One of the fittest foods you can cook that I eat typically once a week is Indian food.  Indian spices in particular have tremendous health benefits (more in a minute) but there are other aspects of this incredibly diverse cuisine that is healthy too. 
From complex flavors that make super-healthy and fulfilling vegetarian fare taste great to a carnivore like myself, to healthy low-fat marinating techniques using yogurt rich in healthy enzymes, Indian food will keep you fit.  From the kabobs and Rogan Josh of Northern India and Pakistan to the coconut curries of the south or the spicy Vindaloo and curries influenced by the Portuguese who settled in Goa, Indian food can be great for the body and great for eating every day.

But let’s focus on minute on Indian spices.  The spices used in Indian food are well recognized anti-oxidants that have been used for medicinal purposes or eaten for health purposes for centuries.  Spicy food has also been shown to boost metabolism by up to 10% helping your body burn fat.  And many of these spices have been studied and shown to fight free radicals, lower blood pressure, improve digestion and are believed to ward off cancer.  Let’s look at just a few and note some of the reported health benefits:

Tumeric: this spice is probably the most studied for it’s anti-cancer fighting properties and was first used as a medicine in both India and China.  Full of antioxidants it is also thought to protect the heart, help the liver rid the body of toxins and reduce inflamation in joints, and prevent viral infections.  More than any Indian spice, tumeric has been shown to be great for the body. 

Cardamom: this green pod is known for anti-oxidants, healthy oils good for the body and in improving digestion and preventing ulcers due to a phytochemical called cineole.  Oh and want more?  Many people claim it's an aphrodisiac (but then again, it seems they say that about everything nowadays).
Cinnamon:  cinnamon contains more anti-inflammatory polyphenols than any other spice except for cloves and is thought to help prevent diabetes, lower and even out blood sugar and lower cholesterol.

Fenugreek: this spice is known for and is used in many respected pre and post workout vitamin supplements as it contains choline.  Known to lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol and full of anti-oxidants. 

Garlic:  Garlic has been used since Greek and Roman times by athletes (including the first Olympians).  In the 1940s an Italian scientist isolated Allicin in garlic which is thought to hold the main health benefits.  The New York Times also has said that garlic contains powerful antioxidants and a chemical (hydrogen sulfide) that relaxes blood vessels.  The same chemical has been studied at universites and shown to help prevent cancer and is good for the heart.  I cook with a ton of it - in Indian, Chinese, French, and Italian.  Fresh is best for health reasons based on research (not dried, not precut in a jar).

Ginger:  good for the digestion but also contains powerful anti-oxidants ("6 gingerol" shown to fight free radicals in the body with anti-cancer properties).  More recently it has been shown to have anti-inflamatory properties for joints and has anti-septic qualities that fight germs in the body.  Ginger and garlic combined as a paste are one of THE fundamental flavor bases in many Indian recipes so it's a great healthy combination.

Mustard Seed: contains phytonutrients thought to prevent cancer; also thought to reduce inflamation in the body.

Coriander:  lowers blood sugar and the "bad" cholesterols (both in seed form and in the leaf cliantro form).

Cayenne or hot chilis in general:  I haven't seen much written on the health benefits of spicy peppers but one thing stands out on the "feel great scale" that relates to brain chemistry.  One thing interesting is that very spicy Indian food causes the brain to release endorphins - exactly what happens when you get a physical burn as the body provides its own form of a natural pain killer.  There have been some studies that indicate that some people get a slight addiction to Indian food (have you heard of "chili-heads" and their addiction to American Chili?).  I've felt it coming back from business trips in London years ago where I cant wait to have something Indian.  Whether it is endorphins or just the food I miss, it doesnt matter.  

So that’s a beginning look into why you might want to learn to cook Indian to stay every day fit. 

For me,  it took me almost 15 years to finally cook great Indian food as the techniques and flavor combinations are so different than other western cuisines and it took me years of trying, asking and listening, learning new techniques, and how to mix and match spices to finally get it right - and I continue to learn as I cook and modify amounts.  When I had a boss based in London years ago I started learning as I asked for recipes and tips from small currie stops in London - and I've been learning ever since. Of any cusine to learn, Indian has been the most difficult but it has become one of my absolute favorites.  But just as there are simple combinations in European cooking (think a “mire poix” in French cooking or garlic, rosemary, olive oil in Roman cooking) there are similar combinations in Indian (a garlic ginger paste or fried onions are two good examples). Finding these combinations is half of the fun.  

My favorite Indian recipes to this day, have many layers of flavor and are best saved for the weekend due to the long time to prepare, but many very good Indian dishes can easily be prepared during the week after a busy day of work.   Surprisingly, living in an area like San Francisco with a large Indian population, we have just a handful of truly great Indian restaurants and most are mediocre so most Indian I eat today comes from my own kitchen.  You can get started with some simple good recipes and where you go from there is up to you.

So cook Indian, stay away from the fattier recipes (curries with too much coconut milk or deep fried samosas) and just enjoy it, while realizing some health benefits too.


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Wow! Sounds very interesting! It's strange for me, because I've never tried indian food at all... but I see that I should!

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06/19/2017 12:17am

Never tried Indian food at all. I'm eating only my local one!

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09/17/2017 3:24am

Share with us all your favourite Indian recipes, please! I want to cook something really special!


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    Every Day Fit GourmetTM 
    Ingredients, Cooking, Fitness

    A high tech marketing guy with no time who loves gourmet food from around the world, eats it every day, and cares about staying fit and healthy.