Banana Health Benefits With Simple Recipes

What the Navratras always do for me is to reintroduce bananas back to my diet in a big way. It is a free food according to vrat rules, and so I increasingly resort to it to keep my mid meal hunger pangs away on the days I keep the vrat. And during these days I suddenly remember again all the reasons (besides the fact that the uber delicious, unmatched banana split is made from it) why I dig this humble fruit just so much.

For me every year the love perseveres even after the vrat gets over… and I continue eating it regularly for a while before, well life takes over and junk begins creeping in. But then soon it’s time for the next round of navratra vrats and I am reminded again…

I love it unconditionally but if you need more tangible reasons to begin eating more of this fruit, here are they:

1. Banana delivers the phytochemcial fructo-Oligosaccharides, which boosts the good bacteria in our colon and thus prevent the bad bacteria from overtaking them and producing toxic acids that can create a health havoc.

2. It is loaded with a particular kind of fibre called Resistant Starch (RS), which not just fills you up, but also keeps those damaging cravings away and boosts your metabolism. The RS also helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and improves the calcium and magnesium absorption in the body. One tip is the more raw the banana is more the RS in it. And that’s why I make it a point to cook and eat green banana subzi every once in a while. You must too.

3. It’s actually a perfect energy giving food: contains three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose – and an extra-large dose of fibre; this combination delivers both – an instant boost, along with sustained and substantial energy. Win-Win actually!

4. It’s loaded with potassium, a mineral that helps keep the blood pressure down and the bones strong and health. Yes, that’s why a banana shake is a winsome combination.

Eat them like this:

But if just biting into it is not really your idea of a lets say a gastronomic delight… (maybe you find them a bit bland!), then just make ‘the banana’ exciting. It’s not that tough. I am sharing some interesting ways I try to incorporate them in my diet. You could try these, and of course use your imagination too…

1. A peanut butter and banana sandwich drizzled with honey is a commonplace idea (but heavenly yummy, everyone will have to agree) and more a meal than a snack if we look at how calorific it can get, but have you ever tried a banana roti roll? Simply take a roti, apply peanut butter, place a banana in the centre, roll it, cut into small discs and snack on it. Delicious!

2. Also try this banana ready in a jiffy dessert: Lightly drizzle oil in a skillet over medium heat. Arrange banana slices in pan and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove pan from heat and pour honey mixture (whisk together honey with some water) over banana. Allow to cool and sprinkle with cinnamon.

3. Need a cooling snack? Try this: peel a banana and dip it in yogurt. Roll in crushed cereal and freeze. Then bite in!

4. This is one of my favorite smoothie recipes (it’s mentioned in my book Don’t Diet! 50 Habits Of Thin People too). Cut pineapple, papaya, banana, cucumber into small pieces. Mix them together. Add 1 cup chilled coconut water, mix, whirl and sip. This simple to make smoothie is loaded with minerals (potassium) and enzymes that help cut the bloat from the body, and detoxify too.

Go on have more of this wonderful fruit, starting this Navratras.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

10 Foods To Curb Diabetes – Eat Right!

This year on World Health Day (April 7), the focus is on curbing diabetes, a chronic disease that has affected around 350 million people across the globe. If you think that it is just excess sugar that leads to diabetes, please understand it is not as sweet and simple as that. Who and when one gets diabetes is dependent on multiple factors: lifestyle, weight (those overweight are more prone), activity level (sedentary vs active), genetics, stress (yes, it predisposes a person to diabetes) and of course eating habits – all play a role. Too many factors to monitor and control?

Well, the good news is that even if your numbers are beginning to get wonky (you have pre diabetes that is borderline diabetes where blood glucose is higher than normal but lower than the diabetes range) or are worried about a strong family history, you can still cut the risk of getting diabetes and even return to normal blood glucose levels simply by changing what you are plating. Yes food, right food actually has that power. And trust me it is better to prevent getting diabetes, than try and manage it later (there is no cure; you know that right!)

Eat right

6 basic eating rules to prevent diabetes are: more fibre, less fat, cutting down red meat, having more vegetables and fruits, opting for whole grains, and keeping alcohol in check.

