Every country in the world has its own unique culture, especially regarding food. The food represents the country’s rich culture and tradition. Moreover, food represents the country’s farming expertise and ancient taste preferences. While the average Indian diet remains primarily healthy, the consumption of less nutritious, processed products has also increased with the modernisation and fast-paced life. Therefore, to revive the traditional Indian foods, the article is solely dedicated to healthy and nutritious dishes from India.
India is a country with a diverse culture. Culinary diversity is one of India’s treasures. It is common to praise the delicious rasam rice from the South and the healthy Kahwa from Jammu and Kashmir. However, besides such diversity in the Indian subcontinent, our foods offer many health benefits. India is the land of Ayurveda which offers nutritious and healthy foods that people love from all parts of the globe.
The diverse food choices in India also depend on the climate, culture, and tradition. For example, Kerala is the leading producer of coconut, with almost 46% of India’s total coconut production coming from Kerala. The extensive coconut farming in the region makes coconut an essential ingredient of their cuisine. However, the reason goes beyond agricultural production. Coconut is a healthy addition to your meals as it offers various health benefits. Similarly, different regions in India have other food preferences, which provide unique benefits.
Differences Between Northern and South Indian Food
The significant distinctions in India’s cuisine are between North Indian and South Indian Cuisine. The former has an abundance of ghee, fresh cream, and butter. On the other hand, the South’s delicacies make more use of chillies and spices and almost always include rice. Moreover, south Indian food tends to be spicier than northern. When it comes to southern curry, they use a lot of coconut oil and tamarind in their recipes. Unlike the north, where wheat is the staple product, the South heavily relies on rice.
South Indian food is healthier than northern Indian food as it uses less ghee (clarified butter) and offers more vegetarian and seafood options. The South relies heavily on coconut products, and the north uses a lot of yoghourts, butter, and cheese. As a result, South Indian food is healthier because it does not contain as much high-fat dairy.
Nutritious Dishes From Across India
Before getting into nutritious foods, it is essential to understand that they should align with your health goals. Different body types have different needs, and hence, your food choices should be as per your body’s requirements. For example, if you wish to lose weight, you should eat a high-protein, low-carb, and low-calorie meal. Similarly, if you have a medical condition, you should eat what your medical condition allows you to eat. However, the rich Indian culture offers highly nutritious foods, and the wide variety allows everyone to find many foods that would suit them.
Here is a list of the most nutritious and healthy Indian foods to fit into various meals.
Moong Dal Chilla (Moong Lentil Pancake)
Chilla is a famous Indian dish full of taste and looks like a pancake with a desi twist. This dish includes a lot of spices with chana flour as its primary ingredient. You can eat chilla with pickles or yoghurt. Alternatively, you can have chilla with sour cream also. Chilla can be a complete meal diet if combined with a few pieces of cucumber and tomatoes.
The primary ingredient in chilla is chickpea flour, also called besan. Alternatively, you can also use sprouted mung beans. Mung beans are legumes widely eaten in Asian countries.
Both chickpeas and mung beans are full of proteins. Due to the high protein content, chilla is a good choice for muscle building diets. However, it is hard to determine the exact nutritional properties of chilla because it includes multiple ingredients. Generally, people use besan as the primary ingredient, so let us look at the nutritional properties of chickpea flour.
The nutritional value for 100g of chickpea flour is as follows-
- Energy: 387 Kcal
- Protein: 22.4g
- Fat: 6.6g
- Carbohydrates: 57.7g
- Fibre: 10.8g
- Calcium: 45mg
- Iron: 4.86mg
- Sodium: 64mg
- Zinc: 2.8mg
Steamed Poha (Steamed Flattened Rice)
Poha is a popular nutritious breakfast dish across India. It is a fat-free dish full of carbohydrates, giving you the energy to work all day. Poha is easily digestible and a tasty meal. It has various health benefits and also has a decent nutrition index profile.
Poha is made up of flattened and flaked rice, first soaked in water and pat dry. After that, it pairs with onion, tomatoes, and spices. Poha becomes more delicious after adding peanuts and peas. It improves its texture and, needless to explain, the nutritional properties of poha. Due to multiple veggies added to it, it boosts the vitamin profile of prepared poha dishes. The primary ingredient used in this dish is rice flakes.
