After the bitter aftertaste of 2016, bad year that it was, optimists are predicting a happier and healthier 2017. But it isn’t just the optimists; nutritionists are promising the same, too. A food and beverage report for 2017, by market research giant Mintel, predicts that plant-based diets are set to go mainstream this year. This should hardly come as a surprise since veganism has been on the rise at the staggering rate of 360 percent in the last decade. As for us Indians, vegetarianism has been an intrinsic part of our culture for centuries now.
With plant-based diets, however, superfoods take centre-stage with nutritionists. Superfoods are so dense in nutrients and all the goodness of nature that even weekly consumption of these foods can pack quite a wallop and send your health index soaring high. In fact, if 2016 has been a year of unhealthy compromises and bad food choices, then superfoods are the quickest way to achieve a healthy 2017. And the most abundantly available among superfoods is chlorophyll.
If you remember your elementary school science, then you’ll remember that chlorophyll gives leaves its green pigmentation and helps in photosynthesis. Which means that all those greens, which your grandmother always insisted that you finish, are actually pretty darn useful for exactly this reason. “Simply put, chlorophyll contains life,” says Dr Dharini Krishnan, a consultant dietician in Chennai. “It’s the very essence, the starting line, for the lifecycle processes of all living things. Consumption of foods rich in chlorophyll helps imbibe phyto-nutrients in the body. It is recommended that you consume chlorophyll-rich food at least twice a week, if not every day.”
Phyto-nutrients help prevent diseases and keep our bodies functioning properly. And although chlorophyll is easily available in nature, especially if you’re on a plant-based diet, it’s most beneficial only when it’s prepared properly. Here are some easy foods and recipes to help maximize the chlorophyll benefit to the body.
Our ancestors knew it all when it came to health. “Chlorophyll as a superfood is a very old Indian concept,” pointed out Dr Dharini. “Besides the whole eco-friendly disposal of the leaves, it is actually healthy to eat your meals on a banana leaf, or steam food in it, as the food then imbibes the chlorophyll in the leaf.”
Steaming food in banana leaves is not only healthy, but delicious as well. There are some famous Indian dishes which are traditionally cooked only on banana leaves, such as the Parsi delicacy, Patrani Machi. Here, fish is coated in green coconut chutney, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed until done. Easy-peasy isn’t it?
4 banana leaves
1 kg fish
1 lemon, juiced
¾ tsp salt
1 grated coconut
6 green chillies
50 gm coriander leaves with stems
1 tbsp mint leaves
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
Combine all the chutney ingredients and grind until a smooth paste is formed. Marinate the fish in lime juice and salt for 30 minutes. Coat the fish pieces on both sides with the chutney. Wrap the fish pieces in banana leaves and secure with string. Steam bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.
Recipe Courtesy: parsicuisine.com
Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy vegetables are your best bet for a good solid shot of chlorophyll and, for best results, it’s better to eat your greens raw. You can do your usual green salad with chopped cucumbers, lettuce leaves and tomatoes or you can try something fancier like this lovely spinach and strawberry salad, which is very easy to make. The spinach used in this preparation is tender and raw. But, if raw spinach isn’t your thing, you can even blanch it in hot water for three minutes. Overcooking green vegetables causes destruction of chlorophyll and the vegetables lose their lovely green colour. Blanching or steaming is a better alternative.
Strawberry and Spinach Salad
4 cups baby spinach
1 medium red onion, finely sliced
1 large yellow pepper, finely sliced
2 cups strawberries, sliced
½ cup pine nuts or hemp hearts
¼ cup organic olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ tsp pink or gray sea salt
Layer veggies in a bowl and top with berries and pine nuts. Mix dressing ingredients in a bowl and pour over the salad.
Recipe Courtesy: Julie Daniluk
Incorporating herbs in your meal is a really delicious way to imbue your body with some much-needed chlorophyll and they don’t require any cooking or laborious work. Just top your meals with your favourite herbs and enjoy their flavour. For something really herbaceous, you can try this easy garden herb spread made with fragrant dill, garlic, lemon and nut butter.
Vegan Herb Cheese
2 cups (240 gms) raw cashews
2 garlic cloves, minced (1 tbsp or 6 gms)
½ tsp garlic powder, or to taste
1 lemon, zested
2 lemons, juiced (¼ cup or 60 ml)
¾ cup (180 ml) water
2 tbsp (6 gms) nutritional yeast
½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
2 tbsp (8 gms) finely-minced fresh dill
1. Place cashews in a bowl and cover with cool water. Cover with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the refrigerator to soak for 12 hours.
2. Throw in the soaked cashews into a food processor along with minced garlic, garlic powder, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, nutritional yeast, salt and olive oil. Process until very creamy and smooth, then taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
3. Place a fine mesh strainer (or colander) over a large mixing bowl, and lay down two layers of cheesecloth (or a clean, fine, absorbent towel). Use a spatula to scoop all cheese over the cheesecloth, then gather the corners and twist the top gently to form the cheese into a “disc.” Secure with a rubber band.
4. Place in refrigerator to set for at least six hours until the excess moisture has been wicked away, and it holds its form when released from the cheesecloth.
5. To serve, unwrap from cheesecloth and gently invert onto a serving platter. Reform in your required shape and then coat with chopped herbs and a bit more lemon zest (optional). This cheese is fragile, so handle gently.
Recipe Courtesy: Minimalist Baker
Like this article? Also read: Mumbai Marathon Prep: Carb-Loading
Cover Image Courtesy: Shutterstock.com; Images courtesy: YouTube Screengrab, Minimalistbaker