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Traditional and ayurvedic grain-based foods of India

  • Acharya Prafulla Chandra College, Kolkata, India


Ayurveda (the science of life), a branch of Vedas, considered as a store of knowledge related to health sciences. In Ayurvedatraditional foodsand their dietary guideline are prescribed. Food is also used for therapeutic purpose as well as inappropriate knowledge about consumption may become the root cause of many diseases. Grains are recommended to be consumed with every meal not only as a main source of energy but also vital source of carbohydrate, protein, iron, calcium, potassium and B vitamins. In Charaka Samhita, sixty-eight aharakalpanas are described for maintenance of health and for treatment of diseases. Most of these are preparations of ShookaDhanya (grains) as the principal food item. This review article puts forward the concept of ayurvedic grain-based healthy foods of India and also details of several grain based ethnic healthy foods across different regions of India.
Ilkogretim Online - Elementary Education Online, 2021; Vol 20 (Issue 5): pp. 4679-4683
doi: 10.17051/ilkonline.2021.05.517
4679| Sunanda Biswas Traditional and ayurvedic grain-based foods of India
Traditional and ayurvedic grain-based foods of India
Sunanda Biswas, Department of Food & Nutrition, Acharya Prafulla Chandra College, Kol-131, West Bengal, India.
Dipankar Patra, Department of Sanskrit, Acharya Prafulla Chandra College, Kol-131, West Bengal, India.
ABSTRACT- Ayurveda (the science of life), a branch of Vedas, considered as a store of knowledge related to health
sciences. In Ayurvedatraditional foodsand their dietary guideline are prescribed. Food is also used for therapeutic
purpose as well as inappropriate knowledge about consumption may become the root cause of many diseases. Grains
are recommended to be consumed with every meal not only as a main source of energy but also vital source of
carbohydrate, protein, iron, calcium, potassium and B vitamins. In Charaka Samhita, sixty-eight aharakalpanas are
described for maintenance of health and for treatment of diseases. Most of these are preparations of ShookaDhanya
(grains) as the principal food item. This review article puts forward the concept of ayurvedic grain-based healthy
foods of India and also details of several grain based ethnic healthy foods across different regions of India.
Keywords: Ayurveda, grain, Indian, nutrients
Ayurveda, traditional and one of the oldest practicesof medicine dealing with various and diverse aspects
related to health and wellbeing started over three millennia ago. According to Ayurveda, Ahara (diet) is
one of the three Upasthambhas (sub-pillar) of life; the other two being sleep and Nidra (sleep) and
Brahmacarya (abstinence) [1].Anna/Ahara (food) is the nourisher of the body elements and responsible
for physical, temperamental, and mental states of an individual. According to Acharya Kashyap, Ahara is
considered as the Mahabhaishajya (the great medicine) whereas Acharya Charak has stated that to live
healthy, a stable healthy diet routinely maintaining is necessary. In AyurvedaAhara is classified as
Hitahara (wholesome) and Ahitahara(unwholesome) and the terms Pathya and Apathya are used to
signify acceptability and adoptability. Susrutha described that body, manufacturer overfood is mainly
constituted bypanchamahabhutas and the Tridoshas(biohumors)explained as Vata, Pitta, Kapha are the
biological derivatives of these panchamahabhutas. Acharya Charaka and Vagbhata explained the Nitya
sevaniyaDravyas which is similar to the balance dietwhich can be defined as “the diet enriched with
Shadarasa (all six rasa), required Gunas (properties), Virya(potency)and given to the individual after
consideration of Prakrati(nature),Agni (digestive power), Kostha(digestive system) and Ritu (season
Happy life, sustainable happiness and longevity aspects of health and wellbeing have been dealt with
their various aspect in Ayurveda[3]. It also asserts that during designing of balanced foods for optimal
nutrition,formulating food groups as well as nutrients that have function in harmony, inducing proper
digestion and promoting maximum absorption of need to be consider. Food will aggravate the doshawhen
it is alike to one's dosha.So, to balance the dosha, individual needs to select the proper food group[4-6].
That is why food is essential for our physicalwellbeingas well as for our minds also as it provides
nutrition to minds. Upanishad describes that food we consume mainly gets divided into three partswhere
the gross part is converted into flesh and subtle part that nourishes the mind. Food range in an order way
has been described in Ayurveda. Food ranges include the diversity of natural sources, properties varying
with seasons and places and particular function both in physiological and pathological states.
Grains are the seeds of plants and are the basis of daily consumed diets for Indian subcontinent people.