The nutritional value for 100g of rice flakes is as follows-
- Energy: 333 Kcal
- Protein: 6.67g
- Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 76.7g
- Fibre: 6.7g
- Calcium: 0mg
- Iron: 1.2mg
- Sodium: 67mg
Chole masala is a lunch or dinner food option with a healthy dose of nutrients. Chickpeas are a primary component, also known as chole. In addition, masala is a name given to spices added to it. Chickpeas make the dish protein-rich.
You can also eat chole masala with spiced tomato sauce or other sour sauces. Again, it boosts the taste of this dish. Often chole masala is paired with chapatis, bhatura, or naan. As proven by research, chickpeas contain nine amino acid profiles, making them a complete protein source. So, if you are a protein lover and work out in the gym, you can add chole masala to your protein diet. Apart from this, chickpeas have high fibre content.
The nutritional value for 1 cup (1 serving) of chole masala is as follows-
- Energy: 378 Kcal
- Protein: 20.5g
- Fat: 6.04g
- Carbohydrates: 63g
- Fibre: 12.2g
- Calcium: 57mg
- Iron: 4.31mg
- Sodium: 24mg
- Zinc: 2.76mg
Dal is a traditional dish all over India. A delicious and nutritious dish from across India. It is a fragrant lentil curry in which lentils are the primary ingredient. Research states that lentils are rich sources of protein and fibres. Also, lentils and legumes form a part of a high-protein diet for vegetarians.
In India, daal is a lunch or dinner food. Thoroughly prepared daal contains cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and other spices, including garam masala. Its high fibre content helps to keep your gut healthy. In comparison to legumes, lentils have high fibre content. Moong dal, masoor dal, and chana dal (chickpeas) are some primary forms of lentils used in dal. Daal is served with chapatis or naan.
The nutritional value for 100g of moong dal without the skin is as follows-
- Energy: 339 Kcal
- Protein: 25g
- Fat: 1.34g
- Carbohydrates: 58.04g
- Fibre: 27.7g
- Calcium: 36mg
- Iron: 4.02mg
- Sodium: 9mg
Alleppey Fish Curry
Alleppey fish curry is a famous south Indian dish. It is still well-known all over India. Alleppey fish curry is a particular type of curry with Kerala-style spices and a bit of tangy taste due to the presence of raw mangoes. In addition to the flavour, it has good nutritional properties also. It is prepared with tender fish as a primary ingredient along with creamy coconut milk.
It has various health benefits like improving heart health. In this curry, all ingredients used are not only to add taste but thankfully add nutrition to it. The primary ingredients used in Alleppey fish curry and their nutritional properties are as follows-
- Creamy coconut milk is a tasty liquid famous for its anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. A 2013 study says that having coconut milk or coconut kernels may help to reduce LDL. (LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein) Low LDL means a healthy heart.
- Raw mangoes- Raw mangoes in this curry help to give it a tangy taste. Raw mangoes are rich in various vitamins and minerals. USDA research says that 100g of raw mangoes contain 36.4mg of vitamin C, 35% of the daily value. Apart from this, it has very few calories, 60 Kcal per 100 grams.
Jalfrezi is a stir-fried curry that originated in Bengal. The meaning of jalfrezi is hot fry. Ingredients used in jalfrezi are meat, fish, paneer, and vegetables. The dish consists of a thick spicy sauce made up of green chillies. Jalfrezi is nowadays becoming popular in neighbouring countries also. Mainly in Bangladesh, Pakistan Jalfrezi is now in demand and liked by many people.
Many of us know this dish by its name and taste only. But do you know that jalfrezi is very nutritious and helps get essential macronutrients and micronutrients from our diet? The ingredients used in this dish have so many benefits. Let us have a look at how jalfrezi is a nutritional meal-
- Meat is a significant source of vitamin B and covers its five types. Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Meat is a good source of protein also.
- Fish is a rich source of omega3 fatty acids that keep your skin and hair healthy. In addition, it is rich in calcium and minerals such as iron and zinc.
- Paneer is a suitable milk derivative for diabetic patients. It also helps in the mental development of kids. In addition, it regulates cholesterol and BP. According to USDA data, a 100g paneer contains 21.43g of protein, so it also helps to add protein to your diet.
Masala bhindi is a fry of Okra vegetable, also known as Lady Finger, by English people. These are edible green seed pods that are very beneficial for health. You might have tasted masala bhindi at least once if you live in India. Masala Bhindi is prepared with fried tomatoes or tomato sauce and served with roti (chapati) or naan. Okra is rich in fibre and has various anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps in reversing and curing metabolic syndrome, as proven by a study.
