by Shivani Kakhandki, Cora Health
There is no doubt that India is the land of festivals; and it is the Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival that marks the commencement of all festivals every New Year.
Festivals of India stand for utmost importance as they are carried out keeping culture and tradition in mind. Colorful rangolis adorn the doorsteps of homes. There are bonfires at dawn, the sky is filled with multicolored kites, and let’s not forget the tantalizing aroma of everything sweet that fills the empty streets here. You can call it Makar Sankranti, Bihu, Lohri, Uttarayan, Maghi, or Pongal — this harvest festival is one of the most ancient festivals of India and it is the time when we worship our nature’s bounty.
Makar Sankranti — The Health Connection
This harvest festival is observed according to the solar cycles and is celebrated almost towards the end of winter. Now, we all know that winter is the time when bacteria and viruses thrive and therefore infections caused by them are at a peak. Our ancestors designed festivals keeping in mind the climatic conditions and the nutritional requirements that are needed for the healthy growth of our body. It might surprise you to know that the food prepared during Makar Sankranti helps to keep our bodies warm, provides energy, and also keeps bacterial and viral infections at bay. The festival also allows us to cleanse our body by picking the best superfoods that are nutritious and healthy for the growth of our body.
The Superfoods Of Makar Sankranti
Just like other Indian festivals, the Makar Sankranti also has its fair share of traditional and local delicacies that will leave you drooling for more. Most of us know that, in general, Pongal, Ellu-Bella, Til laddoos, jaggery Payesh, etc. are some of the well-known food preparations of Sankranti. We want you to know about the superfood quotient behind such traditional Sankranti preparations and how it helps our health. Let’s read together and learn.
In Tamil Nadu, Sankranti goes by the name Pongal with Pongal being the main dish prepared during this festival. This dish is prepared using newly harvested rice and moong dal and a ghee tempering of curry leaves, ginger, cumin, black pepper, and asafoetida is given to it.
Pongal is usually cooked in the presence of sunlight which helps us absorb some vitamin D for a few minutes. Using ghee not just gives a good aroma but it also helps us get the fat-soluble vitamins. Moong Dal is packed with nutrients like fiber, protein, vitamin C, K. It also contains certain bioactive compounds such as peptides and polyphenols. Eating Pongal lowers cholesterol, boosts immunity, protects the liver from damage, etc. If eating Pongal isn’t your thing then Moong Dal laddoos are a great option to ensure you get all the goodness of Moong dal.
In Karnataka, people exchange a mixture of sesame seeds, jaggery, groundnut, and dry coconut called Ellu Bella as part of festivities. This mixture boasts of great superfoods; for example, sesame seeds are a rich source of minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, and copper. Its antioxidant property boosts immunity. Dry coconut is rich in fiber and its MCTs have antiviral and antifungal properties that prevent skin infections during winter. Groundnuts contain omega 6 fats which keep our skin and cells healthy. They also have biotin compounds which are essential for a healthy scalp and hair.
Popularly known as gur payasam, gur ki kheer or nolen gurer payesh — it is made with date palm jaggery or jaggery and newly harvested rice. The jaggery prepared from date palm provides us with several health benefits such as effectively keeping neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s away. Date palm jaggery energizes our body and provides healthy nutrition because of polyphenols present in it.
Sugarcane is given spiritual importance at the harvest festival, Makar Sankranti. You can find this crop in any part of India be it in Tamil Nadu, northern states, Punjab, Karnataka, to name a few. In this particular season, sugarcane marks the most important harvest and it signifies well being and prosperity. Sugarcane is straight and firm in nature and this symbolizes a balanced and stern mind. Sugarcane also has several medical properties that are known to prevent cancer and strengthen different organs of body like the stomach, liver, kidneys, and reproductive organs as well. It is rich in calcium, iron, electrolyte which proves to be excellent for liver detox.
Festivals are truly incomplete without their specific delicacies. Every single festival that is celebrated in India has its own signature dishes which are cooked for some or the other health reason. How many of you know about the superfoods attached to festivals of India? Do let us know in the comments below.
And oh yes, Happy Makar Sankranti from us to you!