6 little known Indian Superfoods
Look around your kitchen for these highly nutritive foods which are often forgotten.
There is a new wave of interest in so called “superfoods” with advertisements splashed across everywhere. Our favourite celebrities are having matcha smoothies, quinoa salads and chia seed puddings and putting up delectable pictures on social media. Its tempting to shop for all these and more right away isn’t it? But most of these endorsed “super foods” are expensive and not easily available. So including them in our day to day diet becomes a challenge after the initial enthusiasm wears off.
So, what exactly are superfoods? Superfood is any food which is packed with a lot of nutrients. Even in small amounts they are highly beneficial. So are there any superfoods which are less expensive? Are there any locally available foods which are equally nutrient dense? The answer is YES. There are plenty of Indian, commonly available foods that qualify as superfoods. You can include these in your daily diet and reap the nutritive benefits at a fraction of the cost. Here are a list of 6 Indian superfoods.
All berries are highly nutritious. But most of them such as blueberries, blackberries and cranberries are not native to india. The are not easily available and even if they are it is only the dried ones which we can find. Not to fret since we have our own hero of the berry world, the humble gooseberry (amla or nellikkai).
The gooseberry is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help in preventing cancer and heart disease.
It is one of the richest sources of vitamin C. A single gooseberry can give you around 600% of your daily vitamin C requirement. Vitamin C helps to build immunity, promotes wound healing and helps recover from illness faster.
Gooseberries have blood sugar reducing properties and antacid effect.
2. Sesame seeds.
Seeds are high in protein and are a rich source of good fats. Sesame seeds ( til or ellu) are commonly used in Indian cuisine and can be found in most Indian kitchens.
These seeds are high in unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA and PUFA). These promote healthy heart and blood vessels and have antioxidant properties.
They are also rich in micro nutrients like magnesium and zinc, promote bone health and maintain blood pressure.
They are a great source of fibre and help prevent constipation.
3. Amaranth leaves and grain
Amaranth grain is called rajgira or ramdana and are used commonly in some parts of north india. It is cooked as a whole grain and its flour is used to make rotis. True to its name (Rajgira – means grain of the kings), it is a wonderful source of balanced nutrition having protein, carbohydrates, fibre and iron.
It is similar to quinoa but locally grown and sustainable. It is similar to a cereal and can be a good replacement for rice and wheat. It has the texture and flavour of cereals but healthier with lesser calories.
Amaranth leaves (thandu keerai or dantin soppu) are commonly used especially in southern india. These are one of the richest sources of Iron and vitamin A. It is easily digestible and its perfect for women during pregnancy and lactation, women with menstrual problems and anyone suffering from anaemia.
If there is one food which is healthy and tasty, loved by children and old people alike, it would be peanuts or groundnuts (moongphali or kadalekai).
They are rich in proteins, good fats and fibre. Cold pressed groundnut oil is a preferred cooking oil compared to other refined oils.
Peanuts are a versatile ingredient used in many Indian dishes. They can also be enjoyed as a snack roasted or boiled. So instead of reaching for that packet of chips or chocolate when you need a snack between meals, why not grab a handful of peanuts. They will satisfy your craving and still keep you healthy.
Ragi, also called finger milllet is used extensively in southern India in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Maharastra and Tamilnadu. It has the unfortunate reputation of being known as the poor man’s grain due to its low cost and traditional use by farmers and those who did hard labour.
Lot of misconceptions surround the use of ragi like it is difficult to digest and it is only for those who are very physically active. So a lot of people tend to stay away from it.
But in reality it is much more nutritional compared to grains like wheat and rice. It is rich in calcium, iron and fibre content. Soaking and sprouting the ragi grain increases the nutritive value and also makes it easier to digest. It is an excellent weaning food for babies. It is also a perfect source of nutrition in diabetics, keeping them full for longer and reduces hunger pangs.
6. Moringa leaves
Moringa oleifera is a tree native to India and South east Asia. It is otherwise called the Drumstick tree. The vegetable called drumstick is used in lot of South Indian vegetable preparations. The leaves of this tree are packed with nutrients and are the newest rage in the Western world.
Moringa leaves are rich in Vitamin C that helps boost immunity and fights aging.
They are rich in Calcium and Iron. They are of great help in pregnant and lactating mothers, adolescents and those who are recovering from illnesses. Apart from this they are also one of the best vegan/ vegetarian sources of protein. Moringa also has a unique anti-inflammatory property which helps those suffering from arthritis, ulcers and migraines.
This mildly flavoured, easily digestible leaf can be enjoyed as a smoothie, in savoury dishes like dhals. You could even add a bunch of moringa leaves into your Dosa, upma or other breakfast dishes and serve it to your toddler.