They are belonging to the botanical groups of cereals, pseudocereals, and legumes. Grains are the sources
of all nutrients such as macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and lipids as well as micronutrients
like vitamins and minerals to the human diet. Wholegrains,vital source of dietary fibre and bioactive
compounds are now interest for the production of high value grain-based products due to its enhanced
health benefits.Grains cannot be consumed in its raw state. After several processing steps like
decortication, dehulling and dehusking, milling, cooking, dough making, extrusion, bread making, pasta
making, noodle making etc., it can be consumed[7, 8].To improve nutritional value,different types of
grains can be mixed in the same product as it may be cereals and cereals or cereals and pulses [9].
From different literature, it can be seen that our ancestors from different civilizations of India consumed
different types of grains. From the Rigveda of about 1500 BC, we came to know that barley was the main
grain eaten by Aryans. In the Yajurveda, it is mentioned that urad (Vigna mungo), mung (Vigna radiata),
4680| Sunanda Biswas Traditional and ayurvedic grain-based foods of India
andmasoor (Lens culinaris) these three grain legumes were most commonly used. Wheat is also first
mentioned in Yajurveda [10]. Though different grains are used through millennia, so here the purpose of
this paper is to review the name and use of traditional and ayurvedic grain-based foods of Indian origin.
Traditional foods of India generally recognized as functional foods due to presence of functional
constituents such as antioxidants, body-healing components, probiotics and dietary fibres which are
helpful in controlling blood sugar, managing weight and in supporting immunity of human body.
Processing of food results the changes in quality and characteristics of the dravya.Processing techniques
such as germination, malting and fermentation may enhance these functional properties [11].During
fermentation of cereals, new bioactive metabolites can be produced from the starter components of raw
materials[12]. During cereal fermentation formation of several volatile compounds contributes a complex
blend of flavors to that food products. Here is the list of compounds which form during fermentation of
Alcohols: Ethanol, Amyl and Isoamyl alcohol, Isobutanol, n-Propanol
Aldehydes and Ketones:Acetone, Butanone, Acetaldehyde, Acetoin, Diacetyl, Formaldehyde, n-
Hexaldehyde, Methyl ethyl ketone
Organic Acids: Palmitic, Acetic, Benzoic, Butyric, Caproic, Caprylic, Formic, Isobutyric, Lactic,
Lauric, Myristic, Palmitic, Propionic, Succinic, Valeric,Pelargonic,
Carbonyl Compounds: Furfural, Glycoxal, Methional, Hydroxymethyl-furfural, 3-Methyl butanol
Rice and Pulses are the main grain foods consumed in Asia and India. Grains are the main staple food of
India. Grains are nutritionally rich products and it fulfill recommended dietary nutrients to the body. Rice
is rich in lysine and its proteins are hypoallergenic. It provides most energy in our diet. Pulses also
provide energy, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. Some of the grains exhibit antinutritional properties
like trypsin inhibitor.
In CharakasamhitaunderSukadhanyavarga cereals like rice, wheat and barley were described and under
Samidhanyavarga pulses like green gram and black gram were described. In Susruta cereals and pulses
classified under Sali, Kudhanya and Mudgavargas [14]. Mainly three types of rice were mentioned which
areSali, Sashtika and Vrihi. Botanically they belong from same family and species but according to
Ayurveda they are nutritionally different. Charaka says that wheat/Godhuma is unctuous stabilizing and
heavy and barley/Yavaisused as unwholesome but it cannot be recommended for prolonged use for its
light and astringent quality[15].In context of Ayurveda barley is used for several diseases like Prameha
(diabetes), Sthoulya (obesity) and Vrana (injuries). Its fibre helps in reduce cholesterol and blood
pressure as well as blood sugar and insulin levels[16].
Pulses (Shimbidhanya or Shamidhanya) are Kashaya (Astringent), Madhura (sweet) in taste, cold in Virya
(potency) and Katu(pungent) in Vipaka. They are recommended as the main source of protein and
alleviate Pitta and Kapha. They also generatevayu, arrest the flow of urine and helpful in evacuation of
stool. From the Yajurveda onwards the three pulses masha (urad), mudga(mung) and masura(masoor)
are the most commonly used grain legumes and mashaoccurs even in Rigveda[17].
