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Ajwain, or carom seeds, are very common in Indian households. The aromatic seeds are used in adding flavour to a number of desi drinks, curries and even breads like parathas. It is also revered in Ayurveda for its numerous health benefits. But not a lot of people know about ajwain leaves. Although these leaves come from different plant as the true ajwain plant, the succulent leaves are still known as ajwain leaves in the Indian subcontinent. The plant that the leaves are a part of is also known as the 'Indian Borage,' which is also called the ajwain plant sometimes. The leaves of this plant are the real stars. They are bright green in colour and are broad and pulpy. They have a layer of very fine and soft hair atop them, and you can access these leaves by buying a pot of the Indian Borage at any nursery or botanists. The reason these leaves are known as ajwain leaves, despite being a part of a completely different plant, is that they have a smell that is similar to that of carom seeds. In Kannada, the plant is known as 'saveer sambar soppu,' which literally translates to 'thousand utility leaf.' The scientific name of the plant is 'Plectranthus Amboinicus' and can easily be grown at home or in your kitchen garden. The leaves have a number of uses and can be added to dishes of your choice to add a distinctive flavour and taste to them.

Incredible Uses And Benefits Of Ajwain Leaves

Ajwain Leaves Can Be Put To The Following Uses:

1. To Cure Cold And Cough:
Ajwain leaves can be boiled with water and made into a warm concoction to remedy persistent cold and cough. If you have a pesky cold and cough, take some 10 or 12 ajwain leaves, clean them with water and then add them to a glass of water and put it to boil on a low flame. Allow the decoction to boil, until the water is reduced to about three-fourths of its original quantity. Take it off the heat, allow it to cool down a bit and then drink it for relief from cold and cough. Add a little honey to it, if you like.

2. Use It To Make Pakodas:
Ajwain leaves can be added to a spiced besan (gram flour) batter and then deep-fried to make delicious and flavourful pakodas, which are known as omavalli bajji. These pakodas can be enjoyed hot with ketchup or any other yogurt dip. Also try this recipe of ajwain chakli.

3. To Make Chutneys And Dips:
Ajwain leaves can be sautéed ground and then added to some creamy yogurt to make a delicious and flavourful dip. Alternatively, make some fresh ajwain leaves chutney by throwing it in the grinder with some water and spices of your choice. The chutney can be enjoyed with pakodas, chips, crisps or even with parathas.

4. To Make Refreshing Green Juices:
You can add ajwain leaves to any fruit or vegetable juice of your choice to add flavour and nutrition to the drinks. You can add them to any green juice of your choice to make it more palatable and flavourful.

Ajwain leaves are said to have a number of health benefits, including remedying stomach problems and for improving appetite and digestion. Bring these amazing leaves into your daily use to enhance taste and flavour of everyday dishes and for everyday home remedies.

A bowl of fresh, creamy and homemade yogurt is one of the simplest food joys. This wonder dairy product can make for a dish itself with fruits or chopped onions and tomatoes or it can be blended into smoothies, used to add texture to your curries or make your breakfast cereal wholesome. It is very convenient for us pair yogurt with our daily meals but have we ever wondered about the amazing health benefits that we can enjoy by having a bowl of curd or yogurt every day? Yogurt comes from milk and therefore, it is loaded with several essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-12, potassium, and magnesium. An advantage with yogurt is that it is light on the stomach and easier to digest than milk. If you didn’t know, here are six impressive health benefits of curd.
Here are some incredible health benefits of curd:

1. Good for digestion: Yogurt or curd is a great probiotic (an ingredient that contains live bacteria). These good and beneficial bacteria are known to improve gut activity, soothe inflamed digestive systems and treat an upset stomach.

2. Stronger immunity: The live active cultures found in yogurt fight disease-causing germs and keep your gut and intestinal tract protected. A scientific study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Vienna in Austria found that eating a 7-ounce dose of yogurt (about 200 grams) was just as effective in boosting immunity as popping pills.

3. Beautiful and healthy skin: Curd has a moisturizing effect on your skin and it heals your dry skin naturally. A lot of people suffer from acne due to certain gastrointestinal problems. Curd helps in marinating a happy and active gut which leads to healthy skin. Yogurt is an excellent beauty ingredient for face packs too as it contains lactic acid that acts as an exfoliator and clears off all dead cells and blemishes.

