7 Lesser-Known Indian Ingredients And Their Health Benefits

Opting for organic foods is a wise choice for numerous reasons. Firstly, organic foods are cultivated without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This translates into a healthier option for consumers as it reduces their exposure to potentially harmful chemicals commonly found in conventional produce. 

Moreover, organic farming practices prioritise soil health and biodiversity, promoting sustainable agriculture that helps mitigate climate change and conserve vital ecosystems. Choosing organic also supports local and small-scale farmers who often employ more environmentally friendly methods. Over the long term, embracing organic foods can contribute to improved personal health by reducing the intake of harmful substances and fostering a more sustainable planet for future generations, making it a responsible and beneficial choice for both individuals and the environment alike.

In recent years, Indian organic farming has introduced lesser-known, but incredibly healthy ingredients to the global culinary scene. These include ancient grains like millets (such as foxtail, finger, and pearl millets), which are rich in nutrients and well-suited to diverse climatic conditions in India. Additionally, organic farming has led to the cultivation of unique indigenous crops like amaranth, moringa, and black rice, which are now gaining recognition for their exceptional nutritional value and health benefits. These lesser-known ingredients are not only contributing to the diversification of Indian diets but also offering sustainable solutions for global food security and nutrition challenges.

Navara Rice 

Navara rice, also known as Navara or Njavara in different regions of India, is a traditional and highly nutritious rice variety that has been cultivated for centuries. This unique grain is revered for its numerous health benefits. Navara rice is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, making it a valuable addition to a balanced diet. It is known to boost immunity, improve digestion, and promote overall well-being. Navara rice is often used in Ayurvedic medicine for its rejuvenating properties, making it suitable for individuals of all ages. Cooking options for Navara rice include preparing it as a porridge, a rice dish, or even as flour for making traditional Indian bread and snacks. Its versatility and health benefits make Navara rice a valuable and nutritious addition to various cuisines and diets.

Arjun Ghee 

Arjun Ghee, a specialised clarified butter infused with the bark of the Arjuna tree, holds several health benefits rooted in Ayurvedic tradition. This ghee is known for its heart-healthy properties, helping to lower cholesterol levels and support cardiovascular health. It is also believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which can aid in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Arjun Ghee is often used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote digestive health and improve overall well-being. Cooking options for Arjun Ghee are diverse; it can be used in traditional Indian dishes, sautéed with vegetables, drizzled over rice or grains, or even incorporated into desserts, imparting a rich, earthy flavour while offering potential health advantages.

Lakadong Turmeric 

Lakadong Turmeric, native to the Indian state of Meghalaya, is renowned for its exceptional quality and potent health benefits. This unique variety of turmeric is prized for its high curcumin content, the compound responsible for many of its therapeutic properties. Lakadong Turmeric is celebrated for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which can help reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and protect against oxidative stress. It is known to support digestive health, alleviate joint pain, and promote overall well-being. In cooking, Lakadong Turmeric can be used in various forms – fresh, dried, or as a powdered spice – to add vibrant colour and a warm, earthy flavour to a wide range of dishes, including curries, soups, rice, and beverages like turmeric tea or golden milk, making it a versatile and healthful addition to the culinary world.

Khapli Atta 

Khapli Atta, also known as Emmer wheat flour, is a traditional and nutrient-rich grain that offers a multitude of health benefits. This ancient variety of wheat is packed with essential nutrients like fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Khapli Atta is known for its low gluten content compared to modern wheat, making it a suitable choice for individuals with mild gluten sensitivities. It is also rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, potentially aiding in better digestion, improved heart health, and reduced risk of chronic diseases. In cooking, Khapli Atta can be used to prepare various Indian bread like chapatis, rotis, and parathas, as well as in baking applications for making wholesome and nutritious bread and pastries, offering a healthier alternative to refined wheat flour and a homely taste of tradition.

Safflower Oil 

Safflower oil, derived from the seeds of the safflower plant, is a versatile cooking oil with several health benefits. It is renowned for its high content of monounsaturated fats, specifically oleic acid, which can promote heart health by reducing bad cholesterol levels and supporting cardiovascular function. Safflower oil is also low in saturated fats, making it a heart-healthy choice. 

Additionally, it contains vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Safflower oil has a high smoke point, making it ideal for various cooking methods, including sautéing, frying, and baking. Its neutral flavour doesn't overpower the natural taste of ingredients, making it a popular choice for a wide range of dishes, from salads and stir-fries to baked goods, offering a healthier alternative to less beneficial cooking oils.

Ajara Ghansal Rice 

Ajara Ghansal Rice, an indigenous rice variety cultivated in the Ajara region of Maharashtra, India, boasts notable health benefits and culinary versatility. This traditional rice is celebrated for its unique combination of taste and nutrition. Ajara Ghansal Rice is rich in essential nutrients, including dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals. It is known for its low glycemic index, making it a suitable choice for individuals seeking to manage blood sugar levels. This rice variety offers a distinct nutty flavour and a slightly chewy texture, making it a delightful addition to various dishes, from biryanis and pilafs to rice bowls and porridge. Its versatility and healthful attributes have made Ajara Ghansal Rice a sought-after choice for those looking to enhance their diet with both flavour and nutrition.

Coconut Sap Jaggery 

Coconut sap jaggery, a natural sweetener derived from the sap of coconut palm trees, offers a multitude of health benefits. Unlike regular refined sugar, it is unprocessed and retains many of its natural nutrients. This jaggery is rich in minerals like iron, magnesium, and potassium, making it a healthier alternative for those with nutrient deficiencies. It has a lower glycemic index, causing a slower rise in blood sugar levels, making it suitable for individuals with diabetes. Coconut sap jaggery is known for its antioxidant properties, aiding in detoxification and improving overall skin health. In cooking, it can be used as a sweetener in a wide range of dishes, from desserts and beverages to curries and marinades, adding a unique, caramel-like flavour while providing these health advantages.