Incorporate lots of slow-burning, low glycemic index vegetables in your diet

10 food strategies that work:

1. Begin your day with a bit of cinnamon. A component hydroxychalcone in this spice helps keep the fasting glucose in control, so it is a good preventive tool. All you need is a pinch everyday (say in your cup of tea or sprinkled on your cereal).

2. In the list of spices that help clove comes close second, so incorporating it in daily cooking is s good idea.

3. Research is clear that daily consumption of dairy, particularly milk, cheese and yoghurt can help keep diabetes away. Want to try something exciting? Try this blend: 1 cup yoghurt with 1 cup cut pineapple. Or churn 1 banana with a bit of ginger and honey with 1 cup milk or yoghurt.

4. Score some vitamin C daily (choose from amla, citrus fruits, guava etc), as research is clear that those with most vitamin C in their bodies have the lowest incidence of diabetes.

5. Incorporate lots of slow-burning, low glycemic index  vegetables in your diet. Make sure you eat a serving in all three main meals.

6. If you are a fish eater than get in DHA, a type of omega 3 found in mackerel, salmon and tuna; helps keep inflammation in the body down, so diabetes away.

7. If your palate is adventures also try out some seaweeds (kombu, nori, hijiki and wakame) as they are loaded with minerals, protein and healing compounds that help keep a lid on diabetes.

Wakame seaweed, cucumber and radish salad.

8. Munch on walnuts. Brain food, heart food and now research says it is diabetes protective as well. Good fats and magnesium do the deed. And according to a study by Harvard researchers published in the Journal of Nutrition, all you need are about 4 halves a day to get this protection. Not difficult at all.

9. Apples help. Quercetin and other flavonoids found in the fruit inhibit carbohydrate-digesting enzymes like alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase and slow down their digestion. Plus pectin, a soluble fibre found in it helps blunt blood sugar swings, and thus keeps insulin in check, and diabetes away.

10. End the day with turmeric. It is not called golden spice without a reason; helps keep inflammation down. So a little bit with warm milk before sleeping is a good idea.


Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

Steaming vs. Boiling: Secret To Maximizing Nutrients

Is the potato on his plate healthier than yours?

Quite possible actually! Because how we cook and eat the foods impacts the amount of goodness we derive out of them. I have lately been quite obsessed about ‘maxing’ nutrition from what we eat. This actually is my brand of conservation: maxing ‘quality’, not just quantity, ‘coz I believe both processes deliver sustainability, and we often fall really short on the quality front.

Last year in a post I wrote about why it is important not to chop the vegetables in very small pieces and to cook them as near ‘whole’ as possible. Also about the fact that we should ideally wash them and then chop and cook right away, and avoid leaving them in water for too long after cutting, as that leads to leaching of most of the electrolytes. And the most important benefit (besides fibre) that we derive out of vegetables and fruits is the disease arresting nutrients that they deliver in masses (antioxidants, enzymes and the like).

So some of the other steps I follow and you can too to ensure that I max their disease fighting potential are:

1) Buy freshest produce possible – Buy as far as possible locally grown produce. The sooner you eat a fruit or vegetable after it’s picked, the better it is nutritionally for you. Tastes better too. Also remember that the vegetables that ripen fully on the plant will have more nutrients as compared to those that are picked early and allowed to ripen in storages. By the way frozen vegetables are often just as healthy as fresh veggies because they often come right out of the field, and are blanched and frozen immediately.

2) Keep the skin on – You’ll be surprised to know that potato skin has almost as much protein and even more fibre than its flesh. B and C vitamins are concentrated in the skin and so are iron, potassium and magnesium. So when you peel it off thickly, you are junking half the goodness of the good o’l potato literally! Ditto for most other vegetables and fruits. Max the potential of apples too by biting in with the skin on.

3) Steam instead of boiling – We all know that frying is passe’ for healthy eaters, but not many know that steaming is a far better way of cooking as compared to boiling. It’s the best actually for maximum nutrient retention and also of other beneficial plant chemicals like glucosinolates and chlorophyll. It also ups antioxidant availability some research shows.

