World Vegetarian Day 2020: 7 Indian Whole Grains You Should Eat More of
Every year, the first day of October is observed as World Vegetarian Day to spread awareness about the benefits of quitting meat and adopting a plant-based approach to your life and diet. The vegetarian diet is not just environment-friendly but also has many health benefits. As the World Health Organization points out, eating more fruits and veggies is linked to the prevention of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
But what people most often forget is that there’s a lot more to a vegetarian diet than fruits and veggies. You need carbohydrates in your diet too. Unfortunately, the Indian vegetarian diet, though packed with carbohydrates, relies more on simple carbs like white rice and sugar rather than complex carbohydrates which are considered to be great for health.
Why whole grains matter
If you’re hoping to make a healthier choice for life, then quitting the consumption of simple carbs for complex carbs like whole grains is necessary. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates packed with dietary fiber, plant proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Eating whole grains is associated with better weight management, improved heart health and the prevention of diseases like diabetes and obesity.
Some whole grains like quinoa have gained global attention due to these health benefits, and most people going on a healthy diet plan want to include quinoa, or quinoa products like quinoa pasta, in their everyday eating habits. The only issue with quinoa is that it is usually imported to countries like India because it isn’t locally grown and it’s therefore expensive.
But did you know that there’s a wide range of Indian whole grains which are grown in the country, are abundantly available and cheap, and are just as nutritious as quinoa? These whole grains can be easily sourced from your local grocery store. What’s more, there are many traditional Indian recipes that use these whole grains and their flours. The following are some such Indian whole grains you should include in your diet.
1. Amaranth: Also known as rajgira, amaranth is a gluten-free whole grain popular across North India. It’s packed with dietary fiber, protein and micronutrients like zinc, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B2 and B6. You can cook the grains and add them to a salad, make rotis with amaranth flour or try a khichdi with it.
2. Barley: Barley or jau may not be gluten-free but that doesn’t take away anything from its health benefits. Apart from being packed with vitamin B6, calcium, potassium and magnesium, barley is also celebrated for being the perfect whole grain for Indian summers because it’s light on the stomach. You can easily cook and add barley to many recipes and even drink barley water during summer months.
3. Buckwheat: Another gluten-free grain, buckwheat or kuttu is popularly consumed during ritual fasts like Navratri. This grain is packed with fiber, protein and minerals but it does not have a high vitamin content. Buckwheat flour is traditionally used to make everything from flatbreads to halwa.
4. Brown rice: If you like rice then eating brown rice is a good health choice. It has high levels of fiber, vitamins and minerals and is easily available in India. The only downside is that brown rice may have high arsenic content, so washing it thoroughly and cooking it properly before consumption is vital.
5. Finger millets: Finger millets, also called ragi, have the highest calcium content among all whole grains and cereals - and that’s not it’s only selling point. Ragi also has substantial amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. You can add cooked whole ragi to salads or make a wide variety of breads and rotis with it.
6. Pearl millets: Pearl millets or bajra is used in parts of Western India to make khichdi, roti and other dishes. This whole grain is a high-energy food because it’s also packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals like potassium, manganese, calcium and zinc.
7. Sorghum: Also known as jowar, sorghum is packed with fiber, protein, B vitamins and minerals like copper, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Sorghum is also high in antioxidants like flavonoids and phenolic compounds. You can make everything from salads to upma with sorghum.
For more information, read our article on Grains.
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