Indian Dishes Made HealthierBy: Evita Basilio
Indian cuisine is aromatic, warm and loaded with healthy spices and ingredients. I am of Indian descent and I enjoy creating traditional dishes. The only issue with these dishes is the fat content. Every recipe is guaranteed to ask for quite a lot of cream and cooking oil or clarified butter – and sometimes all of the above.
My love for health and Indian food would seem to contradict each other, however with a few tweaks in the recipes it’s easy to feel guilt-free!
Curry in a Hurry
I can remember growing up in India, where my mum and aunts would spend afternoons in the kitchen grinding spices to create curry mixes and spice blends. These days, we’re busier than ever and grinding our own spices has been solved by ready-made curry mixes! Achari Gosht (Pickle Lamb Curry) is one of my favourite dishes (though I use chicken in it instead) so let’s look at this spice mix as an example – http://shop.khanapakana.com/shan-achar-gosht-masala-50-grams/
The ingredient list itself boasts several health benefits from the spices mixed in: Red Chili, Turmeric, Coriander, Fennel, Fenugreek Leaves, Cumin, Cinnamon, Bay Leaf, Nigella Seed, Black Pepper, Ginger, and Cardamom. Researchers have suggested that turmeric could play a role in slowing down the progression of Alzheimers disease, while cumin has been praised not only as an iron source, but also for its potential, to prevent cancer and aid in digestion. Coriander has been used in India for its anti-inflammatory properties and studied in the United States for its possible connection to cholesterol reduction. And chili has been associated with everything from pain relief, reduced congestion, and stomach ulcer prevention to weight loss and increased cardiovascular health.
The health benefits list goes on, but the other ingredients required to make the dish challenge the health aspect – a lot of yogurt, and clarified butter! I’m talking 1 cup of clarified butter which is almost 2000 calories in butter alone. And so I always say, you don’t have to follow a recipe exactly the way it is! Get creative and tweak the recipe to make it healthier.
Making the Healthy Swap!
I used this curry mix over the weekend and replaced the 1 cup clarified butter with less than ¼ cup Alligga Flaxseed Cooking Oil – removing over 1500 calories. I’ve had the recipe with butter before and it honestly did not need so much! Looking at the fat comparison chart below, by replacing butter with flaxseed oil you benefit from 60% less saturated fat (the bad kind of fat) and instead have almost a 60% increase in Omega -3s (the fat we need!). I also did not find a difference in taste – the spices overwhelm any other flavour in the dish. The replacement is now an easy choice!
Another easy replacement is using low fat yogurt and instead of having the curry with naan (bread) or white rice, try it with brown rice. I prefer to use skinless chicken for most of my dishes as it is a healthier protein option. I like to add veggies to all my curries – peas, spinach, eggplant, okra, cauliflower, and any other vegetable you feel would go well with your dish. The veggies add a crunch, new flavours and a whole other dimension to the dish (plus they help you reach your vegetable intake for the day).
I hope you can use these tips and feel less guilty the next time you’re cooking up a yummy Indian curry!