Indian Kitchens a powerhouse of super foods

, Palate

‘It is time we get back to our native ingredients and rediscover the power of them’

Going back to your roots, “healthy eating”, “superfoods” et al are some of the phrases and terms we have been hearing in today’s times more than ever before.  While eating right is something we all strive to do, it is important to note that the secret to healthy eating exists right within our Indian kitchens and in our backyards.  With its rich culinary heritage, Indian food, with its nutritive, medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties, has always been a superpower when it comes to superfoods.

While the west is now waking up to our humble “haldi doodh” aka turmeric latte and going gaga over ghee, these foods have been a part of our diet since time immemorial.  “Over a period of time, we have moved away from natural ingredients and incorporated more processed foods in our diets. This has made our food not only unhealthy but unnatural too.  It is time, we get back to our native ingredients and rediscover the power of some of the most common spices, oils and veggies that not only have properties that are magical but are also inherently Indian” says Pallavi Gupta, Partner, Santé Spa Cuisine, Bangalore which is a wellness café offering organic, vegan and alkaline fare.

Here is a look at some superfoods:

Turmeric: A bright yellow spice that is an integral component of Indian cooking, turmeric is actually obtained from the roots of the ginger family. Often used for colouring and adding flavours, it is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is believed to help improve symptoms of depression and arthritis.  “Turmeric, due to its most active compound curcumin has many scientifically-proven health benefits. Turmeric prevents heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even cancer. It decreases inflammation in vessels, skin, and intestinal tract apart from helping with aches, wounds and stiff joints” says Tanvi Chandan, Consulting Chef, Phalada Agro Research Foundation Pvt. Ltd. Turmeric can be used in tea, salad dressing, smoothies, soups and can be added to rice as well as tossed it with vegetables.

Ginger: A rhizome that has been in use for centuries considering its medicinal properties, ginger works wonders for the digestive system.  A source of vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, ginger is used as a palate cleanser and also to relieve nausea.  “Ginger is very effective for an upset stomach or bloating and it just helps people feel better when their immune system is low.  Ginger goes very well with drinks, so you can make ginger tonic, ginger tea and kombucha” says Rebekah Blank, Nutritionist, Fabcafe by Fabindia.   The best part about this stem is its versatility in that it can be consumed fresh, powdered, dried as a spice, in oil form or as juice.

Ghee: A great source of healthy fat that is super nourishing and a treasure house of vitamins, ghee is an extremely effective detoxifying agent. Traditionally made from cow milk it is used in religious rituals and traditional Ayurvedic medicines. “Since it is rich in fatty acids and butyrate, it is recommended for people who follow the paleo diet/Keto diet. Ghee is said to aid in digestion and exhibits anti-inflammatory properties on the bowels. It is very heavy in vitamin A” adds Tanvi Chandan. A good way to starting consuming ghee is to use it in moderation for sautéing and swap it whenever you use butter and cooking oil.

Coconut oil: Much like ghee, coconut oil too has several benefits including its positive effect on maintaining heart health, cholesterol levels and digestion. Due to its anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, coconut oil protects one against kidney disease and bladder infections.  In fact, it is one of the most useful things to have at home as it is not only a fattening agent in cooking but also a beauty product with zero negative effects on one’s body. “What is amazing about coconut oil is that it does not require gall bladder for digestion and it is the easiest fat for the body to digest” adds Rebekah Blank. Consuming a spoon of coconut oil raw is considered highly beneficial apart from using it for baking cakes and in desserts like fudges, burfis etc.

Amla: Also called Indian Gooseberry, Amla is an excellent source of Vitamin C. Apart from helping boost immunity it prevents viral and bacterial ailments like cold and cough. It is also known to help fight against the development of cancer cells. A regular intake of amla is known to improve eyesight, boosts the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels and also aids against hair fall.  “The vitamin C in Amla is absorbed more easily by the body compared to store-bought supplements.  Adding Amla in your daily diet can bring about a significant change in your health and the way you feel. One can include it in a variety of ways, from amla juices, powders and preparing dishes like Amla Sabji, Amla Ginger Juice, Amla Rice etc” says Chef Virender Singh, Executive Sous chef, IBIS Jaipur Civil lines.  One of the most effective ways to use amla is to start your day with a glass of amla juice that is an ideal detoxifying agent.  Snacks like dried amla candy, amla jam and pickles are other options too.

Words: Rashmi Gopal Rao

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