The Origins, Influence, and Health Benefits of Indian Cuisine
To most of us, Indian dishes can seem a bit daunting to prepare. It appears to contain a complex assortment of spices and herbs in every recipe. Although recipes can be extensive, all of these ingredients come together to create well-balanced meals that are worth the effort. Before we discuss the health benefits, let’s take a look at the origins behind Indian food.
Influences on Indian Food
Indian food has been around for thousands of years, dating back to ancient times. Over time the cuisine has been influenced by Mongolian, Chinese, and Persian cuisine. Each one introduced new flavors and methods of cooking into the traditional techniques.
In addition to outside influences, various invasions and the increase in international trade meant that new flavors and spices were introduced to India. Chilli pepper is a great example of this. Introduced in the 16th century by the Portuguese, chilli pepper has become a staple in Indian cooking.
India’s Influence On The World’s Cuisine
Not only has the world influenced the flavors of India, but India has also influenced the flavors around the world. Hints of Indian cuisine can be seen throughout Europe, the United States, and some African countries due to increased travel. South Africa, for example, has adopted many of the flavors and dishes of India in their everyday food. Curry, bunny chow, samosas, and chutney are all staples in South African cuisine because of India’s influence.
Regional Versus Traditional Indian Dishes
Given the culture and history of India, there are some dishes that are traditional throughout the country, while others are regional. Religion throughout the country also influences the cuisine. For example, Hindus and Muslims vary the meat used in their dishes.
Regionally, dishes tend to make use of locally available spices, herbs, and produce. In areas such as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, seafood is a common ingredient in many dishes. Alternatively, Andhra Pradesh is known for heavy spice use, tamarind, and pickles. In southern India, rice, lentils, and stew are popular whereas naan and chapati are common in northern India.
There are some popular dishes that are common throughout the country, albeit prepared differently in various areas, like curry, for example.
A Healthy Contribution from Indian Spices
Turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cumin, and coriander are common spices used throughout Indian cooking. Garam masala, another very important spice mixture in Indian culture, varies by region but is used in some way throughout. It incorporates seven spices: black cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, clove, cumin, coriander seeds, and anise. While each of these ingredients is used for garam masala, each region has their blend.
Each of these spices is said to have many health benefits. Turmeric is said to have anti-inflammatory properties, while ginger relieves nausea and aids in digestion. Because the use of spices is so prevalent in Indian cuisine, their food is perceived as being healthier.
Health Benefits of Indian Cuisine
Research suggests that consuming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric can help lower blood sugar levels, and work as an anti-inflammatory in the body. Because these spices are used so much in Indian cooking, it can be healthy to incorporate Indian dishes into your diet.
It is said that curry, when prepared correctly, is good for your immune system and helps decrease inflammation. When you consider which spices and ingredients are used in curry, this makes perfect sense. Turmeric and curry leaves are prominent ingredients and are both considered anti-inflammatory.
The anti-inflammatory properties of curry is an important consideration. Studies show inflammation can cause heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
In addition, it is important to maintain a well rounded diet, by including a variety of foods and spices. Indian food provides this variety easily with their vast array of dishes and healthy spices used. When you also take into account that most Indian dishes are made with vegetable oils, peanut oil, and coconut oil, Indian cuisine becomes a very healthy option.
Your Next Cooking Adventure
Now that we’ve broken down Indian spices, the history and influences behind the cuisine, and the health benefits of an Indian diet, when will you venture into the world of Indian cooking?