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Indian Superfoods Part II

Rohini Diniz

In recent years, imported fruits such as acai berry, goji berry and vegetables like kale have captured the attention of the world. India on the other hand has many local fruits and vegetables that are not only cheaper but have high nutritive value and health benefits in comparison to these imported fruits and vegetables. Amla, jambul, jackfruit and drumstick leaves are some of them that can be considered as superfoods. 

Amla or avale is a wonderful fruit and a rich gift from nature that is extensively used in ayurvedic medicines and also relished raw and as a pickle or candy. Amla fruit is sour to taste but leaves a sweet taste in the mouth when water is drunk after eating a few fruits. It is abundantly available from October to December as the fruits ripen during winter. Nutritionally amla is the richest source of vitamin C among all foods providing 600 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams of fruit. The vitamin C content of amla is not affected much by the processing techniques and hence amla is a rich source of vitamin C both in fresh and dehydrated form. One tiny amla contains more vitamin C than two oranges.

Amla possesses great medicinal value. It has rejuvenating and antioxidant properties that help strengthen the immune system thereby increasing the body’s resistance to infections and is useful in the treatment of respiratory problems like bronchitis, asthma and tuberculosis. It also helps prevent damage to cells by free radicals thereby preventing premature ageing and reducing the risk of developing cancer. A mixture of amla and karela juice is supposed to stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin thereby lowering blood sugar levels and improving the symptoms of diabetes. It is also one of the ingredients in triphala, an ayurvedic medicine which is used in the treatment of indigestion or dyspepsia, constipation and enlarged liver. The oil from the seeds of amla is a good hair tonic as it helps strength the hair roots thereby reducing hair fall and also helps prevent premature greying of the hair.

Locally known as zambllam in Goa, jambul is a wild berry that is abundantly available in every village during summer. The fruit is dark purple or nearly black in colour when ripened and has a sweet, mildly sour and astringent flavour. The edible portion in jamun forms around 70 per cent of the whole fruit. Glucose and fructose are the principal sugars that are found in ripe jambuls and they are fairly a good source of vitamin C and iron and contain many different kinds of anti-oxidant compounds, including anthocyanins, flavonoids and polyphenols that help reduce oxidative stress and also inhibit macromolecular oxidation thereby reducing the risk of degenerative disease. Jambul is an important medicinal plant in various traditional systems of medicine and have been found to be effective in the treatment of diabetes mellitus, inflammation, ulcers and diarrhoea. The seeds are a good source of protein and calcium and contain an alkaloid jambosine and a glycoside jambolin which helps lower blood sugar levels. The flowers are an important source of good quality honey which is beneficial for respiratory problems.

Available predominately during summer, jackfruits are large-sized fruits that are of two types- firm fleshed (kappa) and soft fleshed (rassal). Ripe jack fruit contains fructose and sucrose which contribute to the energy content of the fruit and is rich in vitamin B and C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and beta carotene. The fruit also contains fibre which helps prevent constipation and helps smooth bowel movement and sweep away chemical carcinogens from the large intestine. The fruit contains phytonutrients such as Jacalin lignans, isoflavones and saponins which have been shown to have antioxidant properties thereby preventing damage to the body. Jackfruit seeds are rich in proteins. They can be crushed and added to vegetables instead of coconut or can be eaten plain boiled or as a dry vegetable preparation.

To be continued. . .

(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 20 years of experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on

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