Navratras (nine nights), are 8-9 days of fasting, prayers and rituals for the Gods, observed twice a year. While, there must be an astrological significance, its occurrence with harvest time may not be a coincidence. Both these, are times when crops are harvested. Grains and cereals are worshiped in the form of grass and eating them is avoided. Do speak to our experienced dieticians to ensure you take a healthy diet during this festive period.
Traditionally a fruit based diet is observed and these fasts are more about eating alternate foods than true abstinence from food. The usual range of cereals like rice, wheat and millets are replaced by alternate cereals such as buckwheat, chestnut, sago, amaranth and a special variety of rice, known as samak rice ( Barnyard millet). Amaranth, chestnuts and samak are infact not true cereals. Rather they are seeds of fruits. These are also referred to as pseudo cereals as they do not grow into grasses unlike wheat and rice. Pseudo cereals are higher in protein and are rich in carbohydrates like the conventional cereals- wheat and rice. A research published in 2010 on pseudo cereals like buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth found that they not only had a higher percentage of protein than wheat but also a better quality. In particular Lysine the limiting amino acid in wheat and rice can be found in high amounts in pseudo cereals except Samaj rice. They are also better sources vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, and fiber to name a few. One of the spin-offs of using alternative grains is the nutritional advantage of the inclusion of several traditional and rarely used grains. Eating a variety of foods according to the principle of healthy eating ensures that the body gets all the nutrients it needs. Interestingly, most of the pseudo cereals are gluten free and lend well to easy digestion.
Amaranth: Also known as rajgiri, is high in proteins, dietary fibre, iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium and B-vitamins. Its corn like aroma and woody flavour makes it suitable for breakfast cereals and porridge-like dishes. Amaranth can also be ground into flour, which in turn can be used to make breads, chapattis or parathas. The flour is usually ground along with its hull, which helps retain most of its nutrients.
Buckwheat: Commonly known as kuttu, is high in good quality protein, magnesium, vitamin B6, dietary fibre, iron, Niacin(vitamin B3), thiamine (vitamin B1) and zinc. During navratras, buckwheat flour is usually rolled into chapattis, poories or pakoras. Owing to its nutty flavour, it makes a delicious hot cereal. It can also be added to salads, stuffing, soups, stews and casseroles. It can be ground to make a grey-brown flour which has a distinct, bitter, earthy flavour. There are two varieties of buckwheat—light and dark coloured. The dark variety is traditionally used during fasts to make special Indian roti. The Russian blinis and French galettes use the lighter versions. The seeds, when roasted are called kasha. They can be coarsely ground into grits or groats.
Water Chestnut: Commonly known as Singhara in India, it is a highly nutritive fruit which is a good source of carbohydrates, calcium, phosphate, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, sodium and potassium. The goodness of water chestnut flour can be enjoyed in the form of chapattis or pancakes.
Sago (pearl sago, sabudana): Sago is predominantly carbohydrate with very little proteins, vitamins, minerals and fat. It comprises small balls of starch prepared from the inner trunk of various types of palm trees. Sago resembles tapioca but the starch balls are smaller. Sago may be bought as it is or ground into flour. Owing to its thickening properties, it may be used to thicken soups, sauces, stews, puddings, snack food, savoury or sweet porridge or desserts like kheer. Sago starch is also baked in breads, pancakes or biscuits.
Samak Rice: Also called Barnyard millet is a seed and not a grain. Its high on calcium, potassium, phosphorus and amino acids except lysine compared to regular white rice. It is usually eaten with hull which retains majority of its nutrients. Samaj rice can be had as kheer, khichdi, idli or dhokla.
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