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Traditional Indian Functional Foods

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Abstract and Figures

The curative effect of food has been a traditionally established belief for many generations in India. The current view that food can have an expanded role that goes well beyond providing a source of nutrients truly applies to many traditional Indian foods. In fact, the traditional Indian diet is “functional” as it contains high amounts of dietary fi ber (whole grains and vegetables), antioxidants (spices, fruits, and vegetables), and probiotics (curds and fermented batter products), which are wise choices for health promotion. Many Indian traditional foods impart benefi cial effects on human physiology beyond providing adequate nutrition. The health benefi ts thus derived may range from ensuring normal physiological functions in the body such as improving gastrointestinal health, enhancing the immune system, weight management, and providing better skeletal health, among others, in order to reduce blood cholesterol, oxidative stress, the risk of cardiovascular diseases, infl ammatory diseases, various types of cancers, and possible prevention of diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. A dietary ingredient that affects its host in a targeted manner so as to exert positive effects on health can be classifi ed as a “functional” ingredient. The functional components present in Indian traditional foods may be chemical or biological in nature and play a key role in imparting benefi cial physiological effects for improved health. Some of the ingredients that make Indian traditional foods functional include dietary fi ber, vitamins and minerals, oligosaccharides, lignins, essential fatty acids, fl avonoids, miscellaneous phytochemicals, and lactic acid bacterial cultures. These functional ingredients are abundantly available in foods such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, nuts, and milk and milk-based products.
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3Traditional Indian
Functional Foods
Krishnapura Srinivasan
The curative effect of food has been a traditionally established belief for many gen-
erations in India. The current view that food can have an expanded role that goes
well beyond providing a source of nutrients truly applies to many traditional Indian
3.1 Introduction ....................................................................................................51
3.2 History of Indian Food Culture and Traditional Foods .................................. 52
3.3 Basis of Evolution of Traditional Functional Foods in India ..........................54
3.4 Traditional Functional Foods ..........................................................................55
3.4.1 Traditional Foods Based on Whole Grain Cereals and Legumes ......55
3.4.2 Dahi and Ghee: The Two Classical Milk-Based Traditional
Health Foods of India .........................................................................58
3.4.3 Traditional Food Adjuncts from Legumes and Spices .......................60
3.4.4 Indian Acidulant Fruits with Functional Properties ........................... 62
3.4.5 Functional Oil Seeds...........................................................................64
3.4.6 Betel Leaves ........................................................................................65
3.4.7 Traditional Indian foods as Abundant Providers of Dietary Fiber ....... 65
3.4.8 Traditional Indian Foods as Providers of Polyphenols .......................66
3.5 Spices as Functional Food Adjuncts with Multiple Health Effects ................66
3.5.1 Digestive Stimulant Action .................................................................68
3.5.2 Antidiabetic Potential .........................................................................69
3.5.3 Cardioprotective Effect .......................................................................70 Hypolipidemic Inuence ......................................................70 Antithrombotic Properties ...................................................71 Suppression of LDL Oxidation ............................................ 71 Thermogenic Inuence ........................................................71
3.5.4 Antilithogenic Effect ..........................................................................71
3.5.5 Anti-Inammatory Properties ............................................................72
3.5.6 Antimutagenicity and Anticancer Effects ..........................................73
3.5.7 Antioxidant Activity ........................................................................... 75
3.6 Summary ........................................................................................................77
References ................................................................................................................79
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52 Functional Foods of the East
foods. In fact, the traditional Indian diet is “functional” as it contains high amounts
of dietary ber (whole grains and vegetables), antioxidants (spices, fruits, and vege-
tables), and probiotics (curds and fermented batter products), which are wise choices
for health promotion. Many Indian traditional foods impart benecial effects on
human physiology beyond providing adequate nutrition. The health benets thus
derived may range from ensuring normal physiological functions in the body such as
improving gastrointestinal health, enhancing the immune system, weight manage-
ment, and providing better skeletal health, among others, in order to reduce blood
cholesterol, oxidative stress, the risk of cardiovascular diseases, inammatory dis-
eases, various types of cancers, and possible prevention of diabetes, and neurodegen-
erative diseases. A dietary ingredient that affects its host in a targeted manner so as
to exert positive effects on health can be classied as a “functional” ingredient. The
functional components present in Indian traditional foods may be chemical or bio-
logical in nature and play a key role in imparting benecial physiological effects for
improved health. Some of the ingredients that make Indian traditional foods func-
tional include dietary ber, vitamins and minerals, oligosaccharides, lignins, essen-
tial fatty acids, avonoids, miscellaneous phytochemicals, and lactic acid bacterial
cultures. These functional ingredients are abundantly available in foods such as
fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, nuts, and milk and milk-based products.
Indian heritage foods are of considerable antiquity and not much is known about
their origin. There are a number of regional heritage foods that evolved locally,
depending on the availability of raw ingredients. Heritage foods in India are an inte-
gral part of Indian culture. Traditional foods started with the inception of tradition,
which dates back to Aryan civilization (3000 ) followed by Harappan (2000 ),
Vedic (1500 ), and later the Hindu culture as inuenced by other cultures, and
Indian food habits followed the changing cultural patterns. With a history of
3000 years or more, the Indian civilization has given food a prominent place in the
social and cultural lives of its people. India has had several philosophies and reli-
gions which grew from within, such as pre-Buddhist Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism,
and post-Buddhist Hinduism. These philosophies interacted with each other and
made their impact felt on Indian traditional food cultures (Achaya, 1994).
The cereal grain barley was the major grain eaten by the Aryans, followed by
Apupa, Lajah, Soma juice, and rice. Wheat was introduced during the Vedic period.
Cattle were an integral part of the Vedic culture, and the literature before 800  is
full of references to the milk of the cow and other cattle. Vedic literature also refers
to curdling of milk with starter from an earlier run. Curds thus prepared were eaten
with rice, barley, or Soma juice. Ghee (Ghrita) was prepared by melting down and
desiccating butter and was considered a commodity of prestige. Ghee was also used
in Vedic rituals (as offerings to God), for frying, and for dipping to add relish to other
foods, and for mixing with Soma juice. According to the sage Sushruta (600 ), the
profounder of Ayurveda, the indigenous system of medicine in India, cow’s milk had
a stabilizing effect on body secretions, while the fat-rich buffalo’s milk was more
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Traditional Indian Functional Foods 53
healing. It is also mentioned by Sushruta that cream of milk called Santanika had
many benecial effects on health. Curds were distinguished as sweet, slightly acidic,
and strongly acidic for consumption regionwise. Ghee prepared and stored for
10–100 years in a vessel was called “Kumbha ghrita” and ghee stored for more than
a century was termed “Maha ghrita.” Such aged ghee preparations are of much value
in the Ayurvedic system of medicine.
Diets were created by our ancestors originally to meet their survival needs. People
of various Indian cultures gradually enriched them through long empirical experi-
ence using combinations of a variety of primary food materials, especially the locally
available food grains and vegetables that nutritionally complement and supplement
each other. This has contributed to better health protection, improvement of digest-
ibility, resistance to health disorders, and increased human longevity. India has a
heritage of many indigenous ethnic cultures, and thousands of delicious and func-
tional diets have been developed over millennia. The foods of nearly 50 major Indian
cultures and many minor cultures have created more than 5000 dietary preparations,
which include many items for daily consumption to protect and sustain human health.
People of these cultures have been brought together by several historic circum-
stances. One such occasion was the Empire of Ashoka (300–260 ), which held
almost the whole of India as one country and promoted Buddhism. Philosophies of
both Buddhism and Jainism, which preached vegetarianism and reverence for all
forms of life, had a signicant impact on peoples’ outlook on life and consequently
on their foods. The Mughal Empire (1250–1650 ) that ruled most of India for
400 years also brought many traditional cultures together and made them interact
meaningfully. The British colonial rule (nineteenth to twentieth century) in greater
India tremendously contributed to people with different ethnicities coming together
and sharing their wider variety of heritage foods (Parpia, 2006).
Indian heritage foods, many of which are incidentally functional foods too, have
developed over a long period and include cereal-based items such as rice or wheat
specialties, meal adjuncts such as pickles, chutneys, papads, and similar items,
medium of cooking—ghee, butter, or vegetable oils, a variety of fermented batter
foods (steam cooked or lightly fried), milk and non-milk-based sweets, and an innu-
merable variety of snack foods. The traditional food pattern in India is comprised of
ber-rich menus, with moderate fat, selective carbohydrate sources, and curds. They
cover the functional components, imparting wider health benets, and such system-
atic food habits are an excellent preventive measure to ward off many diseases. Indian
traditional meals, which are mainly based on plant products such as grains, vegeta-
bles, and fruits, are very rich in natural dietary ber. Fiber-rich and low-fat traditional
foods reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Traditional plant foods specically
based on fruits and vegetables provide functional components such as β-carotene,
vitamin C, vitamin E, folates, and antioxidant phytochemicals. Cereals, which are the
staple of Indian traditional foods, provide thiamine, tocopherols, selective starches,
and minerals that play a role in regulating metabolic functions in the body.
The traditional food habits of each specic region of India are primarily a com-
ponent of its culture, and India’s cultural diversity is reected in the numerous tradi-
tional food preparations. Indian traditional dietary patterns have basically evolved
from the combination of locally available crops. Every region of this vast country
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54 Functional Foods of the East
uses a different choice of ingredients with its own unique food. The cereals wheat
and rice form the staple in Indian traditional food, followed by the coarse grains
sorghum and nger millet. The whole meal our from these grains is consumed
traditionally in the form of roti (a wheat-based food) and as dumpling, or muddle.
Traditionally, a typical North Indian meal consists of unleavened breads, chapati or
paratha made of whole wheat our, and an assortment of side dishes such as soups,
fried vegetables, curries, chutney, pickles, and curd (dahi). South Indian food, which
is largely nongreasy, consists of cooked rice usually served with sambar (seasoned
lentil broth), rasam (a thin soup), dry and curried vegetables, a curd preparation
called pachadi, and curd. Vegetables in Indian dishes are generally stir-fried,
steamed, braised, or curried to create various textures and avors. Commonly con-
sumed vegetables include leafy greens, radish, yam, beans, bamboo shoots, ladies
nger, and cabbage. The use of pickles and chutneys is predominant in arid regions
of India due to the low availability of fresh vegetables in these hot and dry regions.
South Indian breakfast items are most commonly pancakes made from a rice bat-
ter known as dosa, steamed rice cakes known as idli, deep-fried doughnuts made
from a batter of lentils known as vada, rice pancakes known as appam, upma (cooked
semolina seasoned in oil with mustard, pepper, cumin, and dry lentils), and pongal
(a mash of rice and lentils boiled together and seasoned with ghee, cashew nuts, pep-
per, and cumin). Coconut is an important ingredient in South Indian food. Coconut
milk and desiccated coconut are important avorings in South Indian cuisines. The
presence of coconut mellows out the hot curries and chutneys, and is used as a top-
ping for vegetables.
To neutralize the pungency of red chilli and soothen the stomach, curd is used in
a variety of South Indian dishes. Curd sambhar, thambli (fenugreek or other seeds in
curd), fried black gram powder in butter milk with seasonings known as uddinettu,
thin soup prepared from Garcinia indica known as punar puli rasam, thin soup
prepared from cumin (Cuminum cyminum) and black pepper seed (Piper nigrum)
powders known as jeerige menasu rasam, kosambari (salads from dehusked gram
sprouts mixed with fresh coconut kernel, green chillies, and seasonings), and watery
buttermilk garnished with ginger, asafetida, coriander leaves, curry leaves, and salt
are among the traditional functional foods commonly consumed. Thus a perfect
combination of protein from legumes and coconut, carbohydrates from rice, fat both
visible and invisible from curry and fried savory items, vitamins and minerals from
sprouted grams of kosambari (salads from sprouted legumes), and vitamins from
curd and vegetables are obtained through this combination. The regular use of curd
and watery buttermilk with accompaniments aid in digestion and provide consider-
able health benets.