Mudga(Mung)/Greengram is the best among all pulses (Shimbidhanya ) in the form of soup and rich in
iron and potassium ((3.9 mg and1150 mg per100 gm) [18].Masha (Urad)/Blackgram is most wholesome
among all Shamidhanya. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals particularly potassium. Masha (Black
gram) is also said Snigdha (unctuous), Balya(increases strength), Malakara (increases bulk of
faeces),increases Kaphaand Pitta, Sara (laxative), Guru (not easily digestible), Ushna (hot in potency),
Vatahara (mitigate Vata), Madhura (sweet in taste), and ShukraVriddhikara (aphrodisiac properties)
[19].Masura(Masoor)/Lentil is considered as highly nutritious pulse next to green gram or mung bean.
But insome parts in India, lentils is not included in their food, probably due to the red color resembling
Kulatha (Horsegram) has been used as food item for the for millennia. During the Sutra period (c. 1500
800 BC), the soup extract from kulattha, called yusa, was consumed commonly. These soups are known as
rasams of today [21]. This pulse is astringent and pungent in taste. Adhaki(Toordal) contains folic acid, an
important vitamin for all women especially pregnant women and it also alleviates the vitiated kapha and
pitta but aggravates vata.
In Ayurveda consumption of pulses is associated with prevention of different diseases.
Mudga(Mung)/Greengram consumption helps to reduce risk of coronary heart disease and
cardiovascular disease and Masura(Masoor)/Lentil is claimed to be act as a blood purifier.Masha (Black
gram) is helpful in reducing blood pressure or hypertension and also helps in balance sodium potassium
4681| Sunanda Biswas Traditional and ayurvedic grain-based foods of India
level due to its high content of potassium.Kulatha (Horsegram) has anthelmintic properties which is
useful in treating amoebic diarrhoea, bowel haemorrhage and colic pains[22].
Under grain Tila (sesame seeds) has been also used in food which is sweet, bitter, astringent, hot in
potency and produces Pitta. It has cholesterol lowering effect in humans, and prevents high blood
pressure. It has also beneficial effect on skin,teeth and liver[23].Charakaclassifiedfood in 12 groups
whereas Susrata included 21 groups. Different types of Sukadhanya (Corns with bristles) Samidhanya
(pulses) are included among that12 groups classified by Charaka. (Table 1)
Table 1: Nutritional and ayurvedic value of traditional grain food items
Food items-
Sanskrit Name (Common Name)
Nutritional and Ayurvedic value
Sali, Shashtika (Varieties of Rices )
Alleviates the vitiated biohumors, maintains the body
Godhuma (Wheat)
Restorative, invigorating, nourishing aphrodisiac
Useful in diabetes and obesity
Mudga(Green Gram)
Alleviates vitiated kapha, pitta (bio humors). easy to digest,
good for eyes (drishtiprasadana).
Masura (Lentil)
act as a blood purifier
Masha (Black Gram)
Increases bulk of faeces, laxative, aphrodisiac
Kulatha (Horsegram)
Anthelmintic, useful in urinary calculi
Tila (Sesame Seeds)
Beneficial to the skin, hair and teeth, improves the intellect
and digestion
Examples of some of the traditional grain-based health foods (Table 2) with their nutritional and
functional health benefits have been discussed below.
Idli. Idli is a fermented product mainly found in the south India region. It is mainly prepared from the rice
and black gram batter by steam cooking [24]. During batter preparation,black gram and rice are used in
the ratio of 1:2 and sour buttermilk is used as a source of microorganisms for fermentation. The
fermented batter is placed in special idlipans and steamed for to prepare steamed idli. Nutritional
content of idli is 3.4% protein, 20.3% carbohydrate and 70% moisture[25].Idliis used as breakfast foods
and is suggested for all age groups in all season. Fermentation process increases its digestibility,
nutritional and protein efficiency value.Kadubu(plate idli) which is also another type of idliprepared by
steaming idli batter in a plate.
Dosa. Dosa is another fermented product like idli with origins in southern India. Blackgram and rice are
also used here as primary ingredients but instead of being steamed, the fermented batter is fried with a
little oil on a flat plate. To improve nutritional value finger millet and horse gram can be used as primary
ingredients and lengthen of fermentation time increases protein content of batter[26]. Across
India,regionally there are different names of dosa. In the state of Odisha, the dish is called chakuli
resembles dosa in which parboiled rice and black gram is used as primary ingredients for batter.
Susupedosa which is also another type of dosa, is prepared from the boiled red raw rice with aniseed,
palm jaggery, and salt[27, 28]. Like idli, dosa is used as breakfast foods and is suggested for all age groups
in all season.
