Talk of desi food and mouth waters, nose hallucinates of exotic smell of desi food-of Qorma, Bihari Kebabs, Parathas or ears ring with sizzling melody of jalebis, samosas, bhaturas being fried.
And eyes vision the ultilmate combo of : jalebi samosa and chai :
Indeed, our cuisine is the crowning glory of our culture. Curry dishes have acquired the status of national dish in Great Britain. Mughlai is a globally coveted cuisine..
I have hardly met any non-desi , who on mention of South Asian food, does not express a liking for Biryani.
The awesomeness of South Asian Cuisine :
More than just the exotic flavours and tastes, the spices that go into the food have been proven as time tested home remedies ( Grand Ma’s home remedies). The haldi(turmeric), aniseed(saunf), dal chini( cinnamon), ajwain( asafoetida), lalmirch( chilli powder) etc the commonly used spices, also serve as anti oxidants, antuflu, anti inflammatory or antiseptics.
Turmeric, a kind of curcumin, is known to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and hence it’s low prevalence in the subcontinent. A study found that those who ate curry once a month or more scored better on cognitive tests than those who ate curry rarely or never.
The king of fruits Mango, contains phenols which has a high antioxidant, anticancer capabilities along with being a rich source of Vit A, E, Selenium and Iron. (The diabetics should avoid it due to high sugar content.)
However, South Asian Cuisine has it’s down side too.
- The main culprits being that most of the delicacies are calorie dense, and are cooked high amount of saturated or trans fats.
- Our method of cooking like deep frying, the additions of baghars, tarkas are faulty. We tend to overcook our meals , which along with reheating depletes it of its nutrients.
- The savory snacks, like the namkeens, namakparas, samosas etc. are generally fried and laden with high salt content. While the sweets are rich, prepared from fat and thick sugar syrup. Eg Gulab Jamun, jalebis, Carrot Halwa etc.
- Our meals are large in serving portions .
- Our desi restaurants and take away meals are known for their liberal use of ghee and oil, not only in curries but also on naans (breads).
- Many of our households have a high intake of meats, avoiding vegetables. This leads to deficiency in certain nutrients like Folic Acid and excess of Homogentisic Acid which is a cause of Heart Attacks. The lack of fibre in the meats increases the risk of colon cancer too.
- A study claims most meat eaters in Pakistan take red meat (mutton and beef) 68% times and the rest white meat ( chicken and fish) .( Ref 2) Red meat is known to raise the risk of Cardiovascular diseases and cancer and the risk of dying in next 10 years is raised. ( 2. Ref below)
- The research found that a single meal of Indian curry in Britain has more fat than the recommendation for the entire day.
Example: Imagine a typical feast: Raita, Poppadam for a starter, a Lamb Qorma and two Butter Naans for main course, and a Gajar Halwa for dessert – is a meal with over 1800 calories! When the average calorie for a day are about 2500 for a man and 2000 for women.
A BAD NEWS is that along with the faulty diet, we South Asians have been endowed with vulnerable genetic makeup which makes up 5-6 times more vulnerable to heart disease, and other chronic diseases like DM and HT as compared to other races.
(Please read the above ^^ sentence once again, and understand it).
As a result of the genetic and lifestyle, there is a epidemic of Diabetes, and Heart diseases in SouthAsians. Hence there is a dire need to make changes in our diet habits to prevent early heart and chronic diseases.
(The topics of CV Diseases and DM, HT shall be dealt in detail in the separate blogs).
AUDIO ( in Hindi/Urdu):
We cant change our ethnicity or our genes, but the GOOD NEWS is that with slight modifications in the cooking methods and choice of ingredients, we can change the quality of our food without much change in the taste. .And hence can substantially reduce the risk of above diseases.
Let’s give it a try, for the sake of our healths.
What should we do ?
Step ONE: We need to know what is our calorie requirement: Our age and activity level determines our caloric requirement which can be calculated from the chart.
Place the cursor on the weight and your activity level to check ur calorific requirement.
If you are over weight then place the curser on your target weight ( the weight you wish to have or need to reduce to). Consider the calories that is required for the weight you desire.
Knowledge of the caloric requirement can give an idea whether we are falling short, meeting or exceeding the requirements.
To make it easier, the pyramid has been altered into a shopping pyramid, which hints at the amount of foods we need to buy from the different groups of food.
Step THREE: You must spread your meals into 4-6 times per day. A good breakfast is a must. The lunch and Dinner should not be very heavy. In between the meals, take snacks like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts etc.
This spreading out of meals over the day leads to maintained blood sugar levels and prevents in weight gain.
Step FOUR: While eating or later try to assess the calories you have taken in your plate. For this refer to the chart below the article. ( Unfortunately,very few of our recipes come with their calories and nutrient details).
Better still would be to make a list of all the foods as you eat and check the list at the end of the day. You will be surprised to see how much you ate, when you thought otherwise.
Step FIVE: Once in a week after a healthy eating all week, treat yourself to comfort desi food too… Nihari, Rasgullas, Kulfi aah !!!
