Some foods provide not only good nutrition, but also possible therapeutic benefits. It has so happened that some non-vegetarians who stopped eating meat on compassionate grounds did not bother to make sure that their vegetarian/vegan intake was nutritious enough, so when they fell ill, they mistakenly blamed it on their having turned veg whereas they themselves were inadvertently to blame for not having made it a point to eat nutritious veg alternatives. For example, a 2015 Spanish study covering over 15,000 persons concluded that depression could be linked with certain nutrient deficits and adequate consumption of fruits and vegetable can prevent it. Healthy dietary patterns comprising of fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts has a positive effect on physical and mental health.

Also, the 2015 US dietary guidelines committee found that vegetables and fruits were the only dietary elements that proved beneficial in preventing or treating an array of diseases. They were followed by whole grains, which had moderate to strong evidence for their consumption in every case.

First, let it be known that while gathering information on nutritious foods, only one non-veg item showed up and that too was over ruled as seen below. This reinforces the fact that the produce of the land – and not meat or fish – is the ultimate in good nutrition.

Flaxseed/Alsi or Purslane/Luni Bhaji is the best source of Omega-3. Contrary to the widely held belief that fish oils are the only or best source of Omega-3 fatty acids, edible linseed oil obtained from flaxseed contains twice the amount of Omega-3 acids. (Linseed oil obtained by pressing flax seed becomes inedible if petroleum solvents are used.)

In 2012 an analysis published in Archives of Internal Medicine cast doubt on the widely touted notion that fish oil can prevent heart attacks in people at risk for cardiovascular disease. Despite this, fish oil is the third most widely used dietary supplement following vitamins and minerals in the USA. According to a report from the National Institutes of Health people falsely believe that its consumption due to Omega-3 fatty acids will protect their cardiovascular health, but a vast majority of clinical trials involving fish oil continue to find no evidence that it lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Rapeseed and soy bean oils are also rich sources of Omega-3 acids, as are hemp seeds. However, purslane is the probably the best source of Omega-3 acids and can be eaten as part of one’s meal.

If a supplement is desired, nothing can be better than Spirulina a blue-green algae available as powder and tablets. It is outstandingly nutritious and easy to digest, with a high protein and low calorie count – no wonder it known as a “super-food”. Its healing properties and health benefits make it a “power-food” as well. It is particularly good for regulating blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation, allergies, digestion, and protects against cancer, strokes and Alzheimer’s Disease. The Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) approved spirulina in January 2014. The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) Mysuru, the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) Hyderabad, and the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) Delhi, have also recommended its use.

Chlorella is another excellent supplement similar to Spirulina. Both are algae with healthy nutrient properties such as lowering risk factors of heart disease and improving blood sugar. Chlorella is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, riboflavin, iron and zinc whereas Spirulina contains more thiamine, copper and protein.

Harmful for our Brains

The Healthline Media website lists the 7 worst foods for our brains:

Sugary Drinks
include soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit juice. They increase the risk of dementia because they contain high fructose corn syrup.

Refined Carbohydrates
include sugars and highly processed grains such as white flour (maida). They have a high glycemic index and glycemic load which can impair memory and intelligence, as well as increase the risk of dementia.

Foods high in Trans Fats
which occur naturally in animal products like meat and dairy; as well as hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans Facts are associated with impaired memory and the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Highly Processed Foods
high in sugar, added fats and salt like chips, sweets, instant noodles, microwave popcorn, sauces and ready-to-eat packaged foods. They contribute to excess fat around the organs which is associated with a decline in brain tissue.

an artificial sweetener used in many “sugar-free” products. Artificial sweeteners are linked to behavioural and cognitive problems.

if consumed in excess can have serious effects on the brain. It can lead to memory loss, behavioural changes and sleep disruption.

, high in Mercury, a heavy metal, contaminant and neurological poison is particularly harmful to developing foetuses and young children.

Protein and Meat are NOT Synonyms

A leading nutritionist, Rujuta Diwekar said “If I could stand on the rooftop and scream one thing, it would be this – vegetarians are not protein deficient. One can find nutrient dense foods from both vegetarian and non-vegetarian sources. And you don’t need to compromise on personal preferences or cultural beliefs to get more protein. Whether you are a vegetarian, non-vegetarian, or non-dairy person, for optimum protein assimilation, eat more at home, exercise regularly, sleep on time and don’t bother with converting from veg to non-veg. Remember that one of the main roles for protein is to grow, repair and maintain bodily tissue, including muscle.”

Protein is a nutrient. It is a major body building block for growth, maintenance, and repair of our tissues, plus it helps our immunity. It is therefore incorrect to say “protein” when meaning “meat”. Yet, many non-vegetarians call meat protein, and by doing so, they think people will excuse or overlook their eating flesh of killed animals, birds and fish. It is obvious that saying they eat protein doesn’t make them feel as uncomfortable as saying they eat cow, chicken, goat, pig, fish or the carcass of any other living creature.

It is a myth that vegans can not get adequate protein in their diet. Carcasses, embryos and glandular secretions (flesh, eggs and milk) are not the only sources of protein. The adequate protein requirement varies among individuals, but on an average about 1 gram of protein per kg body weight per day is required by adults and a little more than 1 gram for children. Adequate quantities of protein can be easily derived and absorbed by the body from a balanced diet of plant sources such as whole grains (which almost match the animal derived protein percentages), lentils, seeds, nuts and beans. A healing diet specialist, Dhvani Shah says plant based proteins are complete proteins if eaten in the right combination. They can work better than animal protein mainly because of the absence of hormones and enzymes. Going vegan and consuming plant protein has shown extraordinary results in reduction of cholesterol, treating PCOS and preventing menopausal complications. World athletes and sportsmen are turning to plant-based proteins since they are easier to digest and result in less inflammation while delivering all the essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fibre in addition to protein. The banana is fast replacing sports drinks for those who rely on carbohydrates to fuel exercise and speed recovery. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics encourages farmers to grow crops such as chickpeas, groundnut, pigeon peas, millet and sorghum to avoid malnourishment among communities and consume balanced diets.

A holistic lifestyle coach of integrative medicine, Luke Coutinho has said “If you aren’t into big buf muscle making, a normal balanced diet with nuts, seeds, cereal, sattu and pulse combinations can make up for enough protein intake.” He has also pointed out that although there is about 30 gms protein in a scoop of whey it is not qualitative protein and does not have a compete amino acid profile. Whereas there’s 7-8 gms protein in 2-3 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds that has all the amino acids required. He also states that the human body can absorb no more than 9-12 grms proteins at each sitting so consuming extra results in it getting converted into fat which gets deposited as abdominal fat.

The fact is that consuming extra protein from animal sources can cause serious health problems such as bone demineralization; and, result in problems for diabetics and those having kidney related problems. Remember, one of the causes of osteoporosis is excess consumption of protein. And, according to a 2016 study by researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School and National University of Singapore consumption of read meat increases the chances of kidney failure. The management of CISRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) in Australia has been exposed for encouraging the consumption of red meat despite contrary advice from their own scientists. No wonder Australia has the highest number of bowel cancer cases in the world and there is no doubt that red meat is the cause. In fact, in every country, the meat industry is indirectly responsible for misleading and confusing nutrition advice on the necessity of “protein”. Kanchan Patwardhan, a clinical nutritionist and consultant says red meat and whole milk dairy products, while rich in protein, also contain saturated fat, the health consequences of which are being debated all over the world.

Comparative estimates drawn by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) have revealed that the average protein intake of an Indian through normal diet was found to be marginally higher after a decade: the share of items like dairy products, egg, meat and fish that was about 9% in 1993-94, was 9.6% in 2011-12. The survey also showed a substantial rise in the consumption of items such as hot and cold beverages, processed foods such as chips, biscuits, snacks, etc. (nutritionally bad choices probably due to ignorance) which rose from 2% to 7% in rural areas, and from 5.6% to 9% in urban areas, during the same period.

The 2022 “Politics of Protein” report by IPES-Food (International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems) states that evidence clearly shows there is no ‘global gap’ protein. It is only one of the many nutrients missing in the diets of those suffering from hunger and malnutrition, and insufficiency of these diets is primarily a result of poverty and access.

Malnutrition arises due to an imbalanced diet: too much, too little, or wrong proportions of nutrients. Whe
reas malnourishment can be hunger related. On an average 5 kgs of maize, soy, wheat or rice bran when fed to animals, produce 1 kg of meat, making it a second hand food. If we did not feed animals grain, to breed and kill them for their meat, there would be enough for everyone, everywhere, thus ending human hunger and starvation.

The Live Organic Information website recommends choosing the master amino acid pattern over meat since vegan protein is easier on the body. The top 10 sources of protein are:


Spinach   49%
Kale   45%
Broccoli 45%
Cauliflower     40%
Mushrooms  38%
Parsley   34%
Beef     25.8%
Cucumbers   24%
Chicken   23%
Green Pepper   22%
Cabbage    22%
Tomatoes    18%
Eggs    12%


The writer’s detailed explanation is as follows:
“When red meat hits your stomach, your stomach produces uric acid to break it down. Our livers have the capacity to eliminate only a small amount of uric acid. Uric acid is an extremely dangerous toxic substance that can wreak havoc in your body. All meat consumption releases large quantities of uric acid into the system. Unlike most carnivores and omnivores, humans do not have the enzyme uricase to break down uric acid. The human has to break down the animal protein into its constituent amino acids and then reconstruct human protein from these building blocks.

“Proteins are formed from chains that can range anywhere from 50 to 200,000 amino acid links. These chains have to be deconstructed and recombined into human links, a procedure that is extremely tiring to the human, and also an extremely inefficient form of manufacturing protein. I consume a vegan amino acid that doesn’t need to be broken down. It doesn’t bother my body and doesn’t require my body to waste energy breaking down meat so it can focus on building muscle and shredding fat. It also has much less nitrogen waste and therefore less fecal waste. This is why my switch from red meat to vegan protein sources is making my body work at an optimum level.”

Incidentally, Hemp seeds are high in protein with all essential amino acids too. They are an excellent source of fibre and good fat too. But, heating the seeds destroys their nutritional benefits. (Hemp should not be confused with marijuana even though hemp belongs to the cannabis family – it contains less than 1% of the psychoactive drug whereas marijuana contains 20%.) has listed Vegetarian Sources of Proteins that contain all 9 essential amino acids:
Rice and Beans
Ezekiel Bread
Hummus and Pita
Spirulina with Grains or Nuts
Peanut Butter
Hempseed and Chia are almost complete proteins.

In 2017 Finnish researchers at the Lappeenranta University of Technology and the VTT Technical Research Centre used electricity and carbon dioxide to create single-cell protein that can be utilised as food for humans and animals. The process takes a fortnight and has a zero environmental impact since it can use solar power.

Click here to view Vegan Proteins chart which contains the following information:

Pumpkin Seeds 30 g per 100 g raw
Pistachios 20.4 g per 100 g roasted
Kabuli Chana 18.8 g per 100 g cooked
Rajma    18.8 g per 100 g cooked
Tofu 18.8 g per 100 g cooked
Mangalorean Beans 17.4 g per 1 cup cooked
Pulses 16.2 g per 1 cup cooked
Black Beans  16 g per 1 cup cooked
Walnuts 15.23 g per 100 g raw
Butter Beans 13 g per 1 cup cooked
Green Soybean 11.7 g per 100 g cooked
Spelt 10.7 g per 1 cup cooked
Ragi 9.8 g per 1 cup cooked
Makhana 9.7 g per 100 g roasted
Hemp Seeds 9.5 g per 1 cup raw
Rajgira 9.3 g per 100 g cooked
Green Peas 8.6 g per 1 cup cooked
Quinoa 8.1 g per 1 cup cooked
Soy Milk 6.3 g per 1 cup raw
Guava 4.2 g per 1 cup ripe


Dark chocolate is healthy. Few know it is frequently, but not always, vegan: chocolate liquor solidified with cocoa butter without added sugar.

It contains polyphenolic compounds called flavonoids known for health benefits like anti-oxidant activity, preventing oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol, anti-cancer effects, lowering blood pressure and inhibition of platelet activity and inflammation. Apart from having stress-busting effects, chocolate also improves immunity since it contains Vitamin D2. According to a research group at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Max Rubner-Institut cocoa butter and dark chocolate have the highest amount of Vitamin D2. It also provides magnesium which is good for bones and helps control food cravings.

Chocolate elevates a person’s mood since it contains caffeine. Dark chocolate has successfully helped people stop smoking.

The most prestigious tribute to “dark gold” is found in the New England Journal of Medicine which based on a study states that the higher a country’s chocolate consumption, the more Nobel laureates it spawns per capita.

For detailed information on Chocolate please read


Coconut is used in many dishes, particularly in South India.

The following are three of the benefits declared by The Coconut Development Board (Government of India):
• The water of tender coconut is the most nutritious wholesome beverage that nature has provided.
• The coconut kernel is a natural anti-bacterial and anti-viral food.
• Virgin coconut oil is abundant in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, thus making it the “mother of all oils”.

Coconut water is rich in various minerals and electrolytes like potassium (best source containing 470 mg), calcium, manganese, anti-oxidants, amino acids and cytokinins, yet low in calories, carbohydrates and sugar, unlike other juices.

Coconut water is an energy booster, the best liquid for those who are convalescing and for diabetics. It helps lose weight, benefits heart health, reduces high blood pressure, helps digestion, reduces fatigue and stress, can detox the body, prevents kidney stones and urinary tract infection.

A 2009 study conducted in Brazil on abdominally obese women showed that cooking with coconut oil decreased their waists, and also increased beneficial HDL cholesterol and improved the ratio between LDL and HDL cholesterol.

It is important to know that coconut oil contains lauric acid, a proven anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent found in mother’s milk.

Some theories suggest that components such as ketone bodies from caprylic acid in the oil have potential benefits for preventing and treating those affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.

Condiments, Spices, Seeds and Herbs

Condiments and spices, and even herbs, not only make food tasty but they impart valuable protective or healing properties and are beneficial in unimaginable ways. They should therefore be used liberally in every day cooking. Their medicinal values have been acknowledged and taken advantage of by Ayurveda, Siddha, and herbalists around the world. Some are listed below:

Allspice is extensively used in Jamacia and the finest is grown there. It is a vital ingredient of traditional Caribbean cuisine. As its name suggests it is a mixture of spices because it tastes like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. The tender leaves of this bayberry plant are sometimes used in place of tej patta or bay leaf. The dried berries resemble peppercorns, but taste like a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper.

Asafoetida/Hing is a condiment that can replace onion and garlic. Apart from its culinary use, it has been used therapeutically in Ayurveda to treat flatulence, help digestion, boost immunity and clear mucus. Bronchitis, asthma and other inflammatory including nervous conditions benefit, but recent research has revealed that asafoetida fights dementia.

