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Saturday, July 14, 2018

NUTRITION SPECIAL.... Add flower-power to your daily diet: Lavender, dandelion, hibiscus are packed with antioxidants, vitamins


Add flower-power to your daily diet: Lavender, dandelion, hibiscus are packed with antioxidants, vitamins

You are on a mission to make your diet colourful with vegetables and fruits, knowing the nutrients they contain and the preventive and therapeutic health benefits they offer. If you are looking to spice up your effort with added variety, there is a ‘bouquet’ of edible flowers that you can try out.

Though part of many diets, flowers are rarely known for their nutritive value. 

Arfa Samreen, senior dietitian at Vikram Hospital, Bengaluru, said: “Edible flowers contain phytonutrients, flavonoids and antioxidants, all of which can help lower the risk of certain health problems like cancer and heart disease. Most edible flowers like rose and lavenders contain vitamins A, C and E.” Antioxidants also protect the body from free-radical damage, linked to disease and ageing.

According to Dr HS Prema, managing director of Varenya Nutrition Concepts in Bengaluru, flavones in flowers are a big plus and their low calorific value can help in weight loss. 

BENEFITS
“Saffron used in desserts and rice is a good aphrodisiac and great for your complexion. Lotus and rose in jams and desserts are blood purifiers and reduce excess heat. Drumstick flowers used in curries too are a good aphrodisiac and can keep your eyes in good health. Broccoli and cauliflower used in salads and curries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants," said Prakruthi.

Most edible flowers hold therapeutic value. If for therapy, specific flowers are considered. “For example, jasmine and hibiscus used in tea can reduce stress. Banana flower used in curries is helpful in treating tuberculosis and reduces excess heat too. Cloves used as spice are good for digestive and respiratory diseases,” she said.

Lavender and jasmine are known to aid in digestive issues. Jasmine can also help reduce anxiety, insomnia and stress as do other flowers such as carnation and gardenia, according to Samreen.

If you are a caffeine addict and feel guilty about it, you can think flowers. “A great advantage of teas made with edible flowers is the fact that they do not contain caffeine, whereas many types of tea contain stimulant drugs such as the alkaloid xanthine, caffeine and theobromine,” Samreen said. 
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HISTORY
Flowers have been documented in culinary diaries since centuries and have been part of multiple cultures.

As a hunter-gatherer, man’s quest for newer foods might have led him to look at flowers to eat, said Prema. “Drought, floods and lack of supply of regular foods also prompted him to identify newer foods in his surroundings. Flowers are one such discovery,” she added.

According to Prakruthi, the use of flowers in food dates back thousands of years among the Chinese, Greek and Romans. Ayurveda, the ancient medicine system of India, also explains about Pushpa Vargas (flowers) and Pushpa Shaka Vargas (edible flowers). Alexander III of Macedon, popularly known as Alexander the Great, started using saffron in food, which was initially used as medicine by Persians. Mughal queen Noor Jahan developed gulkand made from rose petals to win the heart of emperor Jahangir, added Prema.

Samreen too said edible flowers have been part of human nutrition since ancient times, as they are considered plant foods with medicinal properties. Rosewater, orange flower water, calendula, etc, have been used in Middle Eastern and South Asian countries for thousands of years.

ADDING THEM TO FOODS
While a few flowers have been part of the traditional Indian diet, you can use your imagination to add flowers to a variety of dishes.

“Flowers can be added to food to provide taste, aroma and colour. They can be used as part of your main dish, salads, desserts, beverages, cocktails, tea, spreads, fruit jams, vinegars, marinade and dressings,” said Prakruthi.

“They can be sweet, tangy, spicy... the range is surprising,” said Prema. Adding flowers in pickles, dals, sharbats, subjis, salads, pakodas and ice creams are not uncommon in the art of cooking, she said.

EDIBLE FLOWERS IN INDIA
“The best-known edible flower to us is probably cauliflower, but it is better known as a vegetable. Plantain flowers and onion flowers are also fairly popular. Anise flower is an integral part of pulao and some pickles. Garlic flowers are used as accompaniments with rotis,” said Prema. Neem, pumpkin and agathi flowers, though mildly bitter in taste, are added to dishes. White hibiscus flowers are a favourite choice to make ‘tambuli’, a starter dish in Karnataka, she said.

Hibiscus flowers are also used in tea and as a garnish in many dishes. “In Andhra, it is known as gongura ,which is used to make curries and pickles,” said Samreen.

Of course, “the most commonly used flower in India is the rose. It is used to make gulkand, jams and also used as a garnish in many Indian sweets,” she said. “Apart from tea infusion, jasmine can be used in cakes and sweet dishes. In dry form, it can be added to rice dishes for its aroma.”

Papaya flowers are used in salads in the Northeast, they can be sauteed as a vegetable and eaten as a side dish with rice too. Banana and drumstick (moringa) flowers are cooked in most parts of the country, but especially used in south India; moringa is brewed in tea, added in avials and sambars, even deep fried as fritters, said Samreen, laying out the floral spread.

“Other flowers that can be used in Indian cooking include daisy, rhododendron, chrysanthemum, lotus, marigold, mint flower, sunflower, lavender flower, pumpkin blossoms, chamomile flower, dandelion, pansies and lemon flowers,” she said.

Neem flowers are used in a traditional new year preparation in parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. 
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WHO SHOULD NOT EAT THEM?
Some flowers may cause severe allergies. So, people having allergies should be careful, said Prakruthi.

Apart from allergies, “do not eat flowers if you have hay fever, asthma, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are under any medication, consult your dietitian before consuming them,” advised Samreen.

EAT SAFE
- Do not try an uncommon flower. If you are not sure of the flower, don't eat it
- Some flowers are safe only in small quantities (for example, apple)
- Learn to distinguish between toxic and edible varieties of the same flower (for example, marigold)
- Do not use flowers from bouquets because they are ridden with colours, pesticides and other chemicals
- Use only organically grown flowers or those you have grown yourself
- Before using them, immerse the blooms in water to rid them of any dirt or insects
- Do not use roadside flowers as they can be polluted with automobile exhaust and animal excreta
- Harvest edible flowers in the morning when they are at their peak of colour and the petals are firm
- Keep the flowers in water until you are ready to cook Remove pistils and stamen, use only petals for cooking 
ET Bureau| Jul 03, 2018 https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/add-flower-power-to-your-daily-diet-lavender-dandelion-hibiscus-are-packed-with-antioxidants-vitamins/articleshow/64836733.cms

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