Steamed vegetables retain maximum nutrients

In fact a study found that broccoli cooked in the microwave lost up to 97 percent of its antioxidant content but lost only 11 percent when it was steamed. And of course the texture and taste both are far better when steamed compared to boiled (who likes squishy stuff). I am all for cooking as briefly as possible and steaming helps me do that plus keeps my food looking good too. Boiling is okay only if you intend to have the water in which the food is boiled too (like in the case of soups), otherwise stick to steaming. Get a good steamer if you find the process cumbersome. It’s a super worthwhile investment. And when eating out too, look out for dishes that are steamed. Your body will thank you for it.

4) Slow down – Please eat mindfully. Take time to chew and enjoy your vegetables. The age old rule says chew each bite 20 times but if that is too much for you to fathom (forget practice) then do your best. Remember the more you chew, the more you will break down vegetables, resulting in better absorption of nutrients in the gut.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

Why I love Indian cuisine the most

I enjoy most cuisines, at least some dishes from every cuisine and eat them often too. But my favorite stays the Indian cuisine, and the whole wide delicious regional variety that it encompasses within it. It simply satisfies me the most! Possibly because I have grown up eating just this kind of food, and so it’s the taste my taste buds are most familiar with. I realized this again when I attended a close friend and a popular food critic and food festival curator Anoothi Vishal’s Holi Pop Up last Sunday. Now a Pop Up is basically a makeshift eatery that can happen anywhere, at any time. It’s like a temporary restaurant that comes up for a day or just a meal.

I think it’s a great concept as not only does one get to eat great khaana, gets to try food that one may have otherwise not have easy access to, but also lets you meet like thinking interesting individuals (basically foodies:)). Now Anoothi belongs to the Kayastha community and is working really hard to make sure that the community’s time travelled recipes don’t get lost, so she organizes these food pop ups to showcase them often. What she dished out on Sunday – matar mushroom, kathal subzi, vegetable kofta, peeli dal a delectable mutton dish, an assortment of snacks, the ubiquitous hold dessert gujia and the now getting forgotten drink thandai – satisfied not just my hunger but my soul too.

And when I saw other guests too polish off their plates with the same happy, satiated expression I knew then that I – an Indian food lover – was not in minority.

So what is it that works for Indian food and why we must stick to it as much as possible. Lots actually! And the reasons I feel move beyond just taste and nostalgia. Here are my top four:

The Indian Ingredients

The basic ingredients of Indian food are grains, vegetables, beans, and yogurt accented with meat or fish. I feel it is easy to be a vegetarian with Indian cuisine. With the wide range of vegetable and lentil that there are in all regional repertoires, you won’t miss meat for even a second. And staying majorly vegetarian I believe is actually the right way to eat and to stay healthy in the long run. I usually advocate a 70:30 veg:nonveg ratio, which is very easy to achieve with Indian cuisine.

The Indian Flavours

Second reason is the fact that food of India is a festival for the senses – aromatic and appetizing. The way it is assembled, the way we eat, and the way we spice it up – is all done to help the body, to make it feel better. In fact spices in Indian cooking are there for much more than just flavour. They are there for a purpose – to cool or to heat the body, to avoid flatulence, to boost metabolis. Plus, their liberal use delivers deeply pleasant aromas for the nose, and subtle to blazing flavors for the tongue. All that helps us digest food and optimises nutrients contained in it better. Spices of course offer multiple medicinal and preventive benefits too; turmeric, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, garam masala (a mix of multiple spices)… all have something going for them.

Indian spices

The Indian Variety

Thirdly, the huge variety, thanks to the fact that every region has its own way of cooking those same veggies, grains and lentils makes meal times fun, and keeps boredom away. That’s a big feat!

The Indian Combinations

Fourthly, Indian cuisine practices smart food combining: there is a clear distinction of which foods are incompatible when eaten together and why. For example mixing milk and sour fruits is not ideal for digestion, so is better avoided. Similarly their are multiple smart combos, for example the dal-chawal combination delivers complete good quality protein.

It encourages seasonal eating. When we eat food that is fresh and locally harvested, the flavours are intact and nutrients are optimum. Sensible advice this!

So more power to you Anoothi and everyone else who is trying to keep us stay connected to our own food! “Coz it is good for us!