4. Reduces high blood pressure: A research presented at the High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association (AHA) showed that people who ate more non-fat yogurt were 31 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than others. The special proteins in yogurt along with nutrients like potassium and magnesium help in lowering high blood pressure and promoting a healthy heart.

5. Prevents Vaginal Infections: Yogurt may be particularly good for women as it helps in discouraging the growth of yeast infections. The lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria found in yogurt is known to control the growth of infection in the body and kill the yeast by kills by producing hydrogen peroxide.

6. Good for the bones: A cup of yogurt (250grams) contains about 275mg of calcium as per the United States Department of Agriculture. A daily dose of calcium not only helps in maintaining bone density but also strengthens them. It is low in fat and calories and thus, may also help in keeping your weight in check.

Curd is full of calcium, vitamin D, protein and healthy gut bacteria. There is no doubt that curd is full of nutrition and will benefit you if you include it in your daily diet. You can team a bowl of yogurt with fresh fruits or seeds like flaxseeds and sunflower seeds to add an extra dose of fiber along with all the other nutrients that it provides.

Tea is one of the most popular caffeinated beverages around the world. The drink has a lot of varieties and the level of caffeine in each varies. At the same time, it has got a wide, almost universal appeal, even though the preparations and recipes differ. There has been some scattered evidence indicating benefits of drinking tea, including some studies talking about tea's benefits for the brain. A new study has looked at the impact of regular consumption of tea on the structure of our brains, specifically. The study has said that regular tea drinkers may have an advantage over non-drinkers, wherein they may have a better brain structure. The study indicated that drinking tea may result in greater functional and structural connectivity in the brain.

The study titled, "Habitual tea drinking modulates brain efficiency: evidence from brain connectivity evaluation" was published in the journal Aging. For the study, a group of participants was asked to fill out questionnaires about tea-drinking habits, which spelled out how often they consumed different types of teas. The participants were of the age of 60 or above and each provided details of their psychological health, daily lifestyle and overall health. The participants were then divided into two groups- tea drinkers and non-tea-drinkers and were made to undergo MRI scans. They were also put through a battery of tests.

The scientists saw a significant difference of connectivity between the tea drinkers and non-tea drinkers. The research was focused on the Default Mode Network (DMN), which is a large network connecting various parts of the brain. The study report said, "The observations in this study partially support the hypothesis that tea drinking has positive effects on brain organization and gives rise to greater efficiency in functional and structural connectivities due to increased global network efficiency found in the brain structure of tea drinkers, but no significant enhancement in functional connectivity. As hypothesised, tea drinking leads to less leftward asymmetry in structural connectivity between hemispheres."

However, the study was a very small-scale one, since the number of participants totaled just 36 people and the number of females was just six. Therefore, the results of this study may be taken with a pinch of salt.

Come winter and Gujarat bursts with delicious delicacies, from Papdi to Sonth Gol, Saalam Pak to Adadiyu and so much more. But what makes winters more special for Gujaratis is devouring on a winter special millet called Ponk or Paunk, which is a specialty of Surat. These green delights are used to make amazing warm winter snacks, especially their favourite limbu-mari ni sev (lemon and sev). Paunk is made from tender roasted sorghum grains mixed with other ingredients to make a delectable snack. Interestingly, paunk is available only during cold winter months, from November through February.According to Ms. Pinky Dixt from Soam Restaurant, Mumbai, "Paunk is a jowar millet that is freshly harvested; it is green and dry and is generally roasted to make snacks popular in Surat. You can also find the same in Maharashtra, which is known as Hurda. Hurda is made with onion, garlic chutney, and spices along with these millets and served with Chhaach. Paunk is very tender and is lightly roasted to make yummy snacks in order to welcome winters." Paunk is ideally not allowed to grow fully and as a result it remains soft. It is roasted under ashes, husked and eaten raw.

Apart from being served with chutney and sev, vadas are made using paunk that are gorged on along with hot cup of tea for breakfast. Paunk can not only be added to salads, pulao and samosas, but also makes for a great ingredient for kheer, bhel puri, patties and other snacks.

The process of cleaning paunk after harvesting

After harvesting the paunk, the farmers ensure that the grains are clean after removing husk and residue on the millet. Once these are clean, they are beaten in pillow covers to separate the paunk seeds, which are again cleaned properly and given the final polish and sold off.

