When it comes to healthy eating today, kale, blueberries, acai berries and quinoa are the metaphorical jocks, the nutritional trendsetters. The conventional Indian superfoods (aka the geeks) lie low, secure in their years of consistent experience regardless of these newbie imports. How many of pay any real heed to the humble drumstick, those little puffy makhana (lotus seeds) or even infamously pungent jackfruit? However, these local victuals pack quite the potent punch when incorporated into your diet. So without further ado, let me introduce you to the lesser-known food immortals that actually rule the nutritional roost.
Makhana: 'Makhana' or the popped seeds of the lotus plant, or the fox / gorgon nut are a potent source of protein, carbohydrates, fibre, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous (phew!!!), iron and zinc. These unpretentious seeds that look more like light cotton puffs are also low in fat and sodium. Their magnesium content makes them useful for those suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. If that wasn't enough, these lotus seeds are also known to contain an anti-ageing enzyme which helps in repairing damaged proteins. So the next time you feel hungry, instead of that fancy -- read expensive -- pack of garden nuts, choose this desi nutrient.
Drumsticks: If you've spooned your way through enough South Indian thalis and bowls of sambhar you're already familiar with this fibrous vegetable. It comes from what is known as the "Miracle Tree", "Tree of Life", or more prosaically, the Moringa Oleifera. This little genius has an envious range of medicinal properties other than being power-packed with nutrients. The drumstick is a rich source of potassium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, vitamins A,C and D, essential amino acids (hold on, hold on), fibre and antioxidants such as β-carotene and ﬂavonoids. Studies the world-over have also shown that the phyto-chemicals and fibre present in Moringa Oleifera leaves also play an important role in reducing blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels (see for example here and here). Let's face it, the Indian tropical summer sun isn't the most appealing way to soak up some vitamin D. Instead just indulge in those sambhar-doused drumsticks - more drumsticks, less sambhar of course.
Jackfruit: People often turn up their noses at its pungent odour, but the jackfruit is a classic case of why first impressions should be forgone. Also known as the food of the orangutans, the jackfruit is often termed as the Indian veggie substitute for meat: basically, when cooked, its texture resembles that of soft meat. Rich in protein and starch, calcium, vitamin A, B, C, copper and potassium, the jackfruit does stock up on carbohydrates (80%). However, this high rate can be ignored considering it possesses a low glycemic index owing to its high fibre (11%) and nature of starch. Let's look into this a bit more: high fibre content is an excellent digestion aid - read regular loo movements - and the mucilaginous pulp helps boost your immune system too, not to mention its role in improving thyroid function, skin and vision. It also has anti-cancer benefits and lowers blood pressure. Lastly, men, it'll put the jack in your fruit - as it helps increase the sperm count.