Ancient India seems to have realized the importance of health and wellness much
ahead of its time. The Indian dietary pattern and the traditional foods evolved are
based on the indigenous Ayurvedic system of medicine, which professes natural
ways of achieving physical and mental wellness. A balanced meal recommended by
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Traditional Indian Functional Foods 55
Ayurveda takes into account the properties of the food (gunas), the characteristics of
the individual (dosha), and the assimilation by the body (sadhana). Traditional
Indian food formulations show ingenuity in the choice of ingredients and additives
with critical attention to wholesome nutrition beyond taste. Indian cuisines have
great aromas and in-depth taste proles, which are derived from a complex combina-
tion of spices and preparation techniques. The well-balanced Indian meal contains
all the six dened tastes, namely sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter, and astringent.
Indian cooking principles go beyond the balancing of tastes, however. Every meal
aims to achieve a good balance between these sensations to promote digestion and
well-being. Side dishes and condiments contribute to the overall avor and texture of
an Indian meal. The hot, sour, and crunchy side dishes and condiments, whether
chutneys, curries, or soups, enhance and provide balance to the overall avor and
texture of the main staple. Inclusion of natural antimicrobials and antioxidants in the
form of spices and condiments also improves the shelf-life of prepared foods against
spoilage. Ayurveda has elaborated the curative and therapeutic functions of herbs
and spices. This is manifested in the commonality among heritage foods from differ-
ent parts of India, in that almost all of them are rich in spices.
Traditional Indian food formulations show ingenuity in the choice of ingredients
and additives with adequate attention to wholesome nutrition and tastes. Another
feature of traditional Indian foods is the effective utilization of natural resources and
minimization of waste. Historically, cooking techniques have been developed for the
protection, storage, and preparation of diets, the ingredients of which mutually sup-
plement and complement each other to provide nutritionally balanced and also deli-
cious diets. Indian traditional foods are noteworthy not only for their food quality but
also from the food safety perspective. Since some of them are steam-cooked, they
are generally free from microorganisms. Others are boiled to the desired tempera-
tures. As a general rule, they have to be consumed fresh and hot. Generally, Indian
traditional foods, once cooked, are not preserved for future use.
Indian traditional foods can be classied into eight broad categories (Table 3.1):
(1) processed grain products, (2) fermented foods, (3) dehydrated products, (4) pick-
les, chutneys, sauces, and relishes, (5) ground spice and spice mixtures, (6) fried food
products, (7) dairy products, and (8) confections and sweets. The functionality of the
majority of these categories of Indian traditional foods is delineated in the later para-
graphs of this chapter.
Various Indian traditional foods with bioactive substances provide additional health
benets over and above the physiological roles of the nutrients present in such foods.
Sprouting, malting, and fermentation are processes that enhance the functional prop-
erties of food and are widely used in the daily diet of Indians.
3.4.1 Tr a d i T i o n a l Fo o d s Ba s e d o n Wh o l e Gr a i n Ce r e a l s a n d le G u m e s
The staples of Indian cuisine are rice, whole wheat our, sorghum, nger millet, and
a variety of pulses. Pulses are the main source of protein supplement for a large
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56 Functional Foods of the East
majority of the cereal-based ethnic diets because they are easy to cook and t well
into the traditional diets. A large variety of savory and sweet processed products are
made from them. Each Indian ethnic culture has developed its own diets based on the
variety of pulses that they grow. While pulses may be used whole, dehusked, or split,
most of the grain legume-based or mixed grain preparations are made by using
dehusked or split pulses. The most important pulses are red lentil (masoor), chickpea
(Bengal gram), red gram (pigeon pea), black gram (urad), and green gram (mung).
Some of the pulses, like chickpea and green gram, are also processed into our.
Pulses, commonly used in Indian cuisines, are fried, roasted, or boiled with spices
and herbs for making fermented breads, soups, chutneys, snacks, purees, and sweets.
Chickpea is used raw in chutneys, roasted whole for spicy snacks, and ground for
sweets, or is used whole with vegetables. Black gram is popular in southern India,
where it is fermented with rice and mixed with spices to make dosa, steamed idli,
and snacks such as vada or papad. Red gram, which exhibits a thick and more gelati-
nous consistency, is combined with chickpea, spices, and red chilli for making the
Categories of Typical Traditional Foods of India
Raw Material Traditional Products Food Category
Cereals and grains Rice-based: parboiled rice, hand-pounded rice, aked
rice, puffed rice
Processed grain products
Wheat-based products like chapati, puri, bread, naan,
Extruded products like rice noodles, vermicelli, snack
Fermented products like idli, dosa, vada Fermented foods
Coarse cereals Puffed sorghum, maize, nger millet, pearl millet Processed grain products
Legumes Pulses (split legumes without husk), puffed legumes,
sprouted legumes, legume ours (e.g., Bengal gram,
soy), papads
Processed grain products
Gram our, sugar/
Jilebi, laddu, chikki, Mysore pak Confections and sweets
Milk Peda, bur, rasgolla, jamun, sandesh, kheer, halwa Confections and sweets
khoa, rabri Dehydrated dairy products
Chhana, paneer Coagulated dairy products
Dahi (curd), butter milk, lassi, butter Fermented dairy products
Ghee, malai, makkhan Fat-rich dairy products
Fruits/vegetables Fruit leather, dried fruits, dehydrated vegetables Dehydrated products
Pickles, chutneys, murabbas, petha, candied fruits,
amchur, and pickled vegetables
Pickles, chutneys, sauces
Spices and
Spice powders, spice mixes (e.g., garam masala,
sambar powder, rasam powder)
Ground spices and spice
Drinks and
Neera, toddy, arrack, khanasari, rice beer, Indian beer,
honey, vinegar, jaggery
Beverages (alcoholic/
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Traditional Indian Functional Foods 57
lentil broth sambhar. The use of whole grain cereals and legumes in these traditional
foods ensures provision of the highly desirable dietary ber and also the polyphenols
and the micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals associated with the bran portion of
the grain.
Unleavened breads from whole grain: Chapati and paratha are processed from
whole wheat; hence they contain all the natural components (bran, endosperm, and
germ) of wheat. Chapati is unleavened bread baked on a griddle while paratha is
unleavened bread fried on a griddle. Parathas are rich in crude ber (1.3–5.8%) and
protein content (8.5–12.6%) and low in fat (7.5–12.8%). The assorted paratha formu-
lations that contain soy protein isolate are supposed to contain all the essential amino
acids. As these are made out of whole wheat, they provide the full complements of
ber, minerals, and polyphenols associated with the bran portion of the grain.
Unleavened breads baked on a griddle made out of the coarse cereals sorghum and
nger millet are also widely consumed by sections of the Indian population. The use
of whole grain cereals in these traditional staple foods ensures provision of the highly
desirable dietary ber and also the polyphenols and micronutrient vitamins and min-
erals associated with the bran portion of the grain.
Finger millet dumpling: Finger millet dumpling is a common traditional food in
southern India. Finger millet, although a minor cereal, has a major impact on health
with functionalities of high dietary ber and 20% resistance starch with a 30–40%
slowly digestible starch fraction, a rich calcium content of 400 mg%, and an iron
content of 17–20 mg%. Malted nger millet is traditionally consumed as a healthy
beverage and is used in the preparation of weaning and geriatric foods.
Sprouted legumes as salads: Green gram and chickpea are commonly germi-
nated prior to use in the preparation of specic traditional salad dishes, especially in
southern India. Germination and malting have been found to enhance iron absorp-
tion due to elevated vitamin C content or reduced tannin or phytic acid content, or
both (Tontisirin et al., 2002). These processes are known to activate endogenous
phytases, which in turn hydrolyze phytate, rendering iron and zinc more available.
During germination, endogenous phytase activity in cereals and legumes increases
as a result of de novo synthesis and/or activation, resulting in reductions in the inosi-
tol phosphates (Lorenz, 1980; Chavan and Kadam, 1989; Reddy et al., 1989).
Sprouting of legumes, green gram, chickpea, and nger millet is associated with
signicantly improved bioaccessibility of iron, which is due to a reduction in tannin
content (Hemalatha et al., 2007; Prabhavathi and Rao, 1979). Studies in vitro on iron
bioavailability have shown a twofold increase on germination and a ve- to tenfold
increase upon malting of the minor millets (De Maeyer et al., 1989).
Fermented batter foods from cereals and legumes (Figure 3.1): Fermented batter
foods from cereals and legumes are the most common and nutritious Indian tradi-
tional breakfast items in the southern states of India. These include dosa (a pancake
made from a fermented batter of rice and black gram (3:1), idli (steamed rice cakes
made from a fermented batter of rice and black gram (2:1), and vada (a deep-fried
doughnut made from a batter of lentils, usually black gram). Traditionally, for mak-
ing these products, the mixtures of grains are soaked for 6–8 h and then ground.
After grinding, the batter is allowed to undergo fermentation overnight, which makes
use of the naturally occurring microorganism Leuconostoc mesenteroides present in
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58 Functional Foods of the East
the batter. The microorganisms ferment the mixed batter and generate a unique a-
vor and texture. The fermented batter has an excellent foam-holding capacity to give
the steamed/fried product an appetizing spongy texture. In the case of idli, the fer-
mented batter is put into the cups of a special steaming vessel in the form of dump-
lings, after which it is consumed with a variety of garnishes (chutney) prepared from
various natural avorful ingredients such as coriander leaves, green chillies, and
freshly ground coconut kernel, or with a thick soup (sambhar) made from legumes
and vegetables avored with spices. Dosas prepared by baking the batter with oil on
a pan are often consumed with rolled-in or avored vegetables.
These two fermented batter preparations are a rich source of good nutrients such
as the essential amino acids methionine from rice and lysine from pulses as well as
vitamins and minerals from the parboiled rice, vegetables, and nutrients generated
by the fermentation of the batter. The products are also low in fat and rich in dietary
ber. Fermentation of the batter of cereal–pulse combinations in the preparation of
idli and dosa is known to enhance the bioaccessibility of the micronutrients zinc and
iron (Hemalatha et al., 2007). Fermentation of cereal–legume combinations of the
idli and dosa batter signicantly reduces both the phytate and tannins associated
with the legumes. Food processing by fermentation is known to improve mineral
bioavailability by reducing their absorption inhibitors such as the phytic acid present
in the grains (Gibson and Hotz, 2001; Kaur and Kawatra, 2002). Besides reducing
such factors, fermentation could also improve mineral bioavailability by virtue of the
formation of organic acids, which form soluble ligands with the minerals, thereby
preventing the formation of insoluble complexes with phytate (Tontisirin et al., 2002).
A reduction in the pH by 1.5 units as a result of fermentation of the idli and dosa
batters has been observed, which is attributable to the synthesis of organic acids dur-
ing fermentation (Hemalatha et al., 2007). Idli can also be made using parboiled rice
(which helps preserve vitamins, unlike regular rice) along with black gram, taken in
the right combinations, and then fermented and steamed to deliver a profoundly
nutritious, balanced, and tasty meal.
3.4.2 Da h i a n d Gh e e : Th e TW o Cl a s s i C a l mi l k -Ba s e d Tr a d i T i o n a l
he a l T h Fo o d s o F in d i a (Fi G u r e 3.2)
Traditional Indian foods make use of dairy products such as curds (yogurt), cheese,
buttermilk, and ghee. Ghee (claried butter) and dahi (curd) are the two most
FIGURE 3.1 Fermented batter foods from grains: (a) dosa, (b) idli, (c) vada.
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Traditional Indian Functional Foods 59
important age-old traditional milk products consumed in India. Ghee is a fat-rich
dairy product whereas dahi is a fermented milk product. Both these milk products have
higher keeping qualities than the other traditional dairy products. Several studies
have been conducted on ghee and dahi by many investigators, and numerous claims
have been made about their different nutritional and therapeutic values. Ghee is used
as a cooking oil and for avoring, especially in vegetarian cuisines. Fresh cheeses are
added to vegetable curries or desserts, and are often mixed with sugar, milk, carda-
mom, and fruits for savory applications and desserts. In North India, yogurt and but-
termilk are consumed as beverages. Yogurt provides consistency and avor to Indian
curries. Yogurt is also used in salads with cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes.
