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11 Kickass Traditional Indian Diet Habits We All Need To Follow

11 Kickass Traditional Indian Diet Habits We All Need To Follow

You are updated on the latest wellness fads. Your knowledge on superfoods is unrivalled. You walk 10,000 steps daily and know the pros and cons of a Keto diet. Yes, cultivating healthy habits is essential for overall wellness. But are you really maximizing the nourishment derived from your meals?

Traditional Indian Diet unsplash

Our ancestors were in on this little secret. They chose foods according to their constitution, paid attention to what they consumed and ate as per their capacity. Even simple practices like sitting on the floor to eat (keeps gastric problems at bay) and eating with hands (balances vital energy of the body and improves digestion) had health benefits. So if you are looking for a little wellness boost, listen to your elders and make the most of their health 'secrets' too!

1. Fats are your friends.

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Long before the health world hailed it as a superfood for its dense nutritional profile, ghee was a kitchen staple in Indian homes. “It is good for the heart, has plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A. Consuming ghee can help with digestion. It is also a friend of those watching the scales. The fat-soluble vitamins present in it aid weight loss,” says Dr Vedika Singh, a general physician. Add it in moderation to your dals, khichdis, rotis or halwas for an instant dose of wellness.


2. Pulses for lunch. Dal for dinner.

Indian Diet Habits thinkstock/comyan

 The protein content of our diet is rarely up to the mark, whether you are vegan or not. The solution? Add pulses to your lunch and dinner menu. “Beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils and other pulses are a go-to plant source for proteins. They are rich in soluble and insoluble fibre, which can decrease cholesterol, control blood sugar, and aid digestion and regular bowel movement,” says Karnik. They contain key minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc, and are particularly abundant in B vitamins.

3. Stop peeling your veggies.

 Indian Diet Habits unsplash

 Remember the scolding you’d get from grandma each time you peeled a potato before cooking it? “You are wasting time and nutrients,” she’d scream. Well, she was spot on. Turns out peels are excellent sources of insoluble fibre, and essential in maintaining gastrointestinal health and prevention of constipation. Potato peels, for example, are packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Cucumber peels boast of vitamin K that plays a vital role in blood coagulation and bone formation, while eggplant skins contain an anti-inflammatory compound called chlorogenic acid that helps in glucose control.

4. Indulge that sweet tooth.

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 It’s tough to resist the pull of desserts. But consuming white processed sugar means loading up on empty calories. Enter jaggery. “It is loaded with antioxidants and is the superfood of winters. Having a small piece of jaggery daily can boost immunity and help your body develop resistance to infections. Earlier, women who suffered from PMS were told to consume jaggery to alleviate symptoms such as cramps and mood swings,” says Karnik. Have it after a meal to aid digestion. Or let it help you detox as it cleanses the liver by flushing out toxins.

5. Rotate the greens.

 We know that green leafy veggies such as palak, sarson and methi are the nutritional powerhouses of the food world. Earlier generations, however, sang ballads about local and seasonal edible greens. For example, the haldi patta can help ward off respiratory allergies, the lingaru is a rich source of antioxidants and omega-3 essential fatty acids, the imli ka patta is abundant in vitamin C, fibre, potassium, iron and calcium, the haak is an effective digestive aid and the takla saag can keep monsoon-related illnesses at bay.

6. Drink to health.

 Trendy beverages such as celery juice and kale smoothies are steadily gaining the approval of hipsters, but Indian traditional drinks pack a nutritional punch like no other. “Aam panna, which is filled with vitamin C, prevents heat stroke when the temperatures soar. It’s also great for your stomach and improves digestion. Thandaii is another summer favourite and an excellent refresher. During North Indian winters, gajar ki kanji activate the digestive system and is great for sluggish appetites. Lassi cools the body down while jal jeera can cure digestive problems and help maintain the body’s pH level,” says Karnik.

7. Fast for a day.

Intermittent-fasting may be one of the most talked-about diet fads at the moment, but the concept of fasting has been an intrinsic part of Indian culture for centuries. “Fasting just once a week helps with weight loss, reduces blood pressure and inflammation, lowers cholesterol, boosts brain function and even provides protection against certain forms of cancer,” says Dr Singh. In fact, research now indicates that it is better alternative to dieting since it is easier to sustain over a prolonged period of time.

8. Spice it up.

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No Indian kitchen is complete without a spice cabinet. Not only do spices add flavour to any dish, but many of them also carry remarkable health benefits. Cinnamon is known to lower blood sugar levels, turmeric contains curcumin that has anti-inflammatory effects, basil can boost immunity, ginger helps with pain management and digestion, and consuming garlic improves heart health. 

9. Buy local.

Earlier generations believed in consuming food as fresh as possible. Eating such produce allowed them to maximise the nutrients they got from each ingredient used in a dish. “So they’d opt for seasonal and local produce. This ensured that the food they ate was fresh, best-suited for the location and season it was eaten in, healthy and chemical-free,” says Karnik. 

Healthy diet unsplash

10. Early to dinner, early to rise.

Turns out our elders were aware of ‘circadian rhythm', an internal clock that helps the body adjust to environmental changes, sleep, and activities like digestion and eating, long before modern science studied it. They ate dinner early knowing that timing of a meal could influence the body's weight regulation and sleep cycle. “Eating early boosts weight loss, helps you sleep better, improves heart health, reduces the risk of obesity and even improves mood and energy levels. Always keep a three-hour gap between dinner and bedtime,” says Dr Singh.  


11. Drink milk before bed.

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Ever wondered how your grandfather can snooze within five minutes of hitting the sack while you toss and turn in bed till 2 am? Have a tall glass of warm milk before you sleep. “Milk has gained a bad rep lately, but it has historically been a part of the Indian diet. It contains an amino acid known as tryptophan that can help induce sleep. It is also a good dietary source of melatonin, a hormone that plays a crucial role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle,” says Tanvi Karnik, a dietician. Lactose intolerant? Try coconut milk or almond milk for eight hours of Zzzs.

The author is a Mumbai-based freelance writer.   

 
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