Navratri is a nine-day long festival celebrated mostly by Hindus across the country. The festivities include people preparing for the celebrations through fasting and feasting. The devotees observe a nine-day-long fast during this time and consume only select ingredients such as kuttu atta, singhara atta, fresh vegetables, milk, yogurt and makhanas.
Navratri meals might sound simple, but they are so rich in nutrients that they have a lot of health benefits, which includes weight loss and detoxification of the body. Moreover, these foods are light on the stomach and can be digested easily. This is important, since this is one of the reasons that people are advised to refrain from eating meat, alcohol and grains and pulses during this time.
Dr Vinita Sharma, Senior Ayurvedic Doctor at Dr Shikha’s NutriHealth and Lalitha Subramanyam, Chief Nutritionist, Grow Fit, talk about the many health benefits of the basic ingredients of a Navratri meal.
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Heavy to digest, high-gluten flours like wheat, barley, oats, etc., are not allowed during a Navratri fast. Instead, light cereals like rajgira (amaranth), singhara (water chestnut flour), and sabudana are consumed. Here’s a look at the health benefits of each of those ingredients.
Amaranth or rajgira: The flour contains high amounts of lysine that helps in the absorption of calcium. This ingredient contains high fibre and its phytosterols and oils help reduce cholesterol, inflammation and hypertension.
Singhare ka atta (water chestnut flour): Predominantly simple carbohydrates, contains vitamin B and E, and nutrients like potassium, zinc, etc. The ingredient is an excellent coolant and detoxifies the body system. It is used to prepare rotis or puris along with dishes made of sabudana (sago) and potato during Navratri.
Kuttu atta (buckwheat flour): This ingredient is very nutritious and contains body detoxifying properties. Though typical Navratri food is fattening — because of fried potatoes, sabudana ki tikki, sabudana papad, kheer, pakodas are all high-calorie foods — these foods can only lead to an increase in weight and create even worse health conditions for people with hypertension, diabetes, etc. Kuttu atta, as compared to wheat and barley flour contains lesser calories and is high in carbohydrates. The flour is free of saturated fats and is known to help curb appetite and facilitate digestion.
Sendha salt (rock salt) is used in place of common salt to prepare food during Navratris. It had detoxifying properties and is healthier than the refined salt. the unrefined rock salt retains many nutrients like magnesium and calcium that are lost during the refining of the salt.
Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, with the exclusion of wheat and rice, provides the body with all the required minerals and vitamins, thus, keeping the body active and giving the face a natural glow. Roots and tubers like sweet potatoes, tapioca and potatoes, are consumed more during Navratris. These foods provide the body with more energy to the body and do not pressurise the digestive system much.
Navratri is celebrated at the onset of the winters and many of the ingredients in a Navratri meal help build immunity in the body, preparing it for cold weather conditions (of course, this was before global warming messed up our planet). Fasting with consumption of light foods is the most effective means of preparing the body for the sudden climate change. In addition to fruits and vegetables, juices, lemonade and coconut water must be consumed to increase the amount of antioxidants in your body. The antioxidants help in detoxification and boost the immunity.
Extreme heat-producing foods like garlic, flaxseeds, fenugreek seeds, garam masala, non-veg foods, etc., are avoided and so are extreme coolants like onions, dhania powder , chia seeds, basil seeds, etc. Hence, the body temperature acquires a balance from the foods consumed.
Protein is the nutrient required for the wear and tear of the body. Milk and milk products, dry fruits and nuts like peanuts, almonds and walnuts, etc., are good sources of protein sources and are consumed in abundance during Navratri fasting. Proteins in these foods help in forming new cells and repairing old damaged body cells, thus, maintaining better health and an active life.