BENGALURU: Superfoods are like superheroes in your kitchen, except that they aren’t a fantasy but are real and easily available. They have the qualities that fight the bad elements in your bodies, keeps you supercharged and helps you remain fit at all times.
Superfoods such as millets, quinoa and avocado are invading all the kitchens and making the unhealthy foods run for their money. However, what makes them so special and different? Is it just a marketing fad that is creating a demand? We caught up with the city-based chefs to answer these questions and know more about superfoods.
Chirag Makwana, sous chef at Toast & Tonic, says, superfood certainly not a marketing fad. “Superfood is basically a nutrient-rich food considered being especially beneficial for our health and well-being. With the growing levels of health consciousness among consumers in recent years, many are considering healthy food alternatives and hence, are switching back to millets and other superfoods as preferred food choices.”
Chef Ritwik Sarkar of Café Felix has a very interesting take on superfoods. He says, “The truth, so unappealing, is that nutrition is fabulously complex, different for everybody and most mysterious. We know that if you eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and do regular exercise, nothing is a superfood. However, if you don’t, no superfood will save you. The many so-called superfoods are good for your overall health when incorporated wisely with other legumes, fish, lean protein, fruits and vegetables.”
Unbelievably, millets that was once considered harsh cereals and food for the poor, is now being labelled as the superfood and smart food of the 21st century. Uchit Vohra, executive chef at ITC Gardenia Bengaluru, bats for this positive change. He says, “The change is good, millets are a rich source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. It is good that at least they will replace some amount of wheat flour from our diets.” Talking on the same lines, Chirag says, “In recent years with the ‘return to roots’, ‘traditional foods’ and the growing interest in indigenous ingredients by both chefs and restaurants, there is a resurgence in the use, interpretations and interest in millets again.” Chef Paul Kinny of Bar Bar and Shizusan Shophouse & Bar says, “Millets like sorghum and foxtail millets have been an integral part of ancient Indian cuisine. We now have seen the return of these ingredients even on restaurant menus as cleaner and healthy alternate grains.”
Easier options for cooking them also seem to be adding to their popularity, says Srinivas Vupadrishta, partner – food business at Dhyaana Health Café. He adds, “It is also about how people are being educated about the various health aspects of millets.”
Millets have always been a staple food especially in the southern part of India. With so much hype now, has it been able to penetrate to north India? Ashwini Kumar, head chef at The Bengaluru Brasserie, Hyatt Centric, says, “Millets have always been a staple in south India and now we see them in the north as well. With the growing trends of being fab and fit, the superfoods are widely accepted and adopted in different formats in every part of India.”Rashmi Daga, CEO & founder, Freshmenu, has a different take on this. She says, “The north has had its own millets, just that it was replaced by wheat and rice.”
The year of millets
The United Nations has declared 2018 as International Year of Millets. This has certainly pushed the geographical boundaries for millets and created an additional demand. Accepting this fact, Chirag says, “It is definitely going to give an impetus to the usage and consumption of millets. It is also going to drive a greater variety of interpretation in packaged and ready to eat foods both in India and globally.”
While millets are going international, quinoa is slowly penetrating into Indian market. Talking about this market exchange, Chaitanyaa Pravin, founder & director of Jars says, “Millets are true desi-superfoods. Use of millets has definitely increased over the past two years. However, restaurants in Bengaluru are still experimenting with it. Quinoa, on the other hand, has been used across the world in multiple cuisines. Both of them do grab attention of health food focused person instantly.”
The number of health-focused customers is on a rapid rise and the healthy food segment will grow further. The last few years have seen superfoods dominating the trend. Predicting the trend for next few years, Daga says, “In next few years, the international old grains/heritage grains will soon find their way into our markets. From rye, kamut, farro, freekeh and teff to more uncommon ones such as spelt and fonio – the market will soon be flooded with more healthy grains. Amaranth and quinoa are already huge and so are heritage rice such as the black Manipuri chak hao and Bhutanese red.”
‘Anything healthy will become popular’
Pravin bats for foods that are rich in anti-oxidants and feels it will see a huge upward curve. He further adds, “More people believe in consuming local organic produce. Green smoothies and recipes with kale are projected to take over the market.” Vohra pinpoints calorie counting as a trend going forward. He says, “Soon, customers will start asking for calorie count for every dish. More seaweeds and greens will start becoming popular.” Chirag says, “Anything healthy and super rich in nutrients will gain popularity.”