A little taster of what's cooking...
Have you ever wondered how pre-made curry bases are able to have such an extensive shelf-life? The answer is simple…preservatives and additives. These ingredients may keep your jar of sauce in the cupboard for longer, but at what cost to your health?
Tastesmiths has compiled a list of a few of these nasties found in your supermarket curry, how they can affect your health and some alternative options:
1) Flavour enhancers/yeast extract
Food found in cans and jars often has added flavour enhancers to emphasise the desired flavour. A common flavour enhancer is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). There is evidence that a small subset of people do have negative reactions that are directly due to glutamate, but the science to date shows that is likely to be a rare phenomenon. More important than this, however, is the placebo effect related to MSG, which has a measurable impact on those that try to actively remove it from their diets.
To avoid MSG some companies replace it with yeast extract, food colourings, benzoates, nitrates and sulphite preservatives as well as artificial sweeteners. All of which allows the companies to maintain the pre-determined flavour they have designated to each of the different curries.
One of the major benefits of using a Tastesmiths kit is that you determine the flavour of the curry without any added preservatives. All our flavours come from the fresh ingredients themselves, whether you decide to add meat or vegetables to your dish, how much chilli you add and the freshly ground spice packs that are included.
Top Tip 1: When using the whole spices and bay leaves, letting them cook for a bit longer really brings out the natural oils and flavours of the spices, which give the curry its authentic taste. The smell of the spices coming through is an extra bonus, especially with the cassia bark*!
*If you don’t know what cassia bark is and the benefits of this spice, you can read more about it in our “Add a (health) kick to your curry” blog, here.
Top Tip 2: Slow cooking the onions draws out the sweetness from them. So if you have some extra time while cooking why not try for yourself?
2) Sugar and dried glucose
Although some jarred curries may have no artificial preservatives or colouring, there may still be excess ingredients for flavouring that are, ultimately, not healthy in large doses. One common ingredient for this is sugar. Since sugar is not an artificial flavour, companies promote the fact there are no artificial preservatives but leave out that this has been replaced with sugar. If the first ingredient listed is sugar, this means that this is the most abundant ingredient in the sauce. You may also see glucose listed separately, which is just more sugar.
As we all know, excess amounts of sugar can pose a health risk. Some of these risks include high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes and fatty liver disease.
Top Tip 3: Tastesmiths’ kits are sugar-free, giving you the option to add a little if you wish. A teaspoon of sugar is a great way to counteract the acidity of tomatoes when cooking.
3) Citric Acid / Acidity Regulators
Citric Acid is another common ingredient found in supermarket curry bases, but what exactly is it used for? There are two types: the natural citric acid found in foods such as lemons and limes, and manufactured citric acid. The latter is commonly found in jarred and canned foods.
Citric acid is used to keep food fresh for a longer duration of time, thicken food and also give a slightly sour taste.
Manufactured citric acid has been reported to have some negative health effects such as joint pain with swelling and stiffness, muscular and stomach pain, and shortness of breath.
In Tastesmiths kits, where a citric flavour is required, we use dried lime, as found in our Persian Koresh. Fresh Citric acid from dried lime has many health benefits. It is known to be a good disinfectant against a number of bacteria and viruses, enhances nutrient absorption and may also protect against kidney stones. (Add images of the dried lime)
Top Tip 4: If you like your food a little sour, why not try squeezing half a lemon into your dish towards the end of cooking?
4) High Sodium Levels
Salt is added to foods as a flavour enhancer, but in the large doses found in supermarket curries, this can cause health issues. The most common health issue caused by high sodium intake is increased blood pressure.
In our meal kits, there is no added salt, other than the salt you add yourself. This way you can monitor your intake as well as make the flavours to best suit you.
Top Tip 5: Cooking your sauce for longer (an hour or two) can bring out the natural flavours of the fresh ingredients, meaning you might not need to add as much salt.
5) Saturated Fat
Many foods include saturated fats, and jarred curries are one of them. You may sometimes see a separation of oil and paste in these curry jars, that oil is saturated fat. Saturated fat can cause high cholesterol in large doses, which then increases the risk of heart and circulatory disease.
With Tastesmiths meal kits you are able to monitor and control the type of oil you are using to avoid unnecessary amounts of saturated fat.
Top Tip 6: Coconut oil is a healthy and tasty oil that can be added to your curries – especially ones that already have a coconut flavour! Olive oil and avocado oils are also excellent to use for cooking and have amazing health benefits.
Although these preservatives and additives may not be obvious at first sight they are always there and carry risks associated with your health. To become one step closer to being in control of what you put in your body make a fresh, authentic Tastesmiths curry. There are a number of curries to choose from and each of them contains fresh ingredients, as well as a quick and easy to follow instruction card that allows you to enjoy the process of cooking. If you’re feeling extra adventurous you can try cooking the curries with a range of different meats, vegetables and plant-based proteins.