I recently had a conversation with a friend regarding the new superfood “chia seeds”. Well, I was intrigued – she told me it was a power pack of calcium, vegetarian protein and releases water slowly upon digestion, enabling sustained high intensity work outs.
Sounds excellent, Aldo!
So I Googled and the images that came up seemed very familiar and upon looking up a translation, I realised that chia seeds are nothing other than our very own falooda or sabja. Andhra-ites consume it in milk shakes during summers apparently. Maharashtrians use it with kulfi and call it falooda. Available at a fraction of the cost at my trusty bania as compared to the lofty super markets.
The really weird thing is that we are willing to spend a bomb on these so-called “super-foods”, where as many of these already exist in your pantry. Ok, if not in your pantry, then definitely in your nearest kirane ki dukaan. And for those that aren’t readily available, there are perfectly good nutritional and taste substitutes.
(FYI, Superfood is a marketing term, not a technical nutrition term. It is used to describe foods with supposed health benefits. The word ‘supposed’ is key as many dietitians and nutrition scientists actually dispute that particular foods have the health benefits often claimed by their advocates.)
So here goes – a list of “super foods” (and sometimes, their substitutes) that you can choose to incorporate into your diet.
From my kirana wala to yours.
- Chia Seeds: You can find nutritional information here. It is called sabja or falooda in most of India. I use these with milk and honey to make a no-cook, sticky, sabudana kind of pudding.
- Flaxseeds: You can find nutritional information here. It is called alsi in India. I grind and use it in breads and add roasted seeds to salads. They are delicious.
- Black beans: You can find nutritional information here. Now, this is called kale sem, but admittedly, I haven’t seen them very commonly. However, black beans are a part of Kashmiri cuisine. So pile onto your Kashmiri friend to figure out their source. In any case, our beloved rajma (kidney beans) is a great substitute as far as nutrition is concerned. And tastier as well, at least according to me. Chithriwale rajma or pinto beans (those paler beans with red dots on them) are good too, and closer in taste to black beans.
- Grapefruit: You can find nutritional information here. It is called chakotra in hindi. While chakotra is still available in the northern parts of India, you can substitute it with tangerines or kinu for similar benefits.
- Pine nuts: You can find nutritional information here. They are called chilgoja or chilgoza in Hindi. Personally, I love these, but they are a pain to peel and eat (there is a reason why you should peel and eat, rather than buy peeled ones. And price is just one factor. That’s a note for another post). Akhrot (Walnut – toasted or raw) are better in nutrition value and pack their own punch of flavour into most salads and pestos.
- Feta cheese: You can find nutritional information here. Well, this is called feta cheese even by your kirane wale bhaiya. But have you tried using salted paneer (cottage cheese) made from full fat (soured) milk? It is a pretty good, lower fat substitute for feta.
- Barley: You can find nutritional information here. Barley is nothing but good ol’ sattu!
- Amaranth: You can find nutritional information here. Amaranth is rajgira, available freely in local shops as a seed as well as a flour. In processed forms, you can find it in laddoos, chaklis and other muchies. Try substituting rajgira for quinoa. Your pocket will feel better immediately. I have a recipe for rajgira rotis or flat bread here.
Whew! Well. This is a beginner’s guide. I will keep adding to this list as I come across more “super foods”. Till then,