Exotic superfood is the new buzzword in the fitness & wellness world. If you are a health-conscious person, and working on a weight loss or fitness plan, then you might be inclined to go for the “trendy” vegetables, like kale, iceberg lettuce, baby spinach, etc. But there’s more to vegetables, and more vegetables we didn’t know of. With over 35% of it’s population being vegetarian, India has known and used several vegetables earlier native to the country but now available in several parts of the world. Exceptionally nutritious and easily available (when in season) they are widely used in homes. Unfortunately it stops there. In the commercial market these vegetables have not entered the mainstream and thus essentially less known to several parts of the world. These are some of the lowest calorie containing, disease preventing and reversal and compliementing adopted lifestyles for diabetics, heart conditions and virtually all (yes, thats right) health conditions. These vegetables are richest sources of Vitamins, fiber and minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, etc. They are also rich in antioxidants and can help you cope with many health issues, from weight gain and constipation to cardiovascular diseases and so on.
Also back in favour in India and now gaining ground globally, are several millets touted as superfoods. Though largely prevelant in non urban areas these grains have become popular, and rightly so, in most of urban India. Foxtail millets (kangni), Amaranth, Sorghum Millet (Jowar), Proso Millet (Chena / Barri), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi), Browntop Millet (Korle), Barnyard Millet (Sanwa), Little Millet (Moraiyo). We are attempting to bring in this wondergrain to Dubai. More on that later.
At Home Diner we have attempted to bring in these vegetables to the Indian population in Dubai craving Home Food and also the non Indian population looking at alternate medicine or more accuratey complementing foods for diets for sugar control & diabeties, gut health, heart health, vegan, keto and yoga inspired lifestyles
At Home Diner Dubai we serve few of these vegetables in our main menu and always happy to consider special requests.
Below we have rounded up a list of some of the lesser-known yet highly nutritious vegetables.
Bitter Gourd or Bitter Melon (Karela)
This bitter vegetable is a rich source of antioxidants, flavonoids, and other polyphenol compounds, bitter gourd can help reduce inflammation and improve overall health. Bitter gourd helps regulate the blood sugar levels in your body and activates the insulin, thereby preventing its conversion to fat, and is highly beneficial for people with diabetes. A popular, though a torture for the taste buds, home remedy for sugar control is to squeeze small amounts of juice from the peels of the vegetable to make a portion of sugar regulating wonder remedy.
Greens from Amaranth seeds, a cup containing only 13 calories and is known as a super-low-calorie vegetable. It is a boon for weight-watchers and diabetics. It has a high concentration of proteins, great for digestive health, cuts back on bad cholesterol levels (LDL), recommended for people who have anemia, calcium deficiency, etc. They are packed with carbohydrates, proteins, vitamin K, folate, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.
Bottle Gourd (Lauki)
Again one of the lowest calorie containing green vegetable with 100 gms containing just around 25 calories. A complete powerhouse of nutrients, bottle gourd (family containg variants called calabashwhite-flower gourd, upo-squash (Filipino), long-squash, doodhi, ghiya or lauki, is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and high in dietary fibre, vitamin C, riboflavin, zinc, thiamine, iron, magnesium and manganese. An old Ayurvedic remedy is to grind small pieces of bottle gourd, squeeze out the juice and consume it early morning.
Okra is fantastic for those who are watching their weight, as it’s packed with vitamins and nutrients but has a low-calorie profile. It is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B, folic acid, and calcium. Okra contains numerous antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavonoids, and vitamin A and C, which fight free radicals and reduces the risk of chronic disease, including heart disease and cancer. It is low in calories and carbs and has a high content of fibers. It is one of the few vegetables and fruits which contain protein and making okra an excellent food choice when managing weight.
Mustard Greens (Sarso ka Saag)
Sarso ka saag is a North-Indian favorite during winter months (especially with some makke ki roti and jaggery on the side!) and not only because it’s delicious. Mustard greens are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, and have a high concentration of calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. From improving your digestive health to keeping your cholesterol levels low, mustard greens are highly beneficial for health.
Ridge Gourd (Turai)
A long vegetable with spongy white flesh containing numerous seeds inside, ridge gourd is rich in fiber, water content and can be consumed to reduce internal inflammation and alleviate cough and reduce swelling of the lymph gland. It is hypoglycemic and hence helps in controlling blood sugar levels. The significant amounts of vitamin A in ridge gourd contribute to improving eyesight even at an older age. It is also low in calories and high in water content, making it an ideal option for weight loss. Its alkaline nature also helps in reducing the burning sensation while urinating and prevents ulcers and excessive heat.
Colocasia/Taro Root (Arbi)
The rough and earthy-surfaced vegetable has a plain taste and doesn’t pop up on most food menus. But it’s less well known that eating arbi has several benefits that you might miss out on if you don’t eat it. Arbi or taro root is rich in fiber and resistant starch, which could help manage blood sugar levels, keep heart disease at bay, and reduce cancer risk. It is rich in vitamins A and C, iron, dietary fiber, and folic acid. So apart from giving your immune system a good boost, these leaves can improve eyesight, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, aid weight loss, and improve the nervous system.
Fenugreek Leaves (Methi ka saag)
Considered the richest source of folic acid and zinc, consuming fenugreek leaves can do wonders for your overall health. They are also a rich source of antioxidants, which help the body fight several infections. It is excellent for hair, digestion, and anemia. Fenugreek leaves are exceptionally beneficial for growing children. These leaves are high in fiber and other essential nutrients. Fibre can keep you full for longer and make you eat less. It can help in controlling and preventing diabetes and, the presence of the anti-oxidants and many essential vitamins can help you fight skin and hair issues.
Chenopodium album (Bathua)
You might not be too familiar with this green leaf, but it’s very popular in Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, and Bengal. Bathua is rich in vitamins A, C, and B complex, and has high levels of amino acids, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. From curing constipation to improving liver health, this wintergreen is a must-have. Bathua is extensively cultivated and consumed in Northern India. It is inexpensive and rich in micronutrients such as iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamins A, C, and B6. You can also find nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, fiber, and potassium in Bathua.
At Home Diner Restaurant (a dark kitchen actually), our attempt has been to bring North Indian home style food, nutritious, balanced and super healthy. Even though being less popular than many North Indian dishes, the people who like these love them. These farm fresh whole vegetables are flown in from Pakistan & India to Dubai everyday and available in supermarkets. Our cooking is also much different than restaurants, care is taken to ensure minimal loss of nutrients and a good blend of spices like turmeric, bay leaves, green & black cardomon, cinnamon along with ginger & garlic are made the way they are at millions of homes, slow cooked and ground up. With dishes like Chulai ka Saag (Amaranth Greens), Lauki (Bottle Gourd), Arvi Sabzi (Taro root), etc. we have ensured that our menu also has dishes that are lesser known but highly nutritious.
These vegetables are available in most supermarkets across Dubai & UAE. Millets and herbs are now on the shelves at Indian stores like Al Adil to some extent in Al Maya, Lulu Hypermarkets. Several Ayurved stores and pharmacies now sell millets alongside tradional ayurvedic medicines and preventives. Known by different names in Southern Indiaa good place to give a shot would be Kottakal Pharmacy & Kottakal Arya Vaidya Sala. If you can’t hack the taste of the fresh vegetables you may have to settle for supplements. Himalaya Wellness supplements are available across most pharmacies in the region. A far from ideal choice but hey if you can’t manage them in their natural form remember you are not the only one.