How to store paunk?

Paunk is available during winters, but you can definitely enjoy it for longer if it is stored well. So, all you need to do is to buy paunk in large quantities and store the fresh stock in zip pouches or vegetable bags and keep them in the freezer. This can be stored for about two to three months.

The simplest snack recipe made with paunk is Gujarat's favourite limbu mari ni sev. It is very easy to make. Take a bowlful of paunk and add two teaspoons of lemon juice, now add half a teaspoon of red chilli powder (optional) and salt to taste and top it with sev. You can easily create your own renditions and enjoy it with a cup of tea in the evening. If you wish to make the Maharashtrian specialty Hurda, you can add chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic chutney or imli (tamarind) chutney, with lemon juice and chaat masala topped with sev and fresh coriander leaves. Don't forget to roast the paunk!

If you haven't tried paunk, it is the perfect time to get your hands on it and enjoy it as a winter snack.

Butter can make anything taste better. From sandwiches and pizzas to cakes, brownies and even chapatis and parathas, butter can liven up the taste of any food. A lot of people use this creamy dairy product as their favoured grease for cooking, grilling, basting or frying various foods. Butter is also used in making sauces and cake frosting, as well as pan-frying and roasting food and snacks. It seems to be all-pervasive in cooking and baking and is one of the most important and widely available milk products out there. Whether you like to spread it on breads and sandwiches, or like to use it instead of oil for cooking, butter is an essential ingredient that all functional kitchens have a stock of.

But there are plenty of reasons that one may want to move away from the use of butter in cooking and baking. A lot of people are allergic to dairy and dairy products and may not be able to use butter in cooking and baking. Too much butter in food is a cause for concern for a lot of people suffering from or are susceptible to cardiovascular diseases or high blood pressure. Butter is extremely high in saturated fat, which may clog up arteries and lead to plaque build-up when consumed daily and in excess. Moreover, a lot of commercially available butter brands contain too much salt and artificial flavour.

Here are three alternatives or healthier substitutes to butter that you may use while cooking and baking:
1. Ghee
Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is heated to 120 degrees C after the water is evaporated, turning the milk solids brown. This process enhances the rich flavour of ghee and is also said to increase the level of antioxidants in it. Ghee can be used exactly like butter for grilling and roasting, but may have more moisture than butter when used in baking, so you may need to alter the ratio of liquid to flour in cookies and cakes. However, even ghee is rich in saturated fats and must be used judiciously while cooking on a daily basis.

2. Coconut Oil
Recently hailed as a superfood, coconut oil has been used for cooking in Asian cuisines for centuries now. Coconut oil is said to have a number of health benefits, including suppression of appetite and an improvement in level of High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol. Coconut oil is also said to improve immunity by killing harmful micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses, due to the presence of lauric acid in it. The only downside to coconut oil is the strong 'coconutty' flavour and taste that it comes with and that takes time to get used to. However, due to the high viscosity of coconut oil, it can used in a 1:1 ratio in the place of butter.

3. Olive Oil
For the longest time, olive oil has been considered as one of the healthiest cooking oils out there and it can be used to replace butter as grease as well. It contains high amounts of antioxidants, due to which it has anti-inflammatory properties. Olive oil is a rich source of healthy fats, which is also said to offer protective benefits for the heart. For every cup of butter that you may use in a recipe, you may replace it with three-fourth cup of olive oil. Since olive oil is liquid, your baking recipes may require some adjustments in order to accommodate olive oil in the place of butter. But wherever you need to use butter as grease to cook foods, olive oil may function exactly like butter.

Dr. Rajendra kadam
Dr. Rajendra kadam
BAMS, Ayurveda, 10 yrs, Pune
Dr. Khushbu Kolte
Dr. Khushbu Kolte
BDS, Dentist Cosmetic and Aesthetic Dentist, 8 yrs, Pune
Dr. Vishakha  Bhalerao
Dr. Vishakha Bhalerao
BHMS, Homeopath Family Physician, 17 yrs, Pune
Dr. Rashmi Mathur
Dr. Rashmi Mathur
BPTh, Physiotherapist Homecare Physiotherapist, 5 yrs, Pune
Dr. Ashwini Hirekar
Dr. Ashwini Hirekar
BHMS, Homeopath Family Physician, 4 yrs, Mumbai Suburban