Fundas of food fads
Diet trends have recently surfaced in the wake of COVID-19. Based on her expertise, Naini Setalvad guides us as to which of these we should adopt.
2021—the year of food and flu. Simultaneous to the rise in COVID cases was a rise in dietary advice, kitchen experiments, and healthy food. Every few days, newspapers, magazines, and social media would present to you the newest food trend or health fad that you have been missing out on. But one must bear in mind that any new trend needs to be vetted and the pros and cons must be well understood before you dive in. So, let me ease your effort and give you the low-down on health food trends that hit the mark and those that missed it.
•Halim seeds: These seeds have been doing the internet rounds all of this year. Used as a natural galactagogue for ages, it increases milk production in lactating women and iron stores in the body. But most people miss one integral factor: it is a goitrogen, i.e., it interferes with the functioning of the thyroid glands. So, if you suffer from a thyroid disease or have a history of thyroid disease in the family, you must tread lightly.
• Carbohydrate replacements: I have been dealing with the carbohydrate policing for a while now, but this year, the trend only grew stronger. Your wholegrains are either being cut out or swapped with other alternatives. For example, bell peppers have superseded toast. Now that simply doesn’t make sense. Always keep in mind that carbohydrates are good for you; they are the primary energy source for your brain, providing the much-needed fibre and satiation. So don’t go down the replacement route.
• Pickling: This year was all about DIY kitchen trends, such as pickling, and I am all for that. In fact, I too tried my hand at my mother’s age-old pickling recipes. Not only are pickles simply delicious, but they also contain gut-friendly bacteria that improve digestive health and elevate your mood—much needed to deal with the work-from-home stress, wouldn’t you agree?
• Kadhas and tonics: Besides incessant online shopping, people have been obsessed with making kadhas (herbal concoctions). Don’t get me wrong; kadhas can be very good for your immunity, but you have to do them right. I have observed that people make their own concoctions, without paying heed to the combination of herbs and spices. Spices like cinnamon, for example, can produce a lot of heat in the body and burn through the lining of the stomach if in excess. So tread carefully. You may harm yourself while trying to do good.
• Home-made bread: Not only has this year made everyone a ‘MasterChef’ but also a pro-baker. From sourdough to pizza bases, everything can be made at home. I am all for this change. Eating homemade produce and making it yourself is not only better for your health but also very therapeutic. Cutting the additives and stabilisers, one can enjoy more authentic flavours. Using wholegrain flours like wheat, jowar (sorghum), barley, etc. in the place of processed flour improves your nutrition quotient. But do keep in mind that these are treats, to be had once in a while, in moderation.
• Flexitarian Diet: I believe sustainability is the only way forward. A plant-based diet is the need of the hour, but the change can be difficult for a few. A gradual shift to a plant-based diet is a more sustainable approach in my opinion. Limiting animal-based products to only a few meals a week and then gradually reducing the frequency is a method that has gained popularity this year.
• Added immunity: There are innumerable health products out there claiming to boost immunity- from chocolate drinks to biscuits. But beware, my dear friends, a lot of these products make baseless claims. When it comes to immunity powders, or churans, one must take a look at the ingredients. They contain high levels of sugar and lead, and heaty herbs. I would suggest you stick to immunity-boosting foods that are a regular feature of our daily Indian cooking.
• Cold-brew coffee: The whiff of coffee can invigorate the body in minutes, and this year, the air seemed to permanently carry its fragrance. Though conventional coffee will never lose its charm, this year belonged to cold brews. They are made by steeping ground coffee in room temperature water for over 20 hours. The properties of cold brew are quite similar to those of normal coffee, except that it can be approximately 66 per cent less acidic than its hot counterpart. This also prevents one from adding excess sugar and milk to mask the bitter undertones. So, if you too are a coffee lover, then this one is a must-try. Just be cautious of not over-caffeinating yourself.
Bear in mind, trends don’t last too long. It is always better to choose the timeless food option—fresh, local, and seasonal.
Carrot Ginger Pickle Recipe
500 gm carrots cut into sticks
25 gm or 6 green chillies slit and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
25 gm or 2-inch piece ginger cut into thin 1 ½ inch long sticks
3 tbsps split mustard seeds (rai ka kuria)
¼ cup red chilli powder
2 tbsps salt
2 tbsps tamarind pulp
¾ cup mustard oil
Water for cooking carrots
• Bring the water to a rolling boil in a saucepan on high heat. Once it starts boiling, add carrots and cook for exactly 2 minutes. Drain the water immediately.
• Spread the carrot sticks on a clean kitchen towel and let them dry out completely. If you have access to the sun then you can keep them in direct sunlight for 1 hour or let them dry at room temperature on the kitchen counter for 1 day or overnight. If in a rush, pat dry with a paper towel.
• Mix rai ka kuria, red chilli powder, and salt in a bowl.
• Add tamarind pulp, oil, and mix with pickle masala.
• Add dried carrots, chillies, and ginger, and mix well.
• Cover the bowl and let it mature for 1 day in the refrigerator.
• The carrot pickle will taste better and better after a few days of maturing.
• Store in an airtight, clean, dry glass jar or container.
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