The gastrointestinal microora in humans plays a key role in nutrition and health.
A portion of the consumed food unabsorbed in the small intestine gets fermented in
the large intestine. These foods, which are known as colonic foods, are metabolized
through anaerobic fermentation by the gut microora and the end products are usu-
ally short-chain fatty acids that are absorbed in the colon. Such foods are credited
with protection from colon cancer, immune modulatory action, systemic effects on
blood lipids, and a reduction of pathogens. Fermented milk products such as dahi are
probiotics and are associated with positive effects such as reductions in cholesterol
and triacylglycerols, protection against gastroenteritis, improved lactose intolerance,
and stimulation of the immune system.
Dahi is traditionally consumed by Indians either as a part of their daily diet or as
a refreshing beverage. It is characterized by its rm curd and delicate avor.
Investigations by various researchers have shown that regular consumption of dahi
has many benecial effects such as improvements in appetite and vitality, curing of
dyspepsia, dysentery, and other intestinal disorders; removal of adverse effects of
drugs, encouragement of thiamine synthesis, lowering the cholesterol level of blood,
controlling cancer, easy digestion by lactose-intolerant persons, and so on. In addi-
tion, dahi has a high nutritive value due to the presence of all milk constituents and
the various health-promoting lactic acid bacteria in it.
FIGURE 3.2 Dahi (curd) and ghee (dehydrated butter).
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60 Functional Foods of the East
Dahi is considered as a functional food ingredient by virtue of its health-promot-
ing probiotic effects. Probiotics fall within the realm of functional foods containing
certain biologically active components that benecially contribute to human health
beyond basic nutrition. While earlier reports on the health-promoting effects of pro-
biotics were largely limited to yogurt and other fermented dairy products containing
lactobacilli, many reports since have shown that gut organisms such as bidobacte-
ria and other lactobacilli also benecially affect the host through the development of
resistance factors against diseases, the protective effect of the ora, and the produc-
tion of microbial products. Several workers have corroborated the protective effect
of gut ora and have shown that germ-free animals are more prone to diseases than
their peers carrying a complete gut ora (Pollman et al., 1980; Saavendra, 1995).
The documented benecial effects of probiotics include their use in the treatment
of various kinds of diarrhea, the alleviation of the gastrointestinal side effects of
anti biotic treatment, the alleviation of lactose intolerance, relief during constipation,
and the general balancing and stabilizing of the host’s intestinal microbial integrity.
Ghee constitutes an important part of Indian life. Ghee is chiey used in India as
a part of the diet and as a cooking medium. It is valued for its pleasant cooked, cara-
melized avor and granular texture. Ghee is made up mainly of fat, which gives
energy to the body and forms an integral part of the body’s cells. It helps to maintain
the body’s temperature. Recent studies have indicated that milk fat contains some
anticarcinogenic substances such as conjugated linoleic acid, butyric acid, and vita-
mins, among others. Formerly, intake of ghee was presumed as one of the causes for
the high incidence of heart ailments. However, paradoxically, later it was found that
consumption of ghee has a hypocholesterolemic effect. Moreover, in the indigenous
Ayurvedic medical treatments ghee is used for heart patients. Ghee contains the fat-
soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. The Indian Ayurvedic medical literature mentions
various types of medicated ghee that can be used for the treatment of many diseases
such as asthma, antiaging, cough, dermatitis, digestive problems, heart, hysteria,
leprosy, leucoderma, and piles. Medicated ghee is used for either internal or external
applications. Sometimes, various herbs are used along with ghee to enhance its ther-
apeutic efciency.
3.4.3 Tr a d i T i o n a l Fo o d ad j u n C T s F r o m le G u m e s a n d sp i C e s
Food adjuncts include an assortment of items that are consumed as side dishes to
staple foods. They add variety, spice, and crunch to the common menu with standard
items. Traditional Indian food adjuncts may broadly be classied as pickles, chut-
neys, preserves, and dried vegetable products such as sandige and dry semiprocessed
adjuncts such as papad (which are consumed after frying) (Table 3.2). Although
consumed in small portions, adjuncts play an important role in nutrition and health.
The wide range of ingredients used in the various types of adjuncts makes it difcult
to generalize their nutritional importance.
Pickles are a good source of vitamin C, in spite of the fact that part of it is lost dur-
ing processing and storage. Pickles and chutneys provide other valuable nutrients such
as minerals, carotenoids, isoavones, and antioxidants. Pickles and chutneys may thus
71920_C003.indd 60 5/14/2010 3:00:47 PM
Traditional Indian Functional Foods 61
extend the supply of nutrients from seasonal perishable items into the lean period.
Mango pickle is the most widely consumed variety among pickles followed by lemon,
emblica, swallow root, and mixed pickles. Chutneys usually accompany any tradi-
tional Indian meal. There are diverse varieties among chutneys; green chutneys are
rich sources of nutraceuticals in the Indian meal. They can be served with assorted
parathas to complement the nutritional requirement. Coriander chutney, mint chut-
ney, and drumstick-curry leaf chutney are other chutneys whose ingredient herbs are
good sources of vitamins and minerals. Chutneys generally contain pulses and
oilseeds (e.g., black gram, chickpea, sesame seed, peanut, and coconut, among others)
and are an excellent supplement to the cereal-based vegetarian staple diet by improv-
ing the protein quality. Papads are high-protein foods made from different pulses and
certain cereals; they are at, thin, round circular products that can be roasted or fried
instantly. Legumes being the main ingredients, papads provide 7–15% protein.
Legume-based papad and wadi add to the protein value of staple diet, and can act as
a replacement for vegetables and legumes during the lean season. Fermentation in
Common Indian Traditional Food Adjuncts
Food Adjunct Ingredients Description of Preparation
Papads Pulse ours (black gram/green
Pulse our is made into a dough with spices;
small dough balls are rolled and dried
Starchy materials (rice our/wheat
starch/sorghum/minor millets/sago)
Salt, spices, leavening agent
Starchy ours are mixed with water to a slurry;
allowed to ferment; cooked and spread as thin
sheets. The cooked slurry may also be extruded
to a noodle-like structure, dried, and stored.
Papads may be roasted or fried prior to
Wadis Legumes (green gram/black gram/
Bengal gram)
Rice, millets, vegetables (ash gourd,
okhra, etc.)
Pulses are soaked and coarsely ground after
draining excess water; mixed with shredded
vegetables and allowed to ferment overnight;
cooked and mixed with salt and spices;
deposited as small masses or balls; dried.
They are consumed after frying
Chutneys Fruits, spices, jaggery, coconut, salt The fruit pulp is mixed with jaggery, salt, spices,
acidulants, and coconut, cooked to a viscous
consistency, and seasoned
Dry chutney
Oil seeds (peanut, gingely, dry
Legumes (Bengal gram/black gram)
Salt, curry leaves, spices and
Oil seeds and pulses are roasted and powdered
with salt, spices, and condiments. Stable for
6 months. They are consumed as such or mixed
with oil, and freshly cut vegetables
Pickles Acidic fruits, salt, spices (especially
chillies), condiments, optionally
vegetable oil and vinegar
Acidic fruits are cut into small pieces; mixed
with salt and spices fried in oil
71920_C003.indd 61 5/14/2010 3:00:48 PM
62 Functional Foods of the East
some papad and wadi products improves their digestibility and reduces antinutri-
tional factors. Roasted papad is a healthy alternative to fried papad.
3.4.4 in d i a n aC i d u l a n T Fr u i T s W i T h Fu n C T i o n a l pr o p e r T i e s (Fi G u r e 3.3)
Food acidulants such as lime, emblica, tamarind, kokum, and amchur are commonly
used in traditional Indian culinary to impart a desirable sour taste to certain food
preparations. Organic acids are known to promote the absorption of iron from plant
foods (Gillooly et al., 1983). The food acidulants amchur and lime have been reported
to signicantly enhance the bioaccessibility (in vitro bioavailability) of zinc and iron
from the food grains consumed in India (Hemalatha et al., 2005) and of β-carotene
from green leafy or yellow-orange vegetables (Veda et al., 2008). This positive inu-
ence of food acidulants on the bioaccessibility of micronutrients from food grains or
vegetables has been seen in both raw and cooked forms.
Emblica fruit (Emblica ofcinalis), commonly known as amla or Indian goose-
berry, is one of the important subtropical fruits belonging to the family Euphorbaceae.
Dried shreds of amla fruits are used as a food acidulant in Indian traditional foods.
The fruits of Emblica are widely consumed raw, cooked, or pickled, but they are also
principal constituents of many medicinal preparations in the indigenous system of
FIGURE 3.3 Food acidulants: (a) emblica fruit, (b) kokum, (c) amchur, and (d) tamarind.
71920_C003.indd 62 5/14/2010 3:00:48 PM
Traditional Indian Functional Foods 63
medicine in India. Emblica occupies an important place in the preserve industry.
Amla preserves, candy, squash, and bur are some major traditional products of
amla, which are widely used as health foods and as natural sources of vitamin C.
Emblica fruits are highly nutritious and are very rich in vitamin C. These fruits have
an ascorbic acid content of up to 950 mg/100 g, which is the second highest among
all fruits, next only to Barbados cherry. The fruit contains considerable amounts of
polyphenols that retard the oxidation of ascorbic acid. Emblica fruits are well known
for their medicinal properties. These fruits, possessing rich antioxidant potency by
virtue of both vitamin C and polyphenols, are used for curing chronic dysentery,
bronchitis, diabetes, liver ailment, diarrhea, jaundice, and dyspepsia. Emblica fruits
are valued highly among indigenous medicines in India and form the major ingredi-
ent in Ayurvedic preparations such as Chavanprash and Trifala.
Emblica fruit extract has been reported to have hypolipidemic, antidiabetic, and
anti-inammatory activity, and to inhibit retroviruses such as HIV-1, tumor develop-
ment, and gastric ulcer (Sabu and Kuttan, 2002). Emblica fruit extract exhibits anti-
oxidant properties, its aqueous extract being a potent inhibitor of lipid peroxidation
and a scavenger of hydroxyl and superoxide radicals in vitro (Scartezzini and Speroni,
2000). Emblica fruit extract inhibits micronuclei formation, sister chromatid
exchanges, clastogenesity, and mutagenesity induced by metals; it protects against
radiations (Scartezzini and Speroni, 2000), inhibits clastogenesity of benzopyrene
and cyclophosphamide (Sharma et al., 2000), and is gastroprotective (Al-Rehaily
et al., 2002), cytoprotective, and immunomodulating (Sairam et al., 2002). Emblica
fruits have been reported to protect against oxidative stress in ischemic reperfusion
injury (Rajak et al., 2004), show antivenom capacity (Alam and Gomes, 2003), ame-
liorate hyperthyroidism and hepatic lipid peroxidation, display antiproliferative
activity in breast cancer cell lines, show antitussive activity, and induce apoptosis in
lymphoma ascites (Rajeshkumar et al., 2003).
The dried fruit rinds of kokum (Garcinia indica), commonly known as “Malabar
tamarind,” are liberally used in the coastal regions of India as a traditional food
acidulant in culinary practices. The dark red fruit of Garcinia indica is valued for
its nutritive value and outstanding medicinal properties. This fruit is known to
reduce obesity and to benecially regulate blood cholesterol levels. The antiobe-
sity inuence of kokum fruits is attributable to its organic acid constituent, hydroxy-
citric acid, present at a level of 22%. Hydroxycitric acid is a potent competitive
inhibitor of ATP citrate lyase, the enzyme that catalyzes the cleavage of citrate to
acetyl coenzyme A and oxaloacetate (Watson et al., 1969). As a consequence of
this inhibition, a reduction in the rates of the de novo synthesis of fatty acids and
cholesterol has been demonstrated in animal systems (Lowenstein, 1971; Sullivan
et al., 1972). Kokum is also a source of pectin (6%) and fat (10%). Fresh fruits are
cut into halves and the eshy portion containing the seed is removed. The rind
constitutes about 50–55% of the fruit and is generally sun-dried for future use. The
kokum rind is used to make an attractive, red, pleasantly avored extract for use as
a beverage. Syrup from the fruit as traditionally prepared is popularly known as
Amrit kokum.” Kokum seed is a good source of fat called “Kokum butter.” The
rind of fully ripe kokum contains 2–3% anthocyanin pigments and thus is a prom-
ising source of natural color.
