Thursday, 20 October 2011

Is curry good for runners and cyclists?

Following on from yesterday's blog post on Fauja Singh, the 100 year old marathon runner, I have given some thought to his liking of curry, particularly ginger curry.  Has this made a difference or is it coincidence?  Is curry good or bad for you?

I am not expert chef or connoisseur of Indian food, though I do occasionally enjoy making a curry.  At home my family will sometimes be brave and share a curry if it is sufficiently mild and even my mother-in-law has been known to enjoy something with a bit more "impact".  Having said that, I highly doubt if my mother-in-law would describe herself as having been a runner or even a cyclist.

What is curry and is it healthy?  I think of curry as the flavouring of whatever food it is cooked with i.e. chicken curry, vegetable curry, beef curry etc.  Then there are the various terms such as Korma, Masala and of course, the infamous Vindoloo and many others.  Some ingredients are:

Ginger: some real health properties as Kauja Singh can testify and also it tastes good.  It has a "warming" kind of taste which is why it is nice if you're feeling cold or chilled.  It has an anti inflammatory effect, which might help relieve some of the worn joints after a long run.

Onion:  a common ingredient in Indian, Chinese and Thai food, an easily grown bulb-like vegetable.  It is of benefit to the blood and amongst other properties it has an antiseptic effect and may protect the stomach against cancer.

Tumeric:  a strong, powerful flavour in my view and has a potent effect in supporting the liver and is believed by many to have wide-ranging benefits

Chilli: possibly the strongest of flavours and range from very mild to a red hot explosion in your mouth.  The critical chemical is Capascin which is good for the respiratory system generally

Yoghurt:  perhaps an unlikely ingredient but one I have found is a natural antidote to the strong flavours.  Being a dairy product, it contains good levels of calcium and some vitamins.

So it seems many of the ingredients in a curry are good for us but it all depends on what the curry flavour is applied to.  Curried fatty meat is not a great idea, no matter how great the spices are, so some food-for-thought then.  Perhaps it is also a reminder of why having a wide ranging diet is a good approach.  Each of the spices (and many others) each bring specific nutrients which we might only need in small quantities on an occasional basis or for the treatment of a temporary condition.

So, good for runners and cyclists?  Yes I believe so!


  1. This year, I had a strong curry, the night before a hill climb. All I can say, is that the curry helped me to lose a little weight!

    1. Thanks for this Tejvan. It's hard to know quite the best way of responding to this (!) but at least your blog paints a positive season for you.