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10 Healthy Desi Foods To Eat Daily
Have you ever wondered why certain “health foods,” like quinoa or buckwheat, don’t suit you? They may leave you feeling heavy, bloated or just weighed down. This is because, as much as the world has progressed and evolved, our digestive systems are the same as they were thousands of years ago. Healthy desi foods are the way to go.
Ancestral eating, or a traditional diet, is the practice of eating food your ancestors consumed for generation. The reasoning behind this practice is that our bodies are best able to break down foods that are familiar to us. It is also considered to be one of the healthiest forms of eating because we are eating similarly to our ancestors, before the food industry changed every single thing we eat, creating the modern diet.
For example, buckwheat is a naturally gluten-free grain that originated in Russia- so to all my South East Asian sisters out there- this isn’t a traditional food for us. Sure, some of us might be able to digest it, but all-in-all, it’s not up there in the top foods that promote our optimal health and digestion.
I believe having healthy desi foods in a traditional diet is one of the most underrated practices when it comes to an individual’s health and wellbeing.
10 Healthy Desi foods that I believe should be consumed regularly*
Not only is ghee a good fat, it’s also a source of antioxidants that helps balance and regulate hormones. The presence of ghee also makes it easier for the body to absorb nutrients from vegetables and wholegrains. Remember, use ghee in moderation, it is a fat after all, and opt for A2 organic ghee if available.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and is also rich in antioxidants. Organic turmeric powder is a basic kitchen must have because there’s so many ways to use it. The powerful properties of turmeric (curcumin) are best absorbed in the presence of black pepper, so it’s best to combine the two.
Chili doesn’t just spice up your food, it also improves your metabolic rate and regulates insulin. Chillies are great for diabetics, especially. Can’t handle the heat? Don’t sweat it- you can also reap the benefits of chillies from using Kashmiri chilli powder (which isn’t really spicy) or cayenne pepper. Remember to consume chilli in moderation as anything in excess is not good for you.
My three favourite spices because for their health boosting properties are jeera (cumin), ajwain (carom seeds) and sauf (fennel). Amongst other health benefits, all three of these spices help digestion and can actually improve your digestive health. My go-to drink every night is a mix of whole jeera, ajwain and sauf with hot water. I recommend my clients to try this natural remedy rather than reaching for their antacids to ease symptoms of indigestion or heartburn.
Rice is nice! White rice is a traditional food for us. You don’t need to load your diet up with substitutes like couscous, quinoa or cauliflower rice because they don’t have the same nutritional benefits. White rice contains folate, which is an essential nutrient for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive. Rice is also naturally gluten-free, anti-inflammatory and a good source of energy + fiber.
Makhanas (aka fox nuts/lotus seeds)
Makhanas are one of my favourite snacks because they’re naturally gluten-free, high in protein and fibre and low in calories and fat. It’s the perfect combination. The first time I tried makhanas, I told my grandmum that they’re too good to be healthy! Since makhanas aren’t nuts (they’re seeds), they’re allergy friendly and a great snack to send to school. Try to buy plain makhanas, then roast and season them yourself to avoid any nasties.
Yogurt is a natural probiotic that benefits digestive health and the immune system. For vegetarians, it’s also a good source of protein. I have two rules about dairy- if it suits you, eat it, if it doesn’t, leave it alone. Second, only eat full-fat dairy.
You didn’t think I was going to skip a sweet thing on this list, did you?! After all, life is all about balance and we should have something sweet when our body asks for it. Jaggery is loaded with antioxidants and minerals. Its properties are beneficial to your skin, immune system, blood and bones. Although it is an unrefined form of sugar, it’s still sugar. This means that it will raise blood sugar levels and should be consumed mindfully in moderation.
There are hardly any Desi dishes that are made without tomatoes. Tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C, K, folate and potassium. Tomatoes are also rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which not only benefits heart health, but also your skin. To get maximum benefits from tomatoes, eat them cooked.
Naturally gluten free grains
Bajra, jowar, ragi, nachni, just to name a few, are all naturally gluten-free and unrefined grains. They’re all also available in the form of flour. These grains are a great source of plant-based protein, fiber and have lots of minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium. Whoever said grains are not good for you was probably just not eating the right kind of grains. Our traditional grains are a source of good carbohydrates, which actually help stabilize blood sugar levels. They are also loaded with antioxidants, which helps balance hormones. It’s great to stock a variety of these grains/flours at home and consume them on a rotational basis in different ways.
Now, am I saying we should only eat traditional foods? No! It’s important to globalize and move with the times, but listening to our body is key in understanding which foods work best for each one of us individually.
*Unless you’ve been told otherwise by your health practitioner or if you have a food allergy.
Tanya Ganwani Varma hails from a family of entrepreneurs and believes business is in her DNA. After her move to London, England in 2018, Tanya was on a mission to start another business, this time something unrelated to the field of fashion retail. She followed her passion for wellness and got certified as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She went on to establish her Holistic Health & Wellness business, The Method By Tanya. Tanya’s goal as a Holistic Health Coach is to empower women to become the best version of themselves from the inside out by healing their mind, body and soul through food & lifestyle choices. Tanya is an advocate of the concept that lifestyle is the best medicine and believes it’s never too early or too late to start working towards your goals! For a holistic view on health and wellness follow Tanya’s Instagram @themethodbytanya.