When Neeraj Chopra clinched the javelin title with a throw of 88.17 metres at the World Athletics Championships 2023 in Budapest, his childhood food preferences – milk and spinach — also came into limelight.
Chopra’s comfort foods during his childhood were fresh spinach cooked by his grandmother and mother, and thickened sweetened milk, which served as midnight snack, informs nutritionist-author Kavita Devgan who has several books on food and nutrition to her credit.
To quote Chopra from Kavita’s latest book 500 Easy Delicious Healthy Recipes, “I would often wake up at night hungry. We had a lot of cattle at home so my grandmother or mother would boil milk, let it cool down, sweeten it and store it. They would feed me that milk at night. This is something I remember very fondly. Another very healthy food I remember from my growing up years in my village is freshly grown spinach…even today I remember its fresh, delicious taste.”
Healthy and nutrient-dense foods that we consume from our early days and through our lifetime make a vital contribution to the quality of our life. Kavita, who has authored five books besides the latest one, has been giving lectures and conducting workshops about the right way to eat as well as new research-based health trends for several years now.
Here, she shares her suggestion for 10 foods to include in your diet on a regular basis to improve overall health and well-being.
This is a leafy green that you should eat at least three or four times a week. It has good amounts of vitamin K, calcium and magnesium, which are all bone supportive nutrients. It is a hydrating food because of its high water content.
Rich in fibre, protein, B vitamins and other nutrients, this ancient grain is extremely versatile and can be swapped for rice or pasta in dishes. Millets are gluten free grains, so they are a boon for those who are gluten intolerant. To make the most of millets, it is best to sprout them before consumption to increase their nutritive value.
This is a green vegetable that is high in protein, which is like the skeleton of the immune system. Plus it is a potent fatigue buster thanks to its high concentration of iron and magnesium, alongside vitamin A, which increases the absorption of these minerals.
Sattu is our very own indigenous natural protein powder. It provides instant energy and is a brilliant source of good quality vegetarian protein. It has a high quality of fibre and works wonders for those suffering from high acidity, gas or constipation. It has a low GI (glycemic index) so it is good for diabetics. It is also low in sodium, so beneficial for those suffering from hypertension. It is packed with iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin A and C. It is an antidote to the sweltering heat of the summer months as it is naturally cooling.
JAMUN (THE INDIAN BLACKBERRY)
Jamun (and phalsa, the Indian sherbet berry) are very adept in reducing blood sugars, besides aiding in digestion, and are liver protective, anti-cancer and blood-purifying.
Phalsa in addition is a great cooling agent too.
KERALA RED RICE
Kerala rice is rich in B vitamins and minerals (iron, calcium and zinc and trace minerals like manganese and molybedenum). It is very difficult to find trace mineral. It is also loaded with antioxidants, and has special antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins, which help reduce inflammation, provide relief from allergy, aid in cancer prevention and deliver weight loss.
The new buzz word among superfood fanatics, these under-rated (till now) seeds deliver a lot of protein, magnesium, vitamin B and good fats (both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). They are packed with folate, iron, zinc, copper and high in amino acids. These seeds can improve heart, hair and skin health as well as lower blood sugar levels. They also boost metabolism and energy levels. One third cup of these seeds is an incredible addition to your diet that provides 140% of your daily magnesium needs!
The benefits of eating curd cannot be overstated. Curd is loaded with calcium, vitamin B, magnesium and good bacteria.
This high protein food lowers blood pressure, strengthens immunity and is low on calories. It is easily digestible protein even for those who are lactose intolerant.
It helps us remain alert and reduces stress as it contains the amino acid tyrosine which is needed for the production of nuero-transmitters, dopamine and noradrenalin which help with better learning and memory. Now you know the reason for eating dahi cheeni before an important exam.
There are many benefits to eating Tofu. Tofu is a good perk me up since it contains tyrosine – the amino acid that awakens the brain. A salad with tofu and greens is an ideal lunch if you don’t want to doze off in the afternoon. It packs a punch with protein, iron, some omega 3 fatty acids, calcium and some vitamin D too. It delivers a lot of magnesium to keep our heart healthy and contains zinc to boost our immunity.
This grain has all but disappeared from our kitchens but it needs to make a comeback.
It contains beta-glucan, a type of fibre with potent antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities. It boosts immunity, speeds wound healing and also helps antibiotics work better. It also has selenium, a difficult-to-find trace mineral that has a powerful positive effect on the immune system.