In many traditional communities food is considered to be all the medicine that your body needs. Food that serves the purpose of medicine is called nutraceuticals.
Nature provides us with several micronutrients which are crucial for keeping us healthy. These nutrients are found in varying quantities in different foods. All these nutrients, if harnessed properly, can play a major role in disease prevention and sometimes even managing symptoms and curing diseases.
Before we move on to our list, it is important to distinguish between different categories of food. Nutraceuticals are very different from a dietary supplements, which might be a form of a nutritional boost to the regular diet, but does not come with specified short term effects on specific existing or potential diseases.
These are different from herbs and other medicinal plants. They are not part of the regular diet and are consumed only for very specific conditions under expert guidance.
Superfoods as a category lie loosely at the intersection of nutraceuticals and dietary supplements. That is to say, it might have the characteristics of either or both.
Superfoods in India
India has a wide tradition of medicinal plants, tribal food practices based on wild varieties of food, and one of the world’s oldest farming traditions. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that within this great dietary diversity several unique varieties of food are used not only as preventive medicine but also as dietary supplements for various conditions.
The only difficulty, however, is that- like millets, many other super-foods in India (for example, Chironjee, Black Rice, or Jamun Powder) are not properly integrated with supply chains despite their immense nutritional value. Thus, they are very difficult to access.
Superfoods for Everyday Use
The good news for the average consumer in India is that there are many food items with immense nutritive benefits that are still part of the regular diet and are easily available. Here is a list of some of these everyday superfoods which will keep you healthy all year round.
Available between spring and summer, Drumsticks, or Moringa, as they are known in South India, is one of the most commonly available superfoods in India. It is rich in vitamins, A, B, and C, and has a very low fat or carbohydrate content. It is also rich in iron, zinc, and phosphates, which are all essential for the smooth functioning of the human body.
They are very good for patients with anaemia and other conditions arising from a deficiency of iron in the body. It also helps treat stomach-related problems and helps in fighting against skin infection.
It is generally a good vitamin supplement for anyone who wants to stay healthy. It can be added to any mixed vegetable dishes like Sambar, or can be cooked and enjoyed as a standalone curry-based dish.
Curd is the perfect summer superfood. It has very little calories and is rich in calcium, apart from having a probiotic character. It is very good for bones and teeth, and also helps with digestion by enriching the bacterial diversity in the gut.
It is very good for people who are trying to lose weight. Curd can be consumed as a dessert when sweetened, and it can be used as a cooking ingredient as well.
Jackfruit is a monsoon fruit and is very popular in the west coast of India where it grows in abundance. Surprisingly, a large part of India’s jackfruit produce is left unconsumed by humans. Monkey Jack a particular species of Jackfruit found in India is completely edible. It is rich in vitamin C and is one of the few fruits that is high in B vitamins. Jackfruit also contains folate, niacin, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants.
Regular consumption of jackfruit helps lose weight, reduce diabetes, boosts immunity, and as per a few reports, can also help in preventing colon cancer.
Amla, or Indian Gooseberry, is a winter fruit, but it can be pickled and preserved for months. It does not lose its potency as a medicine even after processing. It was originally found in the wild. But now it has become a common fruit in Indian households.
This fruit is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. It can help cure and prevent colds and flu. It is also known to help in weight loss and managing chronic pain. The fruit is also a rich source of fibre and thus helps with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, along with better skin and hair health.
This root crop is found throughout the year in India and is part of almost all Indian recipes. Turmeric acts as a detoxifier, a liver supplement, and helps in improving cardiovascular health.
Turmeric has also been found to increase the secretion of hormones which are responsible for better brain function, and it also reduces the risk of different brain diseases. It can also be consumed uncooked with milk or honey.
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates encapsulated the power of nature centuries ago when he quipped “nature is the best physician” and he could not have been any truer.
Just the endless bounty that nature provides us with is overwhelming in itself. So the moment you decide to lead a healthy lifestyle you know where to look- AROUND.