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Nutrition you can afford: Move over Quinoa, Ragira will do

Sunday, 4 May 2014 - 6:25am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

You don't have to pay through your nose for imported nutritious foods. There are enough local options to score the same nutritional benefits at a fraction of the cost. Kavita Devgan finds 10 such super substitutes

Amla instead of blueberries
Blueberries are rich in vitamin A and C, fibre and are packed with antioxidants. Your humble amla has all that and more! New research shows that the citrus fruit has much more antioxidant activity compared to its western cousin, so it is a great anti-ageing agent and immunity booster.

Buttermilk instead of kefir
Both are essentially fermented milk products that are loaded with probiotic bacteria and have similar calorie and fat content. But while Kefir is fermented from whole milk, buttermilk is a by-product of butter churning. In buttermilk lactose is converted by bacteria into lactic acid, so it is better digested by those who are lactose intolerant compared to regular milk. Both aid in the digestion of food and pave way to a healthier gut and intestines thus keeping colon cancer away.

Jamun or phalsa instead of goji and acai berry
Goji and acai berries are not so easily available, but jamun, the Indian blackberry, and phalsa — which are in season — are equally adept in reducing blood sugar and aiding in digestion. They are hypoglycemic, liver protective, anti-cancer and blood purifying. Phalsa is, in addition to this, a great cooling agent.

Rajgira instead of quinoa
Both are pseudo-grains — foods that are prepared like grains (for making flours, and cereals), but are actually seeds and are gluten free. Rajgira, also called amaranth, is comparable to quinoa in terms of calories (370 cal per 100gm), fibre (7gm), fat (6-7gm) and protein (6-7gm), and has similar calcium, potassium and iron content too, plus higher vitamin E and magnesium as compared to quinoa.

Banana pepper (banana chilli) instead of jalapeno
While jalapenos are loved for their tangy, hot taste, the banana pepper (used extensively down South) is a little less spicy, but equally delicious. Both are good sources of vitamin C and A, and are loaded with antioxidants. Plus, the fat in banana peppers is polyunsaturated fat — the healthy fat that contributes to production of heart-friendly HDL cholesterol.

Red amaranth (leaves) instead of red cabbage
While red cabbage has 10 times more vitamin A compared to green cabbage, amaranth leaves have double the amount. Plus, they are richer in calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium, while being comparable in calories. They are both the same lovely red colour too. You decide!

Raw sugar instead of brown sugar
We all know that brown bread (whole wheat) is definitely far healthier than white bread (refined). Unfortunately, the same benefits cannot be translated in the case of sugars because brown sugar, which is usually available in the market, is simply white sugar with added molasses (a black syrup by-product of sugar refining) and nothing more. Calories are comparable (about 17 calories for 10gm sugar) and while the brown variant does have just a wee bit of minerals (calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium), the quantity is not enough to give any noticeable health benefits. Raw sugar (that which has not undergone any industrial refining processes) might look lumpy, but it is slightly better off as it, at least, does not go through chemical bleaching and sulphurising.

Pointed gourd (parwal) instead of zucchini
Easy to digest, extremely low in calories and fibre-rich, parwal is a wonder vegetable that hasn't got its due. Loaded with antioxidants, it helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels naturally and is also great for your skin (it helps purify blood). It is also rich in vitamin A and C, like the zucchini.

Barley instead of oats
The calories in barley are marginally lower, it has negligible fat content (1gm) as compared to the 7gm of fat in 100gm oats; a whopping 10gm of protein and higher fibre (15.6gm, compared to 10gm in oats). The grain is high in the soluble fibre, beta-glucon, which helps reduce blood cholesterol and glucose levels effectively; and it is loaded with B vitamin niacin — great for your heart, and selenium, which provides protection from cancer.

Kerala red rice instead of brown rice
Both red (usually grown more in Kerala) and brown rice have similar nutrient composition, they are rich in B vitamins and minerals (iron, calcium and zinc and trace minerals like manganese, and molybedenum in the case of red rice). It is loaded with antioxidants — some reports suggest much more than brown rice too — plus it has a special antioxidant pigment called anthocyanins, which helps reduce inflammation, provides relief from allergy, helps prevent cancer and results in weight loss.

Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist and a health writer

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