There’s no doubt that Indian cuisine provides a tantalising array of temptation for those that are partial to the delicious flavours of the east. From luxurious kormas, rich with cream, to butter chicken, dripping with ghee – Indian cuisine draws together influences from the diverse range of cultures, ethnicities and religions that call the sub-continent home to create a stunning menu filled with a wide range of decadent favourites.
Unfortunately, many of these delicious treats are high in fat and calories – a fact which leads to the incorrect assumption that Indian cuisine is inherently unhealthy with dishes that should only be enjoyed on a special occasion as opposed to everyday events. However, this is not the case at all. Of course, the deep-fried crispy delights of gulab jamun and the soft, fudge flavours of barfi might fall on the sinful side, but every cuisine has its unhealthy treats – the world of gastronomy would be a dull place without them. Many of these sugary or high fat content morsels would be most likely to be enjoyed in India at a time of celebration such as a festival or a wedding – they are not actually designed to be everyday foods.
When we take a closer look at the daily staples integral to Indian cuisine, we can see that there are, in fact, a variety of health benefits associated with the core ingredients of the Indian diet. Take a look for yourself:
Bread is an important food in India with grains grown extensively throughout the fertile lands of the north. Uttar Pradesh is the largest producer of wheat in India and wheat is traditionally the key ingredient for the everyday roti. An excellent source of energy for the body, in the form of carbohydrates, rotis are also rich in wholemeal fibre which works wonders on the digestive system.
Although brown rice has the edge over white in terms of nutritional benefits, white rice also provides a source of instant energy for the body as well as the ability to support muscle growth, thanks to the amino acids these little grains contain. Brown rice may be high in fibre but white can actually be better for settling a stomach afflicted by morning sickness or diarrhoea.
One of Britain’s favourite foods, curry is the dish most associated with Indian fare. However, it doesn’t have to be swimming with oil as you might find in your local curry house, here in the UK. Home-cooked curries can be made from scratch with roasted spices for flavour – simply set that oil aside and enjoy the health boosting benefits that can be found in the colourful spices such as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and an abundance of vitamins and minerals.
An important ingredient throughout the southern states, lentils supply a hefty dose of iron, protein, folate, fibre and vitamin B1 to the Indian diet. They help regulate cholesterol and stabilise blood sugar levels too – a wonder food and staple to any thali spread.
Drop in to one of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants and try out some of the healthier options on offer… but don’t forget to leave room for a little treat from the dessert list.