India has always been a superpower when it comes to food. In recent years, many of India’s superfoods have been brought over to the West and marketed as ‘miracle foods,’ and companies are making a small fortune from them.
I was sitting in a cafe in Bengaluru one Sunday morning about to order breakfast with a local friend. Opening the menu, my eyes explored the page of hot beverages, “Ooo, a turmeric latte!” I said. “Everyone is talking about these in London! I think I’ll go for that!” My friend looked at me, confusion spread across her face. “A turmeric latte!? My mum used to make me drink that if I was sick as a child! I used to hold my nose to get it down! I can’t believe someone would actually pay for that,” she said, genuinely perplexed.
In 2016, turmeric lattes or ‘golden milk’ were popping up on the menus of some of the world’s trendiest cafes and coffee shops. All the coolest people in London were drinking them and paying a premium price too. Packed full of health benefits, from turmeric, ginger and the plant-based milk that accompanied it, it was an all-around winner.
Its bright yellow colour was just an added bonus for Instagram lovers because, well, no filter is needed.
Just as my friend pointed out to me that morning, however, many people in regions across India have been drinking turmeric lattes, or haldi doodh, since time immemorial. Up and down the vast country of India, turmeric is a staple spice. It’s used without a thought, a teaspoon tossed into every dish. If a child has cough or fever, a traditional remedy would be turmeric powder mixed with cow milk and a dash of black pepper, as well as an optional addition of ghee.
Superfood is a term coined by food manufacturers for nutrient-rich foods that are considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. The term has been slammed by many health professionals as a marketing ploy. As it has no official validation — the term ‘superfood’ is at best meaningless – and at worst harmful. In 2007 EU legislation even banned the use of the term unless manufacturers can prove its benefits.
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India has always been a superpower when it comes to superfoods. Here are some other indigenous Indian foods that have found themselves a market abroad:
I read a post someone put up on their FB page recently which said “Frizzy hair? Coconut oil. No shaving cream? Coconut oil. Dry skin? Coconut oil. Bad credit? Coconut oil. Boyfriend acting up? Coconut oil.” It pretty much sums up what the humble coconut. It’s become more a miracle food than a superfood.
You can eat it, you can cook with it and you can use it as a moisturizer for your hair and body, there really are no limits to what it can do.
Moringa is another superfood example the world’s health-conscious is loving, although it’s fairly recent to the West. While most Indians know it as ‘drumstick’, in the West it’s a trendy additive to a super green morning smoothie.
Recently there’s been an onslaught of moringa teas, supplements and powders appearing in health food stores as well as in some big supermarket chain stores.
Puffed up like balls of cotton, lotus seeds are becoming a popular snack in western wholefood shops. Commonly known as makhana in India, lotus seeds are low in fat and sodium and high in protein, magnesium, fibre, potassium, zinc and iron.
Also known as the gooseberry in the West, its bitter taste is not easy for most to stomach. But it has been finding its way into many face and body care products.