Poha may rightly be described as one of the world's first-ever "healthy fast foods”. Poha is all about being Sarvagun Sampann – a wholesome nutritious breakfast, with the essential nutrients. And yet, it is so underrated! One of the biggest nutritional benefits of poha is that it is a potent source of dietary fibre since fibre is an essential part of a ‘sampann’ and healthy diet.
A bowl of cooked poha delivers about 250 calories, and with the addition of vegetables, peanuts, coconut and a squeeze of lemon, it delivers a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, apart from the aforementioned dietary fibre. It offers some iron and lots of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B1 (thiamine), which aids in stabilizing blood sugar. It is an excellent meal option for people with diabetes as it promotes the slow release of sugar into the bloodstream, and also keeps you full for a longer time. Poha is gluten-free, so people from all age brackets - infants to elderly people - can have it.
Apart from knowing the nutritional benefits, it is also important to know how to choose the right kind of poha. It is often overlooked that packaged poha is nutritionally a better choice than loose poha; packaged poha assures 100% quality and has no residual powder at the bottom of the pack.
Try ‘red’ poha, which is made from red rice. The red colour is due to the presence of a pigment called anthocyanin - a flavonoid (antioxidant). Also, it is rich in dietary fibre, vitamin B and minerals like calcium, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium etc. that one’s body definitely needs.
How to include Poha in your daily diet
The Traditional Recipe: Cook with lots of rai (mustard seeds), curry leaves, peanuts, potatoes, and peas, with a generous squeeze of lemon juice on top.
Experiment: Prepare it pulao-style with raisins, nuts, black pepper, salt, green chillies, and sugar to taste. Or, a continental twist could be given to it by making red rice poha with different kinds of capsicum (red, yellow and green), mushrooms and cheese. The poha could also be soaked in water, sieved, with curds and a pinch of table salt added to it, and then enjoy it with mango or lime pickle.
Stock it with protein: Add boiled egg, chickpeas, sprouts or soya nuggets to your poha dish or just buddy it up with yogurt or curds.
Go Eccentric: Experimentation with poha is always welcome. Samosas stuffed with spicy poha filling make for a lip-smacking pairing with piping hot chai.
Jump from ‘savoury’ to ‘sweet’: Aval Nanachathu (literally means poha that is moist), a healthy breakfast option, is a dish made with rice flakes mixed with grated coconut, cardamom, a bit of milk and jaggery, embellished with banana slices. This mix gives both, instant as well as a sustained release of energy and works towards keeping our body constitution robust.
With that said, go get your pack of poha and begin experimenting with the Indian way of nutrition!
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