Enduri and MunhaPithas.Enduri and MunhaPithas are cereal and pulse based fermented foods eaten
primarily in festive season in Odisha state. Parboiled rice and black gram are mainly used as primary
ingredients here. It is prepared by steaming of the fermented batter in a turmeric leaf and folding the leaf
through the midvein.MunhaPithais also prepared from parboiled rice and black gram mixed in a 3:1
ratio.In this sugar/jaggery, coconut, raisins and cashew nuts may be added. Black gram proteins are
deficient in methionine and cysteine amino acid but fermentation enhances the nutritional quality of the
blend of black gram and rice[29].
Dhokla. Dhokla is fermented indigenous breakfast food originating in Gujrat state. It is prepared from the
fermented Bengal gram and rice or rice and chickpea flour. The method of preparation is same as idli, but
it is steamed in covered state[29].For making dhokla yeast is used for the culture because it makes food
spongy by increasing the batter volume.Dhokla is rich in folic acid and also in antioxidants as it is a
fermented food. Its antioxidant property helps to reduce oxidative stress in human body[30].
Siddhu. Siddhu is cereal and pulse based fermented food occasionally eaten in Himachal Pradesh.
Fermented wheat dough mixed with a paste of opium seeds, walnut, and/or blackgram and prepare by
4682| Sunanda Biswas Traditional and ayurvedic grain-based foods of India
Selroti. Selroti is a fermented rice-based food consumed in Sikkim and Darjeeling. A local variety of rice
or rice flour is soaked overnight in cold water and then pounded into small powder. Then the rice is
mixed with wheat flour, sugar, butter, and condiments such as cloves, cardamom, coconut, nutmeg,
cinnamon and milk. The batter is fermented, molded into a ring and then fried. The nutritive value of
Sertoli is equal as idli[32].
Table 2: Examples of some of the traditional grain-based health foods
Food name
Place of origin
Main Ingredients
Southern India
Rice and Blackgram
Southern India
Rice and Blackgram
Enduri and MunhaPithas
Parboiled rice and Blackgram
Parboiled rice and Blackgram
Bengal gram and rice or rice and chickpea flour
Himachal Pradesh
Wheat and Pulses
Sikkim and Darjeeling
Rice or Rice flour
A diverse array of foods are prepared using wide variety of locally grown grains in different regions of
India. Acharya Charaka and Acharya Susrata described different grains in Charakasamhita and still grains
are important for preparation of food in both conventional food and normal diet and added an advantage
in physiological functions and in providing nutrition to the body. A scientifically documentation is needed
to identify benefits of ayurvedic and traditional health foods made by grains so that a database can be
created and used for benefits of future era.
Conflicts of interest
All contributing authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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Full-text available
The people in Orissa, like many other States in India, have a tradition of relishing a variety of cakes, locally called pi- tha, specially prepared during various festivals and rituals. Some of these foods are produced from the fermentation of ce- real-legume batters. These products include chakuli, chhuchipatra pitha, enduri pitha, munha pitha, podo pitha and chitou, which are unknown to the scientific community. All these foods are described with respect to the nature of the product, method of preparation, mode of consumption and ethnic value.
Blending wheat flour with carob seed or green lentil flour at 5–6%, 10–12% or 24% level modified the dough's technological properties and bread characteristics. Carob seed flours increased dough tenacity while reducing extensibility, whereas lentil flour reduced dough tenacity, extensibility and strength. Carob seed flours increased water absorption up to about 40%. Flours from all legumes increased dough development time (carob flours more than lentils flour). Lentil flour strongly decreased the stability due to weakening of the gluten network. In a baking test, however, all blends gave acceptable loaves. Blending the wheat flour with 5–6% legume flour generally did not alter the loaf volume. However, increasing the legume flour to 10–12% or 24% reduced the loaf volume, except when supplemented with refined carob seed flour at 10%, which increased it. Carob flour and especially lentil flour enriched bread with lysine-rich proteins, dietary fibre, phenolic compounds and lignans and in general increased its antioxidant power. The nutritional value of lentils and the technological properties of carob are useful in increasing nutritional and functional value of wheat bread.
The United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of harvested as dry seeds. Although some pulse crops are harvested green (e.g., green peas), these are classified as vegetables because the pods are often consumed along with the mature and sometimes immature seeds. Other dried legumes such as soybean and peanut meet the definition of being a leguminous crop that is harvested as dry seeds; however, these crops are grown primarily for oil content and, thus, are not categorized as pulses. There are hundreds of pulse varieties grown worldwide; these include, for example, dry edible beans, chickpeas, cowpeas, and lentils. This review will cover the proximate (e.g., protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals), and phytonutrient (e.g., polyphenolics and carotenoid) composition of dry edible beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Soybean and peanuts will not be covered in this review. The effects of processing on composition will also be covered. The health benefits related to folates, fiber, and polyphenolics will be highlighted. The health benefits discussed will include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and weight control. The current review will not cover antinutrient compounds; this topic will be covered in a separate review article published in the same issue.
