5 Indian Dishes That Are Perfect for Winter

Indian cuisine

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Indian cuisine offers a number of nutritious dishes fitting diets ranging from plant-based to high protein. The preparation and consumption of the food provides a feast for the senses, a delight of brightness from the array of smells, tastes, and sights from the spices of regional Indian fare. 

Made with rich ingredients offering health benefits—such as lowering inflammation, decreasing heart disease, and prolonging mortality—Indian food is notable among lifelong foodies and new enthusiasts alike.

Background of Indian Cuisine

According to Indian's Ministry of External Affairs, Indian cuisine is one of the world’s most diverse and historical fares, dating back more than 5,000 years. Influenced by the Persians, British, Portuguese, and Greeks, you’ll encounter new world foods mixed with ancient civilization flares and European-style dishes.

Religious beliefs also play a strong role in the cultural preparation of foods, following the vegetarian beliefs of the Hindu and Buddhist communities. According to the Pew Research Center, eight in 10 Indians limit meat consumption and four in 10 are vegetarian. This is based on the belief of ahmisa, a rule prohibiting killing of living things due to the consequence called “karma.”

You will find plenty of meat-based dishes though, with chicken dishes like tikki masala and butter chicken ranking among the most popular Indian entrees (especially for Westerners).

Ingredient staples of Indian cooking include the following:

  • Rice
  • Masoor (red lentils)
  • Chana (bengal gram)
  • Wheat flour
  • Garam masala
  • Black gram
  • Saffron

Gram is a small dried pea, chickpea, or legume used in Indian recipes. You'll notice that ingredient a lot as you dive into the delicious world of Indian cuisine.

Indian regional cuisine varies, so it's helpful to understand key elements based on geography:

  • Northern: Heavy use of dairy products such as cream, milk, and yogurt, as well as a variety of lentils, roti (round flatbread), and vegetables.
  • Eastern: Famous for its use of spices and Bengali cuisine influence, East India incorporates sweet water fish and chili pepper into main dishes.
  • Southern: Uses rice as an entree staple, also adds a a variety of pickles, coconut, coconut oil, and curry leaves. You'll find sambar, a popular vegetable stew, in most southern-based Indian cuisine restaurants.
  • Western: Composed of main food groups: Gujarati (mostly sweet and vegetarian dishes), and
    Goan (hot gravies and spices ground up with vinegar and coconut).
  • North Eastern: This region draws inspiration and influence from China and Myanmar, and has the least typical Indian-flavored cuisine. You'll notice a lot of fermented foods, such as soybeans, pickles, and radishes within this region.

Nutrition Information of Indian Food's Spices

The colorful, flavorful spices used in Indian cuisine offer a range of health benefits. The spices include the following:

Cardamom

According to the journal Lipids in Health and Disease, cardamom is well known in the Indian subcontinent and has been “used in culinary and traditional medicine practices since ancient times.”

Researchers also found that supplementing your diet with cardamom improved glucose intolerance exponentially and prevented fat deposition in the abdominal region.

Turmeric

For hundreds of years, turmeric has received heavy interest from the medical industry and culinary enthusiasts, says researchers of a study on the spice published in the journal Foods. These researchers also suggest that turmeric might help in managing exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, making workout recovery easier in active people.

Cayenne Pepper

In a study of 16,179 participants at least 18 years of age, researchers found that the frequency of hot red chili pepper consumption can improve mortality rate. Those who ate the spice passed away at a rate of 21.6 percent compared to 33.6 percent of those who didn’t consume the red spice.

Ginger

Indians are believed to have produced ginger for medical treatments dating back 5,000 years, and today, India is the largest producer of ginger.

One of the main health benefits of the ginger powder spice is decreasing age-related oxidative stress markers. The ginger root also contains a high level of antioxidants, only surpassed by a few berries and pomegranate. 

Cumin

Cumin is native to and cultivated in several arid and semi-arid countries, including India.

In a comprehensive overview published in Biomedical Research and Therapy, researchers discovered that cumin, a part of garam masala (a blend of spices found throughout Indian cuisine), offers antimicrobial properties. These properties can inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, boosting your immune system and helping keep you healthy.

Cinnamon

In a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis, researchers found that 120 milligrams of cinnamon per day is associated with a statistically significant decrease in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the “bad cholesterol), and triglyceride levels, and increase in high-density lipoprotein-C levels (the “good” cholesterol).

Clove

Clove, a designated Indian spice found in recipes like Indian chai tea, could offer anti-cancer benefits. A study showed that concentrated amounts of clove oil caused an 80-percent cell death in esophageal cancer cells.

Coriander

The coriander spice comes from its seeds and is used in ground or whole form. For anyone who experiences consistent stomach pains, mixing coriander into a tea could help relieve your ailments.

You can try using this spice for a number of stomach issues, including the following:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Flatulence
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Diarrhea

Healthy Indian Dishes to Try

For cold days, these dishes can warm you up and make your kitchen smell inviting as the days grow shorter:

 

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9 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ministry of External Affairs - Government of Indian. Cuisine and Diplomacy. Updated August 18, 2014.

  2. Pew Research Center. Eight-in-ten Indians limit meat in their diets, and four-in-ten consider themselvesvegetarian. Updated July 8, 2021.

  3. Rahman MM, Alam MN, Ulla A, et al. Cardamom powder supplementation prevents obesity, improves glucose intolerance, inflammation and oxidative stress in liver of high carbohydrate high fat diet induced obese ratsLipids Health Dis. 2017;16:151. doi:10.1186/s12944-017-0539-x

  4. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: a review of its’ effects on human healthFoods. 2017;6(10):92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092

  5. Chopan M, Littenberg B. The association of hot red chili pepper consumption and mortality: a large population-based cohort studyPLOS ONE. 2017;12(1):e0169876. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0169876

  6. Bode AM, Dong Z. The amazing and mighty ginger. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, edsHerbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd ed. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011.

  7. Allaq AA, Sidik NJ, Abdul-Aziz A, Ahmed IA. Cumin (Cuminum cyminum L.): A review of its ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry. Biomedical Research and Therapy. 2020;7(9):4016-4021.

  8. Allen RW, Schwartzman E, Baker WL, Coleman CI, Phung OJ. Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysisAnn Fam Med. 2013;11(5):452-459. doi:10.1370/afm.1517

  9. Dwivedi V, Shrivastava R, Hussain S, Ganguly C, Bharadwaj M. Comparative anticancer potential of clove (Syzygium aromaticum)--an Indian spice--against cancer cell lines of various anatomical originAsian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2011;12(8):1989-1993.