Finding out where to source healthy cooking ingredients is a challenge shared by expats and locals alike. While supermarkets are diversifying their range of healthy and organic product alternatives, white and refined varieties still dominate the shelves as well as home cooking habits, with the assumption that the healthier options will compromise on taste.
However, poor health choices are contributing to so many health issues in this country and its unnecessary because healthier alternatives are available. After being hospitalised for kidney infection in 2012, I found out that my immunity and overall health had hit a new low and discovered how easy it is to source healthier alternatives.
Here are my four switches in staple cooking ingredients that didn't compromise taste or cost but made a big difference to the health factor of my diet.
1. From Vegetable/Olive Oil to Rice Bran Oil: Rice Bran Oil is now a mainstream item on shelves. The oil is extracted from the inner husk of rice and is thought to improve blood cholesterol with its various antioxidants and vitamins. An added bonus is that it costs the same as vegetable oil, leaving no reason not to make the switch.
Think twice if you think Olive Oil is better still for your body. Some types of Olive Oil have a low smoke point, meaning that it breaks down when heated and becomes a host for all sorts of bad things. However, Rice Bran Oil has a very high smoke point, so I keep olive oil for salads and use rice bran oil for daily cooking.
4. From White Rice to Brown Rice: While this is the most difficult switch of the four, brown rice has proven to be much more favorable for human consumption. It is higher in fibre, contains magnesium, iron, manganese and zinc and the only form of rice to contain vitamin E. A switch to brown rice means slower glucose metabolism, improved arterial health, and most importantly a reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes. While brown rice can be a little more difficult to source, it is worth considering a switch for those who prefer rice over roti for their daily meals.
What about Brown Bread? I have not recommended a switch from white to brown bread in India after hearing that the readily available loaves of brown bread are actually white bread with brown colouring! If you know of a healthy and easy-to-find bread loaf alternative please do share!
These four food switches to my diet have been so easy to make I don't miss my former choices at all. On the contrary, I get a kick out of looking after my body a little better. For less than 200 rupees extra on my monthly shopping bill I am ensuring a healthy alternative for my four staple food products and still eat delicious meals. It really is a no-brainer to make these switches.
What easy food switches have you made that you can recommend to others?
I'm so grateful for this journey and wish you all the very best with yours!