Unusual ingredients that can give your diet a nutritional boost

Over the past few decades, India has made gigantic strides in terms of health, so much so that the average life expectancy has crossed the 67-year mark according to the Indian Journal of Community Medicine. It is because of this increased emphasis on global healthy living, that Indians are being compelled to re-evaluate all aspects of their daily lives, including the way food is prepared. 

there are a host of lesser-known ingredients that can easily be incorporated into your daily cooking
There are a host of lesser-known ingredients that can easily be incorporated into your daily cooking. Photo courtesy; Unsplash/Heloisa Nass

While basic nutritional practices are becoming increasingly commonplace amongst the Indian population, there are a host of lesser-known ingredients that can easily be incorporated into your daily cooking to give you and your family a much-needed nutritional boost.

Argan oil

The oil, which has a distinctive nutty flavor, has known anti-cancer and cardiac disease properties
The oil, which has a distinctive nutty flavor, has known anti-cancer and cardiac disease properties. Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

​Argan oil is a rare, healthy plant-based oil of North-African origin what contains a magnitude of active compounds including carotenoids, sterols, xanthophyls and powerful antioxidants. The oil, which has a distinctive nutty flavor, has known anti-cancer and cardiac disease properties and is also used for numerous cosmetic purposes. In North African countries such as Morocco, Argan oil is drizzled over couscous and used to dip freshly-baked bread in at breakfast time. Globally, it can be used as a finishing oil on fish, vegetables, and soups and is also superb in salad dressings.

Carob powder

Carob powder is sweeter in taste compared to traditional cocoa powder and is not only free of caffeine and gluten but filled with fiber and antioxidants as well
Carob powder is sweeter in taste compared to traditional cocoa powder and is not only free of caffeine and gluten but filled with fiber and antioxidants as well. Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Jordane Mathieu

The use of Carob for its health benefits date as far back as 4,000 years to ancient Greece and can be used in confectionery and baking as a healthier alternative to traditional chocolate. Derived from the carob tree, the naturally sugary compound can be used to satisfy your own sweet cravings while being completely dog-friendly as well.  Carob powder is sweeter in taste compared to traditional cocoa powder and is not only free of caffeine and gluten but filled with fiber and antioxidants as well. If a recipe calls for cocoa powder, you can swap it out for equal parts of carob powder as long as you remember to reduce the amount of sugar or sweeteners in the recipe by about 25%.  

Sprouts

Sprouts are tiny nutrient-dense powerhouses filled with countless vitamins and minerals that are of great benefit to the human body. Some of the most startling health advantages of sprouts include reduced cholesterol levels and blood pressure, improved skin health and vision and a reduced risk for contracting cancer and heart disease. Traditionally speaking, alfalfa, soy, and mung bean sprouts are the most common with new types of sprouts making their appearance all the time. Broccoli sprouts, in particular, are fast gaining popularity due to their distinct, pleasant taste and countless health benefits. While most sprouts can be eaten raw in salads or sprinkled on soups, broccoli sprouts need to be cooked at all times. 

Turmeric

Turmeric’s health benefits are derived from its main component, Curcumin which boasts countless antioxidant and immune-boosting properties
Turmeric’s health benefits are derived from its main component, Curcumin which boasts countless antioxidant and immune-boosting properties. Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Julie Johnson

Although turmeric isn’t unusual in the true sense of the word, its immense health benefits are not always acknowledged, making it one of the most underestimated superfoods in the world. Turmeric’s health benefits are derived from its main component, Curcumin which boasts countless antioxidant and immune-boosting properties and is known to boost brain power as well as lower your risk of heart disease.  In Indian cooking, turmeric can be used to add both color and flavor to food and is generously used in curry mixes, pickles, and chutneys.

 Ashwagandha

Also known as Indian ginseng, this root-derived powder has a host of health benefits including fighting cancer and diabetes, reducing stress and inflammation and treating arthritis and asthma. In Indian cooking, ashwagandha is often mixed with ghee and honey as well as other herbs and spices to make a seasoning known as churna which can be added to stews, soup, vegetables and rice dishes. 

 

You don’t need to be a professional chef to cook delicious and nutritious meals for both yourself and your family. By incorporating the above and other nutrient-dense ingredients into your everyday meals you can continue to serve up your favorite cuisine while contributing towards the improved health and well-being of those who matter most to you.

Author
Jane Sandwood
Jane Sandwood – Contributor

Jane Sandwood is a professional freelance writer with over 10 years’ experience across many fields. Jane has a particular interest in issues relating to elderly care and health.

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