The term SUPER-FOODS entered our collective lexicon a few years ago, and has been thrown around by health and wellness experts. To put it simply, superfoods are rich in antioxidants, which reduce cell damage, and nutrients that boost overall health. It’s important to note that while your diet must consist of superfoods, they cannot replace a balanced diet which is necessary to fuel your body.
Turmeric: This ancient Indian spice has excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. “The benefits have been attributed to the curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric. Consumption of turmeric is very easily done in traditional Indian cooking,” says Dr Nithiya Palaniappan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai. It would be considered beneficial if a small amount of turmeric can be consumed daily.
Methi seeds: Fenugreek seeds, famously known as methi seeds, are loaded with the goodness of soluble fibre (galactomannan). “It has various health benefits such as weight loss, helps in controlling blood pressure, high cholesterol and blood sugar. It also works well in PCOD, helps in breast milk secretion and in relieving constipation due to its fibre content,” says Ami Turakhia, dietician, diabetic educator, and founder, Diet Castle, Mumbai.
Berries: Berries are rich in Vitamin C and are considered to have powerful antioxidant properties. “Including a variety of berries in our daily diet would ensure a good dose of vitamin C, improve our immunity and aid in chronic conditions,” says Dr Palaniappan. While blueberries have shot to fame recently, they are not grown in India and can be incredibly pricey. “The humble Indian gooseberry is easily accessible and provides similar nutritional value, if not more,” adds Dr Palaniappan.
Amala: Indian gooseberry is our original superfood and with good reason. “This fruit has eight times the amount of Vitamin C than an orange, and twice the antioxidant power of acai berry. When eaten regularly, it boosts immunity which, in turn, fights common cold,” says Turakhia. The Vitamin C content helps in burning fat, improving eyesight, treating menstrual cramps, and nourishing the brain by eliminating toxins.
Greens: Green leafy vegetables are a rich source of vitamins like C and K and minerals, and therefore, they can be considered as superfoods. Kale, from the West, has been recognised recently as a superfood but we have one too many greens in our regular Indian markets too that have exceptional benefits. “Moringa leaves (drumstick leaves) are a rich source of iron and calcium, and methi leaves, mustard leaves as well as spinach all fit the bill. The high water content with hardly any calories makes them a competitive superfood,” says Dr Palaniappan.
Cumin: Jeera, a household ingredient in the Indian kitchen, has a lot of health benefits. It is an excellent source of iron, calcium, and fibre. “Jeera has an antibacterial and antimicrobial property, which helps in treating fungal and urinary tract infection. It also aids in digestion, helps to improve haemoglobin levels and in controlling cholesterol and blood pressure. It is a natural diuretic which helps in reducing water retention,” says Turakhia.
Whole grains: Whole grains have gained prominence in the superfood family as they retain their bran and germ (as they are not stripped during processing) and hence, their nutritional value. Quinoa, in that aspect, has gained a lot of attention, but is very expensive as it’s not really cultivated in India. “Millets are minor cereals and are a wonderful source of carbohydrates, protein, minerals, vitamins and dietary fibre, which makes them a part of the superfood family. They are readily available and reasonably priced and can be easily incorporated into the daily diet,” says Dr Palaniappan.
Black raisins: The iron content of black raisins is known to be more than several other iron-rich fruits and vegetables. “Moreover, it is also rich in antioxidants, soluble fibres, calcium and potassium. The antioxidant property of black raisins helps in detoxifying the body by eliminating damaging free radicals,” says Turakhia. Black raisins work at various levels of the body and provide various health benefits like improving iron levels, relieving acidity and constipation, strengthening bone health, and preventing hair fall. It also works well in anti-diabetes and anti-cholesterol treatments.
Salmon: Salmon and other oily fish have been long been recognised for their Omega 3 fatty acid content. “They are beneficial and offer cardio-protective effects, are an excellent source of protein and therefore, help in weight loss too,” says Dr Palaniappan.
Almonds: Almonds are the most nutritionally dense nut, and are loaded with Vitamin E, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. “Studies have shown that eating almonds has a beneficial effect on lowering cholesterol along with bad cholesterol. It also helps in nourishing the brain and in losing weight,” says Turakhia.