Superfoods are always in the news and why wouldn’t they be? After all, superfoods are those food items that come loaded with nutritional value. These food items are credited with lowering the risk of several health problems that face us today.
Almost every week, we learn of a new food item earning the ‘superfood’ label. It’s commonly assumed that if it’s a superfood, it will be expensive and exotic with a name that is challenging to pronounce. We’re looking at you, keen-oh-ah. Another popular misconception is that superfoods come from countries far away from ours.
Even if you’ve never gone shopping for a superfood, you already have some in your kitchen right now. Don’t believe us? From turmeric to ghee, check out the list of superfoods you will find in a typical Indian kitchen.
Yep! Ghee is a superfood. “Ghee is a wonderful saturated fat for our body. It has high lubrication values, helps bone strength and promotes the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins,” says Anupama Menon, a Bangalore-based nutritionist and food coach. She adds, “When eaten in moderation, ghee can also help lose fat, build muscles and regulate sugar levels.” All of this is possible because of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a naturally-occurring fatty acid, found in ghee, explains the expert.
2. Ginger and garlic
When we asked Mumbai-based nutritionist Payal Kothari about superfoods found in a typical Indian kitchen, she promptly says “ginger and garlic”. According to the expert, both these super-charged foods boast anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Ginger is popular for relieving congestion and killing cold-causing viruses. Meanwhile, garlic is famous for its anti-microbial and immunity-boosting powers.
Turmeric is loaded with vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C and has been an important part of Ayurveda since time immemorial. Its antiseptic, antioxidant, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties (phew!) earn the superfood tag for turmeric.
It can be used externally to treat wounds and scars and is great for your skin too. When added to food, it can treat cold, cough and prevent indigestion. It’s no wonder that ‘haldi doodh’ is an integral part of every Indian home remedy. “Turmeric also has the potential to reduce the risk of cancer,” says Menon. Research suggests that curcumin, a substance present in turmeric, can kill cancer cells in some types of the disease.
4. Curd (Dahi)
Yes, the humble dahi sitting quietly in your refrigerator is not only a great way to fulfil your daily quota of calcium but also improves digestion. The good bacteria, called probiotics, found in curd boosts immunity and ensures we are in the pink of health. When consumed regularly, this food item also acts as a natural skin beautifier. Minerals such as zinc, phosphorus and vitamin E, found in curd, ensure moisturised and glowing skin.
“Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of heart diseases,” says Nidhi Nigam, a Bengaluru-based clinical nutritionist. Tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C which is known to protect the body from the damage caused by free radicals. Additionally, vitamin B and potassium found in tomatoes keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in control. Studies also suggest that tomatoes can help improve your mood by arresting the formation of organic compounds linked to depression.
This sweet-sour fruit is most prominently found in Maharashtrian and Konkani cuisine. While it is most popular for its cooling properties which protect against dehydration and sunstroke, it comes with a host of other health benefits.
According to a study published in the Indian journal Current Science in 2006, kokum is a rich source of antioxidants. Another study, published in the Journal of Food Research and Technology, says the ingredient has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine. Traditionally, it was used to treat sores, tumours, heart complaints, indigestion and diarrhoea. It is also suggested that this superfood has the potential to be used as an anti-cancer agent – now that’s a big deal!
7. Indian Chillies
Nope, they don’t exist just to spice up Indian recipes but come loaded with several health benefits too. You can turn to chillies or chilli peppers for your dose of vitamin C, beta-carotene, folic acid and magnesium. According to a study published by the US Library of Medicine, researchers from a Spanish university found that capsaicin, a compound present in chillies, can cure gut problems and help kill cancer cells – prostate cancer in particular. A few studies even suggest that chillies could induce weight by improving one’s insulin control.
Peanuts are the perfect example of great things that come in small packages. In September 2018, the Peanut Institute in the USA revealed that “regular consumption of peanuts helps improve life expectancy and delivers positive effects throughout the body”. Peanuts contain healthy fats which help decrease bad LDL cholesterol and increase the good one. Apart from these, peanuts pack in a good amount of protein that helps you feel full for longer and lowers blood sugar levels. Lastly, bioactive compounds, like phytosterols and polyphenols, present in peanuts have shown to reduce the risk of cancer and improve blood flow.
Just like peanuts, almonds may seem tiny, but they pack in a big health punch. According to a study published by the British Journal of Nutrition, making almonds a part of your daily diet can be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart diseases. Almonds are packed with fibre and proteins, apart from minerals and vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin B7, folate, calcium, magnesium and zinc.