Bay leaves/Tej patta are used in Indian cuisine but few are aware that their consumption (better if dried as fresh leaves are bitter) has several medicinal benefits: helps digestion, heartburn, acidity, constipation, insomnia; lowers blood sugar; eliminates lumps, bad cholesterol and triglycerides; prevents formation of cancer cells, seizures, strokes; and can treat flu, colds and severe coughs.

Black Caraway/Nigella seeds/Kalonji is, according to a saying, a valuable remedy for each and every disease.

Black Pepper/Kali Mirch (known as King of Spices – whereas white pepper is husked black pepper) in reasonable quantities is beneficial for respiratory disorders and for the heart. Excess consumption can however adversely modify the effects of medicines taken. However, it helps relieve cold and cough. It should be noted that if when crushed if black pepper lacks uniformity and the aroma is not bold it could have been adulterated with papaya seeds or black berries.

Cardamom/Green Elaichi is the most costly spice (no wonder it is called the Queen of Spices) and is extensively grown in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It lowers blood pressure and sugar levels, contains cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, helps in digestive problems including ulcers, prevents cavities and bad breath, and has numerous other health benefits. Cardamom is an ancient remedy and contains many medicinal properties plus provides great taste and fragrance when added to refreshing drinks. It should be noted that green cardamom is often adulterated with used pods and green colouring. To test crush a pod and breathe in the fragrant aroma. Black Cardamom is good for digestion and particularly flatulence. It can alleviate muscle spasms due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Helps respiratory problems and asthmatics, improves blood circulation and lowers the risk of a heart attack and blood clots.

Carom seeds/Ajwain leaves are made into pakodas. Drinking a few seeds in warm water gives relief from gas and indigestion, and can also help other ailments such as cold and asthma and relieve tooth pain. The seeds are rich in calcium, protein and fibre.

Chia seeds are similar to Sabza seeds. They both stabilise blood sugar levels and help maintain weight, but their nutrition values are different. Chia seeds contain anti-oxidants, fibre, calcium and protein which help cardiovascular health, whereas sabza seeds are rich in iron and improve blood. Just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds that are soaked overnight, contain 41% of one’s daily fibre requirement, 20% protein, 32% magnesium, 100% more Omega-3 than salmon, 64% more potassium than a banana, 3x more iron than spinach, 5x more calcium than milk, and 2ce the anti-oxidants of blueberries. Whereas sabza seeds, which are high in fibre, anti-oxidants and minerals, prevent dehydration. These seeds also need to be soaked in water prior to being consumed – usually in cold drinks. If 1 teaspoon soaked in a cup of water overnight is drunk first thing in the morning, it effectively lines the stomach and heals stomach ulcers over a long period of time.

Chilli/Mirchi powder reduces pain considerably and also dissolves blood clots. Chillies are good for the lungs as they act as a decongestant. Moreover, capsaicin, the compound that makes chillies pungent has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2015 study of spicy food that was conducted in China found that by eating hot chillies one lived longer. The Naga jolokia or Bhut jolokia grown in Nagaland and Assam is one of the hottest chillies in the world. However, chillies (technically a fruit) were introduced in India by the Portuguese. Till then pepper was widely used. It should be noted that pure chilli powder could be mixed with coloured salt, talcum powder, lead chromate or sawdust. To check add a teaspoonful in a glass of water and rub the residue which should feel gritty between your fingers – if genuine, a fire-red stain will appear.

Cinnamon/Dalchini an old woody spice, used in savoury and sweet dishes, can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol (LDL) & triglycerides. It has umpteen other benefits that range from delaying Alzheimer’s Disease, benefiting depression, improving memory, helping osteoporosis, preventing cancer and particularly fighting colon cancer to being the best remedy for flu, cold, sore throat & cough, and even diarrhea & bloated tummy. It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Cloves/Lavang helps tooth problems and bad breath as it contains anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and boosts immunity. Is effective against indigestion, vomiting & loose motion, as well as against bacteria, fungus & viruses.

Coriander seeds/Dhania has cholesterol and blood sugar lowering properties. These seeds are extremely helpful for all intestinal issues including bloating, gastric, nausea and diarrhea; also for urinary tract infections. In addition to this their consumption can safeguard against Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and anxiety symptoms. It should be noted that to test add a teaspoon of the powder in water and stir. If pure it will all sink whereas if full of husks they will float.

Cumin seeds/Jeera is considered so tasty and healthy that it is used as an ingredient in almost every Indian preparation. It prevents indigestion and is a rich source of iron. Its consumption can make one lose weight (by boosting metabolism) and sleep well, protect against possible urinary infection, can act as a laxative and help piles. It should be noted that when rubbed genuine cumin does not leave a colour on your skin.

Fennel seeds/Saunf helps digestion and therefore consumed after meals. Both fresh fennel bulbs and seeds provide important nutrients. High in Vitamin A so fennel seeds are good for eyes. They also help in removing toxins from the kidney. And, irritable bowel syndrome patients have greatly benefited from fennel seed extracts.

Fenugreek/Methre seeds/Methi daana has been used in dishes since ancient times with some seeds dating back to 4000 BCE. It continues to be commonly used throughout the Middle East and Asia. It belongs to the same family as soy. Its powder is known to lower levels of serum lipids such as total cholesterol and triglycerides, and aids in glucose and cancer protection. In addition to being particularly good for diabetics (should not be consumed raw) and weight watchers too, they have anti-ulcer, anti-microbial, anti-parasitic properties and protective effects in liver damage. Research has shown that applying the paste of methi leaves to acne can prevent fresh outbreaks.

Flaxseed/Alsi/Tishi/Pesi/Agasi/Ali-Vidai are very nutritious. Mahatma Gandhi had said when flaxseed is consumed regularly, people will enjoy good health. As stated above, it is the best source of Omega-3. It also contains linoleic acid or Omega-6, as well as fibre, minerals and is rich in Vitamin B Complex and Vitamin E. Flax seed is essential for normal growth and development. They are also known to play a role in the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, inflammatory, auto-immune disorders and cancer.

Garlic/Lasun is an excellent tonic for all round blood circulation and strengthening the heart. Boiled garlic is good for asthmatics. Garlic has anti-bacterial properties (allicin) and its anti-viral effect attacks the virus that causes warts. Published research in the International Journal of Dermatology in 2005 states that warts treated daily with baked and crushed garlic application disappear in a fortnight, whereas and corns and calluses after three weeks.

Galangal root is a spice closely related to ginger and turmeric and can be eaten fresh or cooked. It clears infections, reduces painful inflammation and is known to fight cancer. It is rich in antioxidants and may even boost male fertility.

is known to help sore throats, indigestion and arthritis aches and pains; it is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. A cup of ginger/adrak tea is greatly beneficial on a cold morning.

Gotu Kola/Asiatic Pennywort is from the Parsley family. The consumption of this herb reduces anxiety disorder and depression.

Holy Basil/Tulsi is the queen of herbs because of its innumerable benefits. It reduces stress, enhances endurance, increases oxygen utilisation, boots the immune system, slows aging, reduces inflammation, prevents gastric ulcers, protects against radiation, lowers fevers, cholesterol and high blood pressure, protects teeth and gums, fights bacterial viral and fungal infections, improves digestion and provides a rich supply of anti-oxidants and other nutrients. Moreover tulsi offers remarkable preventive and curative potential with respect to many stress-related degenerative disorders, such as, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, hepatitis and neurological dementia.

Khus khus/Ghasa ghasa/Posta dana/Poppy seeds and Khus/Vettivar are not the same. Khus khus consists of tiny oil seeds obtained from poppy flowers of opium plants. It is rich in Vitamins A, B, C and various minerals. Packed with protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and omega-6 fatty acids, this herb adds a nutty flavour and texture to foods. Indian cookery using only cream/beige coloured khus khus, whereas the European variety that is dark grey is called Maw; the Turkish one is brown.

is commonly added to tea and imparts a fresh flavour even to curries and soups. Said to get rid of stomach pain and fever, it is basically a soothing herb. (Lemon eucalyptus and citronella are not the same as lemongrass.)

Mustard seeds/Raye
is a common beneficial condiment throughout India available in 3 varieties: yellow, black and brown. Its compounds act as a protection against gastrointestinal cancer. Mustard seeds are rich in selenium and therefore have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. Magnesium content helps in reducing the severity of asthma attacks, congestion, and respiratory problems. They lower blood pressure and are a good source of dietary fibre too.

Nutmeg/Jaiphal contains powerful anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and can effectively fight tooth decay. Having just a pinch of it prior to sleeping is said to cure insomnia because it contains trimericetin which relaxes our muscles enough to make us sleep soundly. It needs to be consumed in small quantities and is therefore used more for its flavour than health benefits. However, to cure acne, it can be applied on the face in the form of a paste. Mace comes from the same plant as Nutmeg but is derived from the protective coating of the nutmeg seeds. Mace has similar properties but is uniquely peppery.

Pumpkin, Cucumber, Melon and Water Melon seeds in combination stimulate anti-stress hormones and fight fatigue, boost immunity, lower cholesterol, and even reduce food cravings. Incidentally pumpkin seeds are the only seeds that are alkaline-forming, can reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, 100 grams seeds provide 30 grams protein, reduce arthritis inflammation, prevent kidney stone formation, are good for prostate health, promote good sleep, and are filled with minerals and high in zinc.

Saffron/Kesar is the most expensive/precious spice because its production is labour costly since it consists of stigmas of Crocus salivus flowers. Ancients ate saffron to enhance libido, boost mood and improve memory. Today we know it is also a powerful anti-oxidant, has cancer-fighting properties, reduces premenstrual symptoms, aids weight loss by reducing appetite and is an anti-depressant. In addition, it can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood sugar levels, is good for age-related eyesight like macular degeneration and can improve memory of those having Alzheimer’s disease. The best way to draw out saffron is to soak a pinch in a little hot (not boiling) water. It is usually added to rice dishes and imparts a subtle taste aroma and colour.

Sesame seeds/Til is another oil seed, considered nourishing. Sesame contains 50% oil by weight. The white variety is very high in calcium; the red variety in iron, whereas the best quality and high quantity of oil (considered auspicious, like ghee) is extracted from black til. (There are many variations in the colour of sesame oil: cold-pressed sesame oil is pale yellow, while Indian sesame oil (gingelly or til oil ) is golden and East Asian sesame oils are commonly a dark brown colour. This dark colour and flavour are derived from roasted/toasted sesame seeds.) Rated as one of the world’s healthiest foods, in addition to being a good source of protein, copper, manganese, calcium, iron, phosphorus, Vitamins B1 and E, zinc and dietary fibre, til contains cholesterol-lowering properties and prevents high blood pressure as well as having protective effects against hormone related diseases.

Star Anise imparts a warm flavour and is usually used along with cinnamon and cloves.

Sunflower seeds
are rich in Vitamins B Complex and E, magnesium, calcium and proteins. These nutritious seeds are useful for cholesterol reduction, inflammatory conditions, osteoporosis and boosting immunity.

Tamarind/Imali has alkaline properties which counteract hyperacidity. The Malabar tamarind/kokum also counteracts hyperacidity, but is famous for weight loss because of its high content of hydrozyl citric acid (HCA). It is of culinary and therapeutic value, having no less than 28 health benefits, such as for allergies, glaucoma, rheumatism, ear infections, gum diseases, intestinal parasites and Alzheimer’s Disease. Nutritionally is contains high levels of Vitamin C, niacin, thiamine, folic acid, magnesium, potassium and manganese, and is said to have the power of antibiotics with none of the side effects. The Manila tamarind is known as Jangal Jalebi (Hindi), Seeme hunase (Kannada), Vilayatichinch (Marathi), Kodukkappuli (Tamil), Seema chintakaya (Telegu) and Vilayati ambli (Gujarati) in different parts of India. It contains anti-ulcer properties and protects the liver. It is very high in Vitamin C, improves immunity and its anti-oxidants fight cancer.

Turmeric/Haldi (also known as Curcumin which is the active ingredient in turmeric) is the “superstar of spices” and has been recently globally positioned as a “super-food” with India being the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter. It has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties since it is an anti-oxidant due to the active compound curcumin. Its consumption helps arthritis, heart diseases and diabetes too. Turmeric consumption helps concentration, sharpens memory and is also found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and help glaucoma. It boosts immunity and prevents infections and viral diseases including the common cold. Haldi powder acts as a disinfectant, stops bleeding and hastens healing when applied to a cut. In short it helps tremendously whether consumed orally or used topically. It should be noted that lead chromate and chalk powder are commonly used to adulterate turmeric. To check add a little powder in a glass of water – if adulterated it will become bright yellow.

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron. The vanilla bean is a spice from orchids that are cultivated. At one time many brands of vanilla flavourings contained castoreum derived from the beaver’s anal glands, but this is no longer used.

Vinegar is obtained by fermenting dilute alcoholic liquids, typically wine, cider or beer, but in India it is also made with sugarcane juice. It is used as a condiment or for pickling. There is evidence that apple cider vinegar helps lower blood sugar and is considered anti-bacterial. Interestingly during the 17th-century plague in France, a gang of four thieves would rob corpses yet never catch the plague themselves because they anointed their bodies with a concoction of vinegar and herbs like garlic, rosemary, sage, lavender, thyme, juniper berry, black pepper and more steeped in it.

Grain Cereals

Cereals consist of four parts:
Husk or outer covering of the grain
Bran or outer coat of the grain itself
Germ or embryo
Endosperm which contains starch, protein and a little fat

Whole grains provide more food value in terms of energy and good quality protein; also contain calcium and iron. And if sprouted provide an increased balance of nutrients, especially Vitamin C.

Barley/Jau consumption can help in the prevention and controlling of type 2 diabetes. Also Vitamin B6 and magnesium found in barley helps break down the masses of toxic calcium oxalate which is the primary cause of stones in the kidney; whereas the dietary fibre reduces the amount of calcium that is excreted by the body via the urine and cleanses the kidneys. Barley water is prepared by boiling 1 litre water with 1 tablespoon of barley pearls on a low flame till reduced to half the quantity; then strain, cool and add lemon if desired, before drinking through the day.

Corn/Maize/Makka that is roasted on the roadside is synonymous with the monsoon in India. As long as corn or maize has not been genetically altered, it is healthy and wholesome. Corn flour, corn starch and xanthan gum used as ingredients in foods are also derived from corn. (Xanthan gum can also be obtained from soy, wheat and dairy.) The World’s Healthiest Foods lists corn as one of the good sources of fibre, manganese, Vitamins C, B5 and B3, and says that anti-oxidant, digestive, and blood sugar benefits are derived from this grain. Their website states that steaming corn is the healthiest way to consume it, and that the addition of lime helps easy absorption of B3. Corn also provides our bodies with essential minerals such as zinc, magnesium, copper, iron and manganese and phosphorus.

