These healthy monsoon foods are... surprisingly tasty
Move over aloo, a very berry season is here to stay
The cosy weather, the shadowed light, the cool breeze — the monsoon can be very vibey, as Generation Z would call it. Now whether you belong to the Bollywood school of dancing in puddles of muddy water or prefer being wrapped up like a burrito in your bed, with the vibes come the sniffles.
India spends about three to four months in a year under the monsoon spell, and there’s a lot more that goes wrong beyond your chappal disintegrating on the footpath. Seasonal transitions can be harsh on our immunity, and the monsoon can create gastrointestinal issues which have a ricochet effect throughout the body.
“According to Ayurveda, during monsoons, the digestive fire of our body is less intense, causing disturbances in the GI tract. Due to less perspiration, the water output is directed to the urinary tract which can lead to dehydration in the body, causing a drop in energy, sluggishness and bloating,” says Dr Anusha Pendse-Vedpathak, Ayurveda consultant.
Fried foods and heavy meals can lead to gut issues, so experts recommend switching to lighter monsoon foods to eat. And though capitalism has given us access to most fruits and veggies around the year, you’re better off incorporating seasonal produce in your diet. Those come preloaded with the correct nutrition that humans need to cope with the season.
This list of ‘do’s and don’t’ eats can get as long and confusing as 10th grade trigonometry, so to make sure your chai-pakoda mood is not ruined, we ask 6 experts about the best monsoon foods to eat to stay healthy.
Monsoon foods to eat to keep that gut healthy
On most days, you’d be advised to eat your leafy greens. But when looking for monsoon foods to eat, experts agree that aping a Stegosaurus is not the best idea. During this time, worms can hide between the dense leaves and make their way into our stomachs. The same goes for cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.
But before your mind jumps straight to aloo, yes, we know it went there, hold on, the ride’s about to get gourd. Health nutritionist and dietician Kinit Hajare recommends including spring onions, amaranth, pumpkin and vegetables from the gourd family such as karela and lauki in our diets. “Gourd family vegetables are seasonal, they have a higher water content and are easy to cook and digest,” she says.
Lifestyle nutritionist Puujaa Kukreja agrees, “Colourful vegetables like orange carrots, pumpkin, and red and yellow bell peppers are packed with antioxidants and would be great for this season.”
The rising levels of humidity and drop in atmospheric pressure during monsoon can lead to increased inflammation in your body. The best way to combat it is to replace your watery summer fruits like mango, watermelon and muskmelon with antioxidant-rich plums, peaches and all kinds of berries. Nutritionists Kavita Devgan, Hajare and Kukreja have given us a basket of options from cranberries, blueberries, cherries, and wild gooseberries to desi produce like jamun, karonda, bor/ber, all perfect for you to chew on for those 4 pm snack pangs.
Apart from berries, Devgan also recommends adding raw mango, raw papaya and raw bananas to your diet to improve gut health.
When in doubt, swap it out
The best advice is often the simplest and most obvious. When considering the list of monsoon foods to eat, the experts offered us 5 easy tips to keep your sinuses on your good side.
- Leave your raw salads behind and replace them with warm bowls of steamed or sautéed vegetables and a dash of boiled pulses for that protein boost. Raw food can be harsh on the stomach and can also transfer infections to the body if not cleaned properly.
- Ice-cold water and a can of Diet Coke feel like saviours when the sun shines its brightest but once it starts raining, room temperature or warm beverages like green tea, herbal teas, soups and the absolute best Indian adrak chai should take over as your companions.
- Heavier grains and cereals such as chickpeas and besan can be replaced with lighter millets like jowar, bajra and even rice preparations. Corn and corn aata are also healthy additions to make to your diet during this season.
- The best trick to continue eating delicious food in monsoons is to keep the quantity in check. You can replace your roti, sabzi, dal and rice meals with lighter one-pot meals like dal khichdi to make it easy on your stomach. Adding a bunch of Indian spices like peppercorns, star anise, cardamom and the holy grail haldi will not just add flavour but also infuse your food with medicinal properties.
- When to eat pakodas if not in baarish? Well, you can still eat that one odd plate in the season as a soul warmer, but change the cooking method. Replace deep-fried with shallow-fried or preferably air-fried food to avoid unnecessary oil which can lead to water retention in your body.
Monsoon foods to eat: ghar ke nuske edition
Vibha Harish, founder of Cosmix swears by this tonic, which is the perfect monsoon addition. “Infuse some room temperature water with cinnamon, a small root of ashwagandha, a tiny piece of ginger and some mint leaves. Mix the tonic and sip it throughout the day. These ingredients are all anti-inflammatory in nature and can provide the support your body needs to cope with this season,” she says.
Dimple Jangda, gut health and Ayurveda coach, says “Cinnamon and black pepper are the two holy grails in the great Indian kitchen. Both these spices are anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and stimulate your metabolic fire. They’re also effective in dealing with bacteria in the sinus and throat region.”
Nutritionist Kavita Devgan’s personal tip is to eat two cloves of crushed small desi garlic, (not the Chinese garlic) every morning on an empty stomach. “This takes care of any inflammation that may occur in your body,” she says.
Lifestyle nutritionist Puujaa Kukreja says healthy fats are essential in your list of monsoon foods to eat. “You could do food with higher fats like adding extra ghee or coconut to your gravies and sabzi to ensure your skin doesn’t get dry and your internal organs are well lubricated.”
Curd is a good probiotic and source of protein but it can cause cold and cough. Nutritionist and dietician Kinit Hajare has the solution “You either set the curd fresh or swap it for paneer or other milk-based preparations like soup, kheer and other milk-based hot desserts.
Dr Anusha Pendse-Vedpathak’s personal recommendation for combating bloating and gastric troubles is as simple as an expert tip could be. “Mix a little bit of hing (asafoetida) with a small quantity of ghee and a pinch of salt and have it before your meals, or add hing to room temperature buttermilk.”