Navratri does not ask us to limit ourselves to high-calorie foods we are used to consuming because they were designed with the traditional mindset. However, today’s lifestyles are more sedentary, necessitating the discovery of new options. Thanks to India’s rich culinary heritage, there are many tasty and nutrient-dense foods accessible.
What we eat and drink during these nine days has a big influence on our happiness, health, and mental well-being, which get typically ignored during such festivals. Far from the clichéd dishes like sabudana khichri and kuttu poori that are calorie-dense, as well as the healthy and extravagant avocado salads and Buddha bowls, India has embraced the rich culinary diversity of our country that can be discovered through traditional dishes.
Millets can be an excellent choice during Navratri as they are well-known for their good nutritional values. The indigenous, gluten-free miracles such as rajgira (amaranth) and samaj (barnyard millets) have more than 10 per cent protein while kuttu (buckwheat millet), provides a good dose of calcium, iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium.
In addition to being rich in micronutrients, these foods also have a medium glycemic index (GI) of about 45. So, cook them with a lot of vegetables like spinach, bottle gourd, carrots and other seasonal vegetables of your choice to reduce the overall load. In fact, insulin and glucose receptors in the body get activated by the rich magnesium content in millets.
Each of the 10-plus millets requires different methods and duration of cooking, unlike rice, which has seen ubiquitous adoption among Indians. This brings convenience into question in this fast-moving urban society and millets have seen a downfall in adoption for decades now. Thus, we need novel and convenient products to increase adoption of millets. Plant-based foods provide an option by putting consumer experience and convenience at the forefront with products like millet-based milk, yoghurt, shakes, bars and more. Some such products are already available in India.
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Millets require less fertiliser and pesticide, unlike mainstream cereals for cultivation. They supply superior nutrients and possess excellent climate resilience properties. They do not require much water for cultivation, making them the most adaptable for climate-conscious times. Millets are thus environmentally, ecologically and economically friendly sources of food and nutrition. Additionally, traditional foods like laddoos, chaklis, poha, khakara, cookies and other snacks can also be made from millets.
Of the many items that feature on the traditional Navratri platter, singhada (chestnut) is particularly well-liked during Navratri. This fruit provides polyphenols, making it an excellent source for antioxidants which protect our body from harmful oxidative stress, improve digestion, lower cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health. Eating a dressed up singhada chaat with peanuts can become a great tea-time snack. Makhanas, sweet potatoes, fruit bowl, peanuts and nuts are some additional options.
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People who are fasting and want to avoid the usual go-to options during Navratri can move to a more balanced diet by eating plant-based whole foods like millets, local and seasonal vegetables and fruits, and seeds like hemp seeds, that are making a comeback. In addition to fasting during Navratri, the focus is on cleansing and rejuvenating the mind. Therefore, paying attention to regular exercise and obtaining enough sleep should also be a priority.