Millets such as Sorghum/Jowar, Finger Millet/Ragi, Foxtail Millet/Kangni, Pearl Millet/Bajra, Proso/Chena, Amaranth/Rajgira/Ramdana, Buckwheat Millet/Kuttu, Kodo Millet/Kodra/Varagu, Brown Top Millet/Hari Kagni and Little Millet/Kutki are available and usually consumed by Indians. They are starchy and contain as much protein as wheat and maize, are rich in iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and Vitamin B. Finger millet is very high in calcium, rich in iron and fibre and has better energy content than other cereals thus making it ideal for infants and the elderly. In fact, these ancient grains have been eaten by humans for 7,000 years! And, the good news is that 2023 was celebrated as the International Year of Millets. Initiated by India along with Russia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, and Senegal, the proposal got co-sponsored by more than 70 nations and was unanimously approved at the UN General Assembly.

Incidentally, Samak rice/Sanwa/Sama/Bardyard Millet very high in calcium – it is not a grain, but seed eaten with its hull.

Among Finger Millet, Little Millet, Sorghum, Pearl Millet, Foxtail Millet, Kodo Millet, Barnyard Millet, Paddy and Wheat, the National Institute of Nutrition, Telangana found the following maximum nutrients:
Calcium in Finger Millet
Fat & Energy in Pearl Millet
Thiamine & Protein in Foxtail Millet
Iron, Fat & Fibre in Barnyard Millet
Carbohydrate in Paddy
Phosphorous & Niacin in Wheat

Finger Millet/Ragi reduces blood glucose levels and is rich in calcium. It can be eaten as roti, dosas, chelas, upma, cookies, cakes and porridge.

Pearl Millet/Bajra reduces cholesterol, aids weight loss. It can be eaten as khichdi, roti, upma, idli and paratha.

Foxtail Millet/Kangni is good for cardiac ealth, skin and hair growth. It can be eaten as dosas, chelas, pancakes and bread.

Kodo Millet/Varagu is high in fibre, rich in niacin. It can be eaten as idli, cheela and khichdi.

Amaranth/Ramdana is rich in calcium. It can be eaten as flour, tikkis, laddoos, salads and cupcakes.

Buckwheat Millet/Kuttu is rich in potassium, magnesium, folate and calcium. It can be eaten as khichdi, chapatti, dosa, poori, halwa, sandwich and cutlets.

Barnyard Millet/Sanwa is a rich source of fibre. It can be eaten as porridge, upma, dosa, payasam and pulao.

Oats/Jaee lowers cholesterol and triglycerides because it contains soluble fibre which decreases the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the intestines. Oatmeal has been promoted as a heart-healthy, fibre-rich, super-food.

Quinoa is so nutritious that the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO UN) officially declared that 2013 be recognised as “The International Year of the Quinoa”. These small seeds are of a plant similar to amaranth, a staple for the Incas of the Andes for 5,000 years. Since Quinoa is expensive in India, remember Bathua/Chakwat and Amaranth/Rajgira are just as good also being higher than wheat and rice in protein and several nutrients as well as complex carbohydrates. More importantly, they are produced here so much cheaper and easily available and used in Indian cuisine.

Rice/Chawal is the staple food for the majority of humans around the world. As the fibre content is low it is quickly and easily digested. It has long been regarded as a “comfort food” and a source of good health and rejuvenation. Brown rice is that from which only the husk is removed and is therefore healthier and particularly higher in calcium than white rice. However, it should be cooked in 6 times the normal amount of water in order to reduce the arsenic levels. Rice milled to a high degree and coated with glucose or talcum is labelled polished rice. Basmati long grain rice is the most popular in India. Sona Masuri from AP has a similar texture. Samba rice of TN is the most filling and high in calories. Mogra rice is non-glutinous. Indrayani is rich in vitamins and minerals. Sushi rice and Sticky rice both have high starch content. Bomba rice absorbs 3 times more water, has a rich flavour and texture and is chewier than other rice varieties. Arborio short grain rice is used for Italian dishes, whereas Valencia is used for Spanish dishes. Red rice is loaded with fibre and iron and is said to reduce inflammation, control cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Black rice is packed with more anti-oxidants than red rice. In fact black rice is a good source of several nutrients, particularly protein, fibre and iron. (Black rice is also known as Forbidden Rice since only the upper class ate it in ancient China.) Blue rice is prepared with fragrant jasmine rice to which butterfly pea flowers are added (to impart the blue colour) and is commonly consumed as nasi kerabu in Malaysia and Thailand. American wild rice comes from a type of grass and splits when cooked. Green rice/bamboo rice/mulayari is actually the seeds of dying bamboo shoots.

Wheat/Gehun is the most common cereal. It is a health building and energy giving food. Wheat flour or atta is used for chappatis. Dalia/lapsi is the shredded form of wheat, whereas semolina/rava/sooji is flour obtained by granulating wheat. They are very wholesome, but maida (wheat without bran, milled fine, refined & bleached) is not wholesome, worse if it is fried as in puris, luchi, kulcha, etc. Naan is also made from it and it is used in cakes. Therapeutic benefits of wheat grass are well known. During religious fasts the nutritious buckwheat/kuttu flour, which has a nutty flavour, is usually utilised.

Fermented Foods

Vegans wanting alternatives to fermented foods like curd and buttermilk can either consume the same products made from plant milk or go in for other items such as kombucha, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi (may contain fish) and kefir (may contain milk) made without any animal derived ingredients. In fact, even pickled vegetables in brine are probiotic-rich.

Such symbiotic, probiotic or prebiotic super-foods solve gastro-intestinal problems and can be consumed on a regular basis with no side effects. They restore good bacteria in the intestine and make it strong and healthy by activating immune cells – after all 70 to 80% of immune cells are present in the gut.


Fruits provide vitamins, minerals and natural sugar; at the same time they maintain the acid-alkaline balance in the body.

To benefit from the goodness of fruits never eat them with or after a meal. The ideal time to eat fruit is on an empty stomach or an hour before a meal.

Fresh fruit juice is far better than cooked fruit or even packaged juice. However it is more nutritious to eat whole fruits than to drink fruit juice. Packaged juices in India could be no different to those in America: according to a study released in January 2019 by Consumer Reports measurable levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic, mercury or lead, were found in every single one of the 45 juice products it tested from major brands sold across USA. This can harm children who drink as little as half a cup a day.

Apple/Seb: Every one has heard of the maxim “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. (But many may not have heard that there are about 7,000 varieties of apples available and originally the fruit was from Central Asia!) In fact, eating two or three apples a day can lower blood cholesterol and slightly raise heart protective HDL; can also reduce blood pressure and help keep blood sugar levels steady. Apple consumption has been associated with reduced risk of a number of diseases including lung cancer, asthma and type-2 diabetes. Vitamins C and E found in apples build immunity, fight chronic diseases and delay ageing. It is said that apples should not be peeled since the outside contains more anti-oxidant compounds than the inside. However, in view of the extensive use of pesticides to grow apples (and other fruit) how can one be sure it is healthy not to peel fruit? Also experts suggest that apples be rinsed in vinegar to get rid of the possible wax coating, peeled and then consumed.

Avocado has a not so commonly known animal sounding name: alligator pear. The fruit is native to Mexico and Central America but commercially grown all over the world. It is very popular among vegans because of its monounsaturated fat content that can be heart protective. They also contain 35% more potassium than bananas and are rich in dietary fibre and folic acid. Since it has a bland taste it is a versatile ingredient in recipes. Mexicans make guacamole and eat it with corn chips. However, most people like avocados sprinkled with powdered sugar or a salad dressing. In 2013 it was proved that consuming avocados improves one’s nutrient intake and in 2016 that avocado helps during pregnancy and lactation. Eating avocados certainly improve skin and hair conditions.

Banana/Kela is a cheap source of nutrition for about 400 million persons and generates income in 135 countries where it is grown. Although high in calories (100g = 90 calories) the banana contains good amounts of health benefiting anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins, particularly potassium, manganese, Vitamins C and B6 (pyridoxine) and folic acid. Its soluble dietary fibre helps normal bowel movements. Bananas are used by athletes to get instant natural energy. A study found that a banana with its all-natural package provides comparable or greater anti-inflammatory and other benefits for athletes than sports drinks. They are good for anaemia since they are high in iron and can stimulate the production of haemoglobin in the blood; at the same time they are high in potassium which is good for beating blood pressure. In addition bananas boost brain power, lift depression, calm nerves, cure hangovers, sooth heartburn and even neutralise over-acidity by coating the lining of the stomach. Banana flowers and stem are commonly cooked and eaten in South India and West Bengal. It should be noted that artificially ripened bananas with calcium carbide may look good but are toxic. Therefore bananas should always be washed and entirely peeled before consuming. The first bananas came from New Guinea whereas others were clones from South East Asia.

Cherries/Raktim: Consuming cherries prevents cavities in teeth. They also have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Cherries fight inflammation and cancer. They contain quercetin and ellagic acid which inhibit the growth of tumours without damaging healthy cells. Husk cherries (also known as gooseberries) are covered in husks and resemble greenish-yellowish-orange cherry tomatoes.

Chinese date/Jhar Beri/Bor is usually sold dried. It is considered a digestive and diuretic.

Dragon Fruit is a good source of fibre and promotes growth of healthy gut bacteria. It is packed with B Vitamins and calcium so can prevent osteoporosis.


Fig/Anjeer consumption is considered beneficial for asthma patients. Fresh and dried figs have laxative powers that help constipation. However, some vegans and vegetarians do not eat them because certain edible figs contain dead wasps. In India, Smyrna, Calimyrna, San Pedro, Caprifig and Wild fig are pollinated by female wasps, but Poona, Conardia, Mission Kadota, and Brown Turkey varieties are grown parthenocarpically. For detailed information on Figs please read

Grapes/Angoor can be green, white, golden, red, black, purple – there are over 8,000 varieties worldwide. They contain powerful anti-oxidants which prevent and halt various cancers. Red wines are famous for benefiting our hearts because of the polyphenol found in the skins of red grapes. Unfortunately, toxic benzene hexa chloride (BHC) pesticide is often found on grapes and no amount of washing will get rid of it because it is non-water soluble. It is therefore advisable to only consume organic grapes.

Guava/Amrood: The National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad has declared guavas/amrood as the “ultimate super-food”. Among 14 fresh Indian fruits they studied, guavas were found to have the highest concentration of anti-oxidants. Weight-wise guavas contain more than five times as much Vitamin C than oranges, are a good source of niacin, potassium, and pectin which has powerful cholesterol lowering properties.

Indian Gooseberries/Amla aid digestion and hyperacidity, but their greatest benefit is that they are high in Vitamin C. Regular consumption prevents seasonal infections, stops hair-fall, results in glowing skin, helps to control diabetes and strengthen one’s heart. The amla is in fact a super berry (as often referred to) because it can solve many health problems – digestive, respiratory, and reproductive issues included. The Goji berry is called the world’s “miracle fruit” because of its nutritious qualities however in comparison the little known amla is actually not only similar, but much healthier. Husk cherries are also known as gooseberries. They are covered in husks and resemble greenish-yellowish-orange cherry tomatoes.

Jackfruit/Kathal: The fruit is huge in size and can weigh up to 20 kgs. When raw and tender, it is usually cooked like meat since it has a fibrous structure that resembles it. The ripe fruit is pungent and needs to be peeled and eaten; the dried and roasted/boiled seeds have higher anti-oxidant properties than the flesh. Jackfruit is rich in protein, starch, calcium, Vitamins A B and C, copper and potassium. Its consumption boosts immune systems, improves thyroid function, helps skin and eyes, lowers blood pressure, manages type-2 diabetes, is anti-cancerous and increases sperm count. Jackfruit has the potential to substitute staple crops such as wheat and corn. In fact, is often called a miracle tree as every part of it is put to good use. In Tamil Nadu it is considered one of the three auspicious trees (the other two being mango and banana). It is also said that jackfruit trees keep monkeys and bears away from invading human dwellings! Karnataka holds Halasu Mela or Jackfruit fairs to promote the plant claiming that there is nothing that can not be of use from this tree. In fact, all the southern states are developing different varieties of jackfruit for commercial farming in a big way.

Jawa Apple/Gudgud Jam/Jambu Nerale is white or pink. Its juice that somewhat resembles sugarcane juice and is very filling while being good for diabetics and heart patients.

Kiwifruit/Kiwiphal: Kiwifruit contains more Vitamin C than oranges, more potassium than bananas, and more fibre than apples. Two a day gives protection against heart disease, stroke, cancer and respiratory diseases; plus accelerates healing wounds and sores.  Kiwis are high in folic acid and being rich in fibre aid digestion.

Lemon/Nimbu has a high concentration of Vitamins B and C, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and immunity building properties, fights disease and infection with high levels of bioflavonoids, pectin, limonene, citric acid, magnesium and calcium, helps digestion and promotes weight loss. Given its health giving properties, it is a good idea to regularly add lemon to drinking water or consume it in other ways. It makes the body alkaline and is particularly good for those having acidity. Lemon juice was used in ancient Egypt for treating food poisoning. Ayurveda also uses lemon juice and peel for treating ailments particularly relating to the liver. Last, but not least, it is said that lemon has the ability to kill certain types of cancerous cells.

originated in China. Not only do they taste great but they impart health benefits. Being rich in Vitamin C and B complex, they boost the immune system, fight inflammation and also help the body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Mango/Aam is the king of fruits – no wonder over a thousand varieties are grown. Both ripe and unripe mangos are beneficial. Their consumption prevents cancer, lowers cholesterol, clears skin, promotes brain health, improves digestion and boosts the immune system. Vitamin K helps the blood to clot effectively and prevents anaemia. They are a great source of magnesium and potassium so can lower blood pressure. Ripe mangos are high in Vitamin A and benefit eyes, whereas raw mangos have more vitamin C than ripe ones. They also contain the B Vitamins that are responsible for maintaining good health. But, the pectin in the raw mango diminishes as the stone or seed within develops. Raw mango juice is very refreshing. Grated and cooked with jaggery and water, the drink is strained and served during summer after flavouring with rock salt, cumin, black pepper and aniseed. However, raw mangoes must be consumed in moderation – no more than one or two a day. Aam papad and aamchur are consumed when mangoes are out of season. Aam papad (a sweet) is made from ripe mango pulp blended with sugar & salt, and spread on mats to dry in the sun. But, aamchur is made from unripe mangoes – it is a seasoning which imparts a tang. The mangoes are cut into strips and dried in the sun for a few days till brittle and can be easily ground to a fine powder. It should be noted that artificially ripened fruit look good but do not carry their typical aroma. Experts therefore suggest that to wash off possible chemicals, mangoes should be held under running water for a few minutes.

