– Food & Wine India
Since the kitchen forms the foundation of your food choices, it is important that your pantry is stocked with nutritious ingredients.
The lifestyle these days has changed from what our forefathers used to have, no doubt. With increasing stress levels, the inclination towards preservatives is also seen to have an upward trajectory for sure in the recent years. Corporate life, packed routines, lack of time, easy delivery of junk food etc. are some contributing factors for an unhealthy lifestyle throughout the country. The remedy lies in you shifting to some healthier choices in food rather than taking up crash diets and torturing yourself both physically and mentally. Thus, it is important to stack your kitchen with healthy supplies and alternatives to fight the unhealthiness spreading like a wildfire.
Food and Wine India brings to you some healthy ingredients include in your grocery list this season. Snack it up or let your whisk do the magic, these ingredients can be included in your daily diet in whichever way you prefer.
Explore the list and take a vow of good health:
Loaded with antioxidants and a fiber friendly ingredient is what chia seeds are known for. This superfood which can be eaten raw, soaked or baked is full of essential nutrients, minerals with 40% fiber by weight which makes it one of the best sources of fiber in the world. One of the factors that have people inclined towards this super ingredient is its weight loss properties. Studies say that due its high content in fiber, eating chia seeds make you feel fuller, thus, prevents over-eating. Ultimate win-win!
How to eat: You can pop some seeds in fruit juices, smoothies etc. or in your morning yogurt bowls and oatmeal making for a perfectly healthy breakfast. Also, you can explore the culinary wizard in you to make pretty chia puddings with chopped fruits, nuts or different toppings and flavours of your choice.
Flax seeds also known as linseeds are one of the richest source of plant based omega-3 fatty acids making this ingredient super famous among the healthy gourmands. Loaded with dietary fiber; minerals like manganese, thiamine and magnesium, flax seeds also help in fat loss and sugar cravings. In addition to this, inclusion of flax seeds or the flax seed oil in your diet contributes to a good skin and shiny hair by reducing dryness and flakiness.
How to eat: Sprinkle some whole flax over your morning parfait or your oatmeal breakfast. They can also add a nice crunch, nutty flavor and heap of healthy goodness to the salad of your choice. It is recommended to grind the flax seeds and then add it to any recipe since whole flax seeds if not chewed properly can get flushed out of the digestive system without any inherent benefits.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium and many other nutrients. Pumpkin seeds are stacked with loads of antioxidants that help you stay disease-free and prevent inflammation. Studies have proven that inclusion of pumpkin seeds in the diet reduces the risk of certain cancers; improve prostate and bladder health, also keeping your heart healthy.
How to eat: Add pumpkin seeds to your choice of soup, salad or pasta. Moreover, pumpkin seeds make for one of the most popular toppings for variety of bread and muffins. Also, you can make your burgers healthy by adding some grinded powder of pumpkin seeds.
Sunflower seeds are known for reducing the bad cholesterol and thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It is an excellent source of proteins, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper that contributes to good bone health. Due to the presence of magnesium, sunflower seeds are beneficial in reducing the level of stress hormones and thus contribute to good mental health. This super ingredient plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin and promoting weight loss.
How to eat: Sprinkle on your morning yogurt bowl or pudding or maybe make some energy balls using this superfood. Bring healthy goodness your way by using sunflower seeds whole or grinded in your bread, muffin recipe or go for a simple morning toast topped with butter and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds.
- Dried Fruits and Nuts
Packed with essential minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, this dried fruit has been an important part of every childhood. Easily available in every supermarket, raisins are one of the best healthy snacks to munch on when the stomach growls with little hunger. Moreover, raisins have the super power to tackle anemia since it is loaded with iron, copper and vitamins B and along with that it helps prevent many forms of cancer, heals digestion problems, acidity, hypertension, fatigue etc. A handful of raisins is equal to loads of healthy goodness.
How to eat: Raisins can be eaten raw or soaked in water or milk. You can add some in your everyday oatmeal or perk up your favorite muffins with its healthy sweetness. They go great in some salads as well.
Known to provide more benefits than their fresh counterpart, dried apricots are a powerhouse of nutrients. Being an excellent source of dietary fiber, eating this dried fruit promotes healthy bowel and improve digestion. Dried apricots have calcium and potassium that is essential to maintain a good bone health. Along with it, including dried apricots contributes to good skin due to the presence of phytonutrients, essential vitamins and abundance of antioxidants.
