We Indians take our food pretty seriously. Due to the exposure we have had to what people in other parts of the world eat, thanks mainly to the internet and overseas travel, we have made some of the international dishes a part of our diet.
But slowly, we have started to realise how most of these dishes — pizza, pasta, muffin, cupcake and more — are unhealthy and every individual needs to watch what s/he is eating. Our inspiration here too are the Western countries who are consciously consuming healthy food.
Sadly, while emulating them, we have started to look down upon our indigenous food. In reality, our food is as healthy as theirs, and at times, even more.
AVOCADO, KALE AND ALL THAT
Mostly what you read in the print medium or on social media sites about healthy food talks about avocados, kale, olive oil and so on. These are not only expensive but also not easily available in local markets. Talking to a few nutritionists, we try to find out how Indians can lead a healthy life, simply by indulging in local food.
“While kale has been in vogue abroad for quite sometime now, Indians have only recently taken to it. There are many who swear by its health benefits,” says Naavnidhi Wadhwa, coach for psychology of eating and nutritionist, further adding that what the Westerners have now labelled as healthy, is something that we Indians have been eating regularly for centuries. “Kale belongs to the family of cabbage, which, by default, is filled with nutrition and we have been consuming it regularly until its international cousin gained popularity,” she says.
She believes eating greens such as spinach, methi, spring onion is equally beneficial and one does not require to spend a lot of money and time looking for expensive and exotic vegetables.
Payal Kothari, an integrative nutrition health coach, agrees, “The popularity of exotic vegetables has a lot to do with smart marketing and advertising but it is best to stick to what our grandmothers have been telling us truthfully.”
She points out that people keep talking about the health benefits of olive oil, but it is important to understand that although a healthy choice, olive oil does not go with the eating habits of Indians who eat tempered and fried food. “Olive oil can be substituted with sesame seed oil or mustard oil, rice bran oil or even groundnut oil which is easily available in Indian markets at half the price of olive oil,” she says. She further points out that our ancestors used oils extracted from wooden churners, and they were a healthy generation.
However, she cautions that it is necessary to use oil rotationally and scarcely. “Too much of anything can be dangerous,” she says. The best option to cook food is desi ghee, she suggests. “Free from adulteration, made at home with love, with a dollop of ghee everyday, sickness is going to keep away,” she says, rather lyrically.
According to Kothari, Indians have a tendency of following trends. “Just a few months back when people in the West started raving about the Golden Latte, we started taking it seriously. Golden Latte is nothing but turmeric milk which our mothers and grandmothers told us to have. But ‘haldi ka doodh’ is not cool’, we used to tell them,” she says.
Instead of following a trend blindly, make it a point to look at what’s available here, go back to your roots, because that is where one will find most of the effective remedies for sickness and ways to build immunity.
FOR THE NATION
Kothari says that eating local will not only help you stay healthy but will also work for the betterment and development of the nation. We are an agrarian country and eating local food will boost the farming community. “The best way to eat healthy is to use less oil and eat washed vegetables,” she says, adding that Indians should actually take out time to go to the local market or farmers’ markets which have gained a lot of popularity, and pick up fresh produce instead of eating something that is wrapped in a plastic and has travelled for several hours or days.
We belong to the land of many seasons, which influence our diet. “Since we have many seasons, we also have a variety of seasonal fruits, each of them having its own benefits,” says Wadhwa, explaining that it is important to consume all the possible seasonal fruits, be it mangoes, oranges, lychees, strawberries, without thinking of the sugar content in them, since fruits are nature’s gift to humans. “Each of the seasonal fruit has a nutrient which the body requires during the said season,” she adds, citing examples of fruits like watermelons, jambu which have high water content and help people cool down and maintain the hydration level of the body during summers.