Mulberries/Shahtut are particularly good for the skin. They should be consumed soon after being plucked off the tree.

Palmyra fruit/Tadgola must be consumed tender not fully ripe since they are then difficult to digest. They are good for hyperacidity, prickly heat attacks and urinary tract infections.

Papaya/Papita was called “the fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus. Among fruits, it is considered one of the healthiest and tastiest. It can be consumed ripe or unripe, raw or cooked, resulting in excellent digestive benefits and preventing constipation. It is best eaten ripe as a fruit with a few drops of lime squeezed on it, but the unripe cooked papaya tastes delicious too. The juice of the leaves (2 tablespoons every 6 hours) brings up platelet count of dengue patients. Papaya leaf extract is used as a prophylactic to prevent malaria as well. And, the leaves have proved to dramatically fight, without any toxic side-effects, tumours like cervix, breast, liver, lung and pancreatic cancers. When researchers gave a papaya seed preparation to children who tested positive for intestinal parasites it was shown to be anti-helminthic (eliminated parasitic worms) and anti-amoebic (destroyed or suppressed amoebas) and it treated their parasites without harmful side effects. Also, consuming papaya significantly improves digestive complaints like bloating and constipation and is also rich in Vitamin C and high in water and fibre content which regulates bowel activity.

Pineapple/Ananas originated in the Amazon. A tropical fruit which is a storehouse of nutrients, it improves immunity, strengthens bones, is good for diabetics, improves digestion, gives glowing skin and lustrous hair, and may also help prevent heart disease and cancer. It is best eaten uncooked, sprinkled with salt & pepper.

Pomegranate/Anar is used extensively in Ayurveda. It contains phosphorus, selenium and Vitamin K. Regular consumption of juice reduces the risk of heart disease, inhibits viral infections and gives anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant benefits. It is considered helpful in controlling diarrhoea and dysentery. The fruit imparts powerful protection since it contains anti-cancer properties and guards against memory loss and brain function.

Sapodilla/Sapota/Chikoo is a very popular tropical fruit like mango, banana and jackfruit. It is exceptionally sweet, delicious – and nutritious. It can be regarded as a natural boosting energy food. It is an excellent source of dietary fibre which makes it a suitable bulk laxative. The fruit is rich in tannin so imparts anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-parasitic effects. Being packed with anti-oxidants it has the power to prevent cancer. These anti-oxidants also reduce wrinkles, soften hair and make skin glow. 100 grams of chikoos contain 24.5% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. It also contains a good amount of Vitamins A and B. Chikoos have expectorant properties and relieve congestion and cough. In fact, their consumption is known to keep chronic coughs at bay because they flush out the phlegm and mucous, and keep the nasal and respiratory tract clear. The fruit is rich in folate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and iron and if consumed regularly results in healthy bones.

Star fruit/Kamrakh doesn’t contain much sugar even when fully ripe. It builds immunity and regulates blood pressure.

Strawberry is a hybrid of two varieties of betters from the Americas. They contain lots of Vitamin C, boost immunity, are good for vision, keep wrinkles at bay, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and regulate blood pressure.

Water Chestnut/Singhara is very nutritious and an excellent source of carbohydrates, calcium, phosphate, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, sodium and potassium. While chestnuts grow on trees, water chestnuts grow in shallow water-bodies and are fruits of aquatic plants. They can be eaten fresh or added to a variety of dishes to reap their health benefits. Since they are made up of 74% water they qualify as high-volume food that keeps one full for long with fewer calories. They have been traditionally used to treat dysentery, diabetes, blood pressure and slow down growth of tumours. Singharas are cultivated in a lake like the Nanora talab in Khajuraho and collected in a dora (small iron boat) between October and December. The flour called kori ka atta can also be made into chapattis, puris and halwa. Incidentally the singhara is critically endangered under the International Union of Nature (IUCN) red list.


Apart from the fact that for a teaspoonful of honey, a bee has to make about 10,000 trips to a flower and that honey is what bees collect for themselves, not humans, leading nutritionists have stated that honey offers no special health benefits since it mainly consists of sugars and only small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Honey carries harmful C. botulinum spores which can even prove fatal to babies’ undeveloped immune systems. If produced from particular flowers, it may trigger honey intoxication symptoms like dizziness, weakness, excessive perspiration, nausea and vomiting. Honey causes tooth decay faster than table sugar, as it has the highest calorie content of all sugars with about 65 calories, compared to around 48 calories per tablespoon found in table sugar.

Although honey is called a natural sweetener, it may be considered a refined sugar because it has the same 97 percent relative sweetness as that of granulated sugar, and 80 percent is simple sugars, mostly fructose and glucose with small quantities of other sugars like maltose, sucrose and other complex carbohydrates; and is similar to synthetically-produced inverted sugar syrup. Also, commercial beekeepers often give sugar directly to the bees which increases honey volume but leads to bland tasting honey – no different to a thick sugar syrup.

For detailed information on Honey please read


The China Study was undertaken by the governments of China and America with the help of the Oxford and Cornell universities that covered 35-40 years of human nutrition and which showed up that cow’s milk and animal protein were the main cause of today’s lifestyle diseases.

In India, milk is considered vegetarian. In fact “pure vegetarians” consume it – but since a growing number of vegans don’t, they are frequently asked how they manage to get enough calcium! They need to be educated that milk is not the best source of calcium:

Item: 100 grams Calcium content in mg
Sesame seeds/til 1470
Agathi leaves 1130
Curry leaves/patta 830
Moringa/drumstick tree leaves 420
Fenugreek/methi bhaji 395
Finger millet/ragi 344
Horse gram/kulathi 287
Kidney beans/rajma  260
Betel leaves/paan ke patte 230
Almonds/badam  230
Chick peas/chana 202
Coriander/kuthmir  184
Black gram/urad dal 154
Jackfruit seeds 133
Green gram/moong 124
Cow’s milk  120 ONLY!

Eating a til or ragi ladoo provides almost the entire daily calcium required. Also remember, all greens, not just curry-patta and moringa, but palak, broccoli, savoy cabbage, cauliflower leaves, turnip greens, etc are packed with calcium.

It is clear that by choosing to get ones nutrients from plant sources, one is not a party to exploitation of milch cattle and can stay away from the disadvantages of milk – the basic health disadvantage of consumption being that like all animal derived products, dairy contains harmful saturated fat – as well. In fact, heart disease, obesity and even cancer can be caused by dairy products. They are high in calories and give rise to cholesterol.

Many people are realising that they are lactose intolerant. This together with their desire to go vegan (for health and/or compassionate reasons) has resulted in a growing and big demand for non-dairy milks. Some good alternatives are almond, cashew, oat and coconut milks but quinoa, barley, walnut, peanut, pecan, pistachio, hazelnut, macadamia, chia, sesame and pumpkin seed milks are available or can easily be made at home. But, one needs to be wary of soy milk since it would probably be GM.

German researchers have found that the relaxing effect of a cup of ordinary black tea on the arteries is completely wiped out if milk (even a splash of it) is added. In other words, milk wrecks the health benefits of tea when added to the brew. Similarly, a study published in The European Heart Journal stated that researchers had 16 healthy adults drink cups of freshly brewed black tea, black tea mixed with a small amount of skim milk, or boiled water, and measured the effects on vascular function. Compared with water, black tea “significantly improved” arterial function the researchers found, “whereas addition of milk completely blunted the effects of tea”. In fact, green tea without milk originated in China as a medicinal drink and is considered as one of the world’s healthiest drinks. Adding lemon, not milk to it enhances its health benefits.

Water consumption is also good for health but it is not at all necessary to have as much as 8 glasses a day. Unfortunately many continue to believe in the myth which originated with a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that people need about 2.5 litres of water a day. The sentence that followed stated “most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods” and therein lies the misconception.  An increasing number of people are drinking water infused with items such as cucumber, mint, lemon and ginger because it acts like a detox.


Mushrooms are fungi, not plants, and therefore can not be called fruits or vegetables, but since they are non-animal in origin, vegans eat them. Consuming mushrooms results in improved nutrition and immune system function. They provide Vitamin B and are the only non-animal food that contains natural Vitamin D. They can delay if not prevent neurodegenerative problems like dementia and Alzheimers Disease. Unique compounds in mushrooms protect against breast and prostate cancer. Women who eat 10 grams of mushrooms daily are said to reduce their risk of breast cancer by 64%. No wonder, mushroom extract has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since ancient times.

There are three basic categories of mushrooms: saprophytic, mycorrhizal and parasitic. Morel (of the first category) are rare and cost even more than saffron since it grows on dead and decaying matter at altitudes of more than 450 m above sea level.

According to a study undertaken at the Pennsylvania State University, USA, eating white button mushrooms may improve regulation of glucose in the liver, thus paving the way for a new diabetes treatment strategy.

The commonly available dhingri or button mushrooms are not carnivorous fungi. But, fungi can be carnivorous like certain species of mushrooms like the oyster mushroom which is primarily a wood decay fungus (white rot) and it traps nematodes (roundworms) and spiders using droplets of toxin that paralyse and kill. The creatures are then digested and nutrients and nitrogen absorbed by the mushrooms.

Incidentally there are more than 750 known carnivorous plant species that consume insects for nitrogen and other nutrients like dead wasps in figs mentioned above.


Research conducted at the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University, California, USA, reveals that daily consumption of nuts improves blood levels of cholesterol in non-overweight people with high LDL or the “bad” cholesterol. According to this research nuts are rich in unsaturated fats, and they contain fibre and phytosterols which may lower cholesterol; moreover, they are the richest source of protein in the plant kingdom.

The Harvard School of Public Health advises that nuts like pistachios have a favourable effect on blood lipids and may protect against coronary artery disease through vasodilation, which inhibits platelet aggregation and adhesion, thus giving protection from atherosclerosis and angina. According to the US Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database, pistachios have as much protein as an egg, plus provide more than 30 different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Another study published in the European Journal of Nutrition states that including nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts in our diet may help reduce weight gain and lower the risk of obesity. Previous studies too have found that nuts are positively associated with a variety of health benefits including memory function in seniors.

Almonds/Badam nuts are found inside the almond fruit. They are a good source of protein, fibre (if had with the skin) and calcium; and they have a high content of manganese, Vitamin E, magnesium, tryptophan, copper, Vitamin B-2 and phosphorus. They are also high in monosaturated fatty acids and may lower cholesterol levels and reduce risk of heart disease. Research published in Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental showed that almonds reduce blood cholesterol and lessen the rise in blood sugar levels when eaten with carbohydrate foods that have a high glycemic index such as white bread. A few Mamra Badam soaked in water overnight and chewed in the morning before consuming any thing else, are said to give good health benefits including enhanced memory and good eye-sight. And, having 10-12 almonds could get rid of a migraine headache.

Brazil nuts contain very high levels of selenium, an anti-oxidant necessary for the body to function properly. Just one nut contains 175% selenium of the reference daily intake which is almost double of what the body requires. In addition to having selenium, they are energy dense and rich in healthy fats, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, manganese, thiamine and Vitamin E. It is said that eating one Brazil nut a day (beware: more than one can harm) reduces inflammation, supports brain function, lowers cholesterol and improves thyroid function.

Cashew nuts/Kaju is a good source of copper, magnesium, tryptophan and phosphorus. They have a lower fat content relative to other nuts and 75% of the fat is monounsaturated fat, primarily oleic acid, which is healthy fat that is found in olive oil and said to reduce risk of heart disease.

Dates/Khajur is a combination of fibre and sugar – one of the sweetest fruits, eaten fresh and also dried. Dates contain minerals such as potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium and Vitamin B6. Their consumption enhances appetite and increases body weight. They help iron deficiency anaemia, relieve constipation, boost heart and brain health, are anti-inflammatory, reduce blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, avoid arteries from getting clogged and the risk of a stroke, also ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Since dates contain fluorine they protect against tooth decay; moreover, their consumption improves immunity and gives protection against cancers, liver disease, cataracts, macular degeneration, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's Disease.

Peanuts/Mungphali contributes significantly to dietary intake of anti-oxidants. Although they are contain lots of protein they are also high in fat so need to be consumed in moderation.

Pine nuts/Chilgoza control blood lipids and coronary heart diseases as was published in The British Journal of Nutrition in 2006. They contain a number of vitamins and anti-oxidants and minerals such as Vitamins B, E and A (lutein which improves vision), zinc, selenium and manganese (as much as 380% of recommended daily allowance). Pine nuts should be consumed in moderation particularly as they make one feel full soon.

Pistachios/Pistas are the lowest calorie nuts and have unique health benefits. A handful a day provides considerable levels of phenolic anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins and protein. According to the US Dept of Agriculture Nutrient Database, they provide more than 30 different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients; and 1 oz or 49 nuts have 6 grams of protein – the same as an egg. Also, their appetite suppressing oleic acid compound helps fight obesity. And, eating some before bedtime can help fall asleep since they contain melatonin.

Walnut/Akharote has the highest content of anti-oxidants and is the only nut with a high level of omega-3 essential for cognitive health. Their fibre content makes them good for digestion too. Research findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition states that a walnut-enriched diet protects your heart and prevents bone loss. And, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California, USA, walnuts could help in losing weight. Another research proved that consumption of walnuts lower blood cholesterol, as well as help people stay sharper in old age. However, we need to watch out for and not consume walnuts that have turned rancid.

Oils and Fats

Animal fats and oils are slaughter derived from pigs, chickens, cows, fish, and other creatures. Dairy products such as butter and ghee are also animal fats used for cooking.

Cooking oil is obtained from different sources ranging from coconut, safflower/kardai, sesame/til, groundnut, mustard, etc. As long as the plants are not genetically engineered (like rapeseed from which canola oil is produced) the oils extracted, if consumed in moderation, are basically not harmful.

Smoke points of oils differ and some oils are therefore no good for cooking. For example, avocado oil which is extracted from the fruit (pulp) not the avocado seed has a smoke point of 300°C so its nutritive value is not reduced when heated. Whereas, walnut oil although nutritious when drizzled on a salad, can not be heated without it turning bitter.

Cold pressed oil is how oil was first extracted. No impurities were removed, it was not heated and no preservatives were added. It was pure oil with nutrients intact.

Refined oil came about with industrial extraction and marketing of oil. They began subjecting the oil to different procedures and added chemicals to increase shelf life, remove typical odors and change colour. Naturally then, refined oil is not a healthy choice.

For example, people think olive oil is the ultimate oil. Little do they realize that there are various types of olive oil, the main categories are: extra virgin (first press of olives, 100% natural, high in anti-oxidants), pure (refined oil with a small addition of virgin olive oil), light (refined oil with higher smoke point), pomace (oil extracted from left-over pulp with the help of solvents and considered unhealthy).

