Summary: Namkeen, a popular Indian snack, is loved by people of all ages. However, when it comes to nutrition, it suffers from a negative image due to its high salt and oil content. In reality, if consumed in moderation and prepared using healthy ingredients, namkeen can offer several health benefits. In this article, we will explore the nutritional aspects of namkeen and how it can be made healthier.
1. The Goodness of Pulses
Namkeen is usually made by mixing various types of lentils or pulses. Pulses are an excellent source of plant-based protein, iron, and dietary fiber, making them a healthy ingredient for namkeen. Protein is essential for the growth and repair of the body’s tissues, while iron helps in the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Fiber regulates digestion and keeps you full for longer. So, the next time you reach out for a bowl of namkeen, remember that you are also giving your body a dose of essential nutrients.
However, it’s crucial to choose namkeen made with quality pulses and avoid the ones that contain more besan (gram flour) and oil, resulting in a high-calorie snack. It’s recommended to consume plain roasted or lightly salted namkeen as they contain minimal oil and salt without compromising on taste.
Another way to make namkeen healthier is by combining different grains with pulses. This results in a more balanced snack with a complete amino acid profile and higher nutritional value. For instance, adding whole wheat flour or millets like jowar, bajra, or ragi can enhance the fiber and mineral content.
2. The Importance of Spices
Spices not only add flavor to namkeen but also offer numerous health benefits. Most Indian spices are known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer properties. Some popular spices used in namkeen are cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chillies. The antioxidants present in these spices help fight free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Turmeric, in particular, contains curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory compound that can alleviate symptoms of arthritis, depression, and diabetes.
Spices also aid in digestion, boost metabolism, and improve immunity. For instance, ajwain or carom seeds are a great digestive aid, while black pepper helps in the absorption of essential nutrients. A dash of chilli powder or paprika can spice up your snack and increase metabolism, promoting weight loss.
However, it’s essential to use spices in moderation and avoid commercial namkeen products that contain excessive salt, sugar, and artificial flavors. Homemade namkeen with spices ground fresh at home can be a healthier option.
3. Healthy Oil Alternatives
Namkeen is traditionally deep-fried in oil, which adds to its calorific value and contributes to lifestyle diseases like obesity and heart disease. However, by using healthier oils like olive, coconut, or sesame oil, namkeen can be made more nutritious. These oils contain healthy fats that can lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.
Moreover, baked or air-fried namkeen recipes are gaining popularity as healthier snack options. Baking or air-frying requires less oil, resulting in a lower calorie and fat content. It also retains the crunchiness and taste of traditional deep-fried namkeen without compromising on nutrition.
It’s important to note that preparing homemade namkeen with healthier oils and cooking methods is the best way to control the quality of ingredients and ensure that the snack is as healthy as possible.
4. Mindful Portion Control
While namkeen can offer several nutritional benefits, it’s essential to consume it in moderation. Eating too much namkeen can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and other health problems. Therefore, mindful portion control is crucial while enjoying namkeen.
A single serving of namkeen is usually around 2-3 tablespoons or a small handful. It’s recommended to portion out your namkeen and avoid snacking directly from the container. You can also pair namkeen with fresh fruits or vegetables like carrot sticks, cucumber slices, or apples to add fiber and nutrients to the snack and reduce its calorie density.
In conclusion, namkeen can be a healthy snack if prepared using nutritious ingredients like pulses, healthy oils, and spices in moderation. It’s important to avoid commercial namkeen products that contain excessive salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats and opt for homemade or lightly salted roasted namkeen instead. Mindful portion control is key to enjoying namkeen without compromising on health. By following these simple tips, you can relish your favorite snack guilt-free!