They say quinoa is the new avocado, which until some time ago, was the new kale, an estranged cousin of cabbage, a ‘non-super’ vegetable that no one cares about anymore. But at the cost of Rs1,640 per pound, who can even afford superfood quinoa, regardless of how packed it is with protein and fibre? If you are looking for affordable superfoods (a laughable oxymoron), perhaps we should keep our search local, or at the very least regional.
Given that almost nothing in Pakistan is devoid of religion, why should superfoods be any different? Dates, which have the Sunnah stamp, are probably the most popular local superfood. Filled with energy, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; sweet to taste; and rich in texture, who can resist a date?
Only complete abominations who have had a particularly bad experience with dates and even then, such people will rarely admit their distaste for dates because upon doing so they are typically awarded with some high-level faith-shaming. A woman I know was devoted to Ajwa dates as a young child; in her innocence, one day she mistook a squashed cockroach for a date. It was only half way through the chewing process that she realised what she was consuming, but it was too late. She could never eat a date again, but now, as a full grown Muslim woman whenever she publicly refuses a date, she’s met with horror and indignation.
Another religious superfood is honey, its benefit is that it’s considered ‘just as sweet but healthier than sugar, which is great. What’s not so great is that people often ignore the comparative ier after the health, and just think of honey as healthy, not healthier. I.e. if you replace your intake of one teaspoon sugar with three teaspoons of honey, and then wonder why you aren’t dropping the pounds, the fault does not lie with the honey.
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Then there’s the seeds and other little things, that frankly shouldn’t be considered ‘food’: the tukh malangas and aamlas and infamous chaar magz that contain seeds of melons, pumpkins and whatnot. In my family, they say a spoonful of magz a day, keeps the doctors away, which is strange because if you belong to an upper-middle or middle-class Pakistani household, most of your family members are likely doctors…
There are a few desi superfoods that involve intricate processes. Take a handful of almonds, soak them in water overnight, in the morning peel and eat. It’s supposed to improve your memory. The only catch is to make sure you have a life worth remembering. I don’t know about you, but personally I am okay without the almonds.
Some people recommend desi ghee for strong bones, others say that for a long healthy life, skip the early morning paratha in desi ghee and opt for a juice: 1 carrot, 1 beetroot, 2 apples, half an orange, and a squeeze of lemon. But here’s the thing. If you have the wherewithall to make yourself an early morning juice on a regular basis, chances are that you’ve already made some great life choices and you don’t need superfoods to make you feel better or healthier about yourself.