Broccoli, blueberries, avocados, goji berries, etc. are usually the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the term “superfoods.” They are widely praised and are in high demand for their multiple health benefits. These foreign foods have found their way into our kitchens and have become parts of our daily diet due to their extreme popularity. However, one is well aware of how pricey these foods can get and they are not easily and readily available to us.
What are Superfoods?
A nutrient-rich food which can be used in multiple ways- to benefit health, is beneficial to the body, and suit every body type is considered a superfood. Superfoods should add diversity to our diet and should be nutrients rich.
Kale, collard greens, acai berries and Greek yoghurt might have the qualities of a superfood but what you don’t know is that the food items in your kitchen and backyard garden might just be as nutrient-dense and equally deserving of the “superfood” status as these foreign foods. They are nutritive, rich in anti-inflammatory properties, ideal for weight loss, and many more. Moreover, they are found in abundance and are easily available to us. The fact that they are pocket-friendly is an added advantage.
Here are the 10 Best Indian Superfoods you never knew you needed:
1. Curcumin from Turmeric
Besides being a key ingredient in every Indian kitchen, Turmeric has also been utilized as a potent medicine in traditional Ayurveda for centuries. Curcumin, the active component in turmeric, is proven to have a plethora of health benefits. It is known to help with detoxification, improving cardiovascular health, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and has shown potential in delaying ageing and onset of Alzheimer's disease. Turmeric is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent that can be used to fight infections.
Apart from lending a beautiful look to our dishes with its bright yellow colour, traditional remedies like Haldi Milk has been used in Indian household especially in treating the common cold. It is only recently that the western world has started to catch up on this incredible spice for its medicinal properties and capability to fight inflammation.
Jackfruit or kathal is a tropical Indian fruit that is slowly moving up the superfood ladder.It can be taken as a fruit, nut, or as a whole meal as an alternative for rice or rotis. It is also considered an ideal meat substitute and is popularly known as vegan meat.
Jackfruit is a rich source of nutrients and minerals. It is also loaded with proteins, vitamins, calcium, electrolytes, carbohydrates and dietary fibres. Its rich fibrous content promotes easy digestion and improves bowel movements. The rich phytonutrients content in jackfruit helps in replenishing energy and increase stamina. It is also known to help with weight loss, diabetic issues and reduce cholesterol.
Also known as Indian Gooseberry, Amla has been part of Ayurveda for thousands of years. This translucent green fruit is a storehouse of vitamins, especially Vitamin C. Sundried, pickled or boiled Amla has been a staple diet in India for ages as it is believed to be a natural remedy for treating the common cold and in regulating blood levels.
It is rich in vitamin C and is loaded with antioxidant properties, ideal for strengthening the immune system. It is also known to improve the hair, nails, and eye health and diminish chronic conditions. Its rich nutritional content also helps in fighting conditions like anaemia and gestational diabetes.
Commonly known as Drumsticks, Moringa is a fibrous vegetable, a popular addition, especially in South Indian dishes. Apart from being a vital food source, Moringa is packed with vitamins and nutrients and has been a key ingredient in traditional medicine since ancient time which earns its nickname, “The Tree of Life.” The fruit and leaves of this tree pack the most nutrients and have been used as medicines due to its numerous healing benefits.
Moringa is a storehouse of iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, C, D, essential Amino acids, fibre, and antioxidants such as beta-carotene and flavonoids. The leaves of Moringa are also fibre-rich and play an important role in reducing blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Commercially known and sold as “popped lotus seeds”, Makhanas are a great snack option and a healthy alternative to popular snacks like popcorn and chips. This superfood is low in fat and a rich source of iron, zinc, protein, fibre, magnesium, potassium, and carbohydrates. The magnesium in Makhana is ideal for individuals with heart complications, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. It is also known to be great at relieving stress and in dealing with insomnia. The presence of kaempferol, a natural flavonoid in the food is proven to help slow down ageing and help prevent inflammation in the body.
Known as Jau or Barley, this superfood helps in detoxifying the body and is the perfect food for weight management. This carb-burning grain is effective in promoting positive weight goal and is equipped with hunger-fighting and cholesterol-lowering potential. It is rich in iron, calcium, vitamin E and protein. Unlike other grain, the carbohydrates in Barley have a low glycemic index which slows down the blood sugar level compared to other foods.
Jau or Barley can be consumed as a cereal or rolled out in the form of rotis. Barley water is also a common consumption for weight loss.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe Barbadensis or commonly known as the Aloe Vera plant is a succulent plant species from the genus Aloe. It has been an essential part of traditional Ayurvedic medicines and tonics because of its numerous health benefitting properties for centuries. The gel of the aloe plant is a potent topical remedy for treating sunburn, eczema. Its soothing effects are also helpful in treating genital herpes and radiation-induced skin reactions. It is also proven that the gel can speed up wound healing and decrease the severity of psoriasis. Consuming aloe vera as a juice or dietary supplement can help ease constipation due to its natural laxative effects. It is also believed to aid in treating peptic ulcers, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis. Aloe vera is also known to help normalize blood sugar in people with diabetes.
This summer food item is more nutritious and healthier than you may think. It is a rich source of calcium, and due to its carminative nature, it is a perfect supplement for strengthening bones, teeth, and muscles. Regular consumption of curd can boost immunity, enhance digestion, and improve cardiovascular health. Curd is also beneficial in de-stressing and weight loss.
Also known as finger millet, Ragi is considered to be one of the oldest grains in India. This superfood is highly nutritious and extremely beneficial to health. It is rich in fibre, iron, calcium, protein, and vitamin D. It is known as one of the best Indian superfoods during diabetes for its role in regulating blood sugar levels. Due to its rich content in iron and Vitamin D, it lowers the chance of getting a stroke. Its gluten-free properties also make it an ideal alternative for people allergic to gluten and lactose.
Ghee is regarded among the top superfoods of the world, all thanks to its magnificent properties. Desi ghee or clarified butter is preferred over regular butter due to its health benefits. Its rich butyric acid content also helps lower inflammation and proves to be a healthier alternative for the intestines. Ghee is packed with healthy fats keeping the blood cholesterol low and keeps the heart healthy. It is free of carbohydrates, sugar, sodium, fibre, and protein. Consumed ghee regularly can enhance brain functioning, improve digestion, boost immunity, help burn fat and prevent certain cancers.
Why look further when these Indian Superfoods have all the qualities (and more) of a superfood? These foods have stood the test of time in our culture and are not only popular in our country but have gained significant popularity in the global market as well. Including them in your diet will help you stay healthy and fit.