Women: BALTI powers; CURRIES CAN BE BE BAD FOR YOUR WAISTLINE, BUT THERE'S ALSO PLENTY IN THEM TO KEEP YOU LOOKING AND FEELING HOT, HOT, HOT.
WITH creamy kormas, oily onion bhajis and greasy samosas on most takeaway menus, no wonder we think Indian food is bad for us. But a curry needn't be a health hazard.
In general, the hotter the dish, the better it is for our waistlines. According to Dr Alan Hirsch, founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment And Research Foundation in Chicago, our sense of taste has an important role in controlling our weight.
His research reveals that people who can't taste food don't receive the normal "full" signals that stop overeating. So hot and spicy foods with a strong flavour are great for keeping appetites in check.
We're also more likely to take our time eating a hot curry. This is good news because it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it's full so you stop eating.
Meanwhile, spices such as chilli increase heart rate and body temperature, boosting metabolism for a short time after eating.
CURRY WITHOUT THE WORRY
GARLIC, ginger, chilli and other spices such as cumin and turmeric add flavour to dishes without the need for salt.
This is important as there's overwhelming evidence that reducing your intake of sodium (the main component of salt) can help to prevent high blood pressure - a risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
Curries can also be a good way to up your veggie portions - tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, aubergine, peas and spinach are all popular ingredients.
And onions and garlic are packed with naturally-occurring plant chemicals that keep the heart healthy, lower the risk of cancer, ease pain and fight off infections such as colds and flu.
DESPITE the health benefits, Indian food can be packed with calories. Here's how to beat the fat factor...
SAY no to curries swimming in fat. Large amounts of oil or ghee (clarified butter) are often used and with just 1tbsp of oil containing 100 calories and 11g fat, this can be a waistline disaster. Use a spray oil for homemade curries and spoon out as much oil as you can from takeaways.
USE lean meat, skinless chicken, prawns, vegetables or lentils for homemade curries to slash the fat content.
GO for dry dishes such as tandoori chicken (300 calories, 8g fat per serving) rather than curries with creamy sauces such as chicken korma (870 calories, 52g fat).
OPT for boiled rather than pilau rice. In a standard takeaway portion you'll save a massive 290 calories and 34g fat.
STARTERS and side orders can break the calorie bank in a few mouthfuls. Ones to watch include poppadoms (65 calories, 3g fat each), onion bhajis (190 calories, 16g fat each) and naan bread (300 calories, 4g fat each).
CURRY IN A HURRY
Many of us avoid cooking curry because we think we need lots of ingredients and time. Here's how to speed things up...
USE curry powder or curry paste instead of individual spices.
BUY meat, chicken and vegetables that have already been cut into chunks or slices.
CHOOSE jars of ready-made reduced-fat curry sauces, but avoid those with a high salt content.
USE basmati rice that can be cooked in a microwave oven.
FOR the ultimate cheat, opt for a "healthy-eating" Indian readymeal from the supermarket.