Indian cuisine is full of surprises, variety and generally our meals run in courses. Each region includes an assortment of dishes and varied cooking techniques. In south India, a meal generally commences with chutney pudi followed by several other preparations of dhal and vegetables. Lets dwell on this versatile chutney powder, used with rice, upma, poha, dosa / Idly, Chapathi, Jowar / Bhajra Roti, stuffed in  paranthas, served with curd as an accompaniment/dip, or simply sprinkled on your meals/vegetables, breads/sandwiches and find out their nutritional relevance.

The most commonly used is the Gram chutney made with Chana dal, Urad dal, Red chillies, Curry leaves, Dry Grated Coconut, Tamarind, optional – turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, all roasted & seasoned with Asafoetida & Mustard seeds. Similarly the Roasted Bengal gram & the Moong chutney are also made.
The dhals are a source of protein, especially in vegetarian diets, with low glycemic index, that is beneficial for diabetics.  Dhals are rich in soluble fiber, which traps bile and lowers LDL cholesterol.
Red chillies have a compound called capsaicin, which gives the pungency. The hotter the chilly the more capsaicin it contains, which helps burn a few more calories and a bit of fat. It is also used in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Red chillies also contain Cayenne which helps to protect cholesterol in your blood from oxidation and speeds up metabolism.
Desiccated coconut has slightly lower saturated fat content, more fiber and improves the immune system's anti-inflammatory response.
Tamarind has been used by our ancestors for centuries due to its health benefits. It can treat digestive and constipation problems, acting as a mild laxative.
Mustard seeds are a good source of MUFA – Mono Unsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids and selenium – anti inflammatory in nature.
Turmeric has an antioxidant - curcumin which protects the body of cancer. The curcuminoids are also used to treat inflammatory disorders, like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Cumin or jeera has highly medicinal properties including eradicating acidity and flautus.
Fenugreek seeds are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. They have a compound called trigonalline and glutathione which bind with sugar and release them slowly, help control diabetes.

Garlic and Curry leaves chutney powder: Roasted crisp garlic and curry leaves are used with urad, channa dhal, very little coconut, seasoned in Oil with Tamarind, Hing and Red Chilies.
Garlic is a health food with medicinal properties. It has a strong flavor and smell, due to its sulfur compound called allicin which protects the heart, reduces cholesterol, BP, slow the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a condition that can lead to heart disease or stroke and protects the heart. Garlic works as a thermogenic in your body, thus it speeds up your metabolism and keeps your insulin levels low to maximise fat burning.
Curry leaves are a good source of Vitamin A and calcium. They are aromatic, high in oxalic acid and mainly used for the aroma and flavor in south Indian cooking.

Plantain Chutney Powder(Aratikaya Podi): Plantain / green banana is sliced and roasted till little crisp & ground into fine powder along with roasted Bengal gram, red chillies, tamarind and jaggery, seasoned with hing, curry leaves & turmeric providing you with a mesmerizing tingling taste!
Plantains are high in starch, fiber, vitamin A and potassium - good for the heart and prevent hypertension. Mature green banana is rich in amylase-resistant starch that stimulates colonic production of short-chain fatty acids that is absorbed by the intestinal and colonic mucosa and is useful in treating diarrheal diseases.
Jaggery unlike sugar is processed, without the use of chemicals and hence retains many vital minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and predominantly iron . While most of the iron in it comes through processing in iron vessels, the other minerals come right from the sugar cane juice, since this juice does not undergo refining or bleaching of any kind.
Asafoetida reduces the growth of indigenous microflora in the gut, reducing flatulence and improves digestion.

Ground nut chutney: Roast peanuts and grind with Chili Powder, Tamarind & Garlic coarsely.
These nuts are a very high in calories and protein, are a good source of MUFA which is good for the heart.  In addition they also contain vitamin E and calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc.

Flax seed/agasi:(linseed/agashi/javas/alasi)  Flax seed has a nutty flavor, is dry roasted and ground to a fine powder combined with garlic, red chili powder.  One can also use optional ingredients like peanuts, roasted channa and dry coconut.
Flax seeds are excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids and dietary fiber. An excellent vegan substitute for fish oil/omega 3  supplements(EPA and DHA). They lower cholesterol, blood pressure and protect the heart. Flaxseed contains 75- 800 times more lignans than other plant foods which have both estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble fiber addressing blood sugars and LDL cholesterol.

Gural pudi (karle/gural/nyger seeds): Gural seeds are dry roasted and ground with garlic, cumin powder & red chillies.
Nyger seeds are not only high in calories and oil content but are excellent source of calcium and iron.

So next time you are indulging in coconut chutney or the greasy dips, be tempted to explore the variety of the chutney pudis, to add spice and variety to the mundane meal.

One of my early articles published in stay fit magazine !


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