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64 Functional Foods of the East
Tamarind is the most common food acidulant used in southern India. The fruit
rinds of tamarind (Tamarindus indica) have a fruity and sweet-and-sour taste and
are used in sweetened drinks, curries, stews, or soups of South India. The food acid-
ulants amchur and lime generally enhance the bioaccessibility of zinc and iron from
the food grains (Hemalatha et al., 2005). This positive inuence of acidulants on zinc
bioaccessibility from food grains is seen in both the raw and cooked form. Tamarind
is regarded as a refrigerant, digestive, carminative, and laxative. It is useful in dis-
eases supposed to be caused by deranged bile (The Wealth of India, 1976). Tamarind
has been shown to increase bile secretion with enhanced bile acid concentration
(Sambaiah and Srinivasan, 1991).
3.4.5 Fu n C T i o n a l oi l se e d s
Vegetable oil is an important part of Indian culinary; mustard oil is most commonly
used in northern India while sesame and coconut oils are used abundantly in the
south. Most Indian curries are fried in vegetable oil. Sesame oil is an edible vegeta-
ble oil derived from sesame seeds. Besides being used as cooking oil in South India,
it is often used as a avor enhancer in Indian cuisine. Sesame seeds were one of the
rst crops processed for oil as well as one of the earliest condiments. Sesame oil is
considered to be more stable than most vegetable oils due to the antioxidants con-
tained in the oil. Sesame oil is least prone, among the cooking oils, to turn rancid.
Because it has a very high boiling point, sesame oil retains its natural structure and
does not break down even when heated to a very high temperature.
Sesame oil is a source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects low-density lipo-
proteins from oxidation. As with most plant-based condiments, sesame oil contains
magnesium, copper, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B6. Copper provides relief for
rheumatoid arthritis. Magnesium supports vascular and respiratory health. Calcium
helps prevent colon cancer, osteoporosis, migraine, and postmenopausal syndrome.
Zinc promotes bone health. It is suggested that due to the presence of high levels of
polyunsaturated fatty acids in sesame oil, it may help to control blood pressure.
Sesame oil is unique in that it has one of the highest concentrations of ω-6 fatty acids.
At the same time, the oil contains two naturally occurring preservatives, sesamol and
sesamin. The effect of this oil on blood pressure may be due to polyunsaturated fatty
acids and the compound sesamin, a lignan present in sesame oil. There is evidence
suggesting that both compounds reduce blood pressure in hypertensive rats and in
humans (Matsumura et al., 1998; Miyawaki et al., 2009). Sesame lignans also inhibit
the synthesis and absorption of cholesterol in these rats. Various constituents present
in sesame oil have antioxidant and antidepressant properties. Hence its use may help
ght senile changes and bring about a sense of well-being. It is suggested that regular
topical application and/or consumption of sesame oil should mitigate the effects of
anxiety, nerve and bone disorders, poor circulation, lowered immunity, and bowel
problems. It is suggested that such use would also relieve lethargy, fatigue, and insom-
nia, while promoting strength and vitality, and enhancing blood circulation. There are
claims that its use has relaxing properties, which eases pain and muscle spasm, such
as sciatica, dysmenorrhea, colic, backache, and joint pain. There are claims similar to
those for other therapeutic medicines that its having antioxidants explains the beliefs
71920_C003.indd 64 5/14/2010 3:00:48 PM
Traditional Indian Functional Foods 65
that it slows the aging process and promotes longevity. It is suggested that sesame oil
could be used for the reduction of cholesterol levels (due to the presence of lignans,
which are phytoestrogens), antibacterial effects, and even slowing down certain types
of cancer (due to the antioxidant properties of the lignans).
Mustard seeds, a source of edible oil, are also a main ingredient of seasonings in
Indian cuisine and a component of curry powders. Mustard possesses vermicidal,
antihelminthic, and appetite-improving properties (Kirtikar and Basu, 1935). Mustard
belongs to the cruciferous family, whose members include cabbage, broccoli, and
cauliower. All the above vegetable extracts have the property of inactivating the
mutagenicity of food mutagens such as tryptophan pyrolysate. The active principle of
mustard, namely dithiolthione, is also used as an antischistosomal drug. From epide-
miological studies, it has been established that the regular consumption of cruciferous
vegetables is associated with reduced cancer risk. Mustard seeds are rich in sulfur-
containing compounds (dithiolthiones), which have a protective effect against liver
toxicity induced by some chemicals and aatoxins, potent toxic compounds present in
fungal-contaminated peanuts. A concentration of 0.05% of dithiolthiones in the diet
was found to stimulate the activity of protective enzymes. The mutagenic effects of
mustard seed powder have been assessed in experimental animals treated with potent
carcinogens. These experiments suggested that mustard, like turmeric, has excellent
antimutagenic properties (NIN Annual Report, 1993–94).
3.4.6 Be T e l le a v e s
Fresh green leaves of the betel vine (Piper betle), locally known as paan, are tradi-
tionally chewed, especially after meals, along with areca nut and lime, or with many
other additional ingredients, mainly for mouth-freshening and digestive-stimulating
effects. Betel leaf is aromatic and carminative. It is also an aphrodisiac and antisep-
tic. The habit of chewing betel leaves is claimed to be responsible for preventing
osteoporosis among the economically weaker sections of the population in India.
3.4.7 Tr a d i T i o n a l in d i a n F o o d s a s aB u n d a n T pr o v i d e r s o F di e T a r y Fi B e r
Traditional Indian cuisines are providers of liberal amounts of dietary ber due to the
extensive use of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. For example, ash gourd ber has
a soluble ber content of 22% while radish ber has 16% and pea peels have 8–10%,
with a total dietary ber of 65–80%. Dietary ber comprises a diverse group of com-
pounds: insoluble cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignins, and soluble gums and muci-
lages. These substances are exceedingly complex both chemically and morphologically
and are resistant to hydrolysis by digestive enzymes in the human gut. The physiologi-
cal roles of ber in the diet are (1) lling the diet without adding calories, (2) increas-
ing intestinal motility, (3) helping to reduce obesity, (4) preventing the absorption of
cholesterol, (5) reducing the postprandial rise in blood glucose, (6) preventing diver-
ticular diseases, and (7) softening of stools through absorption of water (preventing
hemorrhoids) and promoting the growth of bidobacteria in the gut.
A considerable body of evidence is available to show that dietary ber improves
glucose tolerance; soluble ber has been especially effective in retarding postprandial
71920_C003.indd 65 5/14/2010 3:00:48 PM
66 Functional Foods of the East
glucose uptake in the intestine, thus reducing the insulin requirement. Soluble ber
has also been shown to enhance insulin receptor binding and improve glycemic
response (i.e., increasing peripheral tissue insulin sensitivity). Ingestion of ber sup-
presses energy intake by inducing satiety (by virtue of their bulking and viscosity-
producing capabilities). Dietary ber that forms viscous dispersions when hydrated
affects every aspect of gastrointestinal function, gastric emptying, intestinal transit
time, and absorption of digested products of fat and carbohydrates. Increased fecal
bulk from dietary ber is mainly due to the insoluble ber fraction (cellulose, hemi-
cellulose, and lignins), increased fecal water, and an increase in bacterial mass caused
by soluble ber (gums, mucilages, and pectins) fermentation. Dietary ber has been
shown to protect against colon cancer. Carcinogenic substances, either ingested as
such or more likely produced by metabolic activation in the gut, are thought to induce
malignant changes in mucosal cells. The protective effect of dietary ber is thought
to be due to its ability to increase stool bulk (dilution of toxic substances), increased
transit duration (decreasing exposure duration), and altered fecal bacterial ora.
3.4.8 Tr a d i T i o n a l in d i a n Fo o d s a s pr o v i d e r s o F po l y p h e n o l s
Traditional Indian cuisines also provide liberal amounts of polyphenols due to the
extensive use of vegetables and fruits. Phenolic compounds are plant secondary
metabolites, with a large variety of chemical structure. Phenols occurring in nature
are of interest for many reasons, such as antioxidants, astringents, bitterness, brown-
ing reactions, color, and oxidation substrates, among others. They include simple
phenols, hydroxycinnamates, and avonoids. Phenols are responsible for the major-
ity of the oxygen-utilizing capacity in most plant-derived products. With the excep-
tion of carotenes, the antioxidants in foods are phenolic compounds. Among those
added to prevent oxidative rancidity in fats are the monophenols. Phenolic com-
pounds have a wide range of biological properties. Of particular note are their anti-
platelet aggregation property, anti-inammatory potential, and antioxidant,
antitumoral, and estrogenic activities, and hence they can potentially prevent coro-
nary heart disease and cancer. Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that include
avonols, avones, isoavones, and anthocyanins, which have been suggested to
play a dominant role in the prevention of cancer and heart diseases. Over 4000
avonoids have been identied, many of which occur in fruits, vegetables, and bever-
ages (tea, coffee, beer, wine, and fruit drinks). Epidemiological data indicate that
high fruit and vegetable consumption has health benets in the prevention of chronic
diseases, including cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. Phytic acid
present in legumes, oil seeds, and cereal bran is known to reduce blood glucose
response to starchy foods. It is also known to lower blood cholesterol.
Spices, which are used to enhance the avor of a dish, form a vital part of Indian
traditional food preparation. A correct blend of aromatic spices is crucial to every
Indian cuisine. The most commonly used spices in Indian cuisine are black pepper,
71920_C003.indd 66 5/14/2010 3:00:48 PM
Traditional Indian Functional Foods 67
chilli pepper, mustard seed, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek seed, ginger, coriander,
asafetida, curry leaves, and garlic (Figure 3.4). Popular spice mixes are garam
masala (which is usually a powder of ve or more dried spices, commonly com-
prised of cardamom, cinnamon, and clove) and sambar masala powder (a popular
spice mix in South India). The common use of curry leaves is typical of all Indian
cuisine. In sweet dishes, cardamom, nutmeg, and saffron are used. The essential
oils from spices and condiments enhance salivation and stimulate the digestion pro-
cess. The abundance and variety of Asian spices and other avorings creates a fresh
taste found in no other cuisine. Spices in Indian cuisines create hot, sweet, sour,
savory, and aromatic sensations all in one meal. Ginger, cumin, cassia, coriander,
star anise, chilli peppers, coriander leaf, spearmint, turmeric, clove, and garlic are
commonly used in Indian cooking. A few spices are pickled when fresh, such as
ginger, mango ginger, and chilli peppers. Seasonings are a must for avoring foods
in India. Spice ingredients such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, chilli, and fenugreek
seeds are known to contain functional constituents such as curcumin, capsaicin,
avonoids, and essential oils.
Besides contributing avor, color, and aroma to the diet, spices have also long
been recognized to possess physiological effects supposed to be benecial to human
health. They act as stimuli to the digestive system and relieve digestive disorders,
and some are of antiseptic value. Their attributes such as tonic, carminative, sto-
machic, diuretic, and antispasmodic, largely empirical nevertheless efcacious,
have earned them pharmacological applications in the indigenous systems of medi-
cine in India and other countries (Table 3.3). With a long history of the use of spices
and herbs dating back to 5000 years , and spices signicantly contributing to
human health by providing bioactives, they may be considered as one of the rst
FIGURE 3.4 Spices as components of masala powders (spice mixes).
