INDIA: Celebrated with much fervor, Makar Sankranti marks the end of winter and the beginning of a new harvest season. This vibrant harvest festival of India is known by different names in different parts of the country, although the essence of it remains the same. For instance, it is called Maghi and is preceded by Lohri in North India, Magh Bihu in North-east, Uttarayan in the West, Pongal in the South and Makar Sankranti in the East. Makar Sankrantri is a way of thanking nature for new crops.
As with all festivals and celebrations, people across the country indulge in a variety of foods, traditional sweets and savories during this time. But this occasion can also be an opportunity to start being more mindful of your eating habits. While family gatherings during such festivals would entail some guilty indulgences, swapping the regular sweet delicacies with an assortment of raw, flavored or salted nuts like almonds can be beneficial for health in the long run. Therefore, start this season on the right foot by cutting down on unhealthy fried foods and sweets, and snack on a handful of raw, flavoured or salted almonds instead.
Almonds are a “gift of good health” which you can give yourself as well as send across to family and friends. Nuts like almonds are known to be rich in nutrients like magnesium, copper and dietary fibre along with immunity-enhancing antioxidant vitamin E. Research supports multiple benefits to eating almonds, including supporting heart health, helping moderate blood sugar and enhancing satiety.
Speaking of mindful eating during festivities, Leading Bollywood Actress, Soha Ali Khan said, “For me, festivals like Makar Sankranti are a great time to reunite with friends and family. It gives us an excuse to indulge our sweet tooth in treats. However, I never lose sight of my healthy eating choices. To ensure I stay on track and keep junk food off the table, I always keep a bowl of almonds handy and sip on water through the day. We also tweak the festive recipes to make it healthier and more nutritious by adding ingredients like almonds and jaggery to them.”
According to well-known Fitness Expert and Celebrity Master Instructor, Yasmin Karachiwala said, “Binge eating and overindulgence during festivals are common in India. However, it’s important to hit pause and reflect on our lifestyle choices and the foods or snacks that we consume. I always recommend giving the festive snacks a healthy twist by adding nutritious ingredients to the mix. Snacking on a handful of almonds instead of munching on processed, oily or sweet foods is in itself a great choice. Almonds are a good source of energy and can help us stay full between meals .”
Sheela Krishnaswamy, Nutrition and Wellness Consultant said, “Many people often tend to take a break from their healthy eating habits during festivals. It’s common for most of us to indulge in food items that result in unwanted weight gain. So, if you are with your family and friends, and feel like munching on something, have a handful of almonds instead. Munching on almonds is a great way to keep hunger pangs at bay as they have satiating properties. This healthy and nutritious snack will surely give you more nutrients. Additionally, almonds are high in copper and a good source of zinc, which can strengthen the immune system. ”
Talking about the various benefits of almonds, Ritika Samaddar, Regional Head – Dietetics, Max Healthcare – Delhi, said, “Makar Sankranti is a festival which is celebrated throughout India. Traditional recipes made during this period are laden with ghee, sugar and are rich in calories. While we indulge in celebrations amidst the festive spirit, we should be more mindful of what we are eating. Replacing sugar with jaggery and adding nuts like almonds can make our snacks healthier and tastier. Research suggests that almonds can help lower the blood sugar impact of carbohydrate foods that they are eaten with, which affects fasting insulin levels . Eating almonds as part of a healthy diet has also been shown to help lower total and LDL cholesterol when included in a healthy diet and reduce levels of heart damaging inflammation .”
Integrative Nutritionist and Health Coach, Neha Ranglani mentioned, “It is that time of the year when we are set to celebrate the harvest season. While foods like laddoos and gajaks have been a traditional part of such celebrations, overconsumption of these kinds of indulgent foods can be harmful to our health in the long run. It is a far better option to incorporate healthier alternatives such as almonds into such occasions. Regular almond consumption can also be beneficial to the immune system as they are high in Vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant to support pulmonary immune function. Vitamin E is also known to offer protection against infections caused by viruses and bacteria .”
It is easy to lose sight of your health while indulging in these festive delicacies. Hence, it is important to stay disciplined in our eating habits. Incorporating small yet meaningful changes can go a long way in ensuring a better quality of life. So, make sure to opt for healthier alternatives like almonds while sharing the joy of this harvest season!