I have a burst of health-conscious energy every time I wheeze a little too much going up the stairs or see my call log predominantly featuring the Swiggy delivery person. The bubble bursts on seeing my grocery bill. Buying ingredients to cook up a trending healthy dish, and ordering the best-selling item on the menu of the neighbourhood vegan, artisanal, gluten-free, lactose-free, joy-free, mud-to-mouth restaurant damages my bank account faster than a hair straightener does my hair.
It’s understandable to want to fill your meal plan with all the superfoods you can get your hands on — especially when we’re living in a pandemic. According to Shivani Kandwal, dietitian and founder of Nutrivibes, these superfoods are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. With several health benefits like promoting cognitive health, skin health and boosting our immunity.
With superb marketing and promotions through our favourite food and health bloggers, these superfoods, predominantly from the West, have gained popularity. “Earlier our daily staples, from what our grandparents passed down to us helped us have a balanced diet. Today with our fast-paced lives and increased processed food, we turn to superfoods to get nutrients,” explains Janvi Chitalia, integrative gut microbiome health coach and founder of Body Cocoon.
In this rush to fill our plates, we started to disregard our own local produce. For some, it’s still the belief that somehow foreign and more expensive automatically means it’s better than homegrown produce, as per Kandwal. But trying to be healthy shouldn’t burn a hole in your wallet. And based on these expert recommendations, it won’t. Before you start stocking up on the local food swaps we’ve compiled for your high-end favourites, Kandwal wants everyone to understand that all superfoods, local or western, are “just a booster and not a replacement for a healthy diet. So, even if you are eating all kinds of superfoods with a bad diet then you are just wasting your
money as it is a small part of the big jigsaw.”
It will be to hard to say goodbye to your morning oatmeal topped with berries, mascarpone cheese and late-night quinoa apple kheer. I may have shed a silent tear breaking up with my Kombucha vendor. But when you’re feeling a pinch in your wallet, especially in Covid times, with permanently rising prices and a dire need to be healthy, these equally nutritious local food swaps make great alternatives, at a fraction of the price. These can serve as stand-ins in your go-to healthy recipes, and who knows, maybe even become permanent fixtures.
8 LOCAL FOOD SWAPS FOR YOUR FAVOURITE WESTERN SUPERFOODS
1. Blueberries ₹199 (125g), for Indian Jamun ₹25 (1 kg in season) Money saved: ₹174
Blueberries are heralded as the powerhouses of antioxidants that help fight free radicals in the body. High in vitamin C and potassium, they boost immunity. They taste wonderful on top of granola and yoghurt but they are very expensive. Topping the list of food swaps for blueberries is the favourite summer fruit of our childhood, jamun. Packed with polyphenols, jamun is rich in vitamin A and C, keeps your skin, heart and sugar levels healthy.
2. Chia Seeds,₹99 (100g) for basil seeds/sabja,₹38 (100g) and flaxseed,₹24.50 (100g) Money saved: ₹61 and ₹74.50
Chia seeds are more easily available now, but the cost still adds up. In a money crunch, switching to flaxseed, which both Kandwal and Chitalia suggest, can help. They’re both high in omega 3 and 6, protein and their soluble fibre content is similar to chia.
“Flaxseeds are best to store in an opaque container in the fridge away from heat and air exposure,” advises Chitalia. “It’s great to balance omega and reduce inflammation.”
3. Avocado, ₹269 (1 medium piece), for coconut, ₹38 (1 large piece) Money saved: ₹231
Spread on toast, sliced onto a salad, mashed into a side dish or whipped into guacamole —avocados are powerful fruits rich in fatty acids, multiple vitamins, potassium and micronutrients.
Though the cost is also a powerful source of tears.
If you’re looking for another good source of saturated fatty acids, try the humble coconut. You also won’t have to watch it turn from raw to overripe in a matter of minutes. “The local substitute has vitamin E which is good for the body. The good fats are also helpful for the thyroid and for people who are advised to avoid lactose due to intolerances,” says Chitalia.
