Thai Food on a Diabetic-Friendly Diet
Thai food is a good choice for people with diabetes. It is cooked with little fat because stir-frying is the method of choice. Thai cooking keeps the meat, fish, and poultry to small quantities, thus providing taste rather than bulk, as in a Western diet.
The dipping sauces have strong tastes, so they’re used in very small quantities, minimizing the salt and sugar in the diet. Vegetables are eaten in larger quantities. At the end of the meal, Thais enjoy fruits like mango, pineapple, guava, and papaya, which provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Thai food, like Italian food, is also the product of many influences. Westerners introduced milk into Thai cooking, and because coconut milk is so readily available, this became a staple of Thai dishes. The Chinese coming down from the north brought stir-frying with them, as well as noodles.
Thanks to the Chinese, the five basic flavors of Asian cuisine — bitter, salt, sour, hot, and sweet — were established, and Thai meals use them as their basis for a balance of flavors. Dishes made with soy and ginger are a good example.
India brought curry dishes to Thailand, with coconut milk serving as an antidote to the hot spices in some of those curry dishes. The Thais have put their own delicious stamp on these curries, using a lot of green chile pepper, also given to them originally by Westerners.
Southern Thai food is usually hot and spicy, and fish is a major ingredient because the area is so close to the sea. However, you can always get dishes that aren’t so spicy, and the subtle tastes of good Thai cooking have made it tremendously popular in the United States and throughout the world wherever Thais are found. Rice generally is part of the meal.
Most Thai dishes have garlic, a condiment that grows all over Thailand. Coconut milk, actually a combination of the coconut flesh and the liquid inside the coconut, is added to Thai curries and soups. Use the low-fat coconut milk if possible. Fish sauce, made by fermenting shrimp, salt, and water together, takes the place of soy sauce in Thai cooking.
In American Thai restaurants, a dish called pad thai has become a favorite entree. It means “Thai-style stir-fried noodles” and was brought to Thailand by the Chinese. When employment was low in Thailand after World War II, the government promoted noodle shops and stalls as a way of getting people back to work, and pad thai noodles became popular throughout the country.
Thai immigrants brought the dish to the United States. It’s not exactly representative of the finest Thai cuisine, but it’s eaten so frequently in the United States that it must be considered when the diabetic has Thai food, particularly because the sauce often contains a lot of sugar and salt. A small portion of pad thai is fine for the person with diabetes, but leave at least half the serving for another day.
Thai food is so nutritious that there is little about it to warn the person with diabetes. As always, avoid large portions and too much rice. And be careful of the hot spices.