How to eat: Like other dried fruits, you can add some dried apricots to your morning cereal or yogurt bowl. Also, this dried fruit goes amazingly well in tarts, pies and cakes. You can even add some apricot sweetness to your salads or maybe make relish it by making a sweet apricot dip.
Along with being a powerhouse of antioxidants, almonds are the best source of vitamin E, healthy fats, protein, fiber and high amounts of magnesium. Magnesium is helps in keeping the blood sugar level in check along with the blood pressure levels. Studies have proved that eating almonds everyday can reduce the levels of the harmful LDL cholesterol in the body.
How to eat: It is recommended to eat almonds by soaking them overnight rather than snacking on it raw. The presence of tannin in the brown peel of almonds inhibits nutrient absorption, hence this nut is best when soaked and peeled. Apart from a snack, you can toss some almonds in your salad or add some almond powder in the milk or a milkshake. Also, almonds flakes make for a best crust over a fillet of fish or chicken and also serve as a great topping over muffins giving them a good crunch.
Walnuts are proven to reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancer and also the presence of amino acid l-arginine is best for people who have increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. It is a rich source of antioxidants and contributes significantly in weight loss and support brain health. Walnuts are beneficial especially for men as it improves the reproductive health.
How to eat: Toasted walnuts add a good crunch and a nice nutty flavor to the salads of your choice. Along with that walnut create magic when added to simple muffins, or maybe just eat it raw as a snack.
This protein and vitamin rich dried fruit is free from cholesterol, the enemy of good health. Dates are rich in selenium, magnesium, manganese, all the nutrients required for maintaining good bone health. Great for blood purification, dates are the best source of iron and also promote digestion due to the presence of good amount of fiber in it.
How to eat: This dried fruit is best eaten raw or soaked in water or milk. Dried dates can be added to smoothies, shakes, yogurt bowl or oatmeals. Dates work their magic when added to muffins or make for a nice spread on breads when soaked overnight and blended to form a thick paste.
- Alternative Flours
There are thousands of healthy nutrients and antioxidants present in quinoa which are extremely beneficial to the body. Quinoa is also a powerhouse of fiber which can help lower cholesterol, reduce weight and also blood sugar levels. This flour is great for people allergic to gluten and also an excellent protein source for vegans and vegetarians.
How to eat: Kick start your breakfast with some freshly made quinoa pancakes with the topping of your choice or bake some yummy quinoa muffins. Since the flour is gluten-free you would need to mix it with other flours or use a binding agent like cornstarch to use it in your recipes. It is recommended to toast the quinoa flour before using to get rid of its earthy taste and store it in an air tight container in a freezer. Note that when stored correctly it can last for five to six months.
A fighter against the harmful LDL cholesterol, oats are also known to be effective in reducing the blood sugar levels, preventing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and also decreasing the blood pressure levels in the body. Also oats are rich in minerals like thiamine, manganese and selenium that contribute to a healthy you.
How to eat: Since this is gluten-free flour, recipes involving oat flour will require more yeast than the regular ones. When it comes to substituting, you can substitute 1 1/2 cup of oat flour to 1 cup of wheat flour. You can make healthy bread, muffins and cookies using this extremely nutritious alternative flour.
Brown rice flour:
Brown rice is an excellent source of manganese which helps improve the digestion of fats. The fiber in brown helps in maintaining bowel movements regular reduces constipation and improves the digestive health. Since it is powerhouse of fibers, adding brown rice flour in your diet can help you lower bad cholesterol and reduces the risk of many forms of cancer and type 2 diabetes.
How to eat: When adapting recipes with this gluten-free flour, it is important to add some additives for binding such as eggs or oil as the end product might turn out a bit crumbly in this case. Also the rice flour would need more water as compared to wheat flour and the rising time of this flour should also be lessened than what is mentioned in the recipe. Always remember to use brown rice flour along with other gluten-free flour in your recipes and make sure the temperature is lower than the normal suggested while baking treats using brown rice flour.
