Is Indian food healthy

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Most Indians believe that Indian food is among the healthiest cuisines in the world. No doubt, that it can be healthy, but is all Indian food healthy? To see what is healthy in Indian cuisine, and what is not, read on..

Indian home cooked food

Indian home cooked food (missfrugality@flickr)

The Good:

- Indian food by its nature incorporates a lot of vegetables as ingredients for cooking. This is great, since vegetables are a rich source of nutrition.

- Talking about cooking, Indian food uses a large amount of spices. And spices are just loaded with healthy goodness, like antioxidants. For example, turmeric has so many health benefits, that its almost considered a wonder drug.

- Dairy products are commonly used in Indian food- be it yoghurt, milk, etc. Besides being a rich calcium source, foods like yoghurt promote probiotic bacteria in the gut, which helps manage and improve digestion, overall health, and immunity levels.

The Bad:

- Even though we use a lot of vegetables, and spices, very often, Indian food tends to cook veggies so much, that it leeches most of the nutritional content during the cooking process. Just heating itself can reduce some vitamins from food, along with water content. So, cooking them & processing them for a long time further reduces nutritional value

- Besides cooking a lot, Indian cooking, specially cooking for celebratory functions incorporates a lot of fried food, or just food cooked in a lot of oil. Cooking in a lot of oil, besides significantly increasing the calorie value of food, it also increases the bad cholesterol content, and is bad for heart health. Did you know, that Indians have higher risk heart diseases, than Americans or Europeans.

- Besides the oil and the overcooking, Indian food has culturally become very focused on the consumption of grains, wheat, rice, etc. We mean, that the total intake of food is measured by the amount of roti, paratha, or rice consumed, rather than the vegetables, lentils, etc. Most of the nutrition comes from other sources than grains, so why not focus on those.

- The use of refined flour (maida) is becoming more common. Refined flour has a high glycemic index, and its consumption in any form (like white bread, samosas, etc), increases the glycemic load in your body, making your body store fat, and putting you at risk of diabetes. Indians are naturally more prone to diabetes than others.

- Similar to the use of refined flour, sugar usage & consumption has significantly increased. This is more of a global trend, but because of our genetic tendency towards diabetes & that India is projected to be the diabetes capital by 2050, we really should be watching out.
Use whole grain flour to increase nutritive value.

Note, that these are general trends, and not all of these may apply in your case, so in case they do, please take action and let’s eat & promote healthy Indian food.
If you have any points on how to make Indian food healthier, do share with us, in the comments.

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  • neeraagarwal

    i like the last line let eat & promote healthy indian food the article is an eyeopener

  • Hemal Shah

    Really an eye opener.. Knew that Oil is bad and we needed limited use, but overcooking i never realized.

    Many a times I have overcooked vegis coz I like to have them upto a particular level of softness and never realized that it will loose its nutritional value.

    In the line… there is a small mistake.. “Most of the nutrition comes from other sources that the grains”.. shouldnt it be “from other sources THAN the grains”? Well I sensed it coz I frequently write THAT instead of THAN on my blog as well :P

  • Fitho

    Thanks, Hemal.
    (text updated)

  • Rajesh S Shirali

    One big boo-boo that undermines Indian Cuisine is the way we eat it. We tend to eat nearly everything in parallel. While this may be convenient (eg the thali concept), it comes with some concerns we never question:
    1. eating salads/raitas/ koshimbirs with rice, roti,etc-whereas the right way(to avoid indigestion, acidity,etc) would be to eat raw veggies/salads before one eats anything else. This is one area where the west knew its onions!
    2. fruits-eaten after the main course-this sure shot way of embracing indigestion and shying away from nutrients is common in most households-trust me, i am a market research professional-and have seen this across all consumer groups (and sadly even at home!)
    3.mixing food groups quite indiscriminately-dairy+veg for instance or dairy+non veg-these have been proven to be deadly combos in promoting weight/fat gain. Visit Punjab and you will know what i mean

  • Fitho

    Thanks Rajesh. That’s very helpful information.

  • Santosh

    I stayed in Mumbai.My age is 28.I m Married.i want ask a how to grow my body.

  • Geeta

    Hi,,I m desperately tryin to lose wt…I planned my diet plan myself … I.e greentea wid lemon n honey in d mrng,3 brown bread slices wid egg white,,lunch wid 4 roti s n dal n curd,,evng I cmplt my dinner wid ragi malt , if any hunger attack I prefer drinking water n dsometimes dark chocolates….plz help me sir,,I m also doing cardio n yoga…my age z 24,my wt 76kg,,ht 154 cm…if any suggestion plz me by ur guidance.

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