71920_C003.indd 67 5/14/2010 3:00:49 PM
68 Functional Foods of the East
ever recorded functional foods. Spices may also act synergistically to enhance the
health-related properties of other food ingredients. Spices make foods palatable
without salt, and hence may assist in meeting the recommended reduced daily
intake of sodium. Similarly, they make foods palatable without fat, thus assisting in
meeting the guidelines for healthy fat intake levels. During the last three decades,
the benecial effects of spices have been experimentally documented, which sug-
gests that the use of these food adjuncts extends beyond taste and avor (Srinivasan,
2005a, 2005b). The emerging research literature suggests that specic spices may
confer unique health benets. Although human studies are limited, considerable
attention to this has been drawn because of the positive results from in vitro and in
vivo animal studies.
3.5.1 di G e s T i v e sT i m u l a n T aC T i o n
The digestive stimulant action of spices is probably the most common experience.
Several spices such as ginger, mint, ajowan, cumin, fennel, coriander, and garlic are
common remedies used in traditional medicines or ingredients of pharmacological
preparations to cure digestive disorders. The mechanism for the digestive stimulant
action of spices has recently been understood through extensive animal studies
(Platel and Srinivasan, 2004) (Figure 3.5). It has been shown that many commonly
consumed spices (curcumin, capsaicin, ginger, fenugreek, mustard, cumin, corian-
der, ajowan, tamarind, and onion) stimulate bile acid production by the liver and its
secretion into the bile (Sambaiah and Srinivasan, 1991; Platel and Srinivasan,
2000a). Bile acids play a major role in fat digestion and absorption. Several spices
have also been shown to stimulate the activity of digestive enzymes from the pan-
creas, particularly lipase, and the terminal digestive enzymes from the small intes-
tinal mucosa (Platel and Srinivasan, 1996, 2000b, 2001a). As a result of increased
digestive capability, the spice-fed animals showed a reduced food transit time (Platel
and Srinivasan, 2001b).
Medicinal Properties of Spice Ingredients Recognized for a Long Time
Spice Medicinal Properties
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) Anti-inammatory, diuretic, laxative, good for affections of
the liver, jaundice, diseases of blood
Red pepper (Capsicum annuum) Anti-inammatory, for pain relief (rheumatism/neuralgia);
useful in indigestion, rubefacient
Garlic (Allium sativum) Antidyspeptic, antiatulent, for ear infection, duodenal
ulcers, as rubefacient in skin diseases
Onion (Allium cepa) Diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, for bleeding piles
Fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum-graecum) Diuretic, emmenagogue, emollient, useful in heart diseases
Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) Antispasmodic, carminative, digestive stimulant
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) Antidyspeptic
71920_C003.indd 68 5/14/2010 3:00:49 PM
Traditional Indian Functional Foods 69
3.5.2 an T i d i a B e T i C po T e n T i a l
Diet has been recognized as a corner stone in the management of diabetes mellitus.
Among spices, the natural food adjuncts that have been evaluated in this context,
fenugreek seeds, garlic and onion, and their sulfur compounds, turmeric and its yel-
low principle, curcumin, have been found to be effective in improving the glycemic
status and glucose tolerance in diabetic animals and type 2 diabetic patients
(Srinivasan, 2005c). Animal studies and clinical trials on antidiabetic properties of
fenugreek and onion have been particularly extensive, while human studies are lim-
ited in the case of garlic and turmeric. Studies have unequivocally demonstrated the
antidiabetic potential of fenugreek in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The addition
of fenugreek seeds to the diets of diabetic patients or animals resulted in a fall in
blood glucose and improvement in glucose tolerance (Sharma, 1986a, 1986b; Sharma
et al., 1996; Srinivasan, 2005c). The hypoglycemic effect is attributed to the ber and
gum, which constitute as much as 52% of the seeds. The ber-rich fenugreek is
believed to delay gastric emptying by direct interference with glucose absorption.
Garlic and onion are two other spices that have been widely tested for their antidi-
abetic potential. Both these spices have been shown to be hypoglycemic in different
diabetic animal models and in limited human trials (Srinivasan, 2005c). The hypo-
glycemic potencies of garlic and onion are attributed to the disulde compounds
present in them, di(2-propenyl) disulde and 2-propenylpropyl disulde, respec-
tively, which cause direct or indirect stimulation of insulin secretion by the pancreas
(Kumudkumari et al., 1995; Augusti and Sheela, 1996). In addition, they may also
have insulin-sparing action by protecting against sulfhydryl inactivation by reacting
with endogenous thiol-containing molecules such as cysteine, glutathione, and serum
albumin. Nephropathy is a common complication in chronic diabetes.
Turmeric is another spice that is claimed to possess benecial hypoglycemic
effects and to improve glucose tolerance in a limited number of studies (Tank et al.,
1990). Nephropathy is a common complication in chronic diabetes. High blood cho-
lesterol is an added risk factor that determines the rate of decline of kidney function
Spices Food
++ Mouth
Pancreas StomachLiver
Pancreatic juiceBile juice
Small intestine
Large intestine
FIGURE 3.5 Digestive stimulant action of spice ingredients.
71920_C003.indd 69 5/14/2010 3:00:49 PM
70 Functional Foods of the East
in a diabetic situation. Dietary curcumin (of turmeric) and onion have been found to
have a promising ameliorating inuence on the severity of renal lesions in streptozo-
tocin diabetic rats (Babu and Srinivasan, 1998, 1999). The hypocholesterolemic
effect of these spices as well as their ability to lower lipid peroxidation under diabetic
conditions is implicated in the amelioration of renal lesions. Capsaicin, the pungent
principle of red pepper, has been shown to be useful in diabetic neuropathy (The
Capsaicin Study Group, 1992).
3.5.3 Ca r d i o p r o T e C T i v e eF F e C T
Specic spices exert cardioprotective inuence through one or more of the following
attributes: (1) hypolipidemic inuence, (2) antithrombotic properties, (3) suppression
of LDL oxidation, and (4) thermogenic inuence (Srinivasan, 2008). Hypolipidemic Influence
The importance of high blood cholesterol levels in relation to atherosclerosis and
coronary heart disease is well known. Several spices consumed in India have been
evaluated for their possible cholesterol-lowering effect in a variety of experimental
situations with both animals and humans (Srinivasan et al., 2004). Garlic, onion,
fenugreek, turmeric, and red pepper are found to be effective as hypocholesterolemic
agents under various conditions of experimentally induced hypercholesterolemia or
hyperlipidemia. Garlic, fenugreek, and onion are effective in humans with hyperlipi-
demic condition.
The consumption of garlic or garlic oil has been associated with a reduction in
total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triacylglycerol levels.
There have been more than 25 clinical research publications concerning garlic and
its preparations (Kleijnen et al., 1989). With the introduction of dehydrated garlic
powder containing a standardized level of the parent sulfur compound alliin, effec-
tive clinical work could be undertaken with a relatively low and acceptable daily
dosage of 300–900 mg (equivalent to 1 clove of garlic). Many clinical studies have
indicated that consuming one clove of garlic (or equivalent) daily will have a
cholesterol-lowering effect of up to 10% (Warshafsky et al., 1993; Gore and Dalen,
1994). This is consistent with a recent trial involving 780 patients taking 600–900 mg
standardized garlic extract per day as a supplement that evidenced a modest
0.41 mmol/L decrease in serum cholesterol (Stevinson et al., 2000). Dietary supple-
mentation with aged garlic extract showed better benecial effects than fresh garlic
on the lipid prole and blood pressure of moderately hypercholesterolemic subjects
(Steiner et al., 1996). While garlic supplementation signicantly decreased both total
and LDL-cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic subjects, coadministration of garlic
with sh oil had a more benecial effect on serum lipid and lipoprotein concentra-
tions by providing a combined lowering of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and
triacylglycerol concentration as well as on the ratios of total cholesterol to HDL-
cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol (Adler and Holub, 1997).
Fenugreek seeds were hypocholesterolemic in rats with hyperlipidemia induced by
either high fat (Singhal et al., 1982) or a high cholesterol diet (Sharma, 1984, 1986).
Defatted fenugreek seed was effective in treating diabetic hypercholesterolemia in
71920_C003.indd 70 5/14/2010 3:00:49 PM
Traditional Indian Functional Foods 71
dogs (Valette et al., 1984) and in humans (Sharma, 1986a, 1986b). The hypolipidemic
effectiveness of turmeric and curcumin (Srimal, 1997), red pepper, and capsaicin
(Suzuki and Iwai, 1984; Govindarajan and Satyanarayana, 1991; Surh and Lee, 1995)
and of onion and garlic (Fenwick and Hanley, 1985; Carson, 1987; Jain and Apitz-
Castro, 1994) has been periodically reviewed in recent years by different authors. The
spice compounds curcumin and capsaicin have been associated with a reduction in
LDL-cholesterol and an increase in HDL-cholesterol levels, but these results have
been limited to animal studies. Antithrombotic Properties
Besides the benecial effect on serum lipid proles (lowering of LDL-cholesterol
and triglyceride levels), the antiplatelet aggregation and antiplatelet adhesion proper-
ties of several spices also contribute to cardiovascular protection. The spices or spice
compounds thus far documented that have inhibitory effects on platelet aggregation
are garlic, onion, curcumin, cuminaldehyde, eugenol, and zingerone. Garlic in par-
ticular exhibits antithrombotic and hypotensive properties, both of which also con-
tribute to cardiovascular protection in addition to their hypolipidemic properties.
Aged garlic extract (7.2 g) has been associated with anticlotting as well as modest
reductions in blood pressure (an approximately 5.5% decrease in systolic blood pres-
sure) (National Centre of Excellence, 2006). According to Lin (1994), the antiplatelet
aggregation, antiplatelet adhesion, and antiproliferation properties of aged garlic
extracts appear to contribute more to cardiovascular protection than the hypolipi-
demic properties. Suppression of LDL Oxidation
The antioxidant properties of spices are of particular interest in view of the impact
of oxidative modication of low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol in the develop-
ment of atherosclerosis. In recent years, a substantial body of evidence has indicated
that free radicals contribute to cardiovascular disease. Oxidative modication of
LDL is hypothesized to play a key role during the development of atherosclerosis.
Since spices have high antioxidant concentrations that have the potential to inhibit
the oxidation of LDL, the use of antioxidant spices is a promising proposition. Thermogenic Influence
Obesity-related insulin resistance has emerged as a potent risk factor for cardio-
vascular disease. Dietary factors that affect satiety and thermogenesis could play an
important role in determining the prevalence and severity of this problem. Among
spices that may have a role to play in this regard, red pepper (or its pungent principle
capsaicin) (Kawada et al., 1986) and garlic are promising, although more data are
required to substantiate the benets. The use of spices to displace fats and salt in the
diet may reduce cardiovascular risk.
3.5.4 an T i l i T h o G e n i C eF F e C T
A persistent lithogenic diet leads to cholesterol saturation in the bile, resulting in the
formation of cholesterol crystals, that is, gallstones, in the gall bladder. The inhibitory
71920_C003.indd 71 5/14/2010 3:00:49 PM
72 Functional Foods of the East
effect of a curcuma m ixture (Temoe Lawak Singer) on lithogenesis in rabbits has been
reported (Beynen et al., 1987). Studies on the experimental induction of cholesterol
gallstones in mice and hamsters by feeding a lithogenic diet have revealed that the
incidence of gallstones is 40–50% lower when the animals are maintained on 0.5%
curcumin or 0.015% capsaicin-containing diets (Hussain and Chandrasekhara, 1992,
1993). Animal studies have also revealed signicant regression of preformed choles-
terol gallstones by these spice principles in a 10-week feeding trial (Hussain and
Chandrasekhara, 1994a). The antilithogenic potential of other known hypocholester-
olemic spices (garlic, onion, and fenugreek seeds) has also been recently demonstrated
in animal studies (Reddy and Srinivasan, 2009a, 2009b; Vidyashankar et al., 2009a,
2009b). The antilithogenicity of these spices is considered to be due to the lowering of
cholesterol concentration and the enhancing of bile acid concentration, both of which
contribute to lowering of the cholesterol saturation index and hence its crystallization.