The nutritional value for 100g of okra is as follows:
- Energy: 33 Kcal
- Protein: 1.93g
- Fat: 0.19g
- Carbohydrates: 7.45g
- Fibre: 3.2g
- Calcium: 82mg
- Iron: 0.62mg
- Sodium: 7mg
- Zinc: 0.58mg
Baingan bharta is made from grilled brinjal and mixed with tomatoes and onions. Principal ingredients used to make this are spices, tomatoes, garlic, and onions. It is one of the famous nutritious dishes from across India. Baingan bharta is often served with chapatis. In addition, it is a cholesterol-free dish, so diabetics and heart patients can also enjoy its taste, as reported by a study.
The nutritional value of a cup of baingan bharta (230 grams) is as follows-
- Energy: 112 Kcal
- Protein: g
- Fat: 5.6g
- Carbohydrates: 17g
- Sodium: 356 mg
- Potassium: 385mg
The Bottom Line
Indian culture has a variety of eating habits. Nowadays, the use of western food products is increasing. Every child wants food from Mcdonald’s or KFC. Even after being aware of the side effects of frozen food and fast food, we do not stop eating them. We should not forget about the health benefits of Indian foods and their nutritional value.
However, it is essential to choose your dishes wisely. If you decide on samosas, jalebi, and sweets and expect to become healthy, it may not happen as you wish. You need to check that the food you are going to eat has a good nutrition profile and is suitable for everyone. It should be easy to digest and delicious too. Some of the dishes like poha are good to start a day. Like this, there are many other dishes with their values and speciality.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are healthy foods in India?
A. The list of healthy food and dishes in India is very long. Indian food contains so many varieties of dishes. Some delicious foods with a healthy nutritional profile are dals, masala chole, baingan bharta, Masala bhindi, etc.
Q. What is India’s most famous dish?
A. In a country as diverse as India, it is difficult to say one particular dish as the most famous one. However, dal is the one that is a common household dish that is prepared almost every day, be it in north or south India. It also has an excellent nutritional profile. Tomato-based curries are famous both nationally and internationally. It is considered a comfort Indian food.
Q. How can I eat healthy as an everyday Indian?
A. There are some essential Indian foods that you should add to your daily diet chart. First, it is necessary to hit your body’s daily macro and micro requirements. For example, yoghurt or Dahi is a vitamin B-rich food you should add daily. Then, you can add the following items according to your requirement- leafy vegetables, eggs, pulses, rice and flour, paneer. These foods have a brilliant nutrition profile and also have a great taste.
Q. What are the excellent Indian dishes to order?
A. If you are planning an occasional meal and have less time to cook, you can also order something Indian from restaurants. Some popular dishes you can order can be Paratha, masala dosa, raita, dal, and baingan bharta. These foods have an adequate amount of macronutrients and do not have any unhealthy elements. So instead of ordering fast food online, you should try these.
Q. Which Indian food is good for dinner?
A. Masala bhindi and dal for vegans and low-fat butter chicken for non-veg lovers are excellent choices for dinner. After a long day, your body and mind get drained. It needs to be recovered by some proteins and other nutrients. So these two dishes are a perfect match for dinner.
Q. Which food gives us protein?
A. Eggs and chicken are the best sources of protein for non-veg lovers. However, if you prefer vegan dishes, you can go for tofu or chana (chickpeas), which have a decent amount of protein.
Q. Which curry is most healthy?
A. The healthiest Indian curry is vegetable curry. However, suppose you want some more protein, then you can go for jalfrezi or chicken curry. These options are very delicious and loved by everyone. These have an excellent nutritional profile and are among the most nutritious dishes from across India.
Q. Is Indian food healthier than American food?
A. If it is about food, then definitely Indian food is healthier than American food. Some fast food in American culture is part of a daily diet. If we talk about Indian culture, most of our everyday dishes are healthy. However, Indian occasional dishes are unhealthy also, like samosas, sweets, and namkeens.
Q. Which Indian meal has the least calories?
A. If you are on a calorie-conscious diet, feel free to have the following low-calorie Indian foods- Dhokla, upma, bhel, cauliflower, moong dal cheela, oats, and ragi dosa. However, these are very few examples of low-calorie foods. You can explore many more varieties of low-calorie Indian foods.
Q. What is the single most nutritious food?
A. The most nutritious dense foods which contain a single primary ingredient are salmon, kale, seafood, shellfish, potatoes, liver, and sardines. The nutrition profile of these foods is fantastic. You should add at least one of the above to your daily diet to avoid missing any vitamins.