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

Simple Food Habits From The Greek Cuisine

Glittering beaches, hillsides stitched with grape vines, glistening sun drenched beaches… there’s lots to love about Greece. But if you ask me, then even above all these, it’s their food that wins hearts (literally too) hands down. Their diet is the healthiest, as well as one of the most delicious, in the world. And that’s probably why they are one of the healthiest population in the world. I am a huge fan of their food and feel there are lots of Greek rules of eating that we can follow easily.

Here’s my pick:

Keep staples simple and every-day. Stick to abundant use of plant-based foods that are rich in fiber, including fruits, vegetables, breads and grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Spinach and eggplant are their favorites and they use lemons in almost everything from sauces, appetizers, entrées to salad dressings; all three are super healthy and super easy to incorporate in daily diet.

Try for maximum use of minimally processed foods and, whenever possible, eat seasonally fresh foods. Eat locally and seasonally is their mantra.

When cooking try to do the least possible to food. Instead of frying, Greek prefer to lightly sauté foods with a bit of olive oil and lots of fresh herbs. Smart move!

Try for frequent consumption of calcium-rich cheese and yogurt. They use feta cheese made from goat or sheep milk which is lower in fat and easier to digest as compared to many other varieties of cheese.

Eat fish often and restrict oneself to very small portions of red meat.

Stick to fresh fruits as dessert; for Greeks sweets are a rare treat.

They enjoy a moderate intake of wine, moderate being the key word.

Some of my favorites…

Lot many Greek dishes stay with you once you taste them. I too have a few favorites. For me there’s nothing more delicious and fresh that an authentic Greek salad made of tomatoes and cucumbers, typically seasoned with onion, olive oil, vinegar, feta cheese, and oregano. One tip I’d like to add here is that as the Greek olives and feta tend to be high in salt, so ask them to be rinsed before eating. I also dig their spanakopita, a spinach pie (best way to have spinach actually), and my favorite dessert is fresh fruits drizzled with honey and baked in the oven till just turning soft, served with thick (what the food modern industry calls ‘Greek-style’) yoghurt.

Also try these three hot soups:

Kakavia – This Greek fish soup is a complete meal. Cook fish along with vegetables to create a stock, then strain the soup to serve as a clear broth with the fish and vegetables on a side plate.

Avgolemono – Add egg and lemon, whisking continually, to a warm chicken stock on low heat to create a creamy soup with a sharp tang of citrus.

Lentil soup – Boil lentils with garlic, chopped onions and crushed tomatoes till tender. Serve hot with olives, adding a little vinegar if you like.

Greek cuisine is a perfect balance of taste and health, and that’s why it works so beautifully!

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

Why We Must Drink Some Kanji Every Day

We made a big matka full of kanji today for the family, knowing that kaali gajar (black carrots) will go out of season soon and this lot will be last for now, at least till this root vegetable comes back on the vegetable vendors’ carts. Even though I was familiar with kanji (mom would make it every year) and have sipped it off and on in other people’s houses too since then, there was no tradition/practice of making it in my house.

Plain laziness, no other excuse!

But that changed this year, mostly because hubby’s digestion had been playing up and he came to know (no, not from me, but someone else) that kanji is just the thing to get it back in order. As a result we first made one lot and then the second and soon all three of us were downing a glass a day religiously. The thing is, kanji is definitely one of the biggest ‘good gut’ secret that needs to get out there. And now!

Laziness be dammed!

How does it help? Well, in multiple ways:

  • First as it is a fermented drink, it helps put the balance of good versus bad bacteria back in order, helping the good bugs increase in number in the intestines. Good bugs help us digest the food, absorb micro nutrients like the Vit B group and Vit K better, and assist our digestive enzymes to help them work better. And we do need more of these, specially as pollution, stress and wrong food habits work kill them fast enough. So basically fermented kanji is our very own home grown probiotic food, that works like magic. And when our gut is sorted, our immune system works efficiently too. So there’s double bonus there!
  • Secondly, this kaali gajar offers some extraordinary nutritional benefits (over and above those offered by the orange gajars) due to their high concentration of anthocyanins, which are proven anti-carcinogenic and also have strong anti-inflammatory and eye health protecting qualities.
  • Thirdly the culturing (fermenting) process amplifies the health benefits and increases the available vitamins and enzymes of that carrot, an already haloed vegetable packs in: fibre, beta carotene, vitamin K, Vitamin B8, potassium, manganese and multiple antioxidants.
  • Another plus is the good fats (MUFA) that rai (sesame) adds to the drink. Research has found that MUFA-rich diet helps people lose weight and body fat without changing their calorie intake. Now what can be better news than that! Sesame seeds are packed with calcium and zinc and also help keep our bad cholesterol levels down.