Remember, extra virgin olive oil can easily be replaced by cold pressed mustard oil because among several reasons, the monounsaturated fat in mustard oil is nearly on par with that of olive oil.

Components of all oils and fats are fatty acids.

Saturated fats remain solid at room temperature. They are mostly derived from animal sources like ghee and butter. Plant derived saturated fats are palm and coconut oil.

Mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats are plant derived. Flaxseed oil is a good source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids and also reduces arthritis.

Trans-fats are man-made and toxic because they are produced during processing of oils/fats or during repeated heating of at high temperature for frying. Trans-fats increase LDL and reduce HDL (the “good” cholesterol) in our blood.

Poly-unsaturated fatty acids (commonly known as PUFAs) are critical for good health. Linoleic acid or Omega-6, and alpha-linoleic acid or Omega-3, are two PUFAs that are essential fats. They are not produced in our bodies and need to be absorbed from the food consume, or should be taken as supplements.

The richest source of Omega-6 oil is safflower/kardai oil, followed by grape seed oil; whereas, the richest source of Omega-3 is flax seed. Cold pressed hemp seed oil helps lower cholesterol, boosts immunity and with a 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is considered one of the best oils. (Both grape seed and hemp seed oils are often found as ingredients in cosmetics because they are beneficial for skin and hair.)

2017 studies conducted that analyzed the effects of specific nutrients showed that when 5% of calories from saturated fats were replaced by an equal number of calories from poly-unsaturated fats, mono-unsaturated fats or whole-grain carbohydrates, the risk of coronary heart disease reduced respectively by 25%, 15% and 9%.


2016 is the International Year of Pulses promoted by the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to heighten public awareness of their nutritional benefits. Pulses are derived from legumes and are high in protein and fibre, and low in fat. They form a vital part of a healthy diet.

Legumes are:
• Pulses – dried Beans, dried Peas, Chickpeas and Lentils

• Fresh Peas and fresh Beans

• Soybeans, Peanuts

cover dried pulses, lentils, peas and beans, stripped of their outer hulls, and split.

Dried edible seeds of legumes like peas, beans and lentils are called pulses.

In order to benefit nutritionally, all legumes should be soaked overnight and well cooked. For example, phytates present could block zinc absorption.

Black gram/Urad, Green gram/Mung, and Pigeon pea/Arhar/Tuvar are the three highly prized pulses in India. All three are beneficial health-wise. It is healthier to consume whole lentils/saabut dals – mung and masoor are easily available.

Urad dal is one of food items that contain a considerable amount of calcium: 154 mg is found in 100 grams. In addition, urad dal also has one of the highest Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratios and is therefore good for the heart. Other benefits of consuming urad dal are that it boosts energy and bone mineral density. It is good for diabetics and is a diuretic. Its consumption can relieve pain and inflammation as well as speed up healing wounds. And most important its consumption helps optimize the nutrient absorption in the body. From the nutritional perceptive comparatively Imarti is healthier than Jalebi as it is made from urad dal and not maida.

Sattu is a nutritious combination of chick peas, pigeon peas, green peas, grass peas, horse gram, corn, barley, and may be a legume such as soy beans. The powder is used as an ingredient in many dishes and even as a drink, especially in Bihar where it originated. As it is produced by roasting its nutritional value remains intact: it is rich in protein carbohydrates, iron, manganese, magnesium and fibre; and has a low glycaemic index and sodium, making it beneficial for diabetics and dieters. In UP it is usually mixed with jowar and bajra – it can even be mixed with wheat flour – to super-charge rotis.

Those commonly eaten are Kidney beans/Rajma, Garbanzo beans/Chickpeas/Kabuli chana, Bengal gram/Chana, Black-eyed beans/Lobia, Red lentils/Masoor dal,Lima/Butter beans, Mangalorean/Navy/Haricot/Cannellini/White beans, Mexican Black beans, Soy beans and Moth beans/Matki. The latter like Horse gram/kulthi/kulath ki daal are sprouted to enhance their nutritional value.

Horse gram sprouted or otherwise has tremendous therapeutic properties ranging from treating kidney stones, urinary problems and piles, to cold throat infections and fever. Its consumption is said to lower cholesterol and blood sugar too.

Garbanzo beans or Kabuli chana are chickpeas that are light cream in colour, whereas the Pindi/desi chana are smaller and darker. Kabuli chana originated from Kabul, whereas Pindi were from Rawalpindi, however, both are cultivated in India now. India tops chickpea world production with an output of over 88 lakh metric tons annually. They are the most consumed legumes in the world not only because they are tasty, but because they are extremely high in protein and are very nutritious. Their consumption helps to regulate blood sugar levels, boosts digestive health, improves heart conditions, prevents cancer, eliminates wrinkles, halts hair loss, improves eye sight, strengthens bones, and helps reduce inflammation.

(In 2019 US regulators gave the green light for Genetically Modified cottonseed to be used for human consumption – it tastes a bit like chickpeas.)

Processed soy beans available as chucks and granules are eaten as an alternative to meat because soy is considered high in protein, looks and tastes like meat if the same condiments as those for cooking meat have been utilised. But, there is no certainty of the soy not being genetically modified. In 2007 over half the world’s soy bean crop was turned GM, and India is a noteworthy producer of soy beans. Few know that soy protein sources can cause hormone (estrogen and thyroid) disruptions.

Edamame are green soy beans in pods that are blanched in 4% salt water in Japan. They are eaten as a source of protein in China and Taiwan also.

The Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Medicine says that a regular diet that includes dried beans promotes digestive health, relieves constipation and may even help prevent colon cancer.

A single serving (1/3 cup) of beans contains about 80 calories with no cholesterol, lots of complex carbohydrates and a little fat; is rich in minerals such as iron, selenium, magnesium and calcium; and is a good source of B Vitamins, potassium and fibre.

American researcher Dan Buettner has extensively investigated for over 15 years the diets of the 5 longest lived centenarian communities: Sardinia – Italy, Nicoya Peninsula – Costa Rica, Ikaria – Greece, Okinawa – Japan, and the Seventh Day Adventists of Loma Linda – California, USA. He says that beans reign supreme and are the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world. In his book The Blue Zones Kitchen containing only plant-based recipes, he writes “Beans are packed with more nutrients per gram than any other food on Earth. On average, they are made up of 21% protein, 77% complex carbohydrates, and only a few percent of fat. Because they are fibre-rich and satisfying, they’ll likely help to push less-healthy foods out of your diet.” Moreover, the common denominator is that these centenarian communities don’t eat processed foods, avoid sugar, don’t use chemicals, pesticides, preservatives and additives, and importantly eat only till they are 80% full.

In 2017 India projected khichdi as a super food at a global event World Food India when 800 kgs was made. The healthy combination contained ingredients like ragi, bajra, jowar and lentils. However, many variants of lentils and rice/grains are eaten all over the country and by every one.


Arbi/Taro/Kochu is the fifth most type of root (tuber) consumed worldwide according to FAO. (It fact its shoots are also consumed.) Its skin when handled results in an itch and to prevent this, hands need to be smeared with mustard oil. It is considered a great source of carbohydrate and is therefore used in infant weaning diets and by diabetics.

Beetroot/Chukandar is high in folate having carotenoids which result in high anti-oxidant properties. Beetroots are a source of high dietary fibre and contain a natural nitrate compound called betanin. Researchers of the University of South Florida have found that this compound in the beet plant that gives the vegetable its distinctive red colour, could slow the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the brain, a process associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. They promote mood-enhancing serotonin and can decrease blood pressure. Athletes who drink beetroot juice increase their endurance by reducing the amount of oxygen they use when exercising. It is preferable to scrub beetroots clean with a brush, instead of peeling them. Beet greens are packed with Vitamins A and K which help eyes.

Garlic/Lahasoon has anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. One garlic clove a day can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Scientists have found it to contain properties that lower blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. Garlic helps the brain, stimulates energy and the immune system. It detoxifies the liver and colon and cleanses the blood. Black garlic is aged garlic bulbs which taste different and are supposed to among other benefits boost immunity and regulate blood glucose.

Ginger/Adrak is known as maha-aushidhi (great medicine). It prevents motion sickness. It is known as a heart tonic. Thins the blood and lowers cholesterol. And is an excellent for respiratory problems.

Khus/Vettivar and khus khus/poppy seeds are not the same. Khus (word not repeated)/Vettivar is a grass, but much more valued for its roots. Khus ka sharbat is its most common use. It is known for its soothing and cooling effects.

Licorice root/Muaithee ki jad helps fight viruses and bacteria. The Dutch call their famous licorice-based candy dropjes. Sucking on them soothes the throat.

Onions/Piyaz (red, white, pearl, leeks, chives, etc.) have anti-bacterial properties. Just one raw onion a day is said to prevent a stroke/heart attack because consumption helps the circulatory system function to its optimal capacity. Studies in China have shown that high intake of onions reduce risk of prostate cancer.

Potatoes/Alu consumption can reduce pain and inflammation, particularly in the intestines and digestive track. They are loaded with carbohydrates, protein, calcium, niacin and Vitamin C. They increase brain function and can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Potatoes may also offset incidence of kidney stones since they are a rich source of magnesium. However, high intake of potatoes could increase the risk of developing high blood pressure among women.

Sweet potato/Shakarakand is a tuber, different to a yam/jimikand/suran/ratalu, and unrelated to the potato. High in Vitamin A, B6, Vitamin D, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium, sweet potatoes are considered great for the eyes, and eating one sweet potato a day has proved to result in youthful skin. The American Diabetes Association has listed the sweet potato as one of the top 10 super foods for diabetics because they do not cause blood sugar spikes. However, boiling is advisable since they should not be digested fast by those who have diabetes. Since sweet potatoes satiate hunger they are recommended for weight loss and for this very reason they are commonly consumed during religious fasts.

Tapioca sago/sabudana/shabudana/sabakki/saggu biyym/maracheeni/javvarishi can be read about under the sub-head Fasting and Feasting on this page.

Turnip/shalajam, rutabaga/swede (Swedish turnip, yellow in colour, cross between cabbage and turnip), kohlrabi/ol kopi/monjhakh/nolkohl (German turnip) are nutritious root vegetables since they are rich in Vitamin C. Unfortunately their highly nutritious fresh green tops are not consumed as much except in Kashmiri cuisine. They compose of many minerals and vitamins and are an excellent source of Vitamins A, B, C and K.

Yam/jimikand/elephant foot/karunai kizhangu/kaachil/kavuttu/khamalu/chupri alu/ratalu/suvarna gadde/suran are some of the common names by which varieties of yams are known in India. The tuber is an excellent source of Vitamin C, B6, potassium, manganese and fibre. No wonder yam is listed as one of the world’s healthiest foods. Moreover, regular consumption of yams can help provide a natural alternative to hormonal replacement in women during menopause.


The winner of two Nobel Prizes, Linus Pauling has stated that every sickness, every disease, and every ailment can be traced back to a mineral deficiency. Dietary minerals are essential for humans. The best way to make sure that one gets essential minerals is to incorporate Himalayan crystal salt in ones diet because it contains at least 84 essential and trace minerals our bodies require daily. Among these are potassium, chloride, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron, manganese, copper, iodine, selenium and molybdenum.

Himalayan crystal salt is not only healthy, but vegan, and easily available. In comparison, the remains of dead creatures need to be removed during processing of sea salts including the commonly available iodised salt.

For detailed information on Salt please read


The Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research) has declared vegetable production in 2012-13 as 162.2 million tonnes, and stated that both cultivation and demand were fast rising.

Like fruits all vegetables contain good food values. But unlike fruits with the exception of those used in salads, others need to be cooked.

Bamboo Rice/mulayari is actually bamboo seeds of the dying bamboo shoots. Sticky in texture, pale green in colour, it imparts a bamboo flavour. Bamboo shoots, salt, vinegar are a few of the healthy products that are derived from the bamboo plant. Their consumption particularly helps diabetics and also to maintain cholesterol levels.

Bitter Gourd/Bitter Melon/Karela
consumption is very beneficial for diabetics because it lowers blood glucose and prevents complications. No wonder it has been used in traditional Chinese treatment for diabetes for about 600 years. It also aids in the treatment of blood and skin disorders ranging from acne to psoriasis. The vegetable is low in calories but rich in fibre, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. Select immature bitter gourds with bright green skin because they are tender and not so bitter. To promote the Bitter Gourd Project, the International Bitter Gourd Conference was held in Hyderabad in 2014. The project is a German AVRDC World Vegetable Center initiative that aims to improve the incomes and health of the poor in developing countries, particularly the quality of life of diabetics, through scientific research on bitter gourd. They have proved bitter gourd is a functional vegetable with beneficial effects on health. It lowers blood glucose levels and dietary carbohydrate digestion, as well as reverses insulin resistance, prevents diabetic complications, and protects the body from other non-communicable diseases.

Bottle Gourd/Kaddu/Lauki/Dudhi/Bhopala/Ghiya/Laau/Aal/Churakka/Jatilao/Sorakaaya/
is commonly grown and eaten in India mostly without knowing how healthy it is! To begin with, it has an enormous impact on high blood pressure and heart disease. It helps liver function, reduces fatigue, fights constipation, is a diuretic, counteracts biliousness, indigestion and ulcers, acts as a nerve tonic, and reduces weight. It is rich in thiamine, Vitamin C, zinc, iron and magnesium. The juice from the leaves is said to even cure baldness. However, a 2011 Advisory issued by the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy, recommended that a small piece of bottle gourd should be tasted to ensure it is not bitter, prior to extracting its juice which is consumed to control diabetes. Moreover, it should not be mixed with any other juice and if discomfort, nausea, vomiting or uneasiness is felt after consuming it, medical aid should be immediately sought since it had turned fatal in a couple of cases.

Breadfruit/Nirphanas/Bakri Chajhar looks like jackfruit, and although they are called fruits, they are versatile and can both be eaten as vegetables. Breadfruit can be baked (tastes like bread hence its name), boiled, mashed, sautéed, made into a subji/curry or dried and ground into flour. It is very nutritious and beneficial for diabetics in particular. It is high in Omega 2 and 6, heart friendly fatty acids. A cup of breadfruit constitutes 31% potassium and 14% magnesium of the daily recommended dietary allowance. In addition, it is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, but very high in Vitamin C.

Brinjal/Eggplant/Aubergine, called Baingan in Hindi, is of Indian and Chinese origin, a species of nightshade, related to the tomato and potato, brinjal is actually a fruit used as a vegetable in cooking. Brinjals are found in different sizes, shapes and colours but are mostly purple. Rich in Vitamins A, B1, C, D and calcium, their consumption helps keep diabetes in check, aids weight loss, prevents cancer, is good for brain and skin, stabilises blood pressure and lowers cholesterol. However, those who have low iron levels should avoid brinjals. Few know brinjals contain nicotine and therefore help those trying to quit smoking.

