“Which atta (chapatti flour) do you use?” was the hot topic of discussion at a recent afternoon tea amongst friends. One point that was made apparent amongst all of the mums was the conscious effort to make our Indian home cooking healthier. This week, I caught up with personal trainer and nutrition expert Amrit of Amrit T and T to find out her top tips on cooking healthy desi dishes.
Firstly, solve the big question, which is the healthiest atta to use and why?
I like to use whole grain atta NOT brown, which is often just dyed brown. Whole grain provides great dietary fibre which we tend to lack in today’s diets. Some people have used millet based flour (bajri or jowar atta) as a gluten free solution, again this is great for dietary fibre, you don’t get the bloat afterwards and don’t need to eat as many!
Millet based flours don’t tend to leave you sapped of energy or drowsy as do wheat based flours. However, it can be quite hard like makki di roti (not a favourite of mine), so it can be mixed with whole grain to make it more elastic (this occurs due the presence of gluten). Hence, if you are gluten intolerant or allergic then leave it out. Other flours which are also used in combination with whole grains are amaranth and or quinoa flour. But generally whatever roti you choose be sure to consume it moderately and fill up with the dhal and/or sabji!
Secondly, ghee or oil?
Interestingly, ghee is becoming fashionable in the health industry but generally for cooking I tend to use coconut or rapeseed oil and olive oil for dressings. Only need to use small amounts of oils for sautéing (punning turka) etc.
Deep frying should generally be avoided as we all know it links with heart disease. Ghee like coconut oil has its place too - they’re both slow to oxidise (don’t burn too quick making them less prone to rancidification) hence can last a long time. They can aid digestion and have anti viral properties-however due to them being saturated fats its best to use sparingly.
What are your top 3 tips to making indian food healthy?
1) Most dhal and sabji use turka as a base which always starts off with sautéing onions in some form of fat. Main tip here is DO NOT use vegetable oil which is highly hydrogenated causing it to become rancid very quickly also as it’s heavily processed it’s not ideal for our consumption. Using small amounts of coconut/rapeseed oil with medium to high heat and if using olive oil keep the heat low.
2) Stir fry in minimal fats or marinate your meat, fish or veg with your favourite spices in a fat or yoghurt base then bake or roast. If you prefer to steam then dry roast your spices separately and use as seasoning.
3) Using your oven not only takes away the frying aspect of Indian cooking but saves time as you don’t have to stand over the patila stirring every 5 minutes!
Overcooking (veg especially) can affect quality of nutrients - so steaming, baking, roasting or stir frying can be more beneficial.
Which sabji (vegetable) do you feel should be included in everyone’s diet and why?
Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens; broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage, sprouts, asparagus, cauliflour, green beans, peppers the list is endless - rainbow vegetables!! Swap the aloo gobi for sweet potato and broccoli. All great sources of dietary fibre, especially the cruciferous veg. Always consume with caution if there are any known allergies or taking anticoagulants.
Finally, as a parent, how important is Panjabi language and culture to you?
It is important. The more we can do with our children the better, be it music, history or culture but the gift of language can’t be overlooked. We want to enrich our children’s lives.
Find out more about Amrit’s work at www.amrittandt.co.uk and follow her on social media @amrittandt