It is a fact that Indian recipes are a storehouse of energy-containing immune modulators to fight against viruses or bacteria. Unfortunately, the post-1991 policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation had the worst impact of western food culture on Indians. In the bargain, we swept away from time-tested grandmothers’ recipes. With high fat, high salt, preservatives, and packed foods, the pizza, burger, Chinese, takeaways, and fast food culture swept the country. Young generations with economic independence, working couples, and nuclear families have become slaves to continental, intercontinental, Thai, and Chinese foods. Unknowingly, the shift in food habits had its impact on the younger generation, fuelling an exponential increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, renal disease, cancer, and neurological diseases. This is a wake-up call for all Indian citizens to seriously ponder their food habits and go back to their grandmothers’ recipes for promoting positive health.
Role of food in health.
The multibillion-dollar food industry and policymakers are hands in glove in the west. They funded scientists and doctors to do sponsored research. The results were published and advertised to market their products. Over seven decades, most Indian medical scientists with blind faith referred to this literature and advised the patients on the type of food to be consumed. Indian doctors had no consideration for the environment, socio-economic background, or hereditary factors of our society while advising these foods. What is true and applicable in the West does not apply to Indian conditions and has not been recognised or appreciated by medical colleges or medical teachers. Many professionals started endorsing western foods. Natural food items like ghee, coconuts, and groundnut oils were considered saturated fats and were rejected by our own doctors. It is too late for us to recognise that Indian traditional food cooked at home is a remedial means for many of our health problems. Fast foods are high in trans fats, sugar, maida, salt, and chemicals, all of which are addictive and harmful. Food is refrigerated, hydrogenated, pasteurised, and microwaved and all the micronutrients are lost.
Indian super foods are
- Grown locally, naturally.
- Rich in micronutrients and Taste
- Encourage diversity in our food
- Every part of the crop/plant is used in unique ways
- Lead to sustainable lifestyles. Help the local economy, help farmers and make sound ecological sense.
- They are all traditional foods; they are compassionate and wise.
- They co-exist, striking a symbiotic relationship with the soil, climate, and living beings on their land.
- They bring pleasure to the palate and nourishment to the body, mind, and soul.
- They are comparatively cheaper, and hence more affordable.
Young Indians consider it below dignity to eat traditional Indian food. Indian household foods complement our genetic makeup, as well as our regional cuisine and culture.
How to eat, how much to eat
- Enjoy eating in a relaxed mood; stay silent while eating
- Do not talk, read, or watch mobile or television
- Chew well, eat slowly
- Focus on eating, which nourishes the mind and soul. Do not focus on taste
- You feel lighter, younger and calmer
Indian superfoods, which need to be part of daily consumption
“YATHA JEEVET, SUKHAM JEVET, RUNAM KRUTVA, GHRUTAM PIBET ” for as long as you live, live happily, and even if you have to take a loan ensure that you can consume ghee.
Ghee is a component of Panchaamrita. Ghee is a superfood, contrary to much medical advice. It is a super fat but contains short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). Ghee promotes fat burning from stubborn sites like belly fat.
USFDA (2015). Nice (UK) studies opined that fat is not a culprit for atherosclerosis but sugar is a villain.
Ghee is good for diabetics as it reduces the glycaemic index.
reduces blood sugar. Ghee is lipolytic,
It reduces cholesterol. Ghee is rich in vitamins A, E, and D and is rich in antioxidants.
It is good for the heart, brain, gut, bones, and in pregnancy.
Ghee is prebiotic and promotes the gut microbiome. The best is Desi Cow Gh
Coconuts contain medium-chain triglycerides, similar to what is found in mothers’ milk. It helps in myelinisation, hence helping in executive functions, reasoning, planning, and decision-making skills.
Coconut is a plant fat. It cuts down the risk of cholesterol; it contains lauric acid, which helps in reducing the glycaemic index. It is antiseptic. It reduces central fat accumulation. It is also good for diabetics and heart patients. Oil can be used for cooking. All parts of the coconut are useful. Coconut water is very good.
It is a rich source of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fibre. It is a recharger. It has a low glycaemic index. It is also beneficial for diabetics. Good for both diarrhoea and constipation, it strengthens bones. It is cheap and available in all seasons.
4. CASHEW NUT – KAJU
All nuts, including Kaju, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and dates, are good sources of protein and many trace elements. It is good for brain health. It is an antidepressant. It is rich in fibre and iron. It promotes healthy ageing. It has a low glycaemic index. Tender cashews are good and rich in vitamin C.
It is sweet, high in fibre, and laxative. It improves insulin sensitivity. Even though it is sweet, it releases sugar slowly and is hence good for diabetes. It is low in fat, rich in antioxidants, anti-aging, and fights cancer. Jackfruit seeds are high in all micro-nutrients and minerals.
Rice is a staple food for all Indians. Ayurveda always promoted rice. It has a high content of lysine, which is necessary for human growth hormones. Hand-pounded and less polished rice is good. It is also advisable for diabetes but in moderation.
7. CANE SUGAR:
It is better than beet sugar or corn sugar. Cane sugar is anti-ageing. A moderate amount, like 2–4 teaspoons per day, is good. But the increase in consumption of processed foods like biscuits, bread, colas, ice creams, and so forth is bad. Cane sugar is better than stevia and sweeteners. It is advised to use jaggery or kakavi.
Natural antacid. Good for good gut microbione. anti-bacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties. It reduces weight. It can be eaten as kokum fruit, kokum sharbat, or amsol. commonly used in Konkan areas.
9. ALIV – ALVI SEEDS
It is an important ingredient in laddoo, especially for post-delivery women. It has essential fatty acids like linoleic acid and arachidic acid and has omega-3 fatty acids. It is high in iron, folic acid, and calcium, as well as vitamins A and E and phytonutrients, and it helps to prevent hair loss and helps the skin to glow.
Alvi seeds with jaggery, dry coconut, and ghee are the ultimate superfoods for all ages. Alvi greens, Aliv seeds, and Aliv oil are all good. We are not talking about olive oil from the Mediterranean area.
It is a seasonal, green, leafy vegetable. Available in monsoon months—like palak(spinach). Ambadi is a poor man’s food. It is a stomach soother. It is high in iron, folic acid, and fiber. It has an acidic pH and is antibacterial.
11. Indian spices
Garlic, onion, cinnamon, turmeric, sesame, coriander, ginger, black pepper, cumin, and mint are all good sources of antioxidants and trace elements. All improve immunity. Even the Union Ayush Ministry advocated this during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, all governments have been encouraging the use of millets like Jowar, Bajra, Navane, Ragi, and Savi Akki. Agricultural universities have conducted research and food exhibitions promoting their use. Millets contain high fibre, have all the nutrients, and protein and act as antioxidants. It is good for all diabetes and heart patients and prevents cancer.
13. All the fruits of India, including lemon and Indian gooseberry, are good for all people, including those with diabetes.
14. All vegetables, especially organically grown ones, are very good for positive health promotion.
15. All nuts, like groundnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachio, flax seeds, cucumber seeds, jackfruit seeds, walnuts, and dry dates, contain protein and trace elements. Do not increase weight.
All the above foods, in moderation and in combination, are an excellent way of promoting positive health. Such foods are beneficial not only during the COVID-19 pandemic but also at all times.
(The author thanks Ms Rujuta Divekar for information in her book, Indian Super Foods.)
Author: Prof. Emeritus Dr H B Rajsekhar, MD, FRCP (EDIN)
Director USM-KLE International Medical Program, Belagavi.