In addition to their ability to lower the cholesterol saturation index, the antilitho-
genecity of these spice principles may also be due to their inuence on biliary proteins
(Hussain and Chandrasekhara, 1994b).
3.5.5 an T i -in F l a m m a T o r y pr o p e r T i e s
Turmeric happens to be the earliest anti-inammatory drug known in the indigenous
system of medicine in India. Turmeric extract, curcuminoids, and volatile oil of
turmeric have been found to be effective as anti-inammatories in several studies
involving mice, rats, rabbits, and pigeons. The efcacy of curcuminoids was also
established in carrageenan-induced foot paw edema in mice and rats, and in cotton
pellet granuloma pouch tests in rats (Srimal, 1997). Curcumin was considered to be
advantageous over aspirin because it selectively inhibits the synthesis of the anti-
inammatory prostaglandin TxA2 without affecting the synthesis of the prostacyclin
(PgI2), which is an important factor preventing vascular thrombosis (Srivastava,
1986). Both in vitro and in vivo animal studies have documented the anti- inammatory
potential of the spice principles curcumin (of turmeric), capsaicin (of red pepper),
and eugenol (of clove). Animal studies have revealed that curcumin and capsaicin
also lower the incidence and severity of arthritis and delay the onset of adjuvant-
induced arthritis. These spice principles also inhibited the formation of arachidonate
metabolites (PgE2, leukotrienes).
The anti-inammatory effects of curcumin (400 mg) in patients undergoing sur-
gery for hernia or hydrocele were found to be comparable to those of phenylbutazone
(100 mg) (Satoskar et al., 1986). In rheumatoid arthritis patients, administration of
curcumin (1.2 g/day) produced a signicant improvement similar to phenylbutazone
(Deodhar et al., 1980). Recently, capsaicin has received considerable attention as a
pain reliever. In two trials with 70 and 21 patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid
arthritis, topical application of creams containing 0.025% or 0.075% capsaicin was
an effective and safe alternative to analgesics employed in systemic medications,
which are often associated with potential side effects (Deal, 1991; McCarthy and
McCarthy, 1991). Capsaicin has been suggested for the initial management of neu-
ralgia consequent to herpes infections (Bernstein, 1989). There is also evidence for
the benet of ginger in ameliorating arthritic knee pain, although the effectiveness is
71920_C003.indd 72 5/14/2010 3:00:49 PM
Traditional Indian Functional Foods 73
lesser than that of ibuprofen. Ginger doses of 0.5–1.0 g per day have been found to
be efcacious in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Experimental studies have
shown that ginger constituents inhibit arachidonic acid metabolism, which is involved
in the inammation process (a key pathway in inammation).
Natural anti-inammatory compounds of spices (curcumin, capsaicin, gingerol)
appear to operate by inhibiting one or more of the steps linking proinammatory
stimuli with cyclooxygenase activation, such as the blocking by curcumin of NFκB
translocation into the nucleus. It has recently been shown that the natural anti-
inammatory compounds such as curcumin were as effective as indomethacin
(a nonsteroidal anti-inammatory drug) in inhibiting aberrant crypt foci in the rat.
3.5.6 an T i m u T a G e n i C i T y a n d an T i C a n C e r eF F e C T s
Considerable attention has currently been paid to identifying naturally occurring
chemopreventive substances capable of inhibiting, retarding, or reversing multi-
stage carcinogenesis. A wide array of phenolic substances, some of those present in
spices, have been reported to possess substantial anticarcinogenic activities (Milner,
1994; Coney et al., 1997; Guhr and LaChance, 1997). The majority of these natu-
rally occurring phenolics possess antioxidative and anti-inammatory properties,
which appear to contribute to their chemopreventive or chemoprotective activity
(Surh, 2002).
There are a number of in vitro and in vivo studies on rodents suggesting that
spices may have a chemopreventive effect against the early initiating stages of can-
cer. Spices may act through several mechanisms to provide protection against cancer
(Figure 3.6). Certain phytochemicals from spices have been shown to inhibit one or
Free radical
Induction of
phase-II enzymes
Suppression of
lipid peroxidation
Inhibition of
phase-I enzymes
Downregulation of anti-
apoptotic gene products
Activation of
Induction of
tumor suppressor genes
Anti-inflammatory activity Inhibition of reactive oxygen
generating enzymes
FIGURE 3.6 Mechanism of the anti-initiation, antipromotion, antiprogression, and anti-
metastasis potential of cancer-preventive spice ingredients.
71920_C003.indd 73 5/14/2010 3:00:50 PM
74 Functional Foods of the East
more of the stages of the cancer process (initiation, promotion, growth, and
metastasis). Inhibition of phase I metabolic enzymes (involved in procarcinogen
activation) and induction of phase II metabolic enzymes (involved in carcinogen
deactivation) may account for the chemopreventive effects of spices. Spices may also
protect against oxidative stress and inammation, both of which are risk factors for
cancer initiation and promotion (as well as other pathological conditions). Spices
contain several natural lipid-soluble antioxidant biomolecules that may protect
against the generation of genotoxic lipid peroxidation products.
Spices that have antioxidant properties can function as antimutagens. Since muta-
genesis has a direct bearing on cancer initiation, antimutagenic spices can probably
be anticarcinogenic. Turmeric or its bioactive compound curcumin, and garlic or its
sulfur compounds have been shown to be antimutagenic in several experimental
systems. Turmeric and curcumin were effective against benzo(α)pyrene and dime-
thyl benzanthracene in the Ames test (Nagabushan and Bhide, 1986). In vivo studies
on experimental animals suggest that turmeric and curcumin inhibit the formation of
mutagens. Mice and rats maintained on turmeric or curcumin-containing diet
excreted lower levels of mutagenic metabolites as well as of carcinogens than the
controls (Usha, 1994; Polasa et al., 1991). Turmeric and curcumin also inhibited the
mutagenicity of cigarette and beedi smoke condensates as well as that of a tobacco-
based dentifrice (Nagabushan et al., 1987). Further, curcumin was found to inhibit
nitrosation of methylurea in vitro (Nagabushan et al., 1988). Studies on smokers
revealed that administration of curcumin (1.5 g/day) for 30 days resulted in a signi-
cant reduction in the urinary excretion of mutagens (Polasa et al., 1992). Turmeric
protected DNA against lipid peroxide-induced damage and against fuel smoke
condensate-induced damage (Shalini and Srinivas, 1990). Eugenol (the avour
constituent of cloves) and mustard seeds (that contain dithiolthione) also produced
antimutagenic effects by protecting the cells from damage to their DNA (NIN
Annual Report, 1993–94). Dithiolthiones have been documented to have protective
effects against liver toxicity induced by some chemicals and fungal aatoxin (Ansher
et al., 1986).
Spices (or their extracts and constituents) with known anticarcinogenic effects in
animal models of cancer include turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Turmeric has been
found to have chemopreventive effects against cancers of the skin, forestomach,
liver, and colon, and oral cancer in mice. The anticancer potential of curcumin as
evidenced by both preclinical and clinical studies has been exhaustively reviewed
(Aggarwal et al., 2003). Animal studies involving experimental induction of tumors
in specic tissues with potent carcinogens (such as benz(α)pyrene, 7,12-dimethyl-
benzanthracene, 3-methylcholanthrene, 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate, and
1,2-dimethylhydrazine) have revealed signicant reductions in the incidence of
tumors by curcumin treatment. Several studies indicate that curcumin can suppress
both tumor initiation and tumor promotion. Some of these studies, especially studies
of skin tumorigenesis, have also employed topical application of curcumin (Aggarwal
et al., 2003). It has been shown that the inhibition of arachidonic acid metabolism,
modulation of cellular signal transduction pathways, and inhibition of hormones,
growth factor, and oncogene activity are some of the mechanisms by which cur-
cumin causes tumor suppression (Gescher et al., 1998). Chemopreventive activity of
71920_C003.indd 74 5/14/2010 3:00:50 PM
Traditional Indian Functional Foods 75
curcumin is observed when administered prior to, during, and after carcinogen
treatment as well as when it is given only during the promotion or progression phase
of colon carcinogenesis in rats (Kawamori et al., 1999). Curcumin is a powerful
inhibitor of the proliferation of several tumor cells (Chuang et al., 2000a, 2000b;
Dorai et al., 2001). With much evidence suggesting that curcumin can suppress tumor
initiation, promotion, and metastasis, and with proven safety of its consumption (up
to 10 g/day), curcumin offers enormous potential in the prevention and therapy of
cancer (Aggarwal et al., 2003).
The cancer-preventive ability of garlic has been indicated by etiological studies
wherein higher intakes of Allium products are associated with reduced risks of sev-
eral types of cancer, especially stomach and colorectal (Fleischauer and Arab, 2001).
Garlic is effective in the detoxication of carcinogens through its effects on phase I
and phase II enzymes. The diallyl disulde of garlic is an efcient inhibitor of the
phase I enzyme cytochrome P-450 and signicantly enhances a variety of phase II
enzymes, including glutathione-S-transferase, quinone reductase, and UDP-
glucuronyl transferase, which are responsible for the detoxication of carcinogens.
Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the cancer-preventive effects of
garlic and its organosulfur compounds, as has been recently reviewed (Sengupta
et al., 2004). These include inhibition of mutagenesis, modulation of enzyme activi-
ties thus suppressing bioactivation of carcinogen molecules, inhibition of carcino-
gen–DNA adduct formation, free radical scavenging, inhibitory effects on cell
proliferation and tumor growth, and induction of apoptosis.
Pungent vanilloids, especially [6]-gingerol present in ginger (Zingiber ofcinale),
have been found to possess potential chemopreventive activities. Prior topical appli-
cations of [6]-gingerol signicantly suppressed the tumor promoter (phorbol ester)-
stimulated skin inammation initiated by 7,12-dimethylbenz [α] anthracene in mice
(Surh et al., 1999). Reactive nitrogen species (RNS) such as nitric oxide (NO) have
been proposed as being able to inuence signal transduction and cause DNA dam-
age, contributing to the carcinogenic processes. The pungent phenolic compound
[6]-gingerol present in ginger has been shown to be a potent inhibitor of NO synthe-
sis and also an effective protector against peroxynitrite-mediated damage in mac-
rophages (Ippoushi et al., 2003). Dietary ginger constituents, galanals A and B, are
potent apoptosis inducers in human T lymphoma cells (Miyoshi et al., 2003).
Myristicin, a major volatile constituent of parsley, has been shown to strongly induce
GSH-transferase in the liver and small intestinal mucosa of mice. This compound
has been shown to lead to a 65% inhibition of tumor multiplicity in a rodent lung
cancer model (Zheng et al., 1992a, 1992b).
3.5.7 an T i o x i d a n T aCT i v i T y
The generation of reactive oxygen species and other free radicals during metabolism
is a normal process that is ideally compensated for by an elaborate endogenous anti-
oxidant defense system. Excessive free radical generation overbalancing the rate of
their removal leads to oxidative stress. Oxidative damage has been implicated in the
etiology of disease processes such as cardiovascular disease, inammatory disease,
cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and other degenerative diseases. Antioxidants are
71920_C003.indd 75 5/14/2010 3:00:50 PM
76 Functional Foods of the East
compounds that hinder the oxidative processes and thereby delay or suppress oxida-
tive stress. There is a growing interest in the natural antioxidants found in herbs and
spices. The bioactive compounds present in spices that possess potent antiatherogenic,
anti-inammatory, antimutagenic, and cancer-preventive activities are in fact antioxi-
dants that have been experimentally shown to control cellular oxidative stress and
thereby exert a benecial role in preventing oxidative stress-mediated diseases.
Most of the health effects of spices on cancer, cardiovascular disease, inamma-
tory disease, and neurodegenerative disease may be mediated through their potent
antioxidant effects. The antioxidant properties of spices are of particular interest in
view of the impact of oxidative modications of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
in the development of atherosclerosis. Suppression of oxidative stress and inamma-
tion by spices is important in their cancer-preventive role, since both oxidative stress
and inammation are risk factors for cancer initiation and promotion (as well as
other pathological conditions). Spices contain several natural antioxidant biomole-
cules: either water-soluble that can scavenge reactive oxygen species or lipid-soluble
that may protect against the generation of genotoxic lipid peroxidation peroxides.
