Calling for the healthiest Indian foods! Enrich your diet using popular healthy calorie Indian food and create unique cuisine from your own kitchen. These foods are used frequently in Indian cuisine and contain beneficial properties for your body and taste buds!
Indian foods can’t be summed up in one word (except maybe delicious) because the cuisine covers a large expanse of ethnically diverse peoples and varied diet and recipes. There are nutritious dishes from across India that are noteworthy, full stop. However, Indian food has become popular in the West including the States. Over here, there are some Indian food components that are considered to be staples and that are also quite nutrient dense.
What are the healthiest Indian foods?
Some of the most commonly used staples in the Indian diet includes lentils, beans, vegetables and spices. (Which is great if you are trying to get 30 plant based foods into your diet). The following popular Indian food staples provide numerous health benefits.
Let’s look at these foods in more detail:
1) Lentils (known as Dal)
Lentils are a disc shaped plant based food high in protein, iron and polyphenols. They have been demonstrated to help reduce disease incidence such as diabetes, obesity, cancers and cardiovascular diseases in part due to the high polyphenol activity and other bioactive compounds. They also have the highest antioxidant capacity when compared to other beans such as chickpeas and can help the body reduce free radicals even when compared to other vegetables (onions) and fruits (blueberries). According to the study, it is recommended to eat lentils regularly.
Known for its medicinal properties, turmeric contains curcumin which research has found to be anti-inflammatory and full of antioxidants. It is bright orange, and as a side note, a powerful dye as well. Additionally, the spice has been found to help with gut health and treat major depressive disorder according to a human trial with 60 participants. The spice is widely used in Indian dishes as well as the popular golden tea.
Ginger employs similar healing properties as turmeric such as its anti-inflammatory nature and high antioxidant profile. Numerous studies have been done on ginger including on its benefits for nausea and gastrointestinal discomfort, and reducing pain including menstrual, migraine and muscle soreness.
The highly aromatic cumin is a staple in most curry dishes and has been studied as a weight loss aid, though it also contains high levels of iron which are best absorbed through foods in the diet. Cumin seeds and ground up seeds are used in many types of Indian dishes.
Chickpeas aren’t just for making hummus (also known as garbonzo beans). They are an inexpensive yet abundant source of nutrients including high quality protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. The peptides in chickpeas have been researched and found to help with the prevention or management of hypertension, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity. India is the primary producer of chickpeas though they are commonly found in western markets.
Curry is almost synonymous with Indian foods and for good reason: it is an important spice blend in culinary dishes and extremely aromatic and flavorful. That’s right, curry is usually spice blend (though, there are curry leaves) that is most often in paste or dried powder form but can also be in the form of bouillon-like cube. It often includes curcumin (from turmeric).
A single dose of curry with curcumin improved postprandial endothelial function in men according to a 2014 Nutrition Journal. In another study, a curry spice blend with curcumin improved neurocognitive function including higher functioning attention, short-term working memory, visual spatial constructional ability, language and executive function as reported in Nutrients in 2022.
Other spices often included in curry include coriander, cumin, fenugreek, chili pepper, ginger, black pepper, mustard seeds, and fennel. These spices are known for polyphenols and high antioxidant properties important for lowering inflammation.
While eggplant parmesan may be the only American dish you’ve heard of containing the purple-beauty known as eggplant, it has wider appeal in India. It may be one of the healthiest Indian foods as well due to its ability to improve blood pressure and mood in stressed out individuals. It has been shown to help treat those with metabolic syndrome (MetS) which involves a host of cardiovascular risk factors consistent with diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease according to a 2021 study.
This amazing plant may be worth looking into further as a part of a whole foods diet.
Okra is not a commonly sought after vegetable to much of the Western world, but it was a staple perhaps for our grand and great-grandparents who gardened. Okra is certainly consumed in Indian cuisine, and it is loaded with medicinal properties.
It is high in antioxidants, well-researched as an anti-fatigue food. In traditional medicine, it was used to help treat worms, dysentery, inflammation, and also irritation of the stomach, intestines, and kidneys according to Nutrients Journal in 2021.
Studies are ongoing that would indicate okra for nutraceutical applications.
For now, it’s a popular item in some of the healthiest Indian foods.
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What are the most popular Indian dishes with these foods?
If you’re wondering what to order at an Indian restaurant or looking for healthier dining options in general, here are some suggestions when dining out!
- Bhindi Masala (Fried Okra)
- Daal Makhani (Lentil Dish)
- Baingan Bharta (Punjabi Spicy Roasted Eggplant)
- Chhole (Chickpea Curry)
- Scrambled Egg Curry
- Daal Tarka (Spiced Lentils)
- Chickpea & Potato Curry
- Saffron Chicken Korma
Frequently asked questions about Indian cuisine:
What is the healthiest Indian food to order?
It is hard to pick just one. Each and every item on the list could qualify as the healthiest Indian foods!
What is the number 1 healthiest food in India?
Picking one would be hard, but there is a ton of evidence for the power of curcumin and since it can accompany so many Indian dishes, its versatility lends itself to ease of use.
What is the lowest calorie Indian food in restaurants?
It depends upon how the food is cooked and what it is cooked with. Many Indian dishes use coconut and ghee for flavoring dishes which aren’t super low in calories but still healthy fats. If lentils, say, were eaten without additional fat then the calorie would be rather low. Eggplant and vegetables such okra are low in calories.
What Indian food is good for diet?
As you can see, each of these foods mentions are among the healthiest Indian foods and worth preparing for your own mealtime feast.
Nutrient density and endometriosis
If you’re struggling with endometriosis then making sure you are getting nutrient dense foods is really important. I cover the value of a plant-heavy diet in my post about how to include 30 plant-based foods into your diet each week in order to reap the benefits to your gut and immune system function. (Need help reducing sugar in your diet?). Not only that, but eating a nutrient-rich diet can help your cognitive function and help increase your longevity as well.
Additionally, each of these foods are high in antioxidants and help with lowering inflammation, which is important when considering which foods to eat for endometriosis.
Hopefully these ideas will help you find some delicious yet healthy comfort foods for the winter days ahead!
Want to learn more about endometriosis and ways that the lifestyle medicine and integrative care model show promising help for endo?
You may find these posts helpful:
- Endometriosis Flare Up: Causes, Symptoms and How to Relieve
- 8 Endometriosis Self Care Tips for Symptom Improvement
- Endometriosis and Adenomyosis: 5+ Things You Should Know
- Integrative Medicine for Endometriosis – 5 Things to Know
Thanks for stopping by!