Indian Superfoods vs International Superfoods

indian superfoods vs international superfoods

Indian superfoods can give their western counterparts a run for their money. Let’s take an in-depth look at how superfoods which can be included in your diet to gain their nutritive benefits.

Superfoods explained

In the blockbuster movie, Avengers Endgame, one of the super-heros Bruce Banner tries to convince the other Avengers that it will be unfruitful to go against the villain Thanos one more time. Bruce says “How do we know it’s going to end any differently than it did before?” To which another super-hero Captain Marvel replies, “Before you didn’t have me”.

Superfoods, like Captain Marvel, are a game changer. Superfoods, as the name suggests, are the foods that add a nutritional punch to your daily diet. They are mostly plant-based but some fish and dairy-based products are also considered to be superfoods. Superfoods contain a variety of nutrients such as:

Antioxidants that can prevent cancer

Healthy fats which can prevent heart disease

Fibre which can prevent Diabetes and digestive problems

Phytochemicals which are, chemicals in plants, responsible for deep colours and smells offering numerous health benefits.

Consuming foods that are packed with nutrients or superfoods is good for your health. But it is essential to consume them in the right quantities. Some common examples of superfoods found after an online search throw up names like blueberries, kale, sweet potato, squash, nuts, seeds, salmon, sardines and mackerel.

But this term superfood is often criticised as it has no basis in academic research and could simply be a marketing gimmick. It is important to understand that the term superfood is not a scientific term and care should be taken with the amount you eat.

Importance of eating local

In each of these three cases, there were obstacles which hampered appropriate intake of the required nutritional food items. These and many other foods which have been generally classified as superfoods due to their nutritional value often originate from foreign locales and are imported into India. What many people are unaware of is the fact that every international superfood often has an Indian substitute that is at times better placed from a nutritional point of view to meet the required dietary allowance (RDA) for Indians.

The advantage local foods have over international foods is that they are inexpensive, easy to find and are familiar. Eating local provides more nutrients and flavour because the food spends less time travelling from the farm to the plate and therefore can be harvested closer to its peak ripeness. Locally grown produce is also safer to consume as imported foods are often picked unripe and are artificially ripened with ethylene gas.

1) Chia seeds – International Super Food V/s Indian Challenger Basil seeds

 Chia seed is a popular superfood in the health industry, originated from Mexico. The word chia is actually derived from the Mayan language and means strength. Chia seeds are dense in essential nutrients like protein, fat, fibre, calcium, manganese, phosphorus. They are also rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants and Vitamin A, B, E, iron and iodine.

Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor that works well to complement both sweet and savory dishes. In raw form, the texture of the chia seed is crunchy and dense. But in gel form, when the soaked chia seeds have absorbed liquid, they become soft. High in fibre  content, chia seeds can be used as an alternative to eggs while baking. Chia seeds can be used in everything from cakes to muffins to granolas of all sorts. Chia can also be used when creating savory dishes like popcorn and ranch dressing for salads. Advantages of chia seeds are:

Antioxidants are good for skin and prevent ageing High fibre content aid in digestion and bowel regularity

Its high linoleic acid and omega 3 fats regulate cholesterol level, reduces blood pressure, decrease inflammation and reduce insulin resistance.

It also helps to boost metabolism and endurance and also improves stamina and regulate appetite and aid in weight management. Its calcium content maintains bone health.

Basil seeds are commonly known as Sabja seeds, Falooda seeds or Turkmaria seeds. However, this basil plant is different from the Holy basil or Tulsi, which is widely grown in India. Basil seeds have a long history of use in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. The basil seeds that are used for eating are the seeds from the sweet basil plant. These small little seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition and packed with the goodness of nature. Basil seeds are an easy source of vitamins, iron and help control blood sugar levels and fight seasonal flu. They’re also really good for your gut and can relieve constipation and bloating.

Basil seeds are usually grown in tropical countries as the weather conditions are favourable for cultivation. Basil seeds are famously known to cool our internal systems.

