People are moving towards a healthier lifestyle which focuses on a nutritious diet. To that end one is choosing to incorporate more vegetables for their natural nutrition.
Purple coloured fruit and vegetables have been found to be rich in nutrients and thus have slowly begun to replace existing vegetables, as these are merely different variants of regular items, says Chef Prabhakar Nagaraj, Managing Partner, Elior India.
IANSlife spoke to Nagaraj to know about the benefit of purple vegetables and fruit and this rising trend of consuming these items. Excerpts:
How can we incorporate purple food into our everyday diet?
Chef: One can replace regular cauliflower in their meals with purple cauliflower or replace regular cabbage in their salads with red cabbage. Both these replacements help raise the level of antioxidants and phytonutrients compared to their colourful counterparts. An important feature of all purple foods is the ability to help repair and heal cell damage. All these items were already in the traditional food system, but recent scientific backing has boosted it to the forefront.
The recognition of these benefits has led to a great increase in the demand for purple ingredients, which is now being met by farmers who previously only cultivated the regular versions. For example, ever since the discovery of different types of carrots, many farmers have begun to cultivate purple carrots to meet the soaring demand for the same.
Will the power of purple replace the power of green in the coming years?
Chef: Purple food is a recent discovery, hence there is not enough of it in production to say that it will 'take over' from green foods. Only a very small part of the population even knows that purple foods are equally as good as or better than green foods. It currently runs parallel to green foods as a means of healthy food consumption and will definitely increase over time, given that proper awareness is raised. One way to explain how the growth of purple food in India has increased is by examining how the benefits are stacked up against their usage.
For example, lavender flowers are used in food as a garnish as they not only enhance the appearance of food but also add health benefits by making the skin glow when consumed. The discovery of this benefit has led to a greater demand for lavender and hence, greater cultivation of it. Purple foods follow a similar pattern of increased demand and we must ensure that the supply aspect for it is handled in a robust manner.
Local production of purple foods in particular must be encouraged, given its benefits for the Indian population. In terms of awareness at the local level, people must be sensitised to the fact that purple fruit and vegetables are not regular items that have gone bad. By encouraging the use these items in one's daily life, one will be convinced to cultivate these vegetables and contribute to the soaring demand.
Can you tell us a few food items that can be prepared using these purple ingredients?
Chef: As said before, purple foods do not require any special treatment while cooking. You can easily replace normal vegetables with them during the meal creation process, such as using purple potatoes instead of regular ones while making Aloo Jeera. The key here is to determine how much of it to use. Purple foods contain anti-oxidants and based on your requirement of the same, you can determine how much of purple need to be incorporated into your diet. These anti-oxidants become even more important when it comes to the ability to combat cancer. Previously, we would discard the skins of berries and grapes during preparation and use only the pulp. The discovery of the benefits the skin contains has now convinced both the public in general and us to eat them as a whole for maximum nutritional impact.
How purple rice or pomegranate can enhance the flavour of a dish?
Chef: The use of purple foods in meals is still comparatively low when compared to the population of India. We have not been exposed to their benefits. It will be gradual process of growth, but it is only a matter of time before these items like purple rice and pomegranate are incorporated into our diets. Encouraging signs such as the increased use of lettuce in salads are the first steps towards this and with time people will come to recognise how it can enhance both the flavour of the dish as well as its health benefits.
How does this help overcome nutritional deficiency and build a stronger immune system?
Chef: In the current situation, a trend has emerged where individuals have begun looking for healthy food that meets their need, in order to combat nutritional deficiencies. Foods like berries and red cabbage, which have been used as part of diets for many years, have always had the potential to meet these needs. It is only recently with the drive towards incorporating more purple food into our diets that these benefits have been discovered. As these foods have now become more attractive, we will hopefully find that they feature more prominently in menus across homes, thereby helping to meet the nutritional requirements.