Amaranth commonly known as Rajgira in the local language is certainly a powerhouse of energy. It is a rich source of protein, manganese, folate and fiber. The folate in amaranth serves as an essential vitamin for pregnant women while manganese prevents diabetes by reducing high blood sugar levels in the body. This superfood is also known to improve digestion, bone health and reduce cholesterol and inflammation.
How to eat: Amaranth’s nutty flavor goes with many treats from smoothies, puddings and baked treats etc. You can also make some delicious amaranth parathas for breakfast or some healthy amaranth burfis replacing the sugary ones. Also, you can mix 1 ½ cups of water to 1/2 cup of amaranth flour and let it sit for 20 minutes, then top it with some dried fruits or nuts and enjoy the most scrumptious and nutritious power packed breakfast ever.
Loaded with vitamins and essential nutrients, banana flour has all the benefits that the ripened fruit offers but with a subtle taste that doesn’t change any recipe you have adapted. Banana flour is made un-ripened green bananas that have less sugar content than the ripened variety and hence it contributes in keeping the blood sugar level in check. Also, it has loads of prebiotic fiber which aids in improving digestion. In addition to this, if you are looking to get a thinner waistline then shifting to banana flour as an alternative would be the best choice to take.
How to eat: Because of its higher starch content, it is recommended to use a little quantity of banana flour in your recipe than the other flours. You can make cakes, biscuits, buns or yummy tikkis to be served with chutney using this healthy superfood.
We recommend you to use different variety of oils in your cooking routine depending upon the choice of your recipe and the smoke point of the oils. Using different oils and not sticking to just one has many inherent benefits to offer that helps you stay healthy and fit.
With high level of monosaturated fats, olive oil helps in reducing the bad cholesterol from the body. Loaded with anti-oxidants and known to have amazing anti-inflammatory properties, this cooking oil is not doubt an all-rounder and healthier option to take.
How to use: Olive oil has moderately high smoking point and hence can be used for sautéing over medium high heat and also can be used to drizzle over pastas and salads or for baking cakes.
This is a household name and serves best with every Indian dish you cook. Rich in monosaturated fats and polysaturated fats, groundnut oil works best to reduce the bad fat from your body.
How to use: Groundnut oil is one of the most popular oils when it comes to stir-frying, sautéing or deep frying. It serves excellent as neutral cooking oil.
High in minerals such as magnesium, copper, iron and vitamin B6, sesame oil is also one of the preferred oils in Asian cooking. Also, it is known to be a good source of vitamin K essential for blood coagulation and bone health.
How to use: Sesame oil has a high smoke point and is best suitable for cooking Asian stir-fries. Also, it is excellent for marinade and sauces as well.
Rice bran oil:
Extracted from the hard brown layer of rice known as the rice husk, this heart-friendly oil is coming to have known as one of the best and healthy oils of earth. It has a mild flavor leaning towards the nuttier side and its less viscosity compared to the other variety leads to a less oily end product.
How to use: Rice bran oil has high smoke point and hence it is used for high-temperature cooking like stir-frying and deep-frying. The nutritive value of this oil doesn’t change with high temperatures that’s why this is one of the recommended oil for high temperature cooking.
Extracted from the pulp of avocado, this oil is a rich source of Oliec acid, a heart-healthy fatty acid that has numerous health benefits. It works great for skin and is known to accelerate wound healing. Also, the fat source if avocado can increase the absorption of carotenoids that are beneficial for eye health.
How to use: Avocado oil has high smoke point compared to other cooking oils. It is ideal for deep-frying, searing meats etc.
Herbs such as coriander, curry leaves, mint, lemongrass, dill and basil should always be stacked in your kitchen for every now of then use of these superfoods in your recipes.
Among the dried herbs, you should have rosemary, thyme, kasoori methi, and oregano to perk up your salads, pastas, pizzas, kebabs, rotis and many more of your favorite dishes.
- Healthy Snacks
Stack up your kitchen cupboard with some healthy snacks listed below and munch on nutritive goodness every time your stomach growls in hunger for a little something:
- Fresh fruits
- Chips: Ragi, kale, sweet potato, carrot, turnip, baked nachos etc.
- Dips: Hummus, low fat Greek yogurt, salsa, guacamole
- Boiled corn
- Dark chocolate
- Healthy ladoos: Amaranth, peanut, sesame.
- Roasted chickpeas
- Puffed rice
Cheers to good health!