It's the season of leafy greens and our grocery stores are teeming of various different types of nutritious vegetables. Some of the most common ones abundantly used in Indian kitchens are palak, methi, bathua, mustard greens, radish leaves etc. Be it curries, stuffed parathas or dry mixed vegetables, there are numerous dishes that are made from winter greens. Greens can also be added to salads to lend some seasonal nutrition to your diet. They can also be made into soothing soups that are just perfect for winters. Spinach is widely used as an ingredient in creamy soups that can be enjoyed as meals during winters. We give you some delicious spinach soup recipes that can help you brave the cold outside. But let's look at the rich nutritional profile of this quintessential winter green.
Spinach Nutrition: Facts and Benefits
Spinach is very low in calories. In fact, it is one of the most nutritious negative calorie foods out there. A 100 gram portion of the vegetable provides just 23 calories (as per data by the United States Department of Agriculture). It is extremely rich in vitamins and minerals, most notably beta-carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9 (folate) and Vitamin K, as well as iron, magnesium and manganese. The leafy green is known to help maintain eye health and improve the health of bones. Spinach is also said to regulate blood pressure and fight inflammation in the body.
Winter Diet: Spinach Soup recipes
1. Spinach Cauliflower Soup Recipe
Two nutritious low-calorie vegetables come together to make this amazingly nutritious recipe. Spinach and cauliflower florets are simmered in a stock with onions, until the vegetables are soft. The veggies are blended together and mixed with seasonings and skimmed milk.
2. Spinach Soup With Spicy Chickpeas Recipe
This unique combination of spinach and chickpeas is filling and sumptuous. Onions are cooked along with chickpeas and then further cooked again in water that chickpeas were soaked in. Once this is done, all the ingredients are allowed to cool down, blended together and then garnished with cream and black sesame seeds.
3. Chicken Spinach Soup Recipe
Add some protein power to your spinach soup meal with this simple recipe. Minced chicken is mixed with green onions, ginger, garlic, shredded carrots, an egg for binding and some seasoning, to make balls that are first chilled in the fridge and then boiled with the soup stock until they are cooked. You can then add vegetables of your choice, along with spinach leaves and cook everything together for a satiating meal.
4. Spiced Spinach Soup With Paneer Croutons Recipe
Bread croutons are passe. Paneer or cottage cheese is used as a healthier substitute in this recipe. The recipe uses three important winter greens- spinach, dill and fenugreek leaves to prepare this wholesome soup that is nutritious and delicious.
"Take the bitter with the sweet" need not necessarily be a metaphoric piece of advice. Bitter foods are not just healthy but can be delicious too and it is just as well that they seem to be now trending the world over with the hipsters. In India, Ayurveda-based food traditions have always recognised bitter foods as part of a complete meal. Of the six tastes that this "science of food and medicine" ostensibly recognises, bitter is an important one - said to be "airy and light", especially benefitting people with dominant pitta and kapha, and lowering these "doshas". Bitter, however, is different from pungent foods, which are a class in themselves in Ayurveda and include the likes of chillies and mustard, both of which also have elements of bitterness.Since bitter foods are thought of as cleansing and important to boosting metabolism in many regional food traditions, they are mandatorily included in traditional meals. A fine example is Bengali food, perhaps the only cuisine in India eaten in courses. It is always the bitter - shukto - made up of ingredients such as bitter gourd or neem leaves that is served first as a palate cleanser of sorts and as a course to boost appetite.
In different parts of India similar preparations and traditions using bitter flavours abound. In fact, neem leaves with a little honey and black pepper mixed into them to cut the bitter and have a juxtaposition of different flavours are supposed to be the first thing you eat on new year day in many regional cultures. The symbolism is obvious-imbibing all the different flavours of life in the year to come. But it's also true that neem bitters are supposed to have a therapeutic effect in folk medicine and are hence eaten to ward off disease.
Bitter Gourd or Karela
One of my favourite vegetables is the bitter gourd - karela. One of the oldest "Indian" vegetables around (it is thought to have originated in the subcontinent), the bitter gourd belongs to the melon/cucumber family and is a typical summer vegetable in many parts of the country. In Kerala, it can be stir fried with the sweetish coconut to cut through the bitter, and be included as a side dish. But in UP and other parts of northern India, it is a delicacy in its own right.