Go on make it! Recipe:

And finally if you are thinking who’s going to make the tedious thing, here’s the thing – it is super easy to make. Just sounds tough as it is unfamiliar. Here’s how to go about it:

Get hold of a large glass or ceramic jar with lid (I find a simple match, does the job equally well). Cut 4 big kaali gajars (500 gm) into 3 inch long pieces and put them in the matka, add 3 liters of water, 1/2 tsp red chilly (acc to taste), 1 tbsp black salt and 4 tbsp of powdered rai (mustard seeds), preferably black rai. Cover the matka with a thin muslin cloth and keep it on a sunny windowsill or in a warm place for 3-4 days. Stir with a spoon and taste the fermented pickling solution; it’s ready when it tastes sour/tangy. Filter the dark purple colored solution adjust seasoning (you might like to add some more of black salt), fill it up in glass bottles and refrigerate for up to a month. Eat the pickled carrots along with your meals. Yes, that easy!

I say make it quick, at least one lot before this vegetable bids adieu for a few months. And then later do what I intend to: make it with regular gajar and add one beet for the colour. But keep drinking it, now that you know just how good it is for us.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

Separating Oil From Myths: Fat Facts

One food category where I feel there is just too much information floating about, yet too little real understanding actually happening is, you guessed it right – fats. They are most misunderstood! For starters, they have been branded as bad guys and a blanket ban has been issued. But that is far from the truth. Like other nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fibre), these too are needed by the body. All that you need to do is to choose very wisely. And know the facts from the myths.

Myth: Margarine contains less fat than butter

Fact: Butter and margarine contain different types of fat, but in similar amounts and hence also have an equal number of calories. In fact, butter is usually the healthier option – of course in limited quantities – as most margarines (particularly the hard varieties) although free of saturated fats have trans fats, which increase the risk of heart disease, lower your “good” cholesterol levels and raise your “bad” cholesterol levels just like saturated fats. Secondly, butter contains the usual vitamins found in milk — A, D, E and K and as all these vitamins are fat soluble, the fat in the butter helps your body absorb them well and margarine is generally devoid of vitamins unless they are specially added during production.

Myth: Fat-free is low-calorie

Fact: Don’t indulge in extra-large servings of fat-free foods, especially baked goodies such as cookies, cakes and crackers – these foods may contain the same amount or even more calories than regular versions! That’s because manufacturers usually add other things to compensate for the taste and texture that fats give the dish, and that something is often a sugary or floury substance – empty calories! So in fact, certain foods labelled as low fat may actually be high in calorie because of high sugar or carbohydrate content. Always get the details by checking labels for the serving size and number of calories per serving.

Myth: The ‘cholesterol free’ label means a healthy food

Fact: Cholesterol free’ doesn’t necessarily mean fat free. The food might be cholesterol free but be rich in saturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids, – both of which raise blood cholesterol. ‘Cholesterol free’ is just a marketing strategy.

Myth: Refined oils are better for the heart than butter or ghee

Fact: Every fat, including different oils, has its own composition. Kardi and sunflower oils are rich in PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids), while ghee, butter, groundnut oil and mustard oil are rich in SFA (saturated fatty acids) and MUFA (mono saturated fatty acid). It is recommended that PUFA, MUFA and SFA are consumed in the ratio 1:1.5:1. So, all the three sources, that is ghee or butter (1/2 tsp), mustard or groundnut oil (1 tsp) and safflower or sunflower oil (1/2 tsp) should be consumed in a day for a healthy heart. Too much of any one type can be bad news for us.