When immersed in water, basil seeds form a spherical jelly coating. Their flavour is a mildly floral flavour. The interior seed cracks with a light crunch and has the slight savouriness of pepper. Basil seeds are usually used in smoothies, milkshakes, salad dressings, hot cereal like oatmeal and in bread and muffins. Advantages of basil seeds are:

Basil seeds are reported to have antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral, antibacterial, antispasmodic and antifungal properties.

When soaked, the fibre in the outer coat of basil seeds becomes mucus and this fibre has a laxative effect, beneficial for constipation.

Basil seeds are also used to relieve stomach cramps, flatulence and indigestion.

Soaked seeds have the effect of making you feel fuller. This could help reduce your appetite and assist with weight loss.

Antioxidants present in basil seeds is said to have an uplifting effect on your mood and can help with mental fatigue, depression and migraine headaches.

Basil seeds can be crushed into oil as a skin treatment for wounds, cuts or skin infections.

Chia seed is a popular superfood in the health industry, originated from Mexico. The word chia is actually derived from the Mayan language and means strength. Chia seeds are dense in essential nutrients like protein, fat, fibre, calcium, manganese, phosphorus.

They are also rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants and Vitamin A, B, E, iron and iodine.

Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor that works well to complement both sweet and savory dishes. In raw form, the texture of the chia seed is crunchy and dense. But in gel form, when the soaked chia seeds have absorbed liquid, they become soft. High in fibre  content, chia seeds can be used as an alternative to eggs while baking. Chia seeds can be used in everything from cakes to muffins to granolas of allsorts. Chia can also be used when creating savory dishes like popcorn and ranch dressing for salads. Advantages of chia seeds are:

Antioxidants are good for skin and prevent ageing High fibre content aid in digestion and bowel regularity

Its high linoleic acid and omega 3 fats regulate cholesterol level, reduces blood pressure, decrease inflammation and reduce insulin resistance.

It also helps to boost metabolism and endurance and also improves stamina and regulate appetite and aid in weight management. Its calcium content maintains bone health.

Verdict

Basil seeds are an effective Indian counterpart to Chia seeds. Basil s seeds are inexpensive and easily available throughout India.

 

2) International Super Food Quinoa V/s Indian Challenger Amaranth

Quinoa or Chenopodium quinoa is grown as a grain crop. Quinoa is cultivated in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Argentina and Peru and in six European countries. Quinoa comes in different colours or varieties just like grapes. The most common is white, but sometimes you can also find red or black.

Quinoa has a creamy, crunchy and somewhat nutty taste all rolled into one. It is necessary to wash quinoa before it is cooked. This is to remove a chemical called saponin that can be found on the surface of quinoa. Saponin has a somewhat bitter and soapy taste that requires rinsing to remove it. Cook quinoa in the ration – 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid. Quinoa which cooks faster than rice can be used to substitute rice in every day diet.

Advantages of quinoa are:

Quinoa is gluten-free, moderately high in protein with all 9 essential amino acids and high in fibre content as compared to other cereals.

It is rich in Vitamin B complex especially B1, B2, B6, B7, folate, tocopherols, healthy fats like Omega 3, Omega 6 and minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus.

It contains flavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol which have anti-inflammatory, anti- depressant and exhibit anti-carcinogenic effects.

Quinoa is low in glycaemic index and due to its high fibre content it provides satiety. Its high protein and rich antioxidant content thereby increases and boosts metabolism.

Amaranth also is known as rajgira or ramdana which loosely translates to the food of the Gods is considered one of the more important foods of India, as per Ayurveda. Amaranth is thought to be a wonder grain which keeps your body fit and disease-free. Amaranth releases lots of starch during cooking. That lends it a gelatinous consistency and its texture has a crunchy pop when you chew it. Amaranth can be boiled in milk to make porridges and polenta or added to soups, salads and vegetable dishes or combined with other grains like brown rice. Advantages of amaranth are:

Amaranth is known to reduce cholesterol levels including triglycerides and LDL.

