Not only does India have an incredibly diverse culture, this area of the world also offers a wide variety of healthy, delicious dishes. Filled with aromatic spices, Indian dishes not only taste and smell fantastic, they also provide some incredible health-boosting benefits. Plus, if you’re trying to incorporate more veggies in your diet, Indian food is also an excellent option as a vast majority of the dishes are plant-based.
Here are some of the main ingredients and spices of Indian food that are so good for you:
Curry is one of the most popular dishes in India, and turmeric is one of its main ingredients. Turmeric contains a mighty compound known as curcumin, and curcumin has been shown to aid in weight loss. A research trial showed that curcumin increased weight loss, reduced the waistline, improved hip circumference, reduced body fat, and improved BMI (Body Mass Index) of subjects involved.1
Many types of Indian dishes include yogurt, such as Raita (Indian yogurt and cucumber) or Tandoori chicken. Yogurt is filled with beneficial microbes that can help ensure digestive health. These bacteria and yeasts help keep harmful microbes in check within the “gut,” or gastrointestinal tract. When there is a good balance between good and bad microbes, our digestive system is able to work as it should. When that balance is disturbed, we are at a higher risk for digestive issues, such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. Just remember: non-pasturized yogurt is the best for probiotic value.
Lentils are an extremely popular ingredient in Indian cuisine. Lentils have a low glycemic index so they can help regulate spikes in insulin, which can go on to create body fat. 2 Popular dishes like Moong dal (made from mung lentils or mung beans) and traditional Indian dal (made with red lentils) are both rich in fiber, promoting a feeling of fullness. 3 This, in turn, can reduce the chances that you’ll overeat.
4. Fresh Cruciferous Vegetables
Indian food uses many fresh cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Cruciferous veggies are low in calories and rich in nutrients, like folate, vitamins C, E, and K. They are also filled with both kinds of dietary fiber: Insoluble fiber, which makes stools softer and easier to pass and soluble fiber which helps us to feel fuller for longer. Some cruciferous specialties include stir-fried Indian cabbage with turmeric, Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potatoes) or Broccoli Besan Subzi (broccoli with chickpea flour)
5. Garam Masala
Garam masala is a famed Indian spice mix made from black peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg. Cinnamon has displayed potential in regulating blood sugar, even in diabetic patients. Cardamom has been used for centuries to calm upset stomachs and anxious minds, and may also help to reduce blood pressure. 4,5 Peppercorns are rich in potassium, magnesium, and has been shown to have insulin-resistant properties in studies. 6
Garam masala can be found in dishes like cholay (curried chickpeas), moong dal and chicken korma.
6. Leafy Greens
Green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, chard, and others are incredibly beneficial. Many of these vegetables are antioxidants, which, as the name implies, helps fight some of the effects of oxidation. For example, one result of oxidation is the formation of harmful molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals are known to damage cells. This can lead to everything from visible signs of aging to major illnesses.
When you think of the spices commonly used in Indian food, ginger easily comes to mind. In the ancient Indian Ayurvedic tradition, ginger is believed to soothe digestion and boost the immune system, and it has been used to help fight colds and migraines. Across many cultures, ginger has been used to treat nausea from illness, sea sickness and even morning sickness. 7 Ginger contains essential nutrients like magnesium, potassium, manganese, and vitamin B6, along with a hefty dose of antioxidants. It may also prove useful against diabetes: In a study of participants with type 2 diabetes, where 2 grams of ginger powder was given per day, fasting blood sugar was lowered by 12%.