The balanced diet dilemma and a Desi dish - Chana dal egg tadka (Split Chickpea Egg Lentil curry)
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While we were having our breakfast of flatbread and Chana Dal Egg Tarka, and where K had gulped down most of the tadka (not to mention he had already forgotten that he was suffering from indigestion for the past couple of days), I pondered out aloud that many Mediterranean dishes majorly comprise of chickpeas viz. falafel, hummus, salads, soups and so on. (As Suzy from The mediterranean Dish says, "Chickpeas are the pinnacle food in Mediterranean cooking."). To this K replies, that our diets not only depend on the geographic location and climate, but also on the household income.
Whole grains such as wheat, rice, jowar, bajra have always been the most important food source of the Indian population and also because of India's diverse granary, they are available at a much cheaper price. As such the carbohydrate consumption is more in Indian households. According to an article published in BMC Public Health, if the recommendations of the EAT-Lancet's well-balanced diet are to be followed, then Indian diets fall below the optimal. Most Indian households, across states and income groups, have been found to consume excess amounts of cereals and not enough proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Consumption of processed foods is also high in India, especially among the richest urban households.
EAT-Lancet Commission recommends that about one-third (811 kcals) of the total daily calorie intake should come from whole grains. The average Indian households get almost half (47%) of their total calories from whole grains and the calorie share of cereals is as high as 70% for the poorest rural households.
Also, according to the article,
The average daily calorie consumption in India is below the recommended 2503 kcal/capita/day across all groups compared, except for the richest 5% of the population.
A detailed comparison of Indian diet with EAT-Lancet diet recommendations can be found here.
And according to an EU Science Hub report, both the Mediterranean and EAT-Lancet diets are healthy and environmentally sustainable. Both of these include high intakes of vegetables, fruit, pulses and nuts and low intakes of animal products such as meat. Also according to the travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveller, some of the healthiest countries in the world are the Mediterranean countries.
However, the EAT-Lancet recommended dietary diversity, which are based taking into consideration the human health as well as reduced environmental impacts, may not be accessible or even embraceable to millions of people due to routine food habits, cultural and economic barriers of various regions. Again, food habits are affected by the local produce and their easy availability, accessibility, palates trained by the existing food culture, climate and the incomes of households.
Can we actually forego our local cuisines and adopt other cuisines for a balanced diet as per the EAT-Lancet recommendations? We can experiment with multi-cultural cuisines for our meals occasionally but can we adopt them for our basic meals on a regular basis even if we can afford them? Or can we make subtle changes to our meals to make it more balanced?
Can us Bengalis (and also many eastern states) change our palate to reduce our carbohydrate intake and easily let go of our fondly and proudly adopted tag of 'Bheto Bangali' (the rice-addicted Bengali) unless otherwise forced due to individual health concerns, lifestyle choices, or other reasons?
If you ask a Bengali for the shortest description of Bengali food, the answer is likely to be fish and rice, unless you are speaking to a vegetarian, in which case the answer may be greens and rice. -- Bengali Cooking by Chitrita Banerjee.
Can Punjabis give up their Makki di roti and Sarson da saag, or can the Gujaratis give up their rotlis or rotlas or theplas, or can Malayalis give up their Idiyappams?
Well!.... While we ponder over these questions or should we? Our healthier parents or elderly would say that they have been healthy all these years eating these foods (excluding the processed foods which are more of a recent trend)! However, lifestyles have changed, the natural environment have changed from their time. The foods our elders ate were purer and not grown in soils overladen with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, or watered with polluted water.
It is important to remember that there can be no single diet which spells well-balanced for everyone, as every body type is different with unique metabolisms, nutritional requirements, and also their taste senses are different. Our body types also vary according to our fitness levels, activities, diets, health, environment and lifestyles. Our bodies often gives indications regarding the foods we eat if we listen to them. It is up to us as individuals, as a family to decide what suits us best, suits our taste buds and also keeps us healthy and in good shape.
**Chana Dal/Cholar Dal Egg tadka Recipe (Split Chickpea Egg Lentil curry) **
Split chickpea (1 -11/2 cup)/Chana/Cholar dal soaked and pressure cooked
1 medium sized Onion finely chopped
2-3 Garlic cloves smashed
1" Ginger grated
1 clove Cardamom
Pinch of asafoetida
1tsp Cumin powder
1/2 TSP coriander powder
2 Eggs (scrambled)
Oil for cooking (I used mustard oil)
Salt as per taste
Coriander leaves for garnishing
1/2 TSP ghee for flavour (optional)
Soak the Chana dal overnight.
Pressure cook the dal with turmeric powder, cinammon and cardamom to two whistles.
In the meantime, fry the eggs to a scramble and keep them aside.
Now add the chopped onions, ginger and garlic in hot mustard oil and saute them till they are soft and the raw smell disappears. Now add the spices and mix them up.
To this mix, add the pressure cooked dal, stir and add salt. Add water if the consistency is too thick and let it boil for 2 mins or the desired consistency.
Now add the scrambled eggs and mix.
Add Coriander leaves and ghee and give a final stir.
And the dish is ready to be served.