Medically reviewed by Shanmukha Priya, M.Phil and Ph.D. in Food Science and Nutrition
Bengali cuisine is unique in the ingredients it has. The dishes retain much of the fibre and lot of proteins are eaten in every meal cooked with healing spices.
One of the most celebrated cuisines in the world is Bengali cuisine. Everything about Bengali cuisine is unique from the rest of the cuisines across the globe.
Those lip-smacking delicacies complete with mustard seeds and paste, special 5 spice mix panch phoran, river fish curries and milk-based desserts are what make the Bengali spread drool worthy.
Table of content
- Parboiled Rice
- Bitter Gourd
- Poppy Seeds
- Green Papaya
- Nai Goon Begoon
It is considered to be the perfect blend of various vegetarian and non-vegetarian preparations, that catches the eye and the palate.
When eaten right, and in courses, as described in the age-old recipe books, the well-balanced dishes actually help you maintain a healthy weight.
Moving on from taste and look of Bengali delicacies, let us now consider the health benefits of some of the most famous and common dishes and spices used in Bengali cuisines.
1. Parboiled rice
When it comes to rice, Bengali cuisine uses parboiled rice. Bengalis prefer to eat parboiled rice to ensure they get a good dose of B vitamins. In parboiling, unmilled rice (still in its rough outer husk) is boiled or steam-heated for a short time.
This drives the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin) from the outer bran into the centre of the grain. Thus, parboiled white rice has more B vitamins than plain white rice, which loses those vitamins when its bran is removed.
Bengali cuisine and its love affair with fish curries and fish fries are not news. Preparing and eating fish delicacies is part of Bengal’s food tradition and culture.
Fish is a high protein food that is low in calories, total fat, and saturated fat. In addition, a large proportion of the fat in seafood is polyunsaturated.
The protein in fish is also easy to digest. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and shellfish, can reduce the risk of heart disease and ensures proper development of brain and eye tissues.
Bengalis also cook fish heads and Maacher tel (fish liver oil) which are very rich in vitamins A & D and minerals like iodine. Eating whole small fish also provides you with calcium and phosphorus. Want to gain nirvana? Try Tangra Macher Jhol and Ilish Macher Jhol, they are out of this world!
3. Lentils are packed with nutrients
Lentils (Dal) are a must in Bengali Cuisine. Bengalis use various types of lentils, beans, and grams – these are low calorie, low fat and protein-rich food as well as being inexpensive.
Lentils provide more folic acid than any other food. Lentils are also an important source of iron.
Eating lentils with foods rich in Vitamin C, such as tomatoes, green peppers, broccoli etc. helps the body absorb iron more efficiently. Soluble fibre found in lentils decreases blood glucose and cholesterol and decreases insulin requirements for people with diabetes. On this note, try the Bengali Cholar Dal!
4. Bitter gourd (Korola)
As a nutrient source, bitter melons are rich in iron. It is effective in treating diabetes and is one of the best herbal medicines for liver problems. It is also an excellent natural remedy for the common cold.
Research has also shown it may be beneficial for people with autoimmune diseases and people with psoriasis. Bitter gourd is used in many Bengali dishes like stews and bhorta.
Turmeric is essentially used nearly in all the Bengali dishes and is considered excellent for the skin. In terms of digestion, turmeric corrects the metabolism and helps in digesting protein.
Hence is used in cooking all high protein foods like lentils, meats etc. Turmeric is an excellent antibiotic and has strong antiseptic properties. It is often taken with hot milk to help heal fevers and throat problems.
6. Poppy seeds
A must ingredient in most Bengali dishes, postho or poppy seeds are a powerhouse of calcium. One tablespoon of place contains 127 mg of calcium. Try Aloo Potol Posto. Poppy seeds are also natural coolants and help relieve stress.
Garlic is used in nearly all the Bengali dishes. Garlic is an effective antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal agent, and probably an immune system enhancer.
Some studies have found lower rates of certain types of cancer in people who consume large amounts of garlic. Other studies show garlic can reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Onions are rich in vitamin C and fibre and contain chemicals that help fight the disease-causing free radicals. When you eat half a raw onion a day, your good type HDL cholesterol goes up an average of 30 per cent.
Onions increase circulation, lower blood pressure, and prevent blood clotting. Onion is necessary for cooking almost all types of curries, dals, meat and fish in Bengali cuisine.
Ginger has been used heavily in preserves, chutneys, vegetable and meat dishes in Bengali cuisine.
In Ayurveda it is regarded heavily for use against colds, coughs, bronchitis, indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea, breaking of fevers, headaches, respiratory infections, and as a stimulant. It is now being used to treat arthritis and rheumatic pain.
10. Green Papaya
Green papaya is an enzyme-rich vegetable known for being a strong digestive aid and also promoting healthy skin.
Papaya is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, B complex, amino acids, calcium and iron. It contains antioxidants which are known to prevent cancer. Try Bhate and Bhorta.
11. Nai goon begoon (Brinjal)
With little fat and carbohydrates and tons of dietary fiber, eggplants are a great food for weight loss diets and also for diabetics.
In addition to featuring a host of vitamins and minerals, eggplant or brinjal also contains important phytonutrients that have anti-cancer, antimicrobial, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol) and antiviral properties. Try Begun Bhaja.
So try these foods today and let us know if this article helped you by leaving your valuable comments below.
Also get in touch with our expert Possible Nutritionist to know more about simple yet superfoods that will go a long way in keeping you healthy and glowing. The first consultation is on us.