Sambar and Rasam may be saving millions of people in south India
A mix of culture, taste and large scale public health benefits — we are not talking about some new health tonic but just the humble dishes of Rasam and Sambar that are popular in southern states of India.
Made often from Tamarind water, these dishes form a core part of daily diet in most of the four southern Indian states. Now scientists are looking at Tamarind afresh — for its healing properties, especially in helping detoxifying the body of harmful contaminants.
The story goes that these same states have a severe water scarcity problem that has led to a serious water contamination issue of high Fluoride in drinking water. Fluoride when consumed in quantities greater than 1 mg/l causes a disease called Fluorosis that can affect bones, teeth, digestive system and several aspects of our internal balance within the body. In severe forms, it causes deformity.
The Tamarind story started a decade or so back when it was found that in Andhra Pradesh that was highly Fluoride affected, some of the regions like Rayalseema have places with relatively lesser Fluorosis than what should be there with similar Fluoride levels.
The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) in Hyderabad has found that Tamarind has the property of detoxifying fluoride from the body. In experiments conducted with experimental animals, Dr Arjun Khandare of NIN reports that Tamarind helps in excretion of fluoride through urine. This makes lesser toxins available within the body and therefore lesser disease.
Sambar and Rasam happen to be ancient cultural solutions to a modern problem. It just helps that these dishes form part of the daily diet of people in this region and that is probably helping them fight this disease of Fluorosis.