Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Power of 10

Desi Superfoods
10 ka dum
Goji berries, Californian grapes, Norwegian salmon, American blueberries, and South
American quinoa seeds. Shelves in supermarkets and even the neighbourhood kirana
store are stocked with these and many other exotic foreign foods with glossy labels
advertising their health benefits. Walk into any restaurant and you'll find imported John
Dory instead of bhetki and salads topped with pine nuts when roasted melon seeds would
serve as well. While the growing tribe of locavores in the West rediscovers food grown
locally, Indians are increasingly eating global. So the guava loses out to the Granny
Smith, mackerel to Chilean sea bass and fresh coconut water to bottled cranberry juice.
New-age nutritionists are now trying to turn the tide. Instead of obscure, expensive
imported products, they recommend a trip to the subziwallah for cheap and healthy local
produce. The coriander that your vendor throws in for free can boost immunity and a
tablespoon of steamed spinach (or better still, bathua) contains more vitamin C and folic
acid than a shot of wheatgrass, the fabled (and disgustingly bitter) health-food juice. TOICrest
spoke to nutritionists and doctors to draw up a list of 10 local superfoods that won't
break the bank while giving you a headstart on health.
|Coconut was long vilified for its high saturated fat content, but experts say it has many
benefits. Every part and product of the coconut, be it the water, the white flesh or oil, is
loaded with nutrients. The same obviously can't be said about toddy, the very potent
drink made from the coconut palm's sac. Coconut oil, in particular, is considered hearthealthy
and good for weight loss because it speeds up metabolism. It was included in the
diet of the England rugby squad in 2007. A year later, Jennifer Aniston was spotted with
a shopping trolley full of coconut oil bottles and the fruit soon became the darling of the
superfood set. "Coconut has a thermogenic effect. It increases body temperature and
therefore increases metabolism. It actually aids in weight loss rather than impedes it as is
popularly believed, “explains macrobiotic counsellor Shonali Sabharwal. Coconut water,
unlike the oil, is low in carbohydrates and sugars and high in electrolyte potassium. This
makes it a great substitute for sugary 'sports' drinks. The sweet drink also has anti-viral,
anti-fungal and anti-macrobial properties. It, therefore, keeps urinary tract infection,
kidney stones and various other recurring health problems at bay.
The guava has emerged as the king of fruits, elbowing apples and grapes off the ideal
diet chart. A recent study reported in TOI found that guavas have the highest
concentration of anti-oxidants among Indian fruits. A 100-gram portion of guava
contained around 500 milligrams of anti-oxidants. Juicy red plums were the next best
fruit to eat with 330 mg. And, apples, which are generally prescribed as the best tool to
keep the doctor away, were found to have only a quarter of the anti-oxidants that guavas
If you need a booster dose of Vitamin C, look no further than this green berry-like fruit.
Amla contains 445 mg/100 g vitamin C, 20 times more than in orange. Its free radical
absorbing capacity is believed to be higher than that of the reigning superfruits -
blueberries and strawberries. Tannins - chemical compounds that exhibit anti-viral, antibacterial
and antiparasitic properties - are present in amla in significant amounts.
Ayurveda recommends it for its rejuvenation powers and says it inhibits the ageing
process. It's excellent for hair health and good eyesight. It is said to reduce LDL or bad
cholesterol and improve digestion of food.
Kaddu ki sabji, just like lauki, usually makes people cringe and reach for the dependable
aloo gobhi dish. In the West, too, it is used more to carve jacko-lanterns every
Thanksgiving rather than in the kitchen. But had there been a test for superfoods, the
plump pumpkin would surely emerge tops. Pumpkin's bland-with-a-hintof-sweet flesh
contains one of the richest supplies of carotenoids (anticancer agents) known to man. It
has beta carotene which reduces one's risk for cancers of the colon, bladder and
oesophagus as well as betacryptoxanthin which decreased the risk of lung cancer in
smokers. In the landmark Nurses' Health Study conducted in the US, it was found that
women with the highest concentrations of carotenes in their diets had the lowest risk of
breast cancer. Pumpkins are also the only vegetarian source of vitamin B12. That's why
Mumbai-resident Kiran Jalan drinks a glass of pumpkin juice every morning. "I know a
lot of people who have been diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency recently. It leads to
memory loss, depression and dementia. I don't want to become forgetful, “says the 48-
year-old homemaker
There is another kind of apple that can keep the doctor away. The custard apple has antioxidant
levels of 202 mg, almost twice the amount that apple (123 mg) has, according to
a NIN study. It also has vitamins B and C, potassium, iron, calcium and manganese.
Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant that mops up free radicals. The tropical fruit also
contains vitamin A, which is good for the health of hair, eyes and skin. It serves as an
expectorant, amps up immunity, acts as a coolant and boosts hemoglobin.
| It is the era of seedless fruits - vendors sell seedless black grapes at double the price of
regular grapes and scientists in Bangalore have produced seedless watermelons so that
people don't have to bother spitting the seeds out. But the crunchy seeds immersed in the
luscious red flesh of watermelons can be dried, roasted and used as a crunchy topping for
desserts and salads. "Many women suffer from water retention for which doctors
prescribe them diuretics like diatide or lasitactone. Watermelon seeds have the same
effect, “says Dr Pradeep Mathur, chief medical officer of Sanjeevani, a naturopathy
institute in Haryana. Watermelon seeds are not the only seeds that are a key to good
health. The tear-drop shaped grey sunflower seeds are a good source of selenium, a trace
mineral that prevents cancer. Flax seed, or alsi as it is called locally, is considered a
wonder food because it is rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of
zinc and magnesium and can prevent various conditions, be it depression or kidney
stones. Black sesame seeds, on the other hand, contain saponin enzyme which offers
protection against cervical and breast cancer. Mathur suggests roasting 100 gm of each of
the five types of seeds and eating a spoonful with breakfast each morning. "A mix of
these five seeds is as good as having chia seeds, which are imported,” he says.
Coriander leaves are packed with photonutrients-chemicals with health protecting
properties like anti-inflammatory, immunity-boosting – and have also been shown to
lower blood sugar. “It has powerful anti-oxidants and also fights toxicity caused due to
smoking, chemotherapy and pollutions “says Naini Setalvad, a Mumbai based
Nutritionist. Coriander seeds and leaves also contain dodecenal , an antibacterial
compound , which fights salmonella , a bacteria and a common cause of food borne
A lot of well heeled Indians switch to brown rice when they are on a diet . But few realize
that , apart from the lower fat content , there are many other compelling reasons to eat
this version of rice . In fact Shonali Sabharwal a Mumbai based macrobiotic counselor ,
has one bowl daily . “ Brown rice is coming out of the closet now. It has too many health
benefits to ignore “, she says. Brown rice basically refers to unpolished and unmilled rice
which we used to eat before rice started coming in plastic packets .Only the outermost
layer, the hull, of the rice grain is removed to produce brown rice which makes it retain
all the natural nutrients . The most important benefit of brown rice is that it prevents
cardiac disease as it helps in tackling risk factor such as obesity , diabetes and
cholesterol. The outer layer (bran) contains essential oils which help lower bad
cholesterol . The rice also helps the body maintain its blood insulin levels and it is a rich
source of a co enzyme called Q10 which facilitates the transformation of fat and sugar
into energy . Brown rice contains 70 anti-oxidants , all trace minerals and has several B

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