Broccoli was the precursor to cauliflower, both human inventions. It was cross-bred from leafy cole crops in the Mediterranean. It contains essential vitamins especially Vitamin C and folic acid. It is said to help relieve stress, anxiety, panic and even depression.

Cabbage/Bandgobhi is loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes. Regular consumption of cabbage lowers cholesterol. Fantastic health benefits are said to be derived from all three types of cabbages: red, green and Savoy. In a 2012 study, both raw and short-cooked cabbage proved to be cancer-preventives, whereas microwaving reduced the health benefits of cabbage. Cabbage can be consumed raw, steamed, boiled and sautéed. Since steaming or boiling makes cabbage watery, to retain the maximum number of nutrients and flavour it is better to sauté it. Germany’s sauerkraut is fermented cabbage which is even more nutritious. Similarly Korean kimchi is fermented cabbage. Both these traditional side dishes can be veg or non-veg depending on additional ingredients added.

Capsicums/Bell Peppers/Shimla Mirch were introduced in India during the British Raj and since the first successful crop originated in Shimla, capsicums got to be known as Shimla mirch. Capsicums are a part of the nightshade family along with brinjal, potatoes and tomatoes. They are usually green, but red, orange, yellow, purple and even white bell peppers are found. In India they are mainly available in green, red and yellow. Their colours attribute to varying nutrients and anti-oxidants. They contain high amounts of beneficial micro-nutrients, are high in Vitamin A and Vitamin B6, and are extremely high in Vitamin C. Capsicum consumption promotes cardiac health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Their anti-inflammatory properties stimulate stomach secretions and improve digestion. Moreover, regular consumption of capsicums vastly improves body metabolism and as they contain no fat and carbohydrates help in weight loss diets. It has been proved that consuming capsicum regularly prevents anaemia, reduces anxiety, prevents cancer, boosts immunity, promotes cardiac health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improves bone health and is good for eyes.

Bell peppers are not related black pepper, but to cayenne pepper, which works as an analgesic and can soothe aches and pains.

Interestingly birds’ receptor cells are immune to hot chilli peppers, the alkaloid responsible for the burning sensation humans and other mammals experience when eating chillies.

Carrot/Gajar is one of the highest sources of beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, as well as other carotenoids such as alpha-carotenoid, beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein although they contain about 88% water. A single big carrot or half cup of carrots a day cuts the risk of lung cancer by half and can also lower blood cholesterol. Cooked carrots supply more anti-oxidants to the body than when eaten raw: a 2008 report in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry said that boiling and steaming better preserves anti-oxidants, particularly carotenoid in carrots, than frying, though boiling was deemed the best. The Harvard Nurses Study revealed that those who ate five carrots a week lowered their risk of stroke by 68% compared to those who ate one carrot a month or none at all. Interestingly, carrots were first grown as medicine not food and just 3 carrots were supposed to impart enough energy to walk 3 miles! They have been selectively bred over centuries to enhance their desirable traits such as taste, colour and size. They were originally purple, red, yellow, white and black. Dutch farmers turned them orange because that’s the national colour of Holland, and everyone else followed suit. Baby carrots are young carrots or those that are cut and shaped. China, Uzbekistan, Russia and USA are the top 4 countries that produce carrots. The International Carrot Day was created on 4 April to encourage people to eat carrots although they already are the second most popular root vegetable in the world, after potatoes.

Cauliflower/Gobi is highly modified plant which never grew naturally. Considered nutritionally good, it contains high levels of Vitamin C, folate and fibre.

Cluster or Guar beans/Gawaar falli are popular green beans and although slightly bitter in taste help digestion. They are low in calories and good for lowering blood sugar as well as cholesterol. Their consumption strengthens bones and improves blood circulation; even reduces anxiety and tension. 100 grams of guar beans contain as much as 130 mg of calcium. Guar beans are indigenous to India and grown where ever it is dry, warm and arid, particularly in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. The young tender pods are commonly eaten as a subji, whereas the seeds of mature pods are collected, dried and powdered to make guar gum which is a thickening agent in industrial food preparations. 80% of the world production of cluster beans occurs in India and Pakistan but due to a big demand the plant is being introduced elsewhere.

Cucumber/Khira/Kankri originated in India and has been cultivated here for at least 3,000 years. It is considered a vegetable by most people, but scientifically speaking it is a fruit since it develops from flowers and contains seeds. It is from the gourd family and usually consumed raw as a salad therefore called slicing cucumber. It maintains the alkalinity of the blood and acts as a diuretic. With 96% water content it keeps us well hydrated. It makes a great base for vegetable juice, and can also be made into a delicious curry. “Cool as a cucumber” proves its cooling nature and is therefore used to make cold soup. Gherkins are small whole cucumbers that are pickled in brine, vinegar, sugar and spices. They are high in potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin A and beta-carotene. European cucumbers or burpless are seedless ones and do not need to be peeled before consuming. Benefits of consuming cucumbers include preventing constipation, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of kidney stones. They can also help in diabetic management and improve complexion. Slices of cucumbers are placed over eyes during a facial to ease swelling. A slice of cucumber pressed to the roof of the mouth with the tongue for half a minute will get rid of bad breath.

Curry leaves/patta/karuvepilai/karibevu are commonly utilised in South Indian cuisines. The leaves are not used only as seasoning in food or in nimbu paani, but made into a dish in itself called karuveppilai thuvayal which is a thick spread eaten with any thing from papad to rice. It has a sweet, bitter and tangy taste and helps digestion. Those who regularly consume curry leaves have thick and dark hair, and definitely so if they also apply coconut oil in which some curry leaves along with pepper, cumin seeds and a bit of rice is steeped. Curry leaves are high in Vitamin A and therefore good for eyes. They contain more calcium than milk, and being high in iron are a natural remedy for anaemia. They have always been used in ayurvedic medicines, but the world’s researchers are now finding them to contain several beneficial medicinal properties too. The Department of Pharmacy at King’s College, London, scientifically justifies the use of curry leaves as an alternative medicine to control diabetes, and research at the Department of Medical Chemistry of Mejio University claims the leaves have cancer-fighting properties. In India, the A P Department of Home Science, Bhilai Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Raipur; the G B Pant University of Research & Technology, Pantnagar; and the Department of Process and Food Engineering, College of Technology, Pantnagar have all three researched and found curry leaves to be anti-diabetic, cholesterol-reducing, anti-microbial, anti-ulcer, anti-oxidative, cytotoxic, anti-diarrhoea and phagocytic.

Drumstick/Moringa/Senjana/Murungai pods, flowers and leaves are sources of carotene, calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin C. Anti-bacterial properties of the drumstick plant can fight infections. The fast-growing tropical moringa tree got to be known as drumstick tree because its pods are used as drumsticks by rural musicians! Although the pods are a common ingredient in sambhar, few consume the nutritious leaves. The Asian Vegetable Research & Development Centre’s website states “Ounce for ounce, the leaves of moringa have more beta-carotene than carrots, more protein than peas, more Vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more potassium than bananas and more iron than spinach.” The US National Institutes of Health says much the same calling moringa “the most nutrient-dense botanical on earth” and gram for gram the leaves have four times the calcium in milk, thrice the potassium in bananas and much more vitamin A and C than carrots or oranges. The Journal of Herbal Medicine and Toxicology in 2010 published a study which found that regular consumption of moringa leaves reduced total blood cholesterol levels and LDL, and increased HDL. No doubt, moringa is touted as a veritable tree of life with therapeutic benefits. Native healers around the world treat 300 diseases, including osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes and mental clarity, with medicines derived from it. It was therefore not at all surprising that moringa featured among the “celebrity super foods” for 2015. In 2017 the International Moringa Germplasm Collection had over 500 trees representing 12 or the 13 species of the genus Moringa. The farm, located on the coast of Jalisco in Mexico, is a resource for scientific research on the basic biology of Moringa and investigation of applied uses such as nutrition, cancer chemo-prevention, bio-fuels, and water clarification. Closer home, according to orthopaedists of the famous Navjeevan Hospital, consuming drumsticks regularly can help all age groups get relief from joint pain and bone-related deficiencies or weaknesses.

Fenugreek/Methi bhaji is a food, herb and medicine. Although fenugreek leaves taste bitter and have a strong aroma, they packed with nutrition so it is a good idea to consume the bhaji regularly. Its consumption can cure anaemia. And, believe it or not, its calcium content is higher than that of cow’s milk. Methi seeds are known to reduce labour pains and it ranks high among the “must haves” for nursing mothers. Fenugreek seed powder lowers levels of serum lipids such as total cholesterol and triglycerides, and aids in glucose and cancer protection. A teaspoon of seeds washed down with water can quickly settle an upset tummy. The seeds also protect against the development of cataracts and memory loss in older persons.

French beans did not originate in France but were introduced there in 1597. South and Central America have been cultivating them for 7,000 years. These fresh green beans, of which there are several varieties, fall into the category of string beans; and, the seeds found inside the pods are actually kidney beans or rajma. French beans contain Vitamins B1 and B6, folate, fibre and potassium. They are good for blood cell production, benefit spleen and kidneys (stop frequent urination) and aid digestion. They can be blanched or boiled, chopped or diagonally sliced. If picked when tender and cooked immediately, they taste wonderful.

Kale is a curly dark green-yellow-purplish red leafy vegetable of the cabbage family that can be consumed raw, blanched or cooked like spinach/palak. High in Vitamins A, C, E & K, calcium, iron and folate, it has been declared a super food. Rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, if consumed daily, it considerably lowers the risk of developing degenerative diseases including new cataracts. It also protects against heart disease, cancer and builds up immunity.

Lady’s Finger/Okra/Bhindi is considered the healthiest of vegetables. It is dense with nutrients, particularly B9 or folic acid, high in fibre and folate, but low in calories. It contains Vitamins A, B, C, K, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and traces of magnesium and manganese. And, it is one of those few vegetables which have the highest content of phytonutrients and anti-oxidants such as beta-carotene, xanthin and lutein. Health benefits include prevention of anaemia, constipation, osteoporosis and cancer, reduction of blood sugar, cholesterol and asthma attacks, improvement in mental function, boosting immunity and helping vision and skin problems. The making of jaggery/gur involves clarification usually done by adding of 1 cup of bhindi to 100 cups of boiling sugar cane juice so that the impurities rise to the top and can be skimmed off. (Other mucilaginous vegetables can also be used in place of bhindi.)

Lotus seed/Fox nut/Gorgon nut/Thamchet/Makhana is generally available shelled and dried therefore needs to be soaked in water and while the water is still warm it should be used for cooking. (It is important that cold water not touch them so do not soak overnight.) There is no need to soak if roasted, salted and served as a snack. The nutritional value is far superior to most foods – both veg and non-veg foods. They are low in fat, high in carbohydrates, a good source of protein, low in sodium and rich in magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. The health benefits of consuming makhana regularly are immense: cardiac protection, diarrhoea cure, proper kidney function, blood pressure regulation, arthritis pain relief, anti-impotence and anti-aging, plus 25 grams a day imparts great energy. Health conscious people in at least 17 countries eat makhana. Usually roasted and coated in a variety of flavours makhana is a popular healthy snack. Rs 2,000 crore per year is India’s market with a potential of rising to Rs 20,000 crore. (Unfortunately, in Bihar which accounts for as much as 85% of India’s makhana production, makhana-fish cultivation is reported to be common. However, recent emphasis is on makhana-vegetable cultivation with vegetables being grown on the embankment of the ponds.)

Lotus stem/Kamal Kakdi/Bhein/Nadru tastes some what like water chestnut. It is a woody, edible stick that can grow as long as 4 feet. Note that these sticks are stems and not roots although they could be called roots. Lotus roots are fine and thin and found below the stem in the mud under the rhizome. Lotus stem can be eaten raw or cooked (usually as a curry), steamed, deep-fried, braised or stir-fried. But since they are full of grit or mud they need to be peeled and cleaned thoroughly – the best way is to immerse sliced lotus stem into boiling water into which a spoonful of vinegar has been added. Bhein pickle is also popular. It is rich in Vitamin C (100 grams is 73% of the daily recommended requirement) and dietary fibre, plus contains minerals like copper, iron, zinc, magnesium and manganese. It therefore boosts the production of red blood cells. Lastly, lotus stem is known for strengthening the respiratory system which in turn helps a person fight several diseases.

Peas/pattanni/vatana varieties are green/hara, white/safed and black/kala. (Pigeon peas/arhar/tuvar dal and split yellow peas/matar ki dal are different.) Green peas probably originated in the sub-Himalayan plains of north-west India. Today they are available every where and all round the year as fresh/raw, canned, frozen or dehydrated. Although green peas contain a little starch and sugar, they are an important vegetable for Indians because of their high protein content and an excellent source of folic acid and Vitamins C & K too. A Mexico City based study has shown that daily consumption of green peas along with other legumes lowers the risk of stomach/gastric cancer. Dried safed peas are filled with fibre, packed with protein, rich in iron, Vitamins B1 & B3, phosphorous and zinc and last but not least free of fat. Kala vatana which are also dried, have a good amount of fibre, higher protein and iron, with a fair amount of calcium. Being rich in magnesium improves insulin response whereas its potassium content can decrease blood vessel plaques and is also good for managing high blood pressure.

Plantains/green bananas/kacha kela are not the same bananas we usually eat, but used for cooking so are considered a vegetable, not fruit! The green skinned ones are unripe and starchy, the yellow semi-ripe and slightly sweet, whereas the black (they are not rotten!) are over-ripe and sweet. Green plantains are cooked like potatoes, often with the skin. From raw to ripe, however cooked, nutritionally plantains are the same: an excellent source of potassium, high in Vitamins A & C as well as well as dietary fibre and carbohydrate. They are said to help fight gastritis and treat ulcers because they contain an active ingredient that stimulates the healing of the gastric mucosa and tissues that line the stomach.

Pumpkins/Kaddu/Lal Bhopla are extremely nutrient-dense although low in calories. Being rich in potassium they have a positive effect on blood pressure. Their orange colour denotes the presence of beta carotene, an important anti-oxidant which could prevent degenerative damage to the eyes. About half a dozen varieties of pumpkins are grown in India. When the vine connected to the ripened pumpkins begins to shrivel they are harvested with 4 inches of stem attached, and if they are cured for some days in sunlight, they store well for up to 3 months. Pumpkin seeds are excellent for the heart, improve the immune system, maintain prostrate health, reduce risk of diabetes and regulate sleep.