The antioxidative effects of curcumin, eugenol, capsaicin, piperine, gingerol,
garlic, onion, and fenugreek have been experimentally evidenced (Srinivasan, 2009).
The studies on this effect are exhaustive and experimental evidences are many in the
case of curcumin of turmeric and eugenol of clove. Studies with several in vitro sys-
tems as well as in vivo animal studies have shown that the spice principles curcumin,
eugenol, and capsaicin have benecial antioxidant properties by quenching oxygen
free radicals, by inhibiting the production of reactive oxygen radicals, and by enhanc-
ing antioxidant enzyme activities.
The antioxidant activities of spice compounds in mammalian systems involve one
or more of the following: (1) free radical scavenging, (2) suppressing lipid peroxida-
tion, (3) enhancing antioxidant molecules in tissues, (4) stimulating the activities of
endogenous antioxidant enzymes, (5) inhibiting the activity of inducible nitric oxide
synthase, (6) inhibiting LDL oxidation, and (6) inhibiting enzymes of arachidonate
metabolism—5-lipoxygenase and 2-cyclooxygenase. By virtue of its antioxidant
activity, curcumin has been documented to be anti-inammatory, antimutagenic and
cancer preventive, antiatherogenic and cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, neuropro-
tective, anticataractogenic, and an effective wound healant (Figure 3.7).
Thus, the multiple health benecial attributes of these common food adjuncts
include digestive stimulant action, cardioprotective potential, antilithogenic pro-
perties, protective effect on erythrocyte integrity, antidiabetic inuence, anti-
inammatory properties, and cancer-preventive potential (Figure 3.8). The antioxidant
and hypolipidemic properties of spices have far-reaching nutraceutical values. The
antioxidant properties of the bioactive compounds present in spices are of particular
interest in view of the impact of suppression of oxidative stress in the development of
degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease,
inammatory disease, and cancer. In addition, by making the food attractive and
palatable through avor, aroma, and color, spices can reduce the need to use other
less healthy ingredients such as salt, fat, or sugar. Spices thus deserve to be consid-
ered as a natural and necessary component of our daily nutrition, beyond their role
in imparting taste and avor to our food. It is presumed that the additive and
71920_C003.indd 76 5/14/2010 3:00:50 PM
Traditional Indian Functional Foods 77
synergistic effects of the complex mixture of phytochemicals present in vegetables,
fruits, herbs, and spices are largely responsible for the health effects offered by those
traditional Indian diets that are generally associated with lower incidence rates of
some of the chronic diseases of aging, including cardiovascular disease and certain
forms of cancer. The liberal consumption of spices is proved to be safe to derive their
benecial effects. Since each of the spices possesses more than one health benecial
property and there is also a possibility of synergy among them in their action when
consumed in combination, a spiced diet is likely to make life not only more “spicy”
but also more healthy.
There is an abundance of scientic evidence which indicates that certain naturally
occurring nonnutritive and some nutritive substances of spices, whole grain cereals
and legumes, vegetables, fruits, sprouted grains, fermented grain products, and
fermented milk products may prevent or reduce the risk of some chronic diseases
Antioxidant activity
of curcumin of turmeric
and cardioprotective
Protection to nicotine-
induced lung toxicity
Ameliorates oxidative
stress in diabetes Renal protective
Anti-inflammatory Effective wound healant
Antimutagenic and
cancer preventive
Protection to radiation-
induced toxicity
Anticataractogenic Hepatoprotective
FIGURE 3.7 Health implications of the antioxidant property of spice ingredients.
71920_C003.indd 77 5/14/2010 3:00:50 PM
78 Functional Foods of the East
(many spices)
(turmeric, asafetida,
(fenugreek, garlic,
onion, turmeric)
(turmeric, garlic, onion,
chilli, fenugreek)
(garlic, onion, fenu-
greek, turmeric, chilli)
(turmeric, garlic, ginger)
(turmeric, chilli, garlic)
(turmeric, clove,
garlic, onion, chilli)
FIGURE 3.8 Summary of the multiple health effects of spices that are widely used in Indian
traditional foods.
Abundant dietary fiber in
whole grains (cereals and
legumes), vegetables, fruits,
and specific spices
Polyphenols and other phyto-
chemicals in whole grains,
vegetables, and fruits
Spices and their
compounds in curries, soups,
pickles, and chutneys
Functional ingredients of
Indian traditional foods
Food acidulants—kokum,
amla, amchur, tamarind
Oil seeds such as sesame
and mustard
Fermented milk products
as probiotics
FIGURE 3.9 Functional ingredients of Indian traditional foods.
71920_C003.indd 78 5/14/2010 3:00:50 PM
Traditional Indian Functional Foods 79
such as various cancers and cardiovascular disease. The health benets of Indian
heritage foods containing liberal quantities of these components may range from
ensuring normal physiological functions in the body such as improving gastrointes-
tinal health, enhancing the immune system, weight management, providing better
skeletal health, and so on, to reduction of blood cholesterol, reduction of oxidative
stress, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, inammatory diseases, and vari-
ous types of cancers, and possible prevention of diabetes, neurodegenerative dis-
eases, and so on. A perfect combination of protein from legumes, carbohydrates
from rice, fat both visible and invisible from curry and fried savory items, vitamins
and minerals from sprouted grains, and vitamins from curds and vegetables is
obtained through typical Indian traditional meals (Figure 3.9).
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... Hence, traditional functional foods help to prevent chronic disease, thus improving the quality of life. The health benefits provide thus ensuring normal physiological functions in the body like improving gastrointestinal health, improving the immune system, improving weight management, improving skeletal health, reducing blood cholesterol, reducing oxidative stress, minimizing the risk of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and also preventing diabetes (Srinivasan, 2017). ...
... When considering the ginger is a common remedy for cough and cold. It is a powerful immunity booster that works against microorganisms it keep strong during the flu season (Srinivasan, 2017). cinnamon is rich with polyphenols and proanthocyanidins that give a boost to the immune system and it has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties that help reduce the chances of respiratory diseases and seasonal infections as well as other spices. ...
... The bioactive compounds and antioxidant properties present in spices have antiatherogenic, anti-inflammatory and cancer preventive activities that have been demonstrated experimentally to regulate cellular oxidative stress and thus play a beneficial role in the prevention of oxidative stress mediated diseases. The antioxidative properties of curcumin, capsaicin, piperine, gingerol, eugenol, garlic, tamarind, garcinia and fenugreek have been recognized (Srinivasan, 2017). ...
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Food is the principal human source of energy and nutrition. Traditional foods are functional in that it contains high amounts of dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, oligosaccharides, lignin, essential fatty acids, flavonoid, and miscellaneous phytochemicals, which exhibit a synergistic effect on health. Mirishodi is a Sri Lankan traditional spice soup traditionally prepared using herbs and spices such as coriander (Coriandrum sativum), garlic (Allium sativum), garcinia (Garcinia Cambogia), tamarind (Tamarindus indica), black pepper (Piper nigrum), curry leaves (Murraya koenigii), moringa (Moringa oleifera), cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), ginger (Zingiber officinale), cumin (Cuminum cyminum), fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) that medicinally claimed for various ailments. Therefore the functional ingredients in mirishody play a key role in digestive function and use as medicines to prevent and treat disease, especially relating to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, some cancers, circulatory diseases, immune system, cholesterol, oxidative stress, inflammatory diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases. This review is an attempt to compile the literatures on mirishodi, its ingredients, and to highlight its medicinal potential that has been underestimated.
... Indeed, nearly 40% of respondents reported increased knowledge and usage of both. The most commonly known and used herbs and spices used in cooking by Southern California Indian womenasafetida, black pepper, chili, cilantro, cilantro, cloves, coriander, cumin seed, curry leaves, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, and turmeric-are identical to the most commonly used herbs and spices in India (Srinivasan, 2010). At least in terms of usage of core herbs and spices, migration to southern California appears not to have led to significant culinary abandonment. ...
... Identifying the factors that are involved in the intergenerational passage of knowledge pertaining to Indian cuisine improves our understanding of cultural traditions, cultural erosion, and cultural identity. But the transfer of the culinary torch from one generation to the next means much more than the passing of culture and cultural identity, especially because of the abundant medicinal health benefits of a majority of the spices and herbs used in Indian cooking (Dhandapani et al., 2002;Hemphill and Cobiac, 2006;Muthu et al., 2006;Srinivasan, 2010;Srivastava and Vankar, 2012;Kessler et al., 2013;Murugan et al., 2013;Malav et al., 2015;Siruguri and Bhat, 2015), as well as the linguistic connection created through the transfer of traditional food knowledge and practice. For many of the women in this study, intergenerational cuisine continuity ensured the health of generations to come. ...
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Southern California has witnessed a burgeoning Indian immigrant population in recent decades. And among the cultural features that most distinguishes Indians is their cuisine. Their use of herbs and spices in food and medicine, in particular, is tightly bound to language, religion, gender, and overall cultural identity. Identifying how Indian immigrants' culinary choices adapt to southern California's varied and often fast-food based gastronomy, particularly impacts on the inter-generational transmission of traditional culinary knowledge, is important in terms of understanding the role of cultural retention and assimilation, as well as culturally-defined notions of food in physical and psychological well-being. We explored these questions by means of interviews with 31 Indian immigrant women in southern California. Participants were selected by means of snowball sampling. Our working hypothesis was that problems with sourcing and cultural assimilation pressures would have eroded the use of traditional herbs and spices. A total of 66 herbs and spices (and associated seasonings) were reported. Of these, the highest frequency of use was recorded for turmeric (100% of respondents) followed by cilantro, cinnamon, clove, cumin, curry leaves, and ginger (all 97%). The highest Species Medicinal Use Values were recorded, in descending order, for turmeric, ginger, fenugreek seeds, clove, cinnamon, curry leaves, and Tulsi. Contrary to expectations, there was no significant association between years resident in the United States and decreasing use of herbs and spices. Indeed, in some cases the confluence of northern and southern Indian immigrant women with a new identity simply as “Indian” resulted in an increase in the knowledge and use of herbs and spices. Spices are nearly all locally sourced, and where specific herbs are not readily accessible, they are cultivated in homegardens or brought directly from India. Many Indian immigrants are relatively prosperous and able to travel frequently to and from India, thus maintaining close cultural ties with their homeland. Indian immigrant women are fully aware of the health benefits associated with the use of traditional herbs and spices, and all participants reported that Indian food is a healthier choice than American cuisine. Knowledge is passed via vertical transmission, primarily through mothers and grandmothers to daughters. Overall, there is little concern among female Indian immigrants to southern California that knowledge and use of their traditional herbs and spices are in a state of decline.
... Earlier studies have been reported that the hypocholesterolemic, anti-cancer, dyspepsia, and diarrhea treatment, improve the properties of thiamine synthesis, drug detoxification on yogurt consumption (Agarwal & Bhasin, 2002;Hashim et al., 2009). Yogurt intake also improves appetite, intestinal health, and digestion in lactose-intolerant people (Srinivasan, 2010). This research was intended to assess the hypercholesterolemic impact of designer yogurts double fortified with dietary fibers and omega fatty acids by the addition of extruded flaxseed powder in hypercholesterolemic subjects. ...
