Navratri is an important Hindu festival. Goddess Durga is worshiped during this festival. ‘Navratri‘ literally means nine nights. People keep Navratri fast for nine days. In Hindu religion, there are no strict rules to follow by the believers. People in different region follow different rituals. Some people fast for all the nine days, whereas others fast only on first and the last day. In the same way some people completely abstain from food and some do not even consume water, whereas others prefer fruit diet. It all depends upon personal choice. This festival is celebrated twice in a year, one in spring, and the other in autumn. Fasting during this period when the weather is changing, helps in improving the immunity of our body.
In my previous post I had discussed the health benefits of fasting. Apart from improving physical health, fasting helps us emotionally as well. When we fast, we deviate from set pattern of our daily routine. Though it is good to have a fixed routine, and lead a disciplined life, but it is beneficial to sometimes break that pattern. When we follow a set pattern, we sometimes do everything mechanically. We forget that we eat to provide nutrition to our body, and many times indulge in eating unhealthy food. When we fast, we break that pattern, and either abstain from food completely, or eat only small amount that is enough to sustain our body. Fasting helps us to realise that we should eat to live and not the other way round.
During Navratri, people do not eat non-vegetarian food, onion, garlic, and abstain from consuming alcoholic drinks. This rule is followed in most of the Hindu families, whether they are fasting, or not. According to Ayurveda these items produce negative energy. Devotees who keep Navratri fast follow strict diet regimen, and are not allowed to eat food grains such as wheat and rice. They can eat buck wheat (kuttu), amaranth (ramdana/chaulai), nuts, fresh/dry fruits, milk and milk products. Consuming common salt is also not allowed. Instead, rock salt (sendha namak) is consumed. These food items are nutritious, and boost the immunity so that the body can cope with the change in season.
It is now common knowledge that nuts, fresh fruits, and milk have many health benefits. But many do not know the health benefits of lesser known seeds that are allowed during fasting. Here is a lowdown on some of these food items that are allowed to be eaten during Navratri fast, and their health benefits.
Kuttu ka Atta (Buckwheat flour):
Contrary to its name, it is not related to wheat, and is not a grain. It is the seed of a fruit that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. This flour is gluten free, and is becoming popular throughout the world as a health food. Eating buckwheat has many health benefits. It is rich in highly digestible proteins. Buckwheat helps in lowering the cholesterol as well as hypertension. It is a rich source of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Also, buckwheat practically does not contain any fat.
Buckwheat flour can be used to make puri, chapati, pakodi, halwa, dosa, etc. I have shared recipe for making kuttu ki barfi (buckwheat flour cake).
Singhare ka atta (WATER CHESTNUT flour):
Fairly popular in Asian countries, water chestnut or singhara is rich in potassium and fiber. It thus helps in lowering blood pressure, and regulates water retention in body. Though it barely contains any fat, but is rich in carbohydrates. Its flour can be used during Navratri fast for making puri, chapati, halwa, and many more delicacies. You can also make dahi vadas with potatoes and water chestnut flour.
Ramdana/rajgeera (Amaranth seeds):
We often see hawkers selling ramdana ke laddoos and pattis made of amaranth seeds and jaggery in the streets across India. Amaranth is quickly gaining popularity as a health food. It is highly rich in good proteins. Amaranth seeds have a balanced set of essential amino acids, and are complete source of protein. Amaranth is also a good source of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, vitamins A, C and B, iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. It protects heart and reduces blood glucose level. Moreover it is gluten free and easily digestible.
These can be used to make many sweet dishes such as laddoos, chikkis, kheer, etc. We can add roasted seeds in any food item to increase taste, as well as nutritive value. Its flour is used to prepare paratha, puri dosa, kadhi etc.
Makhana (puffed Lotus Seeds):
Lotus seeds are also called fox nuts. They are low in fat, and nutritionally distinct from nuts. These seeds have high carbohydrate content, and are rich in protein, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. They are good source of fiber. Lotus seeds help in preventing heart diseases, and are beneficial for those suffering from diabetes.
Makhana can be eaten by pan roasting it with some ghee, added to various namkeens, or made into kheer, during fasting.
Sama/samak ke chaval (barnyard millet):
Sama or barnyard millet is starchy, and can be used as a substitute for rice. These tiny grains are gluten free, and good source of vitamin B. They have low carbohydrate content as compared to other millets. It is often used to make, pulao, or kheer.
I will share some food recipes that can be eaten during Navratri fasts or even during janmashtami fast in my future posts. You can also check my earlier posts for an easy recipe of kalakand, or bhappa doi which is a sweetened yogurt pudding. To satiate your thirst you can try kiwi, cucumber, mint mocktail; in this recipe you can replace black salt with rock salt if you do not take black salt during fasting. Watermelon smoothie is another refreshing drink that can be had during fasting. You can avoid strawberry crush in this recipe, as it might contain preservatives. Instead add a tablespoon of honey, and few drops of lemon juice.
Taking advantage of fasting season, let us eat something different and healthy.
Disclaimer: The author is not a certified nutritionist and make no claims to the contrary. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. This article is written for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Content should not be considered a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.