Peptides present in amaranth prevent inflammation and also chronic diseases like cancer. Antioxidants found in amaranth can protect cells from getting degenerated.

Phytonutrients in amaranth help to control hypertension and Diabetes. Vitamins A, C, E, K, B5, B6 folate niacin, riboflavin are all found in amaranth. Amaranth is a high protein source which can be digested with ease.

Verdict

Folate and calcium content of amaranth is very high in comparison to that of quinoa. Amaranth is a little more pocket-friendly than quinoa which is a very worthwhile feature of amaranth.

3)  Oats International Super Food V/s Indian Challenger Buckwheat

Oats or Avena sativa is a cereal grain grown annually for its seed in as Northwest Europe and Iceland. It is eaten in the form of oatmeal or rolled oats. They are mainly eaten as a breakfast cereal and in baked goods like cakes and cookies. They can be made into a porridge or used to make dosa, uttapa, idlis, khichadi, ladoo, pongal and chivda.

There are majorly five types of oats – steel cut oats (easy to digest and can be cooked very easily), whole oat groats (contain non-edible outer layer or hulk), Scottish oats (outer covering removed by Scottish manual stone grinding) and quickly rolled oats (quick processed rolled oats).

Advantages of oats are:Oats are gluten-free whole grain.

Oats are a great source of important vitamins like B1, B5, folate, minerals like manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc.

It is high in soluble fibre, glucagon, which helps to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, reduces blood pressure, helps in lowering blood sugar and relieves constipation.

Fibre provides a feeling of fullness thus aids in weight management, improves gut health by promoting gut bacteria

Antioxidants and polyphenols content have an anti-inflammatory effect and they enhance the immune system.

Buckwheat, also known as kuttu, is ground, typically with the outer bran, which is high in fibre and other nutrients. The bran turns the resulting buckwheat flour a rich brown colour with dark flecks. It has a rich, nutty flavour. Kuttu ka atta or buckwheat flour is commonly used during fasts in India.

Buckwheat has a strong bitter flavour. It is gluten-free and is available throughout the year and can be served as an alternative to rice or made into porridge. Advantages of buckwheat are:

Buckwheat contains high-quality protein that provides all of the eight essential amino acids, including lysine. This helps in weight loss by helping you feel full faster. It provides extra energy boosts and can increase cognitive ability.

It contains two powerful flavonoids which act as antioxidants – rutin, and quercetin. Rutin increases the level of HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood and keeps platelets from clotting, which lowers risk of heart attack, and stroke.

It is very rich in vitamins and minerals such as riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), copper, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and manganese. High levels of magnesium and vitamin E in buckwheat protect children from developing asthma. High levels of zinc improve bone health. High levels of iron prevent anaemia.

A single cup of buckwheat has more than 20 per cent of your daily fibre recommendation and has almost no calories and aids in weight loss and improves digestion. It significantly lowers the amount of blood sugar. This blood glucose-lowering effect is due to the presence of a compound called chiro-inositol found in buckwheat. It also decreases the chances of developing gallstones.

Verdict

Oats clearly rules the roost. This easily available grain is inexpensive and packs a super punch.

4)  Acai Berry International Super Food V/s Indian Challenger Gooseberry

Acai berry is an inch-long, reddish- purple fruit. It comes from the acai palm tree, which is native to Central and South America. Though they contain pits like apricots and olives, they’re technically not a berry. Yet they’re commonly referred to as berries. Acai fruit pulp is richer in antioxidants than cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries or blueberries. Fresh acai berries have a short shelf life and in India, they are available in dried powder or pressed juice. Fresh acai berry tastes like other berries with an after taste of chocolate.

Dried acai berry powder tastes like pomegranate due to its slightly acidic taste. Advantages of acai berry are:

Acai berry also contains some other trace minerals, including chromium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.