Karela, with its skin scraped off and salt rubbed into it to leech out the bitterness, is stuffed with mince in many Mughalai-based traditions. The vegetarian equivalent of the Bharwan Karela, stuffed bitter gourd, in my Kayasth home has always been the gourd stuffed with browned onions. This is carefully spiced with fennel and amchoor, spices and flavours that tone down the bitterness (the sourness of the amchoordoes that and fennel has a faintly sweet aroma) but don't drown it. This is exactly the way so many Indian dishes are artfully constructed - with contrasting flavours that highlight one particular one in a delicate balance.
Bitter gourd, of course, is also thought to be medicinal. It is low in calories and good for weight loss, it has antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins like C and A. Folk medicines ascribe almost miraculous benefits to it - from anti-ageing to cure for cancer though none of this has been conclusively proven. Finally, there are also the anti-diabetic properties of Karela. A hypoglycemic agent called Charantin present in it is supposed to be able to regulate blood sugar levels and act as a substitute for insulin.
A host of other bitter foods like chocolate, leafy greens like nettle, turmeric and so on are all equally thought to be superfoods boosting our metabolism, preventing ageing, fighting infections and improving moods and vitality. Nettle soup, now being rediscovered as a lost recipe in many parts of the world, in fact is common in the Himalayan belt. Cuisine from Garhwal has it as a nutritious part of its repertoire.
Then there is fenugreek, used both as leaves and as dried seeds in many cooking traditions. As the name suggests, it came from Greece to the Subcontinent, where we found good and varied uses for it. Not only are methi greens a cheap and common source of nutrition in northern India in the winter months but the dried seeds - methi dana - is a favoured spice in many curries.
Sour and bitter as a flavour combination works in many Indian dishes. The typical old Delhi potato curry is an example, tangy with a hint of bitter that is imparted through the use of methi seeds. The use of this spice distinguishes the curry-scooped up with hot bedmi of old Delhi from its cousins in other parts of India, where the dominant spice may be different.
Many bitter foods such as these greens, cacao, and bitter melon contain sulfur, along with fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). All these are thought to benefit the liver and help in the production of bile, the enzyme that helps us digest food. It's just as well that modern food trends too are no longer shying away from the bitter.
Edible fungi mushrooms have been consumed by humans for centuries. These nutrient-dense foods have innumerous varieties and although their popularity depends on the price and availability, mushrooms are generally considered healthy. The popularity of edible mushrooms also depends on the absence of toxins and how enticing the taste and smell of certain mushroom species is. From the most common white mushrooms to the prized and rare truffles, a range of mushrooms are consumed around the world, not just for their creamy, earthy flavour, but also because of their numerous health benefits, that many of us are aware of.
Mushrooms have increasingly come to be categorised as vegetable, although some vegetarians may still not consider consuming them, due to their soft, meat-like texture. They are added to numerous dishes like pastas, pizzas, burgers, patties, quiches and omelettes etc., but not all of these dishes are very healthy. However, there are some healthy ways of including mushrooms in your diet, without adding empty calories to your meals. Mushrooms can enhance the taste of any dish they are added to, due to their creamy flavour. Let's look at some of the health benefits of mushrooms, before we move on to healthy ways of adding them to our diets.
Mushroom Nutrition Facts And Values
White mushrooms are extremely low in calories- a 100 gm of the fungi packs just 22 calories! They also contain negligible fat and cholesterol, but are rather rich in protein (3.1 gm per 100 gm) and healthy carbohydrates (3.3 gm of carbs per 100 gm), according to data by United States Department of Agriculture. They also contain iron, magnesium and Vitamins C, D and B-6. They are also rich in potassium, which is an important nutrient for maintaining heart and brain health, as well as promote weight loss.
They help maintain health of the nervous system, due to the presence of potassium in them.
1. Mushrooms may also help bring blood pressure levels under control, due to the presence of high levels of potassium and low levels of sodium.
2. Mushrooms may even help diabetics regulate blood sugar levels, due to the presence of chromium in them.
3. Mushrooms are great for promoting weight loss, on account of being low in calories and rich in protein. They also have good water content.
How To Add Mushroom To Your Diet In Healthy Way
1. Creamy Sauces
Mushrooms can make your sauces and gravies creamy and eliminate the need for you to add cream or milk. Add a paste of mushrooms instead of your regular cream to your pastas or any other dish and enjoy them guilt free!
