National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign held annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Everyone is invited to learn about making informed choices around healthy eating and physical activity habits. The campaign has been around for nearly fifty years. In the 1980s, due to the increase in public support for health and nutrition, National Nutrition Week was expanded to National Nutrition Month.
This year’s theme, “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” embraces global cultures and cuisines. Cooking tasty meals at home is one of the easiest ways to incorporate your favorite cultural foods and new and interesting flavors into a healthy diet. What’s more, preparing meals at home allows you to easily select high quality ingredients and control portion size – two hidden hazards of dining out. It is also a great strategy for eating healthy on a budget.
One of the top food trends of 2022, according to US Foods, is approachable global cuisines, particularly South Asian cuisines. The Academy recommends several simple, nutritious recipes with locally sourced ingredients from all the food groups.
For a taste, here are two of the recommended dishes, which are also gluten-free and vegan:
Some of the common ingredients used in South Asian cuisine offer strong health benefits. These ingredients and their valuable nutrition include:
Turmeric is derived from the root of the plant Curcuma longa (part of the ginger family). It is widely used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Turmeric is a rich source of antioxidants, mainly contributed to a polyphenol compound called curcumin, which also gives it the signature, bright yellow color. Studies have shown the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric may help patients at risk for or suffering from chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s. Dried turmeric has a strong taste and is best cooked before consumption.
Cinnamon, one of the world’s first spices to be discovered. It is harvested from the dried, inner bark of evergreen trees within the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon’s most studied health benefit is the possible blood sugar-lowering effect for people with diabetes. Like turmeric and many other spices, cinnamon also has antioxidant components, such as cinnamaldehyde. Of note, cinnamon supplementation is not a replacement for pharmaceutical therapy. People with liver diseases or who are taking blood-thinning medication should avoid cinnamon supplementation before consulting a healthcare professional.
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant protein, folate, fiber, iron, phosphorus and, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. In combination with a healthy diet, chickpeas may help prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. The fiber in chickpeas, called raffinose, is also beneficial for the gut microflora.
Lentils are low in sodium and saturated fat, plus high in potassium, fiber, folate and plant chemicals called polyphenols, which have antioxidant activity. Lentils can help maintain blood sugar levels because they contain resistant starch, which slows the digestive system’s absorption of carbohydrates. Studies also show that lentils may help improve cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.
Flavors from cultures around the world are a great way to nourish our bodies and appreciate our diversity. The key to cooking at home is to choose a variety of foods from each food group and to abide by portion size recommendations. This approach can help you plan a balanced meal and get a variety of nutrients that are needed for good health. And what’s better than enjoying your meals with friends or family at home?
For more information, please visit https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month.