Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

The Six Healthiest Staple Foods in Indian Cuisine (and Two Bonus Recipes!)

Recipes in India are traditionally not written down, but, rather, are passed down verbally from generation to generation. Over the centuries, the cuisine has evolved to include pungent spices and rich flavors, and can be quite different depending on the region (India is nearly the size of Europe, after all).

Many Indian restaurants focus on Northern Indian cuisine, but there is a common thread that weaves all the types of Indian foods together: Ayurveda. This ancient science system is a comprehensive set of principles that integrates health, diet, wellness and balance to support the mind, body and spirit.

Most Indian food is based on Ayurvedic principles, and is made to support the body nutritionally and spiritually. It includes six basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.

Rather than being based on calories and fat grams, Ayurvedic tradition looks at a food's properties, its assimilation in the body, water levels, salt levels and characteristics of the individual person eating the food.

Much of Indian cuisine revolves around health-promoting herbs, spices and vegetables, and here we've compiled some of the healthiest among them. Be sure to also check out the tasty and nutritious Indian recipes at the end of the article.

1. Ginger

Dishes made with ginger, onion and garlic combinations are popular in Northern Indian cuisine. It's used for its warming properties and unique taste and aroma. Cardamom pods, which belong to the ginger family, are also popular.

Health Benefits: Ginger contains gingerol, a compound that's thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. It's commonly used as a digestive aid and contains compounds that ease motion sickness and nausea and inhibit vomiting. This makes it a helpful spice for morning sickness or for people suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy.

Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties, which means it may be useful in fighting heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and arthritis. Plus, it's high in antioxidants that fight all kinds of diseases.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric, a bright yellow-orange root, is ground into a powder and used in countless Indian dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties. Perhaps the most well-known use is for curry, as turmeric is what gives the dish its bright yellow color.

Health Benefits: Turmeric contains curcumin, the active ingredient that gives the spice its color. It has potent anti-inflammatory properties and has been found to be helpful in fighting inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, cancer and Alzheimer's disease. It's also shown promise in offering cardiovascular and liver protection.

3. Garam Masala

Garam masala is actually a mixture of different spices that are added to many Indian dishes. Typically, garam masala includes cumin, coriander, cardamom, black pepper and cinnamon, but may also included nutmeg or bay leaves, depending on whether meat, fish or vegetables are being cooked.

Health Benefits: This combination of spices offers many beneficial properties. Cinnamon is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, and it may help boost brain function and control blood sugar in people with diabetes. Cumin is an excellent source of iron, it aids digestion and it has cancer-fighting properties. Coriander is sometimes referred to as an "anti-diabetic" plant because it helps control blood sugar. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and it helps lower cholesterol.

4. Mustard Seed

Mustard seed may be added to hot ghee (clarified butter used in Indian cooking) to lend a nutty flavor to many dishes. It's also used as a flavoring for vegetables and lentils.

Health Benefits: Mustard seed is a powerful anti-microbial agent (it can kill e. coli bacteria, listeria and other food-borne pathogens). Isothiocyanates, a compound in mustard seed, have also been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and protect against cancer.

5. Red Chilies

Red ground chilies are used to add spice, warmth and intense flavor to many Indian curries and vegetable and meat dishes. They're also used to make Indian hot chutneys and hot pickles, which are added to meals for spice, according to each individual's taste.

Health Benefits: The active ingredient in chili peppers is capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory compound that helps with a variety of health issues including pain, cancers and high cholesterol, triglycerides and platelet aggregation. Chili peppers are also known to help clear congestion, boost immunity, help with weight loss and prevent stomach ulcers by killing bacteria.

6. Yogurt

Yogurt provides a cooling contrast to the warmer, spicier Indian dishes, and is often served as a side dish, salad or Lassi, a popular yogurt-based beverage that comes in flavors like mango, rosewater or salted.

Health Benefits: Traditionally, yogurt is a fermented dairy product made by adding bacteria to milk. The good bacteria in yogurt (provided it is still live, which is not the case in many pasteurized yogurt varieties) have been found to enhance the immune system, improve arthritis, fight stomach ulcers, promote good digestion and even extend life. Yogurt is also a good source of calcium and has been found to promote fat loss while retaining lean muscles.

Two Tasty Indian Recipes to Try

If you're ready to experiment with some exotic, yet healthy, tastes, these two dishes are for you.

Chicken Tikka


  • 1 pound boneless chicken, cut into cubes
  • 2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp tandoori powder
  • 1 tsp powdered coriander seeds
  • 3/4 cup yoghurt
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, crushed finely
  • 1 large piece ginger, crushed finely
  • 1 tsp powdered cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mint powder (or use chopped mint leaves)
  • 1/2 tsp chopped coriander leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for brushing the chicken
  • 2-3 long skewers


  1. Mix together all the ingredients except oil and chicken.
  2. Coat the chicken pieces with the marinade and refrigerate for at least 5 hours
  3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
  4. Put the chicken on the skewers and brush with a little oil.
  5. Bake in a moderate oven at 375 deg F for about 30 minutes or till golden brown.
  6. Serve with wedges of lime and chopped coriander.

Source: Sunita's Indian Recipe Collection



  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 large onions
  • 4-5 green chilies
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. chopped coriander
  • 1 large piece of ginger
  • 3-4 large cloves garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee or oil for sauteeing
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp punjabi chole masala (a spice blend)
  • Salt to taste


  1. Blend together the large tomato, one onion, cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, green chilies, cinnamon and cloves to a smooth paste, using very little water.
  2. Slice the other onion.
  3. Heat the ghee and add the bay leaves.
  4. After 10 seconds, add the sliced onion and sautee till the onion turns light brown.
  5. Now add the tomato paste and fry till the ghee leaves the sides of the masala.
  6. Add the dry powders i.e chili powder, turmeric, sugar and coriander powder.
  7. Sautee for 1 minute.
  8. Now add the chopped tomato and coriander leaves.
  9. Sautee for about 5 minutes.
  10. Now add the chickpeas with the water, tomato paste and salt to taste.
  11. Add some water to get a gravy.
  12. Add the garam masala and punjabi chole masala and mix well.
  13. Let it come to a boil on low heat.
  14. Simmer for about 5 minutes after it comes to a boil.
  15. Serve hot with batura (an Indian bread).

Source: Sunita's Indian Recipe Collection

Recommended Reading

The 6 Healthiest Staple Foods in German Cuisine

The 6 Healthiest Staple Foods in Greek Cuisine


The World's Healthiest Foods

Indian Foods Co

BBC Food Indian Essentials

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This