2. Mushroom Coffee
A lot of people are now adding mushroom supplements and powders to their morning coffee, to reap the health benefits of these nutritional powerhouses. Coffee purists may crinkle their noses at the prospect of adding mushroom to their cuppa, but it may be a quick way of adding it to your diet.
3. Mushroom Soups
Make soups using mushrooms or add them to your soup broth to make them more nutrient-rich.
4. Mushroom Stir-Fry
A side of vegetable along with your favourite protein makes for a complete and wholesome meal. You can stir-fry mushrooms, along with a number of vegetables including broccoli, beans, sweet peppers etc., and enjoy along with your choice of white or red meats.
Diet is linked with not just the physical health of our body, but it is also linked with our mental and emotional health. Research has established this link between what we eat and our emotions, proving that consuming certain foods may help us stay chirpy, fresh and alert, while some others may lead to mood swings, depressive symptoms and sluggishness. A new study has said that diet can affect the emotional well-being of a person, especially in women. The study has suggested that women may need to consume a more nutrient-rich diet as compared to men, in order to maintain their emotional health. Health experts have maintained that men and women have different dietary needs.
The study was published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience and it was conducted by the researchers at Binghamton University. There is evidence to suggest that anatomical differences in the brains of men and women dictate their predisposition to mental illnesses. However, there isn't much research into the connection between dietary patterns and gender-specific psychological well-being. The study looked at the results of an anonymous online survey of 563 participants. The survey was conducted through social media to analyse the issue. And 48 per cent of the participants were men and 52 per cent were women.
The researchers found that while men are more likely to experience emotional well-being until such time as dietary deficiencies may arise, it's the other way round for women. In order to able to maintain themselves in good emotional health, women need to consume a healthy diet. Lead author Lina Begdache, assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University said, "The biggest takeaway is that women may need a larger spectrum of nutrients to support mood, compared to men. These findings may explain the reason why women are twice more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression and suffer from longer episodes, compared to men. Today's diet is high in energy but poor in key nutrients that support brain anatomy and functionality."
She added by saying, "Males and females had different physical and emotional responsibilities that may have necessitated different energy requirements and food preference. Gender-based differential food and energy intake may explain the differential brain volumes and connectivity between females and males. Therefore, a potential mismatch is happening between our contemporary diet and the evolved human brain which is disturbing the normal functionality of certain systems in the brain."
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition where the pressure of blood against the walls of vessels is persistently elevated. A blood pressure close to 120/90 is considered normal and is considered high when it crosses 140/90. There are millions of cases of hypertension reported every year and it can last for years or can even be life-long. What makes hypertension a serious condition is that it often has no symptoms, and if left untreated over a long period of time, it may lead to serious health conditions like heart disease and strokes. Hypertension patients have to take special care of their daily meals and follow a strict high blood pressure diet to manage symptoms of the condition. This season demands that BP patients include healthy summer drinks in their diet.
Adding certain foods and drinks to your daily diet may help regulate symptoms of hypertension. Ideally, high blood pressure patients should eat foods that are low in sodium and saturated fat content and rich in fibre. Eating low-calorie and low-fat nutrient-rich foods and drinks may work wonders for hypertension patients, and during summers, one such BP-friendly drink is coconut water.
Hypertension Diet: Coconut Water For High BP
Coconut water is one of the healthiest summer drinks out there. The translucent liquid that is collected inside a green coconut is widely consumed as a thirst-quencher around the world. However, drinking it daily may have special benefits for hypertension patients. Here's why:
1. Low In Calories
A 100 ml of coconut water contains just 19 calories (according to the United States Department of Agriculture) and no fat or cholesterol.
2. Rich In Potassium
One of the most important minerals for hypertension patients who normally consume salty diet is potassium, which balances out the negative effects of salt. Coconut water contains 250 mg of potassium per 100 ml.
3. Reduces Blood Cholesterol
Blood cholesterol and high blood pressure are linked, as the hardening of arteries can put a strain on the heart by pushing it harder to pump blood. This raises the BP. Coconut water is said to reduce levels of triglycerides and blood cholesterol, thus helping hypertension patients.
A number of studies conducted on the health benefits of coconut water have proven that the drink is not just deliciously hydrating and filled with electrolytes, but may also be quite healthy for high blood pressure patients. Adding chilled coconut water to your hypertension diet this summer may help you improve your BP readings.