Chef Kunal Kapoor
Popeye with spinach and Bugs Bunny with his carrots wanted do a lot more than just tickle the funny bone. They were presenting to us some Super Heroes of food. For a long time these foods have been with us camouflaged by mere ignorance. We call them the “Super Foods”.
Take the case of honey. As per historical records, the Egyptians wrote about its goodness in 5500 BC. Indians recorded its use in 1000 BC and the Babylonians used it in their medicinal practices. The western world actually discovered its benefits almost by accident as they tried to understand why Russian Beekeepers regularly lived past 100 years of age. It was found that they ate raw honey, rich in bee pollen, every day.
Super Foods are basically foods (ingredients) that are packed with a high nutrient value, provide a long term health benefit and are generally low in calories. These foods are generally natural and unprocessed foods and are loaded with health benefits. Taken in moderation in our daily diet, they help in growth and development of our body and at the same time, protect and even boost the immune system.
Nutrient Dense Foods
With growing health consciousness, we all may be adding a lot more salads, veggies and fruits to our daily diet. Still, concern over the quality of foods grown on mineral depleted soils makes Super Foods an intelligent choice. These calorie sparse and nutrient dense foods found in nature are superior sources of anti-oxidants and essential nutrients - nutrients we need but cannot make ourselves.
The good news is that you don’t have to go too far to get them or to understand them. Some of these are easily found and some, one has to get from the right source. They can be a berry, seed, nut, fruit, vegetable, fish or a legume. Best examples are Blue Berry, Walnut, Chocolate, Broccoli, Yogurt, Honey, Goji Berries and Salmon etc.
What is commendable is that some hotels and restaurants have included the concept of Super Foods in their menus and provide an array of options to the customers, cooked in the right style. Again, the idea of Super Foods is not meant for creating a diet chart. Instead, it’s a channel to understand the goodness of certain foods and how smartly they can be incorporated in our daily diets.
Though respecting the sanctity of these health foods, I would put it on record that in legal terms there is no such thing as Super Food. It is a term coined for foods that have a high health benefit with no relative side effects. In fact, in Europe it is an offence to designate a product as Super Food till the time there is no credible and approved medical assertion.
Say ‘No’ To Processed Food
I am not trying to confuse you; my intention is to get clarity here. We cannot deny the fact that a lot of foods are packed with nutrients which are beneficial for our bodies and it is alright to call them Super Foods. However, the only regret is that a lot of products in the market claim to be Super Food while the aim is simply to sell more of these products. They merely mention that a product contains Super Foods, which invariably is an exaggeration. Mostly, one of the ingredients used is a Super Food, but when processed and mixed with other ingredients, I doubt if it retains its goodness at all.
These products always harp and play on the human psyche, that is the eternal quest and urge to stay young and look good. With this thought in our heads, we are driven to buy any product that claims to fulfill the above. Take one advice from me, any Super Food that is taken raw or delicately cooked has many more benefits than when it is consumed in a processed form.
One of the most talked about such product is green tea. Now I am in full agreement that green tea is good for our system as it is bursting with antioxidants and should be a part of our daily diet. And the best and most beneficial variety of green tea is from the young shoots of the plant which are properly and painstaking dried to retain their maximum goodness. This variety is without doubt premium and hence expensive. The other readily available and affordable grades which a lot of us use are a mixture of different leaves, twigs and very little of actual high grade green tea leaves. So even though someone might say that green tea is a Super Food, which grade of it will actually be beneficial is debatable. Besides, if green tea is boiled, in the manner we prepare chai at home, then all the goodness is gone.
Ayurveda that was developed in India eons ago, is more detailed and systematic about getting the best out of eating. It talks about various categories of body types and accordingly suggests the type of food to be eaten. This harmony and study of foods suited to different body types, in my opinion, would be the best way to go about Super Foods.
The Rich Benefits
A Super Food is like a magic wand in hand. All you need for miracles to happen is to identify a Super Food and learn how to properly cook them in order to get maximum benefit out of them. Here is a list of easily available Super Foods and how best to eat them. To ensure maximum nutrition, go for organically produced varieties.
Broccoli: It’s high on Vitamin C and has anti cancer properties. It is best to eat it steamed, par boiled or stir fried. If using broccoli to make Indian style dishes, add broccoli in the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.
Blue berry: Blue berries have come to almost symbolise Super Food. A rich source of antioxidants, they are beneficial for the nervous system and good for brain development in growing children. Preferably eat them raw rather than in cooked form.
Goji berry: This berry is native to Asia and America. In India, it is found in Himalayan belt and is grown commercially. This small wonder is about the size of a raisin. It has the highest amount of Vitamin C when compared to any other fruit. It is a rich source of protein as well.
Walnut: Walnuts are wonder nuts and a good source of omega 3 fatty acids and help control cholesterol. They also help in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of coronary artery disease. The best way to eat them is raw. Pop in a few on your way out to work.
Young coconut water: The water of the tender coconut is a rich source of essential salts that are very important for our body’s daily functioning. Best sipped directly from the coconut.
Chocolate: It is a good source of antioxidants that help rejuvenate the body by fighting free radicals. The darker the chocolate the better it is for the body. A chocolate with less sugar and more bitter should be preffered.
Yogurt: Fresh yogurt boosts immunity of the body and aids in absorption of calcium and vitamins. It is easily digested by the body and reduces the risk of colon cancer.
Honey: Man has been using honey for ages. It is a natural antiseptic, an antioxidant and helps build the immune system. Natural honey, minus the chemical additives, is best for health.
Salmon: Salmon is a wonder fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids and protein. Its an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin A, B and D. Prefer wild salmon over farmed fish.
Asparagus: Stalks of asparagus is like a powerhouse having Vitamin C, A, K, E as well as zinc, calcium, iron and folic acid. Best way is to peel them lightly blanch. Then toss with little butter.
How to Brew Green Tea
- Measure 1 table spoon of green tea leaves and place them in a tea kettle.
- Separately boil 1¼th (one and a quarter) cup of water.
- Pour the hot water into the kettle and close the lid.
- Allow to brew for 2-3 minutes.
- Place a strainer in a serving cup and pour out hot tea. If you allow the tea leaves to brew for a longer time then it turns bitter.
- Serve hot and enjoy the goodness.
Super Salad Preparation
Orange segments – 10 nos
Blanched Asparagus – ½ cup
Blue Berries – ½ cup
Walnuts – ½ cup
Goji berries – ½ cup
Blanched Broccoli – 1 cup
Tomato dices – 1 cup
Cucumber dices – 1 cup
Canola oil – 40ml
Fresh Orange juice – 100ml
Chaat masala – 1 tsp
Roasted cumin – 2 tsp
- Mix all the vegetables and fruits in a large bowl.
- Separately in a clean bowl pour the orange juice, add the chaat masala and roasted cumin.
- Pour in canola oil little by little and keep whisking it. Now pour this dressing over the fruits and vegetables. Toss it gentle and serve immediately.