The human body is the product of food (Ahara) and it is considered as the sustainer of life. The Ayurvedic approach to food and dietetics is very different from the conventional Western approach. One should regularly take such articles which are conducive to the maintenance of good health and are capable of preventing the attacks of diseases. Most of the incurable diseases are produced due to improper food. Intelligent and self-controlled person should consume conductive food in right quantity and at right time to prevent diseases.
Red rice Rakthashali (with red husk and grain) is the native staple food of Dakshina Kannada (Karnataka) and Kasaragod (Kerala) district. A study was conducted to collect and document information from the traditional and qualified practitioners on the use of red rice in various medications and therapies to find its applicability as a functional food especially in promoting lactation. Red rice was found beneficial to health in terms of its nutritional significance and its applicability in various medications like in allergies, skin ailments, uterus related problems, nerve disorders, gastro-intestinal problems, liver, kidney disorders, fever, infections and in promoting lactation.
Idli, a very popular fermented breakfast food staple consumed in the Indian subcontinent, consists mainly of rice and black gram. Idli fermentation was carried out in the conventional way in a batter having rice to black gram in the ratios of 2:1, 3:1 and 4:1 at room temperature. The rheology of the product was assessed using a Brookfield viscometer having disc spindles. Power law model with yield stress adequately fitted the data. Yield stress values were in the range of 13–43 Pa and reached a maximum value at 7 h of fermentation. Flow behaviour indices were in the range 0.287–0.605. Flow behaviour indices at 23 h were significantly lower than those at 0 h. Consistency index values, at any fermentation time, increased as the rice to black gram ratio increased. Mean particle size ranged from 500 to 600 μm and there was no definite trend noticed with respect to time of fermentation and rice to black gram ratio. There was a steep change in volume increase after 4-h fermentation. At the end of the fermentation, diameter and depth of batter deposits in the automatic Idli manufacturing unit developed at the authors’ laboratory were measured. Whereas the depth remains almost same for the batter types, there was a decrease in diameter as the ratio of rice to black gram increases.
Selroti is an ethnic fermented rice food of the Himalayas. A total of 125 samples of selroti batters were collected from different villages and markets of the Himalayas. The microbial population of selroti batters showed that lactic acid bacteria (LAB) were present in viable numbers above 108 cfu/g, followed by yeasts at 105 cfu/g. LAB Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Enterococcus faecium, Pediococcus pentosaceus and Lactobacillus curvatus and yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Saccharomyces kluyveri, Debaryomyces hansenii, Pichia burtonii, and Zygosaccharomyces rouxii were identified. The most prevalent LAB and yeasts in selroti batters were Leuc. mesenteroids (42.9%) and S. cerevisiae (35.6%). Molds and pathogenic bacteria were not detected. It was observed that seasons affect the development and prevalence of microorganisms in the fermented batters. LAB and yeast strains were screened for their acidifying and coagulating capacity, and it was found that most of the LAB strains acidified with lowering of pH up to 4.3. These strains showed a wide spectrum of enzymatic profiles in commercial API-zym kits. All strains of LAB showed antimicrobial activities under the applied condition. The nutritional value of fermented batters was found to be increased. This is the first report on selroti concerning its microbiology and nutritional value.
The protein fractions, albumins, globulins, prolamins and glutelins, of black gram (Phaseolus mungo L.) seeds were characterized for their amino acid compositions, isoelectric points, and subunit constitutions Globulins which formed 81% of the solubilized proteins were devoid of sulfur containing amino acids. Sulfur containing amino acids and threonine were deficient in total proteins of the seeds with 27.6 and 78.8 as their respective amino acid scores. Chemical scores of albumin, globulin, prolamin, and glutelin fractions were 64, 0, 56 and 70.7 respectively. The predicted biological values in human nutrition varied from 0 for globulins to 110 for glutelins and it was 14.9 for total proteins in the seeds. Dissolution of globulins was minimum in a pH range, 5.3-5.9. Isoelectric focusing in a dissociating medium indicated that the majority of globulin subunits were acidic. Globulins, however, had two basic subunits with isoelectric points at 8.42 and 8.65. Two dimensional slab gel electrophoresis, with a phenol-acetic acid-mercaptoethanol-urea (PAMU) system in the first dimension and sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) system in the second dimension suggested that the mobilities of proteins in PAMU and SDS systems were based on the related parameters.