6 Indian Alternatives To Popular Western Superfoods

6 Indian Alternatives To Popular Western Superfoods
Anjul Dandekar For Homegrown

(This article was written in association with The Quad, a highly-reputed fitness experience in Chennai.We reached out to The Quad for the research, to provide nutritional data and analysis and created this list of fantastic (and often, surprising) local alternatives to imported food. To learn more about The Quad, visit their website or their Facebook Page/Instagram handle.)

There is little in the world that matches the wonder that is a beautifully ripened avocado smashed onto a hot, buttered toast, or a bowl full of guacamole that calls out to your soul. But did you know that the rising popularity and demand for avocados, world over, is contributing to massive deforestation in Mexico, its place of origin?

“Growers have been cutting down swaths of forest to make room for more fruit trees in the state of Michoacan, the world’s avocado capital”, according to this report. Today, avocados occupy approx. 340,000 acres of land, half of which was bought through dubious legal means, according to Jaime Navia, head of a rural technology NGO called Gira. What is worse is that the avocado, a dietary staple for people in Mexico, has now become too expensive for ordinary consumers as the simple economic principle of demand-vs-supply has sent its prices soaring.

The awareness that our consumption patterns have a global, ripple effect is important, especially in light of how much produce India has begun to import. According to India’s Agriculture Report released by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, agricultural imports have increased to Rs. 1,06,935 crores during Apr-Dec (2015-16) as compared to Rs. 94,634 crores during the corresponding period in 2014-15.

Imports of vegetable oils, pulses, cashew nuts, spices, sugar and cotton registered an increase during the period as well. Keeping these facts in mind, Homegrown and The Quad set out to seek local alternatives to imported superfoods (such as quinoa and zucchini). These are based on comparative nutritional intake, cost, and sustainability parameters of consumption and while it may seem that one is not a direct substitute of another in terms of use in a meal; nutritionally, they are all that and more.

Don’t put your chia pudding down just yet - we’re not pitching one superfood against the other. If you find that your lifestyle, eating habits, spending patterns and personal taste preferences allow for it, all 12 of these are amazing when incorporated into a diet. However, there’s nothing like a new year to make some changes to both your dietary intake as well as your environmental footprint on this planet. So, if you’d like to save two birds with six charts, consider these alternatives the next time you find yourself at a Nature’s Basket, eager for your weekly dose of wholesome goodness.

I. Broccoli VS Carrots

Both these vegetables provide similar accounts of carbohydrates and proteins. Both also contain small amounts of Vitamin E, potassium and iron. It is important to note that for a relatively similar nutrient profile, broccoli is nearly 2.5 times the price of the same quantity of carrots. Broccoli is a cool weathered crop that requires well-drained soil and frequent irrigation.

Since carrots are cultivated locally and are less susceptible to weeds and pest, it is postulated that they are subject to lesser pesticide application than broccoli. All in all, carrots are more likely to be locally sourced and safer due to minimal pesticide application, while being less demanding on water resources. If you are able to find locally grown and sourced broccoli, go right ahead! But know that if it’s a matter of nutrition and sustainability, carrots take the cake any day of the week.

Anjul Dandekar

II. Chia Seeds VS Fenugreek Seeds (Methi)

If you were inspired to pick up a packet of chia seeds when photographs of beautifully plated smoothie bowls lit up your Instagram feed, take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. However, while they are a super addition to your diet, did you know that chia seeds are significantly higher in dietary fats, with greater amounts of saturated fats?

Essentially, this means that topping your bowl off with a generous amount of chia won’t help much if you’re aiming for fat loss. Besides, the critically essential Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids that chia offers can also be sourced from other nuts, seeds and seed-based oils - like fenugreek. Additionally, fenugreek (or methi) seeds are locally available, higher quality sources of protein compared to chia seeds.

Although chia seeds are higher in fibre content, fenugreek seeds provide a significant amount of the recommended daily allowance of fibre as well. Chia seeds are not a significant source of vitamins, but fenugreek seeds provide small amounts of vitamin B complex.

While Chia Seeds do offer higher phosphorus and manganese, Fenugreek wins in iron, magnesium and copper content. Iron is crucial for transport and storage of oxygen in our body and copper plays an important role in scavenging free radicals. Besides, chia seeds are costlier than fenugreek, which will give you more nutritional bang for your buck.

Anjul Dandekar

III. Strawberries VS Guava

While it’s true that a 100 g serving of guava contains almost twice the amount of calories than those in the same serving of strawberries, it’s important to note that the former gives strawberries a run for its money in terms of nutritional profile.

Similar amounts of Choline (necessary for proper liver metabolism as well as nerve and muscle function) is found in both, however a remarkable amount of Vitamin C (that is almost four times its content in strawberry) is found in guava.

The latter also offers 12% of the daily recommended Potassium and Folate content, while strawberries have less than 5% of both these micro-nutrients. Although strawberries offer twice as much manganese as guavas, they are taken over by twice the amounts of fibre in guava. In conclusion, guavas are denser in nutrient content than strawberries and are also easily available, at half the price of strawberries.

Anjul Dandekar

IV. Quinoa VS Amaranth

The higher calorific content in Amaranth seeds comes with greater content of protein, and potassium that’s vital for muscle contraction and nerve signalling.

What’s more, one cup of cooked Amaranth offers 40% of the daily recommended Magnesium versus Quinoa which offers 30%. What are the benefits, you ask? Well, Magnesium helps the body metabolize carbohydrates and fat as well as in healing.

Twice the amounts of iron and manganese in Amaranth than Quinoa also make it highly advantageous for consumption. Finally, Quinoa costs four times as much as Amaranth, which is locally cultivated in the country and consequently, easily available.

Anjul Dandekar

V. Kombucha VS Buttermilk

The reason most people choose to consume Kombucha is due to its heralded probiotic properties. However, it is to be noted that the requirements for probiotic content in Kombucha are largely unregulated - allowing manufacturers to make unchecked claims.

Since the exact quantity and quality of the probiotic cannot be determined, it allows us to infer that there is no justification in choosing one over the other for this reason. Buttermilk is a cheaper, more customizable option in that it can easily be prepared at home.

Additionally, buttermilk is usually prepared with salt and coriander garnish, while Kombucha (based on its flavor and the brand) may come with copious amounts of added sugar.

Anjul Dandekar

VI. Zucchini VS Chayote Squash (Chow Chow)

The distinct nutritional values of Chayote Squash and Zucchini might weigh one higher than the other in deciding which one to consume. While Chayote Squash and Zucchini have an equally insignificant protein content, the former’s dietary fibre content is greater than Zucchini.

However, Zucchini has more Vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining healthy conditions of vision and immunity. Chayote Squash, on the other hand, leads by 5% with its quantum of Vitamin C that is critical for certain important functions like the synthesis of structural proteins.

Cheaper than Zucchini, easily cultivated on any topography throughout the year, and suitably grown in all kinds of climates, Chayote Squash is the most convenient choice to include in our diet. Zucchini, on the other hand, is primarily cultivated in the temperate regions of North India and its availability is seasonal.

Anjul Dandekar

Illustrations by Anjul Dandekar for Homegrown

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(This article was created in partnership with The Quad, who provided all of the nutritional data and analysis for the Homegrown team.)