Sea Vegetables or Algae are outstandingly nutritious: spirulina (a commonly known super food supplement that is high in protein and other numerous nutrients), agar agar (a substitute for gelatine – See, kelp, kombu, wakame, arame, nori and dulse have been heard of, but the only drawback is they may not suit every one. Those who are not allergic benefit greatly because of high iodine, iron and Vitamin C content. Regular consumption also lowers the risk of breast cancer, and since they have anti-inflammatory properties osteoarthritis is helped. 100 grams seaweed contains more than the body’s daily requirement of Vitamins A and B12 and two-thirds of Vitamin C. Interestingly, the seaweeds abundantly found in the Sundarbans mangroves have 17% higher protein content than those commercially available. A generation ago the women of Bharathinagar from the fishing hamlet near Kilakarai in Ramanathapuram district dressed in sari and T-shirt began diving into the Gulf of Mannar to harvest seaweed. The edible seaweed is used by the food and pharmaceutical industries whereas the inedible seaweed is used as dye fixers in the textile industry and as fertilisers.

Spinach/Palak is a very nutrient-dense food – low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals. No wonder it is referred to as the “king of vegetables”. It is a good source of Vitamins A, B2, B6, C, E and K, plus magnesium, folate, manganese, iron, calcium, potassium, protein, phosphorus, zinc, copper, fibre, selenium, niacin and Omega-3 fatty acids. Its consumption can relieve constipation and it is highly rated for treating and preventing anaemia. Overwhelming research has demonstrated an inverse relationship between spinach consumption and cardiovascular disease including stroke and coronary artery disease; cancers like colon, lung, skin, stomach, ovarian, prostrate and breast; macular degeneration and cataracts. In addition, spinach may help prevent or delay age-related cognitive decline.

Tomato/Tamatar increases in Vitamin C as it ripens so it is better to eat when fully ripe. And, eating just one such tomato provides 40% of a person’s daily requirement of Vitamin C. Tomatoes also contain other nutrients and anti-oxidants that help fight diseases and maintain good health. They are good for digestion, preventing both constipation and diarrhoea, and among several other benefits effectively remove toxins from the body. High in Vitamin A, they improve vision. Since they contain lycopene (even those that are not deep red) they effectively lower the risk of lung, stomach and prostrate cancers and protect against cardiovascular diseases. Two raw tomatoes or one-third cup of juice contains 7 mg lycopene, the suggested quantity that could be taken daily by heart patients so that over a period of time the functioning of the tissue lining the heart’s blood vessels becomes as good as in healthy persons.

Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (USA) have in 2014 come out with a list of nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits based on 17 nutrients – potassium, fibre, protein, calcium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc and Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K. It is claimed that these powerhouse foods strongly reduce chronic disease risk. Unfortunately, they are not all easily available in India, but one can try to consume the ones that are available, and add Indian green leafy, yellow/orange, citrus and cruciferous ones:

Watercress  100.00
Chinese cabbage 91.99
Chard 89.27
Beet green  87.08
Spinach 86.43
Chicory 73.36
Leaf lettuce 70.73
Parsley 65.59
Romaine lettuce 63.48
Collard green 62.49
Turnip green 62.12
Mustard green 61.39
Endive 60.44
Chive 54.80
Kale 49.07
Dandelion green 46.34
Red pepper 41.26
Arugula 37.65
Broccoli 34.89
Pumpkin 33.82
Brussels sprout 32.23
Scallion 27.35
Kohlrabi 25.92
Cauliflower 25.13
Cabbage 24.51
Carrot  22.60
Tomato 20.37
Lemon 18.72
Iceberg lettuce 18.28
Strawberry 17.59
Radish 16.91
Winter squash 13.89
Orange 12.91
Lime 12.23
Grapefruit (pink & red) 11.64
Rutabaga 11.58
Turnip 11.43
Blackberry 11.39
Leek 10.69
Sweet potato 10.51
Grapefruit (white) 10.47

Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables Best

Nutritionist Naini Setalvad offers a simple rule: Buy what's available in abundance in its freshest avatar at your local market. That's the best indicator of what's in season.

Vegetables: Brinjal, palak, tendli, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, radish, beetroot, peas, broccoli, shimla mirch/capsicum.
Fruits: Strawberries, grapes, guava, papaya, pomegranate, pineapple, passion fruit.

Vegetables: Cabbage, methi/fenugreek, carrot, radish, spring onion, shimla mirch/capsicum, broccoli.
Fruits: Chickoo, musk melon, grapes, oranges, guava, papaya, pomegranate, pineapple, strawberries.

Vegetables: Spinach, methi/fenugreek, shimla mirch/capsicum, carrot, parwal/pointed gourd, tindora/ivy gourd, pumpkin.
Fruits: Watermelon, mango (raw, Totapuri, Badami), grapes, orange, pineapple, banana, muskmelon, strawberries.

Vegetables: Lady's finger, cucumber, doodhi, tendli, karela, chawli, beans, parwal, tindora, pumpkin
Fruits: Same as March + jackfruit.

Vegetables: Spinach, cucumber, doodhi, karela, beans.
Fruits: Mango (Alphonso, Kesar, raw), papaya, black jamuns, litchis, jackfruit, watermelon, musk-melon.

Vegetables: Spinach, lady's finger, cucumber, chawli, gawar, corn, shimla mirch/capsicum, sweet potato.
Fruits: Mango (Alphonso, Kesar).

Vegetables: Same as June + round gourd, doodhi, snake gourd, karela.
Fruits: Mango (Kesar, Totapuri) cherries, peach, plum.

Vegetables: Same as June.
Fruits: Same as June + custard apple.

Vegetables: Same as June.
Fruits: Guava, papaya, pomegranate, custard apple, passion fruit.

Vegetables: Brinjal, tomatoes, dill, spring onions.
Fruits: Same as September.

Vegetables: Same as October + French beans.
Fruits: Orange, dates, guava, papaya, pomegranate, custard apple.

Vegetables: Same as October + radish, beetroot, yam.
Fruits: Strawberries, orange, sweet lime, fig, guava, custard apple, pineapple.

Taamasik, Raajasik and Saatvik

Based on the effect foods may have on individual personality through chemical action on the brain, Hinduism classifies foods in three groups: taamasik, raajasik, and saatvik. The best nutrition is derived from saatvic aahaar.

For detailed information on Taamasik, Raajasik, and Saatvik food please read

Fasting and Feasting

Most non-vegetarians stop consuming eggs, fish, poultry and meat, whereas some vegetarians stop having garlic and onions, when they fast.

(The poultry industries have for decades tried to incorrectly and inappropriately boost the falling consumption of eggs by promoting them as vegetarian.)

Since tapioca sago/sabudana is full of starch (carbohydrates) and boosts energy, it has for generations been eaten during periods of religious fasting or vrat. Unfortunately, sabudana has mistakenly been considered pure enough for consumption during this time. Please read the detailed information given about sabudana on our website and then decide whether to consume it or not

Fasts offer people the opportunity to eat the right foods – but only if it is not followed by feasting indiscriminately! There is no point in eating healthy only to reverse the benefit soon thereafter. For example, cooking can very well continue in minimum oil.

The lesser known and consumed buckwheat, amaranth/rajgira, singhara, and samak or barnyard millet, are eaten in place of the usual rice and wheat. Pseudo-cereals such as amaranth, singhara and samak contain better quality and higher protein and are richer in carbohydrates. They are also more nutritious and easy to digest. Incidentally, the amaranth plant is from the same specie as quinoa.

These, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables, coconut water, soups and juices, are healthier to consume not only when fasting, but every day.

Research has proved that heart disease could have its origin in the gut. This shows the importance of a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet that is not full of refined foods but contains fibre and allows the absorption of vitamins.

Vitamins and Minerals

First of all there are macronutrients and micronutrients. Unlike Vitamins and Minerals that are measured in milligrams, Macronutrients measured in grams because bigger – they are derived from proteins, facts and carbohydrates, required in large quantities, and impart energy to be body. Whereas, micronutrients found as traces in particular foods are essential for the body’s optimal performances like digestion, hormone production, brain function and metabolism.

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients. The body can not function at optimum levels without them. It is therefore necessary to ensure that we eat a balanced diet that contains them. Some food sources of vitamins are listed below except for B12 which must be taken by vegans as a supplement.

Important: Vitamins work in tandem with other nutrients. For example, Vitamin A requires Zinc to benefit vision, Vitamin D is needed for Calcium absorption, and Copper for absorption of Iron. This kind of complexity makes it essential for us to get adequate nutrients required by our bodies from a variety of foods.

Vitamin A stimulates cell reproduction, immunity, healthy skin, eyes and hair, growth and development of cells and bones, and the formation of some hormones. It is naturally found in yellow, orange and red, ripe fruits and dark leafy green vegetables such as sweet potato, carrots, kale, red pumpkin, apricots, musk melon, and mango.

Vitamin B1 or Thiamine is responsible for the production of energy, functioning of the heart, muscles and nervous system. It is naturally found in nuts, seeds, brown rice, whole wheat, green peas, asparagus, soy and navy beans.

Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin aids body growth, red cell reproduction and releases energy from carbohydrates. It is naturally found in almonds, mushrooms, sesame/til and spinach.

Vitamin B3 or Niacin is good for the functioning of the digestive system, skin and nerves and converts food into energy. It is naturally found in peanuts, mushrooms, green peas, sunflower seeds, avocado and mangos. Scientists from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, University of Valencia and IMDEA Food from Madrid have found that Vitamin B supplements stall aging specially Vitamin B3 and its derivatives. Niacinamide/Nicotinamide is a form of Niacin that plays an import role in energy metabolism. (NAD or Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide which is associated with improving metabolic health in people with obesity is not the same as Vitamin B3.)

Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid is responsible for ones metabolism, formation of hormones and good cholesterol. It is naturally found in mushrooms, avocados, sun flower seeds, rice bran, sweet potatoes and guavas.

Vitamin B6 or Pyryidoxine is for brain and nerve functioning, breaking proteins down and the formation of red blood cells. It is naturally found in sunflower seeds, pistachios, bananas, prunes, amaranth leaves/chauli, pineapple, potatoes.

Vitamin B7 or Biotin or Vitamin H is essential for cell growth. It is a great skin-nails-hair vitamin since it promotes radiant skin, strong nails and healthy hair. It is naturally found in peanuts.

Vitamin B9 or Folate or Folic Acid is essential for the formation of red blood cells, nervous system components, cell growth and DNA. It is naturally found in black-eyed beans/lobia, lentils, spinach, avocados, broccoli, mangos and guavas.

Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin is absolutely essential for vegans because it is needed for the normal functioning of the brain (like avoiding Alzheimer’s Disease) and preventing other horrible physical disabilities. All vegans are advised to periodically get a blood test done to check their B12 levels. Lack of B12 is not in the least a defect in a vegan diet – all humans (non-veg, veg, vegan) need adequate B12. While meat and dairy eaters consume second-hand B12 (it is fed in supplements to factory farmed animals) vegans need to take B12 as a supplement – Wockhardt say their Methycobal tablets contain no animal ingredients nor are they tested on animals, and Unived manufacture vegan capsules (and other supplements) containing B12. The dose required depends upon the severity of the deficiency and should be recommended by a physician, but the daily requirement of B12 for an adult is 1 mg. However, since B12 is water soluble, excess is secreted in the urine and overdosing is impossible. (The only veg food source of B12 is seaweeds, but 100 grams per day would need to be consumed which is rare for Indians.) Interestingly, Vitamin B12 taken daily for 8 to 10 days boosts immunity in as much as it stops people from catching colds during seasonal weather changes, and can help those who have difficulty falling asleep since it increases and quickly releases melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. A study on Vitamin B12 deficiency in India showed that non-vegetarians have it as well. The deficiency has been found in many more persons living in urban areas (81%) than in rural areas (nearly 50%).

Vitamin B Complex contains all 8 Vitamin Bs listed above. The gaps in the numbering of the B Vitamins are there because the substances were at one time believed to be Vitamins.

Vitamin B17 or Laetrile is a chemical compound derived from amygdalin, a substance that occurs naturally in fruits like apricots, peaches, bitter almonds, sorghum/jowar, lima beans, clover and grasses of wheat and barley. The use of laetrile to treat and prevent cancer remains controversial.

Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant, protects body tissue, forms collagen, helps absorption of iron and calcium as well as brain functioning. It is naturally found in yellow capsicum, guavas, kale, kiwi fruit, broccoli, strawberries, musk melon, oranges and lemons. A review of 50 studies of Vitamin C and brain function by Australian researchers found that people with higher levels of Vitamin C have a lower risk of mental decline and dementia. Experts believe this anti-oxidant nutrient plays an important role in preventing daily damage to brain cells, slowing down age related memory loss.  

Vitamin D helps absorption of calcium and magnesium and maintains calcium and phosphorus levels in blood. Correction of its deficiency can significantly help people with ailments such as chronic kidney disease. A 2023 systematic review and meta-analysis published in Ageing Research Reviews found daily Vitamin D3 supplementation reduced cancer mortality by a significant 12%. (In Germany the risk of developing cancer was 43% in women, and 51% in men.) Moreover no adverse effects were found among people who took daily doses of 5,000IU to 50,000 IU. Mushrooms are the only non-animal source of Vitamin D. It has been clinically established that Vitamin D protects against and enhances recovery of tuberculosis. Our bodies convert sunlight into Vitamin D which can be provided by at least 20 minutes of sunshine between 10.30 am to 2 pm thrice a week. A stanza from Baba Sehgal’s Vitamin D lyrics: Go go go go go go outside, Kholo apni eyes wide, Sun bole lelo Vitamin D ki ride, Vitamin D ki ride.

Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant, protects body tissue and forms red blood cells. It is naturally found in spinach, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, olive oil, broccoli, red pumpkin and mangoes.

Vitamin K regulates calcium levels in blood and activates proteins for bone health. It is naturally found in basil/tulsi, green leafy vegetables, spring onions, chilli powder and hot spices, Ladies fingers, cucumber, grapes, pine nuts/chilguza, cashew nuts, prunes, cabbages, pomegranates and olive oil.

Beta Carotene is a powerful anti-oxidant that helps to protect against aging and lung cancer. It is naturally found in sweet potatoes, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, red pumpkin, musk melon, red capsicum, dried apricots, green peas and broccoli.

Lycopene is an anti-oxidant which plays a role in preventing cancer and heart disease. It is naturally found in guavas, watermelon, tomatoes, papaya, grapefruit, red capsicum, asparagus, red cabbage, mangos and carrots.

Calcium is good for growth of bones and teeth and eases insomnia. It is naturally found in sesame seeds/til, curry leaves/patta, dark leafy greens, Ladies fingers, broccoli and almonds. (For detailed information see list above.)

