Indian cooking is not just about spices and taste, there is a lot of science that has gone into it. Homes continue to use the traditional spices in their kitchens not merely for taste, colour and aroma but for their properties as well. Even illiterate grandmothers were aware of balanced meals, the power of “5 almonds a day” mantra, the “good bacteria” in yoghurt and so on. Predictably, Indian food is replete of examples of “superfoods” – a concept that has existed long before the words came into existence.
Some Indian superfoods commonly used in Indian cooking / consumed for their disease busting properties (besides those on the list) would be:
For centuries, Turmeric (an Indian spice) has been an essential ingredient in Indian cooking all over the Indian subcontinent.
The wide range of turmeric health benefits come mainly from its main ingredient, curcumin. This widely researched component of turmeric is highly therapeutic and is used in various drugs and pharmaceutics mainly because of its immunity boosting and anti-oxidant properties.
Boosting Immunity – Curcumin has a huge therapeutic value and boosting immunity is one of the most important properties of curcumin.
“5 to 8 times stronger than vitamin E and stronger than vitamin C, this antioxidant breakthrough may help boost your immunity, maintain normal cholesterol levels, and put the brakes on aging,” says Dr. Joseph Mercola about the curcumin in turmeric.
In English Amla is known as Gooseberry. (phyllanthus emlica). It is the repository of Vitamin C, which is known as Aurveda for thousands of years. The gooseberry is the main ingredient in chyavanaprasam, an ayurvedic preparation supposed to be used by Chyavana Maharshi for vigour, vitality and longevity. The fruit can be preserved by drying in sugar syrup.
Honey is much more than just a liquid sweetener. One of the oldest medicines known to man, honey has been used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, skin ulcers, wounds, urinary diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, eczema, psoriasis, and dandruff. Today, we know the validity of these timeless treatments, as research has demonstrated that honey can inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeast, fungi, and viruses.
The power of honey comes from the wide range of compounds present in the rich amber liquid. Honey contains at least 181 known substances, and its antioxidant activity stems from the phenolics, peptides, organic acids, and enzymes. Honey also contains salicylic acid, minerals, alpha-tocopherol, and oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides increase the number of “good” bacteria in the colon, reduce levels of toxic metabolites in the intestine, help prevent constipation, and help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
The key point to remember with honey is that its antioxidant ability can vary widely depending on the floral source of the honey and its processing.
This flowery plant native to South Asia contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which have been shown to reduce the formation of free radical nitric oxide when it promotes inflammation, and to inhibit the development of inflammatory compounds.
“Ginger can help with delayed-onset muscle soreness,” says Jim White, R.D. who points to a study in the Journal of Pain that showed ginger acting as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory without the negative side effects of normal pain relievers. Ginger is better at treating delayed onset muscle soreness, White says, because it doesn’t affect pain immediately after it’s consumed, but is actually more effective the next day.
5. CAROM SEEDS
It combines warming digestive pungency with antispasmodic and bitter activity; antiflatulent, digestive cramps and sluggish digestion. Also benefits worms and fungal infections of the intestines. It is specific for digesting ama and stagnant toxins within the digestive tract. Chewing the seeds helps getting rid of hiccups, belching and abdominal bloating. As an antispasmodic it effectively eases wheezing and constricted lungs . Also beneficial in sinus and nasal congestion; it stimulates and opens the channels of the head.
Water boiled with ajwain eases colic pains in babies, stomach cramps in adults & urinary tract infections.
Mung beans are a superb source of protein (14.2g) and fiber for only 212 calories/cup. They have appreciable amounts of magnesium and vitamin B1. Rinse mung beans before boiling in a pressure cooker (10 minutes). Add seasoning and eat with rice or puree to prepare a soup. Otherwise, cook mung beans and rice together to prepare khichdi – easy to digest, nutritious meal – suitable for all especially children or elderly.
7. INDIAN GINSENG
The herb of eternal youth!
Clarified butter (ghee), cloves, cinnamon, pineapple, the humble banana, ashwagandha, raisins, cardamom, sesame oil – the list could go on and on!
And so, when winter comes, sensible Indians take a spoonful of health called CHYAWANPRASH which contains a cocktail of all these healthy substances in the right proportion to boost their immunity!