent binges interspersed with periods of meaningless and completely unscientific ‘detox’ to dilute feelings of guilt. A better approach is to predominantly follow an evidence-based, targeted healthy diet (that will protect you from pre-illness or subsequent illness) and this will give you license to properly enjoy the occasional treat. If you can combine the treat in the form of a healthy comfort food then that is the ultimate.
The final point to make about healthy “comfort foods” is that you don’t have to replace every single ingredient with a healthy ingredient. Again we regard this to be too evangelical and non-sustainable. Attempts to do this (and we have seen plenty of this from the ‘lifestyle’ or ‘diet’ communities) always result in eating disappointment and you’re going to crave the real deal. Remember that the bonus here is that you are trading-up your unhealthy fast food curry for a version which is high in fresh, healthy ingredients and over time that gives you a huge health advantage. It also gives you license to choose a little white rice over brown if you like (for example) but you are going to limit the amount.
Now lets talk about the key “hidden veg” in this curry — Okra. Okra (or Ladies Fingers) is high in fibre — 100g contains 3.2g of dietary fibre. But Okra is specifically high in soluble (viscous) fibre which is particularly important in cardiovascular health. Making sure you eat foods with soluble fibre is a key strategy to improving your cholesterol profile, particularly if you have been told you have high cholesterol or need Statin treatment. 15–20g of soluble fibre per day has been shown to reduce LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol by 5–10% above and beyond that achieved through other dietary changes alone. There is also an association with improved body weight control and blood sugar control (reduced glycaemic index). In general high fibre foods have a reduced energy density when compared with high fat or refined carbohydrate diets as a result of added diet bulk.
You can see that Okra is high in soluble ‘viscous’ fibre because it has a ‘gummy’ sticky juice when cut. Some people don’t like this ‘slimy’ texture but don’t worry when cooked slowly in the curry (or vey quickly in stir-frys) it dissolves and simply leaves a beautiful texture. There are other vegetables which are high in these viscous fibres (like aubergine or ‘Egg plant’) and we will expand on this in other posts.