4. Quinoa, ₹295 (500g), for rajgira/amaranth, ₹130 (500g) and jowar dalia/split sorghum, ₹220 (200g pack of 4) Money saved: ₹165 and ₹75
We were quick to drop good ol’ rice for quinoa, containing almost twice more protein than the former and more fibre. It helps lower cholesterol, control blood sugar and has fewer calories and carbohydrates for those working towards losing weight.
Food swaps for quinoa suggested by Kandwal are our own rajgira or amaranth.
“Both of them are pseudo-cereals, and are gluten-free. Amaranth has more protein than quinoa (9g/cup vs 8gm/cup) and twice as much iron (5g/cup vs 3g/cup).”
Another swap you can make is with jowar dalia or millet. It has high fibre content, but Chitalia makes a note that the amino acid profile in quinoa in slightly different from jowar dalia. “The iron mineral content in both of them is similar. Jowar is good for internal strength and helps gut motility
due to insoluble fibre. Both are good options for a person with gut allergies and gluten intolerance.”
5. Kale, ₹69 (100g-125g) for Cabbage ₹15 (500g to 800g) and Spinach ₹18 (250g) Money saved: ₹54 and ₹57
Kale is one ingredient that we haven’t understand the hype over. That bitterness can be felt in your soul. “Most people don’t know how to cook it,” says Kandwal. “Swap it for cabbage. It’s cheaper and has all the nutrients of kale.”
Chitalia suggests spinach. Popeye’s favourite snack is high in vitamin A and K and contains similar amounts of fibre and iron as kale. “Both can be alternated as a source for green smoothies for gut and weight management.”
6. Açai berry, ₹800 (100g of powder) for amla, ₹19 (250g) and pomegranate, ₹250 (4 pieces) Money saved: ₹781 and ₹541
Like its berry brothers, it’s a powerhouse of antioxidants, making açai bowls best-sellers at any health-conscious cafe. You’re more likely to find it in powder or supplement form at the store with a whole list of health benefits including the ability to lower bad cholesterol and boost brain
function. You can get similar benefits from dadi’s favourite amla murabba. “Amla has more than 20 times the vitamin C and twice the power of antioxidants as açai berry,” says Kandwal. For food swaps, Chitalia suggests even pomegranate. “They both have polyphenols and antioxidants. They cater to heart health, are good for eye health and for blood circulation.
Pomegranate is good to clear toxins from the liver.”
7. Matcha, ₹355 (30g) for moringa powder, ₹255 (100g) Money saved: ₹100
Your morning cup of matcha tea, known for its catechins, liver-protecting abilities, antioxidants and heart health, can be traded in for more affordable moringa powder. Moringa, made of drumstick leaves, has an incredible nutritional profile and is kinder to your pocket. Kandwal says
moringa has great amounts of calcium, iron, amino acids and antioxidants. Need more? “It has 7 times more vitamin C than oranges and 15 times more potassium than a banana.” Matcha tea may make you feel more worldly, but at a time when we’re watching our expenses, set it aside for some moringa instead.
8. Kombucha, ₹240 (500 ml) to make your own kaanji and pickles
We’ve ignored our gut health for a long time and the benefits of adding probiotics to your diet are plenty. Our gut health is connected to everything, even our mood. Insta star Kombucha has become popular with more homegrown companies bottling the fermented drink in different varieties and flavours.
If you’re looking to add more probiotics to your diet then there’s nothing better than mummy ke haathe ka bana achaar. “The probiotic live culture that is seen in the pickle, especially made with less oil or salt, is an Indian homegrown recipe which helps to feed the gut bacteria with the right
probiotic strains,” says Chitalia.
Kandwal also recommends the wintery drink kaanji that north Indians may be more familiar with. This desi probiotic drink is made in almost every home during the chilly season. The primary ingredient —black carrots — are seasonal and cost about ₹170 for a kilogram. Everything else you need to make a batch you’ll find in your masala drawer. If you want, you can replace the black carrot with regular carrots and beetroot.
A note of caution: The information regarding health and nutrition is in consultation with trained professionals. Prices of fresh produce and products can vary according to inflation and seasonal availability.