Incidentally, calcium supplements are commonly made of carbonate, citrate, dolomite, di-calcium phosphate, tri-calcium phosphate, coral, bone meal or oyster and other shells. Plant derived calcium (as compared to that of animal or mineral origin just mentioned) from marine algae or seaweed is easy to absorb and of a better quality and is not considered bad for the heart as it does not raise the risk of plaque build-up in arteries. Vegan calcium capsules (and Vitamin D) can be ordered online from (Calcium carbonate is also a common ingredient in antacids and toothpastes.)

Copper is the mineral that is essential for iron absorption – more often than not an iron deficiency shows up due to lack of copper! It is responsible for our metabolism and absorption and storage of iron, the formation of red blood cells and supplies oxygen to our bodies. It is naturally found in kale, mushrooms, sesame seeds/til, cashew nuts, chickpeas, prunes, and avocados.

Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. It is naturally found in red sesame seeds/til, jeera, pumpkin seeds, all nuts, beans & pulses, edamame, black peas, corn, sweet potato, millets & whole grains, dark leafy greens, curry patta, moringa pods & leaves, okra, all gourds, asparagus, algae, lotus stem & seed, beetroot, raisins, dates, mulberries, bananas, chikoos, coconut, jaggery, dark chocolate and cocoa powder. It should be noted that haemoglobin is not always an indicator of a low iron level. Ferritin accurately indicates iron storage in the body. An iron deficiency commonly results in falling, thinning, and lightening of hair, especially in women. Iron supplements can be heme (from animal meat) or non-heme (non-animal). The latter should be taken on an empty stomach with say orange or lime juice (Vitamin C) to help absorption. Iron rich foods should not be taken with calcium since calcium blocks iron absorption in the body. Interestingly, the Nutrient Requirements for India updated by the National Institute of Nutrition in 2020, state that the iron requirement was 40-50% lower than previously thought; moreover, a deficit of 5 mg/day can be easily managed via diet and avoiding tea with meals. The Anaemia Mukt Bharat programme by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and UNICEF via supplementation of iron and folic acid (both likely to be of animal origin) exists although it is known that excess iron intake can very well result in health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.

Magnesium is of critical importance to the body since it is needed for over 300 functions. To begin with it is bone protein and makes new cells, activates B Vitamins, relaxes nerves and muscles, clots blood, aids insulin secretion and function. That’s not all it also helps absorption of Calcium, Vitamin C and Potassium. This mineral has proven calming effects on the nervous system and several studies have found that increasing magnesium intake can banish insomnia. It is naturally found in amaranth leaves/chauli, pumpkin seeds, lentils, whole grains like rye/ragi, dates, figs, bananas and dark chocolate.

Phosphorus forms bones, teeth and nerve cells. It is naturally found in pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, lentils, beans, potatoes, pomegranate, guavas, corn and oats.

Potassium is responsible for body growth and maintenance as well as proper heart functioning. This essential mineral relaxes the walls of blood vessels thus lowering blood pressure and avoiding a stroke. It is naturally found in white beans, white mushrooms, potatoes, dried apricots, bananas, coconuts and guavas.

Selenium is an anti-oxidant and is necessary for the body to function properly. It is naturally found in sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, whole grains, mushrooms, Lima beans, dates, pomegranate, peas, and coconut.

Sodium regulates blood pressure, blood volume and fluid balance in our bodies, and helps in the functioning of muscles and nerves. It is naturally found in salt, beetroot, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes and coconuts.

Zinc helps our metabolism, proteins, carbohydrates and immune systems. It aids wound healing, growth and vision. It is naturally found in wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, Lima and mung beans, legumes, mushrooms and oats.

Iodine is essential in the production of thyroid hormones that regulate growth and metabolism. It is naturally found in dried seaweed and potato.

Omega-3 forms cell walls. It is naturally found in flaxseed/alsi, chia/subza seeds and walnuts. Omega-6 greatly helps diabetic, neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS and skin disorders. A new long-term study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that Omega-6 fatty acids, the fats found in nuts, seeds and many vegetable oils, can be good for the heart. It is naturally found in sunflower oil, nuts and seeds. In addition, urad dal, black gram and black lentils, peppermint herb, papaya and iceberg lettuce have the highest Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio. (The ideal ratio is 1 to 4.)

Fibre reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, and assists in maintaining normal blood glucose levels. It is naturally found in whole grains, beans, pulses, vegetables, fruits and nuts.

Carbohydrates play a critical role in the proper functioning of the immune system, fertilisation, blood clotting and the development of the body. They are basically found in sugar, dried fruit, grains particularly rice, cereals, jams, preserves and potatoes.

Protein builds muscles and is found is very many foods (not exclusively in non-veg items) as stated elsewhere on this page. Remember, over consumption of protein results in fat and puts stress on kidneys, whereas less protein intake can extend one’s lifespan. The American recommended dietary allowance is 0.8g protein/kg body weight for adults. Over consumption of protein puts people at chronic disease risk because it results in a metabolic burden on not only kidneys, but on bones and liver, as well as an increased risk for coronary heart disease due to intake of saturated fat leading to cholesterol or even cancer. Worse still if fake meat is consumed which is highly processed and not even veg.

For detailed information on Lab-grown Meat please read

POSHAN Abhiyaan

The Prime Minister’s Overreaching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition called Poshan Abhiyan was launched in 2018 to overcome malnutrition by 2022 in India. It was set up under the Ministry of Women and Child Development to particularly reduce stunting, anaemia and low-birth-weight babies.

At the agricultural level it aims to amalgamate knowledge of regional food systems and at the consumer level to foster social and behavioural changes among parents in particular.

Let us hope that no non-veg items are introduced and promoted like for example certain food fortifiers.

To know details read Fortified Foods

Immunity Building Foods

Immunity is the ability to resist infection when faced with it because the body has inbuilt protection. There are many foods that boost ones immunity. Some of them are listed below. Do try to eat them regularly and remain safe and healthy.


Amla Apple  Avocado Banana Grapefruit
Guava Jackfruit Kiwi  Lychee Mango
Musambi Orange Papaya Pineapple Pomegranate
Strawberry Watermelon Star Fruit/Kamrakh Lemon/Lime/Nimbu  


Beetroot Bhindi Broccoli Cabbage Capsicums
Carrots Cucumber Pumpkins Kale Mushrooms
Onions Green Tea Spinach Tomato Sweet Potato
Wheat grass Morenga drumsticks and leaves    


Black Pepper  Chillies Curry leaves Garlic Ginger
Neem leaves Star Anise Tulsi leaves Turmeric Hing

Legumes and Grains:

Beans Lentils Wheat germ Millet Oats

Nuts, Dry Fruit:

Almonds Peanuts Pumpkin seeds Melon seeds Sunflower seeds

Dark Chocolate  Jaggery


Spirulina Vitamin A Vitamin B12 Vitamin C Vitamin D

It has been proved beyond doubt that those who eat no non-veg have more immunity and are healthier than those who do. Moreover, the basic way to strengthen ones immune system is not to eat processed or junk foods including white flour (maida), white rice, sugar and saturated fats. Instead one needs to eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, exercise regularly to maintain right body weight, and get adequate sleep.

Go Veg!

Some people feel that only a meat meal can impart a feeling of fullness. This assumption is false as has been proved by researchers from the University of Minnesota. Their study, published in the Journal of Food Science, found that a bean-based meal provided a similar feeling of fullness as compared to a beef-based meal.

It has been proved over, and over, and over again that going vegetarian is healthy. Going vegan is healthier, but vegans must keep a watch on their B12 levels and take a supplement if needed. (Some fortified and nutritional yeast products like Marmite contain B12.) B12 is predominantly present in non-veg items like meat, eggs and milk, but is also found in micro-organisms like bacteria that thrive in water bodies and soil, as also in seaweeds. Without being consumed, B12 can not be generated in human systems. B12 is the only vitamin containing cobalt and vegans require an external source to avoid deficiency which could very well lead to disastrous consequences. Interestingly, a study on Vitamin B12 deficiency in Indian population undertaken by the Laparo Obeso Centre and KEM Hospital (Pune) found that 81% of the urban middle class were deficient, whereas only 51% of rural men and those living in slums were deficient.

Ishi Khosla head of the Centre of Dietary Counselling has stated “One-third of lifestyle related cancers can be prevented by eating healthy, plant-based diets and lifestyle factors including maintaining the right body weight and regular physical activity.” In another article she wrote: “Vegetables are a must for good health. Ensure you have a good mix of both raw and cooked vegetables to maximise their benefits, but by no means overcook them. Remember, however, that salads, vegetable juices and raw vegetables can be a source of infection. Consume them only when highest levels of hygiene are being maintained.”

Ishi Khosla has written that the spices that can fight pollution are cayenne pepper, thyme, turmeric, rosemary, garlic, milk thistle, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, basil, curry leaves, celery, parsley, coriander and ginger. And the foods that help detoxify poisons in the environment and boost immunity include jaggery, green tea, beetroot, neem, papaya leaves, amla, aloevera, giloe, spirulina, ashwagandha, wheat grass and morenga.

Findings from an Institute in Sweden states that eating green leafy vegetables in large portions help prevent the accumulation of fat in the liver as a result of high alcohol consumption or being over-weight.

A 2013 study conducted at the University of Oxford in UK found that vegetarians are one-third less likely to be hospitalised or die from heart disease than meat and fish eaters.

According to another study covering 35 men by the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and published in the Lancet medical journal, aging can be reversed at the cellular level by implementing comprehensive lifestyle changes: turning veg (fruit and vegetables), meditation and yoga.

A November 2017 the Bleacher Report stated that in a strange reversal the tall and muscular NBA players were quietly shifting to a vegan diet because it made them lose weight and become lighter and faster. As per the UN FAO study conducted in 2020, India can boast of having 5 million vegans – and their numbers are growing fantastically fast.

According to a study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, nearly 15% of global deaths are due to diabetes and killed 5 million persons below the age of 60 in 2015. However researchers of the University of London found that a vegan diet significantly lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and if adopted can bring down the number of persons suffering from Type 2 diabetes. The study also stated that a vegan diet might be linked to improved mood and wellbeing.

Dr Nandita Shah’s book entitled “Reversing Diabetes in 21 Days” promotes a vegan diet. Her organisation SHARAN-India is devoted to spreading awareness about holistic health and compassionate lifestyle periodically organises diabetes reversal programmes.

Remember, healthy and energy giving foods include apples, bananas, pineapples, blueberries, avocados, strawberries, watermelon, papaya, coconut water, red peppers (capsicums), all greens, pumpkin seeds, carrots, cucumber, celery, lemon (water), Kabuli chana, dark chocolate, oats, walnuts, almonds, and herbal teas. Not energy drinks which could contain ox-bile derived taurine; or even veg marked energy bars that have hydrogenated fat and honey as ingredients or the liquid substitutes for meals because they are supposed to impart cheap and hassle-free nutrition. They generally consist of caffeine, vitamins, minerals, and non-nutritive stimulants such as taurine, guarana, and ginseng mixed in water. A 2017 review found that energy drinks could cause serious health risks especially with the new trend of mixing them with alcohol.

Towards the end of 2016 the University Grants Commission asked universities and colleges to stop serving junk food in their canteens. The institutions were also advised to sensitise students on the ill effects of junk food and conduct orientation programmes for faculty and staff on health issues. Junk food is often non-veg, unhealthy and of low nutritional value. State governments were therefore happy to implement a ban in educational institutions on the sale of foods high in fat, salt and sugar. They can result in extra calories, a blood sugar spike, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, bloating and puffiness, obesity, shortness of breath, depression, headache, acne, dental distress, and are hard on the heart.

The foods that the Maharashtra state government banned in all school canteens: fried foods such as chips, ice gola and sugary drinks, carbonated and non-carbonated cold drinks, all types of sweets including rasgulla, gulab jamun, kala kand, pedha, noodles, pizza, burger, pani puri and tikki.

Incidentally, protein powders are usually made from whey, egg, soy and rice. They are actually unnecessary – even for athletes; over and above which, excess protein can lead to kidney problems. Healthy drinks are those that have been juiced from any fresh fruit or vegetable, or may be spirulina (seaweed/algae) or wheat grass, and consumed immediately, without delay.

Commercially available vitamins and nutritional supplements can also contain animal ingredients like shells in calcium, and if a gelatine capsule, the capsule itself would be of cattle bone. However, if cereals (wheat, rice, ragi, jowar, bajra, etc.), pulses (grams/dals), nuts and oilseeds (groundnut, sesame/til etc.) and jaggery are consumed regularly, no malnutrition should occur. In 2022 to fight malnutrition, India’s Prime Minister encouraged farmers to grow millets and people to consume them as super foods. In Chandigarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana millets and preparations using them had been introduced particularly under the Supplementary Nutrition Programme’s (SNP) Take Home Ration (THR) given to children, pregnant and lactating women. Interestingly, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 report issued by FAO in July 2022 stated that the number of under-nourished people in India had declined to 224.3 million in 2019-21 from 247.8 million in 2004-06.

Also remember that nutritious foods are those that contain no added salt or sugar and are high in fibre but low in fat. In other words, unprocessed whole grains, fruits and vegetables are the healthiest and best options. And, the nutrient content is enhanced in fruit and vegetables that are stored at room temperature (not in the fridge) because they continue to go through the natural day and night cycle.

In 2018 FSSAI launched an Eat Right India campaign. It has since been aligned with various government programmes like Poshan Abhiyaan, AnaemiaMukt Bharat, Ayushman Bharat and Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan. FSSAI has been creating consumer awareness and bringing about a shift in eating behaviour to reduce the consumption of sugar, salt and fat in diets, for example, Trans-Fat Free India@75 aims to eliminate trans-fats by 2022 – a year ahead of WHO’s target.
In short, FSSAI has devised 5 key actions to achieve its goal:
1. To formulate new regulations to promote healthy eating.
2. To train various stakeholders to ensure compliance of food safety and serve safe food to the public.
3. To certify food various businesses ranging from safe street food hubs i.e. clusters of street food vendors to restaurants, schools and campuses based on benchmarks for food safety and hygiene.
4. To encourage businesses to reformulate packaged foods into healthier options and use safe packaging materials.
5. To ignite large-scale social and behavioural change among Indians towards safe, healthy and sustainable eating habits via initiatives such as Eat Right Fairs, Food Safety on Wheels (mobile food testing vans) and awareness campaigns on electronic and social media platforms.

The EAT-Lancet Commission Report on Healthy Diets for Sustainable Food Systems by 37 experts from 16 countries that linked nutritional targets with environmental sustainability was released in January 2019. It recommended an overall increase in consumption of legumes, nuts, fruit and vegetables. An expert stated that in India there was need to improve the quality of vegetarian diets, not only reduce meat production and consumption.

Page last updated on 25/01/24