National Nutrition Month is an educational campaign of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is observed during the month of March. The goal of the National Nutrition Month is to raise awareness of the importance of making informed eating choices. This year, the theme of the campaign is "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right." The theme encourages people to think about nourishing their bodies with food that is both healthy and tasty.
A healthy diet should include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins. Good food choices coupled with the habit of eating right offers immense health benefits such as maintaining healthy body weight and other bodily parameters. When an individual implies creativity with open-mindedness, it is easier to enjoy eating the right food. With some level of awareness about healthy eating, most people follow a balanced diet, but, they compromise on the taste. The good news is that some of the ingredients that make food tasty are rich in vital nutrients and the right choice for good health.
‘Innovative use of herbs and spices in cooking enhances the flavor of food and also help reduce sodium, sugar and fat content.’
AdvertisementFood is important as it nourishes the body and provides energy to survive and fight diseases. In today's busy world, people do not spend the time to relish and enjoy the food they eat. Developing a pattern of mindful eating is important to eat right and savor the flavor of food. There are a variety of ingredients that can be used for cooking to increase flavor as well as nutritive value. Including such ingredients in the diet helps prevent the excessive intake of sodium and processed food.
How To Add Flavor To Healthy Food?
Herbs and spices are the two incredible cooking ingredients that add flavor to food. Herbs and spices such as thyme, rosemary, mint, basil, oregano, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic powder, chili powder offer a flavor advantage. Storing dried herbs and spices in airtight containers helps retain the flavors.
Herbs such as mint, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary are used in cooking to enhance the flavor of the dish. Herbs not only increase flavor but also contribute to good health with its therapeutic benefits. Aromatic herbs such as mint, basil, and parsley detoxify the body by removing the toxic substances.
- Basil: It is a sweet tasting herb, which is widely used in Italian cuisine. Basil is a good source of magnesium, which promotes heart health by relaxing cardiac muscles and blood vessels. The antioxidant-rich herb helps scavenge free radicals and prevents the harmful effects of aging. Basil is the primary ingredient in pesto sauce and can be used in salads to enhance flavor.
- Parsley: It not only enhances the flavor of the dish but also the presentation. A flavonoid compound found in parsley has been shown to have chemo-preventive effects on skin cancer. Parsley helps lower high blood sugar level and also reduces urinary excretion of calcium. Fresh chopped parsley enhances the taste of poultry dishes, seafood and salads.
- Mint: It is an antioxidant-rich herb, which is often related to freshness. Mint soothes the stomach in cases of indigestion and inflammation. It is recommended for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Mint can be used to flavor dishes such as soups, vegetable salads and lamb preparations.
Spices are the root, bark, fruit or seed of a plant or tree primarily used for flavoring food. They have antimicrobial proprieties and fight infectious diseases. Cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, mace, nutmeg, paprika, cloves, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cayenne pepper are the widely used spices.
- Cinnamon: It is a spice obtained from the bark of the trees. The antioxidants in cinnamon help lower the risk of heart diseases by lowering cholesterol levels. It is also beneficial for a diabetic as it reduces high blood sugar level. Cinnamon is considered as a sweet spice as it is mostly used to make desserts and pastries.
- Cumin: Cumin seeds are rich in iron and help in the synthesis of hemoglobin. Traditionally, cumin seeds were used to aid in proper digestion. The anti-carcinogenic properties of cumin seeds were found to inhibit the growth of stomach and liver tumors. Cumin enhances the taste of vegetable and lentil dishes. Seasoning sauteed vegetables with cumin seeds enhances the taste and flavor of the dish.
- Nutmeg: It is a widely used spice to enhance the flavor of dishes. Nutmeg is an excellent source of potassium, manganese, iron and zinc. Potassium plays a vital role in controlling heart rate and blood pressure. It is also rich in B vitamins (folic acid, riboflavin, niacin) and antioxidants that are essential for optimum health.
- Cayenne Pepper: It may help in weight loss by increasing metabolism and reducing appetite. It is used to make spicy dishes and used as the main ingredient for hot sauces. Sprinkling cayenne pepper over cheese enhances flavor.
A diet rich in vegetables provides vital vitamins and minerals that benefit overall health and also reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Vegetables such as onions, garlic, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, carrots, beets and radish, provide nutrients such as vitamin A, B, C, E, potassium, and fiber.
- Onions and Garlic: The sulphur compounds in garlic and onion help lower blood pressure and protect heart health. It reduces the risk of blood clots, which can lead to heart attack. Onion and garlic are widely used in meat dishes as they enhance flavor. Onions are added to stir fry dishes and also to flavor soups, salads, and dips. Add chopped garlic to the dishes to increase its nutritional value.
Fruits such as lemon and oranges are used in cooking to add brightness to recipes. Citrus juice or zest from the peel of the fruit adds tangy and sour flavors to the dishes. They are also used to balance recipe's ingredients. The flavor of seafood is enhanced with citrus fruits. Consumption of seafood is recommended at least twice a week. Salmon and tuna are known to benefit heart, brain and bone health. The acidity of citrus juice not only enhances flavor and brightness but also the nutritional value of the food. Vitamin C content of the food is increased when juices of lemon or orange are used in the recipe. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) helps increase the absorption of iron from plant sources.
Making good food choices is the first step to healthy living. Limiting the use of processed foods will contribute to reducing the intake of sugar, sodium and saturated fats. Choose beverages with no added sugar and preservatives. Consumption of processed foods is one of the main reasons for obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases. Read food labels and avoid purchasing of foods high in sugar in the form of corn syrup, high fructose, molasses, invert sugar and maple syrup. Home cooked foods would be the best choice as they are fresh and free from preservatives. Cooking at home helps reduce the intake of saturated fats, sugar, and sodium. Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds.