To dig or not to dig?

Ambika Shaligram
Sunday, 15 October 2017

Should we abstain from fried foods this Diwali and opt for baked varieties instead? We ask nutritionists

Can you smell the Shev and Chakli being fried in your neighbourhood? Or the aroma of besan and semolina being roasted? To cut the long olfactory story short, Diwali is round the corner and so is the faraal — the special snacks. That’s the charm of Indian festivities; they are mostly seasonal, and the traditional goodies that are prepared, often keep track of these changes.

So Diwali brings with it the winter cheer and it is usually advised to eat foodstuff that keeps the body warm. Hence fried stuff like chakli, karanji wasn’t a taboo. Of course, now with changing times and more and more food classification and counting of calories, fried food stuff, laddoo laden with ghee are a complete no-no. The options are baked goodies or alternatives like Soya Chakli, which don’t offer same edible factor.

This also brings us to the question — how many chaklis or how much of chiwda and shev does one actually consume during the four-day festival? Those who make the faraal items at home, are usually reluctant to eat the fried stuff. The usual reason being given is that standing for hours before the hearth and frying the goodies makes one nauseous. Also, the faraal items are shared with neighbours and friends. Given this scenario, is it really harmful if we eat a couple of chakli and a bowl of chiwda, may be once or twice?

Says Akansha Jhalani Sinha, nutritionist and founder of Beyond the Weighing Scale, “When we talk about eating well, we always emphasise on what is healthy and what is not. We look at food with a binary vision, but this approach is flawed. Along with what we eat, how much of it we eat is also crucial. Yes, baked chakli is a healthier variant of deep fried chakli, but if you control your portions, like eating only one chakli a day, consuming deep fried chakli is also fine. Baked chakli or karanji in large quantity would also be unhealthy.”

Nutritionist and food writer Rita Date also points out that baked goods are not all that healthy. “If you are going to eat faraal frequently, then it may be beneficial to eat baked goods once in a while. However, this isn’t something you should obsess over. The fact is that there is still a lot of fat in the baked varieties — more ghee/butter needs to be added to the dough of chakli and karanji for them to come out edible. As far as store bought varieties of baked goods are concerned, they are most likely to use vanaspati ghee which contains transfat, and it should definitely be avoided,” explains Date.

She adds, “Be mindful of how much you eat. It is an important festival, so do eat the foods you like. But you do not need to gorge on them for four days. We are eating these foods, and other stuff as well, throughout the year now, not like the previous times when faraal was a special treat during Diwali.”

But what about the age-old wisdom of eating warm food during the cold months? Is it a correct tradition to follow? Jhalani agrees that it is correct. “Chakli, all over India, is made with an array of different ingredients like rice, urad dal, bajra, whole wheat and mixed with spices like sesame seeds, hing or asafoetida, ajwain, cumin seeds etc. All these ingredients prepare our bodies to build our immunity, boost our metabolism and attain a healthy digestion for the seasonal shift,” she says.

However, Date has a different point of view. “It is correct reasoning but we don’t need to eat fried chakli to keep our body warm. A brisk walk or a cup of herbal tea can do that! Also Diwali this year is in the middle of October heat!” adds Date.

The nutritionists also point out that eating home-fried faraal is still fine. But consuming store bought goodies is a complete no-no. Says Date, “Eating fried foods on a regular basis is not good for you body. This is especially true if they are store bought. We do not know what went into the dough or which oil was used. Fried foods can be eaten occasionally when made at home. Shankarpaale is especially bad because it is made with maida (refined flour) as well as fried.”

Seconding that Jhalani shares, “All these snacks are a high source of carbohydrates, fat and are devoid of fibre. Munching on these snacks throughout the year could harm your health. Store bought delicacies would be more harmful, especially if fried in reused oil of low quality.”
So eat wisely this Diwali!

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