As opposed to the appetizers that the West uses, we in India have quite a few of those foods that we eat after a meal! Most of these habits that we continue with are handed down through generations. Today, most of these are also backed by scientific evidence and we can only salute the wisdom of our ancestors. Without a doubt, they had healthy practices that kept most diseases at bay, they lived longer in peace. When compared to our list of common diseases like blood pressure, diabetes, and many other chronic ailments, we know that our ancestors were certainly, better off.
So, what aids healthy living and what were their healthy practices that we can easily incorporate? One of the most important aspects of good health lies in good digestion. Digestion helps in breaking down the foods and helping our body to absorb all essential nutrients it requires. When your digestive system plays up, it doesn’t just make you extremely uncomfortable, it also aids a lot of other health issues to crop up. Perhaps, in their ancient wisdom of this understanding, in India, we follow certain simple hacks to help the digestive process.
Not just in our homes, but most restaurants in India too, provide this after-meal accompaniment. Saunf as it is commonly called is sometimes also sugar-coated or offered as-is. Either way, you reach out and grab a spoonful and start chewing after your meal. Is it just a habit or does this help us in any way?
Fennel seeds are very good for our digestive system and even works as a mouth freshener. They even purify your blood, help avoid flatulence, and have an overall cooling effect on your body. The oils in the fennel seeds help secrete digestive juices, aiding the digestive process, while the acid in it soothes the stomach. This is also why chewing on fennel seeds are a good practice to avoid nausea while travelling.
Another important factor is the fibre content in fennel that aids easy bowel movement. They even contain components that help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. They effectively work as an antacid, and their anti-microbial properties also help in keeping us safe from infections. So, the next time you feel a bit heavy after a meal, pop a spoonful of fennel seeds.
Wash down a meal with a glass of buttermilk or chaas, as they say; this could just help your gut and overall health. It helps digest a meal and washes the fats from the stomach and intestine lining. The electrolytes present in it keeps you hydrated and energetic as well. The masala buttermilk is a wonderful concoction as it contains some added digestive aids like cumin, curry leaves, coriander leaves, ginger, etc. All these ingredients only help the buttermilk to act as an antacid.
The bioactive protein in buttermilk helps lower cholesterol and also helps with our muscle, bone and skin health. Its anticancer and antimicrobial properties are added incentives to reach out for a glass of buttermilk at the end of a meal.
Don’t just go by the popular song of Amitabh- Oh Kaike Paan Banaarasi waala, Khul Jaaye Bandh Akal Ka Taala! Whether it opens up your mind or not, paan, a very common after-meal accompaniment in India, does have its benefits. It is not just a ‘shaukh’ or a mouth freshener. It is made from betel leaves into which you put in gulkand, betel nuts, fennel seeds, honey, cloves, coconut powder, and a few other ingredients.
The betel leaves help fasten the digestion because it aids saliva secretion from the mouth, the starting point of the digestive process. It also has anti-flatulent properties and aids the secretion of digestive juices in the stomach, that further aids digestion. It even contains a slew of antioxidants that helps balance the pH levels in the stomach. And then, the added things like fennel, cloves, etc., each add on the hastening of the digestion process. Perhaps, that’s why paan is still a much sought after food, post a meal.
Some other common after-meal accompaniments in India are dried ginger pieces as is, or in the candy form, tamarind (sweet Imli) toffee, or lime water or tea. In many parts, people just eat a banana after a meal to ensure that the meal is digested well. Follow whichever practice suits you well to ensure that your health does not suffer due to indigestion.