Myth: Salad dressing should be totally fat-free

Fact: Salad veggies are filled with terrific nutrients such as lycopene and beta carotene. But these antioxidants are better absorbed with a little help from fat. This doesn’t mean you should drown your greens in a rich ranch or blue-cheese dressing: A small amount of olive oil will be sufficient. Or you can add low-fat cheese, nuts, seeds or avocado.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

Why Farm to Table ‘Should’ Be The Future

Farm to (restaurant) table is a concept that is a huge hit with my psyche. I feel it is a wonderful extension of farm to home, and ensures that when we eat out or order in, then too we are sure of plating food that is intrinsically good for us. Plus, it is a fact that this way the food does taste different – more ‘healthily delicious’ if I may twist the phrase and use here. I remember eating some super delicious grub at many farm to table restaurants during my trips to California and Italy, and have been reading about similar restaurants now coming up in India, Mumbai in particular. Delhi sadly did not have a place like that till now, so last week when I ate at newly opened Pluck at Pullman in Aerocity, bang next to the airport, I could actually point out (with utmost glee) to what I wanted to eat at the restaurant’s in-house mini farm that was teeming with cabbages, lettuce, oregano, spinach, parsley, pumpkin and lots more and soon it was served to me farm fresh (pun intended). This mini farm located within the premises of the hotel is the restaurant’s way of offering the freshest, safest ingredients to the diners, and ‘if this means offering only a seasonal menu, than be it’ he says. Kudos to this thought. I am all for it, as I too believe that this is the right way to cultivate a healthy relationship with our table, be it at home or in a restaurant.

So basically to cut the long story short, on that day at Pluck I fancied lettuce and spinach and some parsley too from their farm, so the menu that landed on my table for lunch was fresh lettuce with a dip as a starter, a soup with parsley and oregano sprinkled liberally and an uber delicious spinach, mushroom and bacon salad, and as I sat eating it all, trust me I actually tasted health, and satisfied both my taste buds and soul. Good meal this one was, a kind I won’t mind having more often.

And there’s science behind the goodness of farm to table too. Firstly this way you can ensure eating organic food, and keep the toxic load down (and God knows we need to do that). Second it is as close to getting to live the way our ancestors did (pluck and eat, hunt and eat… get the drift) and they sure were far healthier than we are today. And thirdly most importantly research has proven that the less the time lapse between plucking veggies and fruit and eating, the higher the nutrient composition of that food will be. As time elapses, nutrients keep skimming off too. So basically this way (the farm to table way) you eat food the way nature made it – bursting with goodness, nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes. And who can doubt or contest the fact that ‘fresh’ definitely tastes better too.

I just wish more restauranteurs and chefs follow the lead. Worth a try definitely! Meanwhile, I took away some herb seeds from their farm and am now waiting for them to grow up (on my mini balcony farm) for me to be able to pluck them at will for my soups and sautés soon. You should begin your mini farm too.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

Chickpeas Are Deliciously Good For You!

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are the big daddy of legumes. Dating back to about 7500 years, these are eaten extensively across the world. And for a good reason!

Both kinds of chickpeas – desi (Bengal gram or kala chana) and kabuli (safed chana) are nutrition powerhouses: 1/2 cup cooked (80 gm) will give about 130 calories, 7 gm protein (a great source for vegetarians), 6.5 gm fibre and multiple vitamins and minerals. By the way, bet you don’t know that chana dal is split chickpea with the skin removed!

They are loaded with fibre, which helps fill up with less; so you stay full for long with these. In fact some research shows that urge to snack is lower after eating chickpeas and they help lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, so they are cardio protective. Desi chickpeas score better than Kabulis in terms of fibre content and thus have a very low glycemic index.

They are packed with antioxidants – vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene, and also with immune protecting minerals, copper and zinc along with the hard to find manganese too (1 cup gives 40 mg, almost half our daily requirement). Here too the desi variety with its thicker seed coat stores greater concentrations.

There’s more good news: according to some reports the phytoestrogens in chickpeas help protect against osteoporosis and lower the risk of breast cancer. Basically when beneficial bacteria in our gut ferment chickpea fiber, a metabolite called butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acid is produced. Butyrate is down to induce apoptosis (self-destruction) of cancerous cells.

