How Healthy is Indian Food?

Indian food is enriched with dishes like broth-based lentils and pulses (dals), stir-fried and sauteed vegetables, lean meat cuts like the popular tandoori legs, and carbs from rotis.

A nation that loves its rice, and idli too, the Indian diet is essentially composed of healthy ingredients. Then why is India called the Diabetes capital of the world, with childhood and adult obesity threatening the average Indian’s health? Here’s looking at how healthy Indian food really is, and how you can make it even healthier, while eating all your favourite Indian dishes.

The staple Indian diet consists of rotis, dals (lentils), beans and pulses, along with vegetables, rice, chicken and meat curries, and other meal accompaniments like idlis, dosas, chutneys, and uttapams. Given the length, breadth and diversity in this country, it’s next to impossible to list each and every snack and dish here. But, basic meal components like these stand out:

– Vegetables
– Dal or lentils
– Curries – Either beans or pulse based, or chicken or meat based.
– Rice, roti, dosa, paratha – Essentially a grain-based meal accompaniment (with a certain level of starch content).

Let’s look at some calorie, fat and protein counts for these basic Indian dishes:

– Roti: 85 calories per roti with a 6” diameter. Fat content – 0.5gms.
– Dal (urad) with tadka: 154 calories per 150gms. Fat content – 6gms
– Rajma/chana/lobhia: 153 calories per 150gms. Fat content – 5gms
– Average mixed vegetable: 142 calories per 150gms. Fat content – 15gms (based on oil usage)
– Average chicken curry: 300 calories per 100gms. Fat content – 15 to 35gms (based on oil and types of cut – skinless, lean etc)
– Plain dosa: 125 calories per medium dosa. Fat content – 3gms
– Idlis: 132 calorier for two. Fat content: 3gms
– Curd rice: 190 calories per 100gms. Fat content: 7gms
– Coconut rice: 368 calories per 100gms. Fat content: 15gms

As you can see, the calorie counts in most staple daily food items are suitable for a good balanced day’s food intake. With curd, lentils, chicken, fish and beans also being good protein sources with healthy fats, the typical Indian meal is low-fat and low-calorie. Each of these dishes also come from simple processed or mostly fresh produce foods. This means that they comprise of good carbs, healthy natural protein, and resistant starch (a component found to be beneficial in weight management diets).

Where the Indian diet goes wrong, though, is when it comes to evening snacks. Samosas, vadas, batatavadas, and other fried snacks are (a) fried in vanaspati oil and (b) deep fried, making them extremely unhealthy for your cardiovascular health and weight management.

Therefore, by simply following the following tennets of a healthy diet, even your current diet of Indian dishes, snacks and desserts can help you lose weight, get fitter, and look better:

Control your portions – For every roti that you consume, you add 80-90 calories to your day’s intake. For every second helping of rice, you add another 100 calories.

Stop frying food – Instead opt for steamed, boiled, stir-fried, pressure-cooked, sauteed, or broiled food. You’ll find that the same dishes can be cooked with better methods.

Reduce salt intake by a mere 1/2 teaspoon – Start small. If you add 3 teaspoons of salt to each vegetable dish, cut it to 2.5 teaspoons, and very soon you’ll find that even 2 teaspoons is enough.

Cut back on artificial sugars in your desserts, and use natural sweeteners like honey, cinnamon and fruits instead.

Let the spices do the talking – rely more on the rich Indian spices and flavour-givers like kadi patta, coriander and mint, instead of oil, to make Indian food healthy and inviting.

Rely more on whole grains, and coars rice – Therefore use whole wheat for rotis, brown rice with curries, and other healthy grains for other bread accompaniments.

Source: TOI

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