For more details on Food Guide check this link :
Audio in Hindi/Urdu
Tips on what healthy changes can you make in our foods:
1. Replace red meat with more frequent white meat like chicken and fish. While taking red meat, prefer lean meat and trim the visible fat.
2. For those who do not afford meat, Dal chawal is an excellent source of Protien and the two eaten together supplement each others missing Amino acids.
3. Egg is also an excellent and cheap source of good quality protein. The notion that it is high in cholesterol is proven wrong by research.
4. If a recipe needs some oil/butter/ghee, use canola or olive oil in small quantity. Make a habit of brushing or spraying the oil in the pan instead of pouring. First heat the utensil, then add (preferably spray) oil. A heated pan spreads the oil better.
(PS see about Canola Oil on internet and decide about it’s efficacy through evidence. If unsure prefer CORN OIL ).
5. Substitute baking, barbecue or grill for frying, if possible.
6. Avoid too many reheating of the food as it destroys the nutritive value of foods.
7. Add more of green vegetables, as salads along with the meat.
8. Wash the vegetables with water containing potassium permanganate to remove infections, fertilisers and pesticides. Then rinse them with clean water.
9. Do not overcook the vegetables, leave them crunchy. Overcooked mushy vegetables lose taste and nutrients.
10. Onion should be cut and kept for at least 15 minutes before serving as oxidation helps quercetin, an important phytochemical and antioxidant to get activated.
11. Use skim or low fat varieties of all dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream)
12. Salads, sandwiches, fresh fruits are best fast foods, instead of the conventional ones.
13. When you go to a restaurant, give instructions to add only very small quantities of oils for cooking.
14. Make a habit to check the labels on the foods bought from the Supermarkets. Don’t be carried away by the words ‘No Cholesterol’ on labels. Majority of vegetable products are cholesterol free. It is the fat content of the item which matters.
15. Avoid eating while watching TV. You eat a lot and you don’t know while watching TV.
16. Never use pots and pans made of lead or aluminum. Lead can lead to severe digestive disorders. Aluminum vessels can cause high levels of aluminum in the brain tissue that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Tips for Vegetarians:
Vegetarians should know that they need to be very careful about their food being balanced in different groups of food. Vegetarian diet is found to be low in proteins, calcium, vitamin B12, iron and zinc.
Vegetarian diet may lack proteins. Hence it is important to include beans, dals, nuts and dairy products for proteins. Dairy products like milk, yogurt are a high calcium source.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin whose deficiency can cause permanent nerve damage. It is found d only in animals source. So vegetarian are not able to get this in their food. Hence in order to get enough Vit B12, they need to either eat Vit B12 fortified food, or supplements of Vit B12.
Food for thought:
Last but not the least, we South Asians follow an age old tradition of preparing multiple varieties dishes especially in festivals, weddings or during the month of Ramadan.
However if we limit the number of dishes, we not just cut the cost, the labour but also reduce unnecessary intake of calories. The cost saved could instead be given to the less fortunate amongst us who cannot afford a complete two meals a day.
It is important to realise the hunger and malnourishment all around us. Our culture, our faiths and above all humanity demands that we are empathetic towards them.
We must ensure that we do not cook excess that goes into the garbage. There is nothing wrong being a food lover, but only if we imagine that those deprived desire and dream of decent meals too. And we can certainly share a meal or two with them too.
And yes, happy healthy eating.
Audio in Hindi/Urdu
1. Researchers TP Ng, PC Chiam, T Lee, HC Chua, L Lim, EH Kua published an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006 entitled “Curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly.
3. conducted by “Which” magazine (Feb 2010) of Britain
4. In the study, a research team led by Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., from the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, looked at more than 500,000 people who were aged 50 to 71 when they enrolled in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health study).
Links for desi recipes:
P.S.: When writing any information, it is my utmost ‘responsibility ‘ to give only information which is scientifically researched and evidence-based through research. I do not give any personal opinions or grom my ‘gut’ feelings. Thanks.
P.S. Thanks in advance to Dr Babar Khan, Farhan Masoosd and Zawaf for the RTs.
Estimated approx. calories in desi foods:
Cucumber Raita , (1tbsp) 20
Tomato Sambal, (1tbsp) 20
Mango Chutney, (1tbsp) 60
Poppadom, (each) 65
Lime Pickle, (1tbsp) 70
Onion Bhaji, (each) 190
Potato Samosa, each) 260
Meat Samosa, e(ach 320
Main Dish: Calories
Vegetable Curry( 1plate) 280
Saag Aloo masala( 1plate) 334
Daal fry( 1plate) 350
Butter Chicken Masala ( 1plate) 450
Beef nihari( 1plate) 650
Lamb Rogan Josh ( 1plate) 589
Lamb Qeema ( 1plate) 562
Lamb Qorma Curry ( 1plate) 570
Naan Bread ( 1pc) 317
Chapatti ( 1pc) 80
Nan Butter ( 1pc) 325
Rice plain boiled (1cup)80
White Bread (1slice)80
Carrot Halwa (1 cup)570
Gulab Jamun ( 1 pc)250
Jalebi (1 average)459
Ras Mallai (1pc)250