Plus all you insomniacs out there please note that as chickpeas are a high tryptophan food, they can help calm your mind and lull you into deep sleep too.

Eat em

Definitely make a nice spicy chickpea curry and pair it with rice. After all who doesn’t like chhole chawal! But get a little experimental too (they are very versatile, try them): add them to salads and soups, roast them (drizzle olive oil, roast at 400 F for 30/40 minutes, add salt) try falafel and hummus.

Hummus Recipe 

  • Soak 1.5 cups of chickpeas for 4-5 hours and then pressure cook for 2-3 whistles (till they become soft enough to grind in a mixer/grinder).
  • Cool and grind them with 3 garlic cloves, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp red chili powder, 1/4th cup sesame seeds and salt to taste.
  • Add 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp olive oil, mix and set aside. Also try sprouted chickpeas (their nutrients skyrocket this way).

And definitely try this Lebanese-ish recipe I learnt from a foodie friend of mine and make pretty often: mash leftover chhole to make miniature tikkis you can grill in the OTG or pan-fry till golden. Add matchsticks of carrots, radish and beet with a splash of vinegar and dig in.

By the way, in Philippines chickpeas preserved in syrup are eaten as a dessert. That’s a great idea too. But whichever way, I say try to have half a cup of cooked chickpeas thrice a week at least.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

Oodles Of Noodles And A Pasta Recipe

I have never understood the flak noodles getall the time. Agreed it is a high carbohydrate food, but who says carbs are bad – we need them for energy after all and grains do provide nutrients like B complex and multiple minerals that we anyways dont get to eat enough of. And let’s be clear, here I am not talking about the preservative laden instant noodles, or even about the oil dripping roadside stalls gooey stuff. I am talking about simple dishes that are cooked with noodles (and other pastas) the way they should be – with lots of colourful vegetables and if possible even a source of protein. Eaten this way they are simply a variant or rather a combined version of our Indian roti-sabzi (instead of having it separately, here you mix everything together to create one wholesome dish and chomp it happily) and a nice change if nothing else; plus extremely convenient to put together.  

What I also like about them is that they can be made in many-many ways and taste different each time, and are a wonderful vehicle to ensure loads of fibre (opt for whole grain pasta and add lots of veggies), calcium (cheese, cottage cheese), protein (meat, egg, tofu), and difficult to find micronutrients (add roasted seeds, nuts and herbs) in our diet. Also you’ll be surprised to learn that pastas that are classically made with a rich tomato sauce deliver (thanks to the tomato) loads of an antioxidant called lycopene, which helps in protecting us from heart disease, cancer, asthma and even cataracts.

Of course, what goes without saying is that portion control is most important (like for any other food). Eating huge portions smothered with highly calorific cheese or a heavy cream sauce will obviously lead to expanding waistlines.

Still worried about the carbs, or have a reason to reduce them from your diet? Then check out this interesting new trend of transforming vegetables into pasta-like noodles. I find them super exciting and think that these nutrient-rich pasta-imposters are a wonderful way to eat more vegetables – and yes they can help you cut down on calories and refined grains, if that is so important to you. Apparently there is a spiralizing machine which helps do that but lot of people make do with simple peelers to make vegetable juliennes and turn carrots, turnips, beets and zucchini into noodles, actually called zoodles. Then you simply top them with a sauce of choice (I love pesto) and dig in or use as a base for a salad or casserole instead of spaghetti.

Finally I am sharing a fabulous (and my favorite pasta recipe) from my book Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People for you to try minus any guilt (it’s loaded with goodness, and is super-super tasty).

Pasta with Chickpeas and Spinach 

  • Boil half cup pasta (or 150 gm spaghetti or noodles). Keep aside.
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil (or any oil), add 1 sliced onion and salt to taste. Next add 1 tsp sliced garlic. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes and then transfer to a plate and keep aside.
  • Put 100 gm baby spinach, 1/2 cup boiled chickpeas (channa white) and 1 cup water and 1 chopped tomato in a pan. Simmer till spinach is done. Add pasta, salt, black pepper and red chili flakes to it. Toss till coated. Serve combined with the onion mix made earlier.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan