Indian food has always been considered highly nutritious but, as time has passed, people have shifted from light foods like idly to low calorie foods like cornflakes. This shift to the Standard American Diet consisting of 50 per cent carbohydrate, 15 per cent protein, and 35 per cent fat isn’t the best fit for the Indian body, opined Dr Suneetha Sapur, director, Akkshaya Foundation. Speaking at a seminar conducted on Indian food and cooking over the weekend, the doctor enunciated on why Indian food is much better for our health and general well being.
Starting the seminar that took place at Lamakaan, the main question raised was: is Indian food healthy?
“When you say Indian food, the first thought everyone has is of spices, oil, fats and cream which makes food high in calories. But the fact is that Indian foods are rich in carbohydrates, proteins and fats which can be cooked in a multitude of ways to retain them.”
Agreeing, Narsimha Reddy, an 85-year-old retired Ayurvedic doctor said, “There were days only household ingredients like tulsi, laung, haldi and many more were used as medicines for various problems and they also built resistance in the human body making them healthier. Which is why people who belong to the 1960’s are stronger when compared to the present generation as they took all the nutritious elements in equal proportions and consumed natural food. Today, everything that we consume is chemically treated and people have also forgotten the value of Indian food which can cure some serious illnesses.”
Though Indian food is rich in natural ingredients that help cut down on hypotension, diabetics and anaemia, latest statistics peg India as the highest ranked country with cases of the same and more.
The discussion also included talks on fluoride, iodised salt, cooking oil and so on, with Dr Sapur pointing out that commercially available iodised salt is very high in iodine content which could cause hypothyroidism, reversing its advantage. “During the initial introduction of iodised salt, it was used to control the hypothyroidism. The same with fluoride; it is very essential for the growth of the body. But due to excess content, people are suffering from florosis; this is because drinking water is being taken from below the ground water level which is high in fluoride.”
Following these problems, people have begun to make changes like using olive oil instead of sunflower oil and so on; however these are more suitable for American body types and not Indian, Dr Sapur emphasised. Looking back at our ancestors, the 35-year-old also pointed out that their cooking practises were more healthier. “In ancient times, people used to cook in copper vessels which helped in retaining the nutrients of the food. Also, copper is a good conductor of heat and so it wouldn’t take much time to cook.”
Simple changes like using clay pots for cooking, she said, would add to the overall nutrition of the meal. “Clay pots prove good for slow cooking as their porous nature allows both moisture and heat to circulate easily through them. This helps in slow and delicate cooking. Roasts and stews are best cooked well in earthen pots. Also, storing water in earthenware allows the heat from the water to escape thereby keeping the water cool.” The doctor also added that switching the mixie/grinder for a mortar would help retain the essence of the ingredient while muddling it.