CHENNAI: Indigenous varieties of paddy have enjoyed quite a bit of attention in the fast-growing food revival revolution. While this has helped introduce people to forgotten classics like kavuni and mappilai samba, it has helped bring many a species back from the brink. Navara (or njavara, going by the Dravidian name) is among them.
Widely grown in the Rice Bowl of Kerala (Palakkad), navara is available in two forms white glumed and black glumed. This is a functional rice variety with nutritional and medicinal value, says Meenakshi Bajaj, dietician, Tamil Nadu Govt. Multi Super Specialty Hospital, Chennai.
“In Ayurveda, the white navara is medicinally superior. Njavara (black glumed) has been used in conventional Ayurveda treatment from the age of Charaka (600 BC). Njavara grains are used in several Ayurveda treatments since time immemorial. It is a fast-growing rice grain that matures in 60 days,” she begins.
Navara provides a good dose of vitamin B, minerals like zinc and iron, protein, and complex carbohydrates (fibre). It also consists of antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids such as tricin, oryzanol and pro anthocyanidin. “It is nutritious and easilydigested food, suitable for people of all age groups.
Ayurveda suggests it as a suitable cereal to improve emaciation, rheumatoid arthritis, haemorrhoids, diabetes, tuberculosis, oligospermia and also for improving lactation,” explains Meenakshi. She lists the several health benefits that come with the consumption of this rice.
Pregnancy and lactation
For improved fetal weight gain during pregnancy, women consume navara rice cooked in meat broth. Ideal for anaemic patients. Navara rice gruel prepared with cow’s milk acts like a lactogogue improving milk production.
Navara rice powder cooked with jaggery and milk is found to be a nutritious weaning food, a natural, nourishing substitute for processed baby foods.
It is traditionally consumed as a supplementary diet to the under- weight. A replenishing drink called karkidaka kanji (a gruel prepared with navara rice and some medicinal herbs) is used to reduce fatigue and improve weight. Rice cooked with milk, popularly known as navara paal kanji, is also fed to children.
Aches and pains
Navara rice bran oil improves aches and pains associated with cervical spondylosis, low backache, paralysis and rheumatoid arthritis. The rice cooked with milk and herbs (Sida rectusa) makes the body supple, improves the stiffness of joints and blood circulation.
This rice has high levels of fibre, which helps in softening the stool and aiding smooth bowel movements. It also helps in treating bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. Consuming cooked navara with curry leaves and sour buttermilk may improve acute piles.
It has also been shown that rice bran has promising healthrelated benef i t s in the prevent ion of di f ferent diseases, including cancer, hyperlipidemia, fatty liver, hypercalciuria, kidney stones and heart diseases, in comparison to polished, milled rice varieties. The high vi tamin B1 (thiamine) content of njavara rice could be useful in improving muscle weakness, neuritis and other symptoms related to the deficiency of vitamin B1. High potassium, calcium and magnesium could help improve muscle activity in patients suffering from muscle wasting.
This rice possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, immunomodulatory, antimutagenic, anti-cancer properties. “Ayurveda suggests that it is beneficial for the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems; useful in the treatment of arthritis, cervical spondylitis, muscle wasting, skin diseases, cer tain neurological problems and in Panchakarma therapy,” says Meenakshi.
he glycemic index of navara rice is 60; much lower than that of milled, parboiled rice (72). Hence, this must be consumed in moderation , says Meenakshi.”Navara rice is also a rich source of fibre, which delays gastric emptying with improved satiety, thereby allowing you to reducing the total portion size. Ideally, navara rice should not be consumed in kanji form (porridge). Portion control is the key even for improved glycemic control with navara rice,” she explains.
In everyday life
“It can be consumed as cooked rice or can be powdered and mixed with milk and taken in the form of cereal. It can also be cooked in water and consumed as regular rice with the starch water to reap the nutritional and medicinal benefits,” she suggests.
- Navara rice: 50 g
- Whole milk: 1 l, Jaggery: 100 g
- Almond: 18-20, blanched and finely chopped
- Green cardamom: 2 to 3, crushed and powdered
- Saffron: 5-8 strands, soaked in 2 tbsp milk
- Soak the rice for 30 minutes and grind it into a coarse paste with very little water.
- Boil the milk, stirring it occasionally and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the rice paste to the boiling milk and stir continuously for five minutes. Continue boiling till the rice is cooked well. Make sure there are no lumps.
- Add the powdered green cardamom and mix well. Add jaggery (or palm sugar), almonds and saffron dissolved milk and mix well till the milk thickens and turns creamy.
- Pour it into a bowl and refrigerate till it sets.
- Serve cold. For children or the elderly, serve warm.