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A cohort study of 90 days was designed to explore the hypercholesterolemic associated blood pressure with intake of extruded flaxseed powder (EFSP) fortified yogurts. The hypercholesterolemic subjects were distributed into two groups (1 and 2), then blood samples and blood pressure were taken. Descriptive statistics were used for comparison between groups. A significant increase in serum total cholesterol (TC) (6.330.48 to 6.510.04 mmol/dL) and low-density lipids-cholesterol (LDL-C) (5.170.28 to 5.370.47 mmol/dL) was observed in participants consuming plain milk yogurts for 30 days. A significant decrease in TC (6.470.95 to 6.28 ± 0.84) and LDL-C (5.350.29 to 5.130.44 mmol/dL) was observed in the group consuming EFSP fortified sheep milk yogurt. Similarly, a significant decrease in serum TC (6.381.01 to 6.200.98 mmol/dL), and LDL-C (5.301.16 to 4.980.99 mmol/dL) was noticed in the group consuming EFSP fortified cow milk yogurt. The intake of fortified yogurts reduced significantly serum cholesterol associated with blood pressure in both groups.
... Fermented milk products are probiotics and have a positive effect against gastroenteritis, cholesterol and triacylglycerols, colon cancer, and pathogens. For example, yogurt improves lactose intolerance, enhances appetite and vitality, reduces cholesterol, and stimulates the immune system (Srinivasan, 2010). Numerous volatile compounds have been identified in yogurt, namely carbonyl compounds, alcohols, hydrocarbons, acids, esters, sulfur-containing compounds, aromatic compounds, and heterocyclic compounds, among others (Cheng, 2010). ...
Traditional foods are made from traditional raw materials using traditional processing techniques and have a long history of supporting good health. Traditional foods are simply prepared from fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, milk, eggs, nuts, legumes, and seeds. Moreover, traditional foods are indigenous in nature, unique from other similar foods from the same groups, and not usually processed or packaged as modern products. According to the European Commission (EU, 2006), “traditional” related to foods: “Traditional means proven usage in the community market for a time period showing transmission between generations; this time period should be the one generally ascribed as one human generation, at least 25 years”. Furthermore, Italian Ministry of Agriculture defines the traditional foods as “Agrifood products whose methods of processing, storage and ripening are consolidated with time according to uniform and constant local use” (Ministero Agricoltura, 1999). Therefore, traditional foods are the part of a set of traditions, which are generally free from chemicals, additives, and artificial preservatives compared to modern foods.
... Spices are reported to prevent or delay neurodegeneration [27,28] . Different species of Cinnamomum are widely used as spice and condiment. ...
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The genus Cinnamomum (family Lauraceae) is revered for the pleasant essential oils isolated from various species. Cinnamomum species are extensively employed all around the world not only as a spice but also in traditional and modern systems of medicine. These possess wide range of activities that included neuroprotective properties. Neurodegenerative disorders cause immense mortality and morbidity. Hence search for newer therapeutic targets for the management of such disorders has made herbals an important area for research. The present paper integrates and critically examines the scientific evidence on the role of Cinnamomumspeciesinneuroprotectionininvitroandinvivomodelsofdifferentneurodegenerativedisorders. Literature was reviewed extensively by searching databases such as Google Scholar, ScienceDirect, PubMed, and Scopus to compile scientific data from 2003 to 2015, on the role of different species of Cinnamomum in various neurodegenerative disorders. Plants/phytoconstituents have demonstrated effects crucial for the management of neurodegenerative disorders. Various extracts, volatile oil and phytoconstituents isolated from Cinnamomum species diminished selective pathological and histological hallmarks in different neurodegenerative disorders such as inhibition of oxidative stress, neuroinflammatory mediators, and ischemic injury. This review summarized different research studies with Cinnamomum species to throw light on the promise held by these species as well as prospects for new drug development to manage neuronal damage. This genus appears to be a valuable source for developing new neuroprotective agents.
Technical Report
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As the value of global markets for functional food products grows (with expected revenue of around $275 billion by 2025), there is a significant opportunity to include functional food traits in GLDC crops. Already considered as the basis of diets in South Asia (SA) and Sub-Sharan Africa (SSA), functional GLDC crops could represent a critical opportunity for poverty reduction and enhanced nutrition and health in these countries. However, the pathways to these outcomes are complex and uncertain. After providing an overview of the definitions of FFs and surrounding legal issues (chapter 1), highlighting their potential in global markets (chapter 2) and for tackling the SDGs (chapter 3), this report analyses three possible pathways: i) Pathway 1. Crops already produced and consumed by the poor - a no-regrets strategy. ii) Pathway 2. Create new domestic market opportunity. iii) Pathway 3. Miracle crops for international markets. Three cases are discussed -Orange Flesh Sweet Potato, amaranth in East Africa, and quinoa in the Andes - are presented as concrete lessons to draw implications and recommendations on whether GLDC should invest in breeding novel functional food traits in mandate crops.
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This qualitative exploratory study focuses on understanding meat-eating practices in urban Australia and urban India, with a view towards encouraging a reduced-meat diet in both countries.
Indian traditional foods emphasize not only on providing the energy needs of the body but also aim to improve the overall health and prevent diseases in the Indian population. Indian traditional diets which are predominantly vegetarian majorly comprise of whole grains, pulses, nuts, vegetables, fruits, spices, herbs, dairy products, and fermented foods which themselves can be considered as ‘functional’ being high in a variety of phytochemicals with nutraceutical potential. India, being a diverse country with various cultures, languages, climates, religion, and communities, exemplifies great variety in cuisines and their preparation methods. Along with their intrinsic nutritive nature, the traditional foods also enrich the diet with different bioactive compounds. Many factors have resulted in transition in the dietary habits of the Indian population especially in metropolitan cities going away from traditional dietary practices with direct impact on the health of the people. Therefore, a revival in the eating of traditional diets based on appreciation of their health beneficial properties backed by scientific studies is necessary. Indian tradition also considers foods with functional ingredients to be consumed during various stages of life depending on the physiological needs. The major classes of bioactives/phytochemicals present in the Indian traditional foods along with their health benefits have been included and examples of traditional Indian foods with potential as functional foods have been specified. This awareness of traditional wisdom behind healthful properties of traditional foods has opened up many new avenues for scientific investigations which can lead to validation and proper documentation of the claims made.
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Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum‐graecum) is a unique legume crop having many pharmacological properties and health benefits attributed to its high soluble dietary fiber and phytochemicals. The main objective of this study was to evaluate selected functional and physical (color and pasting) properties of debittered fenugreek flour (DFF) and its addition on the nutritional value and acceptance of wheat flour rusk, prepared with 5%, 10%, 15%, and 20% DFF. The antioxidant potential and sensory attributes of DFF‐added rusks were also analyzed. The results revealed that with successive increase of DFF level, the nutritional, mineral, dietary fiber, and bioactive contents of the rusks were significantly (p ≤ .05) enhanced. The progressive replacement at 0% to 20% level significantly (p ≤ .05) improved the total phenolic content (157.5 to 455.8 mg GAE per 100 g), total flavonoid content (5.5 to 8.2 mg CE per 100 g), and antioxidant activity (20.4% to 45.5%). DFF incorporation significantly (p ≤ .05) increased the water and oil absorption capacity, whereas peak viscosity, breakdown viscosity, final viscosity, setback viscosity, and peak temperature were decreased. The color of rusks became darker, the loaf weight and hardness increased, whereas loaf volume and specific loaf volume values were decreased with DFF addition. Sensory attributes of rusks were slightly affected with DFF incorporation, and rusks with 15% DFF were found most desirable with significantly (p ≤ .05) enhanced nutritional, antioxidant, and sensory characteristics. The results of the present study demonstrated that incorporation of DFF at acceptable level could be achieved successfully for preparation of bakery product with enhanced nutritional and sensory quality.
In this study, an isolated yeast strain AKP1 was selected (out of 10 isolates) on the basis of the cumulative probiotic score. Genotypic characterization confirmed that it was a Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Gastroprotective effect of AKP1 was evaluated by cold-induced gastric ulcer model in rats. Prior supplementation of AKP1 along with the food led to significant reduction of the cold-induced gastric lesion in stomach. The histological study clearly showed that the mucosal columnar epithelial cells of the stomach were protected from cold injury. The relative expressions of some inflammatory marker genes such as up-regulation of IL-10 and down-regulation of IL-12, IFN-γ, IFN-λ of gastric mucosa also supported the anti-inflammatory activity of AKP1. Therefore, the newly isolated yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae AKP1 might be a novel candidate of probiotic with an anti-ulcerogenic potential and can be used as a therapeutic component to prevent this widespread disease.
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By making the food attractive and palatable through flavour, aroma and colour, spices can reduce the need to use other less healthy ingredients such as salt, fat or sugar. Many health beneficial attributes of these common food adjuncts have been experimentally evidenced in the past few decades. These include: Digestive stimulant action, anti-atherogenic and cardio-protective potential, Antilithogenic property, Protective effect on erythrocyte integrity, Antidiabetic influence, Anti-inflammatory property, and cancer preventive potential. The antioxidant and hypolipidemic properties of spices have far-reaching nutraceutical value. The antioxidant properties of bioactive compounds present in spices are of particular interest in view of the impact of suppression of oxidative stress in the development of degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, inflammatory disease and cancer. Spices thus deserve to be considered as the natural and necessary component of our daily nutrition, beyond their role in imparting taste and flavour to our food. It is presumed that the additive and synergistic effects of the complex mixture of phytochemicals present in vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices are largely responsible for the health effects offered by Indian and Mediterranean diets which are generally associated with lower incidence rates of some of the chronic diseases of ageing including cardiovascular disease and certain forms of cancer. The liberal consumption of spices is proved to be safe to derive their beneficial effects. Since each of the spices possesses more than one health beneficial property and that there is also a possibility of synergy among them in their action when consumed in combination, a spiced diet is likely to make life not only more `spicy' but more healthy also.
Approximately 90% of all cancer cases correlate with environmental factors, including one’s dietary habits (Armstrong and Doll 1975; Wynder and Gori 1977; Doll 1992; Potter 1992). Manipulating dietary intakes appears to be one of relatively few realistic approaches to bring about a significant cancer risk reduction. While major limitations exist in defining the precise role of food constituents in the cancer process, their likelihood of significance is emphasized in both The Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health (1989) and the National Academy of Sciences report on Diet and Health (1989). Although published data suggest that about 60% of cancers in women and more than 40% in men relate to food habits (Doll and Peto 1981), the actual percentage probably depends on a number of factors, including the type of tumor examined and the relative intake of both essential and nonessential nutrients. More recent estimates from crosscultural and epidemiologic studies suggest that approximately 35% of all cancer deaths may relate to diet (Eddy 1986).
A few spices, which are commonly employed to improve digestion in traditional systems of medicine were examined for their possible influence on digestive enzymes of pancreas and small intestine in experimental rats. In one set of animals, the spices-ajowan, fennel, coriander, onion, garlic and mint were given through the diet for 8 weeks. In another experiment, the same spices were administered orally as an appropriate single dose to animals. Pancreatic trypsin was significantly stimulated by all the dietary spices examined except mint, while chymotrypsin was stimulated by coriander and onion. These two spices also had a significant stimulating influence on intestinal disaccharidases and alkaline phosphatase. Most of the spices tested in this study showed significant enhancing effect on intestinal enzymes, particularly lipase and amylase, when given as a single oral dose, while similar beneficial effects were not observed on pancreatic enzymes. Among the spices examined, onion produced a pronounced stimu lation of a majority of digestive enzymes of pancreas and small intestine. The positive influences on the pancreatic and intestinal digestive enzymes exerted by spices could contribute to their well recognised digestive stimulant action.
Turmeric has been attributed a number of medicinal properties in the traditional system of medicine and its internal as well local use has been advocated. The major claims have been for use as antiseptic, cure for poisoning, eliminating body waste products, for dyspesia, respiratory disorders and cure for a number of skin diseases including promotion of wound healing. Recent studies have confirmed some of the older claims and brought out several new useful properties. Curcumin, curcuminoids and essential oils are the major active constituents. The main activities have been found to be anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, antimicrobial, wound healing, anticancer, antitumor and antiviral. Discovery of antiviral properties in curcumin, particularly against HIV, is interesting and needs proper evaluation. The review highlights some of the newer researches which may explain the multifaceted activity of this natural product. Different extracts of turmeric and also curcumin have been tried clinically in several diseased conditions with gratifying results.