Acai berry has an incredibly high amount of antioxidants which neutralise the damaging effects of free radicals throughout the body.

Acai berry can improve cholesterol levels by decreasing total and LDL cholesterol.

Indian gooseberry or amla is an extremely sour fruit which grows in India, the Middle East and some Southeast Asian countries. The fruit is light green in colour and can be quite tart and fibrous to eat. Due to its powerful antioxidant properties, it is often used as in Ayurvedic medicines like Chawanprash to boost skin and hair health and overall immunity of the body. Amla tastes sour and astringent with sweet, bitter and pungent secondary tastes. Amla can be eaten as a candy, pickle, juice, tea, in curry, and as chutney. Advantages of gooseberry are:

Gooseberry contains chromium that stimulates the group of cells that secrete insulin, thus reducing blood sugar in people with Diabetes.

Gooseberry contains contain high levels of vitamins C and A, polyphenols, alkaloids, and flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol which boost immunity.

Chromium in gooseberry can reduce the chances of plaque build-up in the vessels and arteries. This may reduce the chances of stroke and heart attack.

Antioxidants in gooseberry help in neutralising free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body. It is a rich source of fibre which aids in digestion.

It is very high in water content and increases the frequency and volume of urination which helps our body eliminate unwanted toxins and excess levels of water, salt and uric acid.

Gooseberry also improves metabolic activity, liver functioning and calcium absorption.

Verdict

At a fraction of the cost, gooseberry offers us 20 times more vitamin C and twice the power of antioxidants as compared to the acai berry. The Indian gooseberry wins hands down not only because it is locally available and inexpensive but also because it can be eaten in its raw form which is its most nutritious state.

5 )  Kale International Super Food V/s Indian Challenger Beet greens

Kale is a green, leafy, winter vegetable. It can be a tasty and nutritious side dish or an addition to smoothies and salads. Kale is part of the brassica oleracea family which also

includes cabbage and cauliflower. Raw kale tastes bitter and chewy. There are many different types of kale. The leaves can be green or purple and have either a smooth or curly shape. The most common type of kale is called curly kale or Scots kale, which has green and curly leaves and a hard, fibrous stem. Advantages of kale are:

Kale is among the most nutrient-dense foods in existence with very-low-calorie content. It contains antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C, as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols which help in neutralising free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body. Kale can help lower cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Kale is one of the world’s best sources of vitamin k which is absolutely critical for blood clotting.

Kale is very high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A. Many important minerals are found in kale such as calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Kale is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that have been linked to a drastically reduced risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Fibre, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6 found in kale all support heart health.

Beet greens are hard and can be bitter, spicy or pungent, especially when eaten raw. Beet greens can be added to salads, curries or can be dipped in chickpea coating and fried golden brown.

Beet greens were originally grown in the Mediterranean region as far back as 2,000 B.C. From there they were taken to China around 850 A.D. Beet greens belong to the Chenopodiaceae family and are dark green in colour. Beet greens are available throughout the year.

Beet greens do not have a long shelf life and should be consumed within 2-3 days. If the leaves are bruised and brown or yellow in spots, they are not ideal for eating. If they are nice and green and healthy-looking, they are ideal to cook and eat, no matter their size.

Advantages of beet greens are:

Beet greens contain high amounts of protein, phosphorus and zinc Beet greens are also a great source of fibre. They are packed with antioxidants and are high in vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese and low in fat and cholesterol. Vitamin K in beet greens contains blood clotting properties. It also helps ward off osteoporosis, works with calcium to boost bone strength and may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Beet greens have high iron content and a higher nutritional value than the beetroot itself.

Vitamin A content in beet greens helps strengthen the immune system and stimulates the production of antibodies and white blood cells. The beta-carotene in vitamin A is a known antioxidant that can fight the effects of free radicals in the body along with cancer and heart disease.

Verdict

Though here kale is nutritive richer, the ease of availability and inexpensive cost of beet greens offers them the edge over kale.

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