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The 10 day grand festival of Onam is here! And with that, the days of indulgent sadhya (a feast of Kerala origin, says Wiki) is here as well. The traditional Onam sadhya is comprised of more than 12 dishes (easily) and can go up to 26 or more dishes that is a vegetarian's heaven. Served on a banana leaf, apart from the food coma it is bound to give you, Onam sadhya is packed with nutritious benefits.
Onam sadhya is enjoyed sitting on the floor, a traditional custom which is religiously followed by people all around. Sitting on the floor and eating has immense health benefits such as it aids in proper digestion, promotes blood flow and improves the flexibility of your body  .
While enjoying the lip-smacking deliciousness that is served on the fresh leaf, it is an extra benefit to be aware of the health benefits the food you eat can have on you. "Each of these dishes offer different nutrients and phytonutrients that make up a power-packed meal", asserts Karthika Thirugnanam, Nutritionist.
The grand feast includes a plethora of dishes which include carbohydrate-rich, protein-rich and fibre-rich products. Starting with red rice to ellisheri, pullisery and ending with varieties of delicious kheer (pazham payasam, palada pradhaman etc.), the feast is an all-rounder. The sadhya is, undoubtedly, the main attraction of the 10-day long festivities; where the nutrition-dense meal can be considered as a healthy mixture of all things good.
Want to know what all comprises the 'acclaimed' feast of Keralites? Take a look.
Onam Sadhya Items & Their Benefits
The cardinal part of Onam, Onam sadhya or onasadhya is served on a plantain banana leaf. The dishes are not only tasty but also extremely beneficial for your health. Let us take a look.
Banana leaf: Let us start with the benefits of eating on banana leaves. Packed with a plant-based compound called polyphenols epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), banana leaves are natural antioxidants which can be beneficial in preventing the onset of diseases and development of free radicals. When served on the leaf, the fresh and warm food absorbs the polyphenols . Apart from this, the leaves also have antibacterial properties.
Red rice (matta rice): Also known as Palakkadan matta, red rice is nutrient-rich. The red coat on the rice called pericarp help retains its nutritional value. Apart from being a solid source of healthy carbohydrates, matta rice is a great source of magnesium, thereby help prevent the onset of heart disease  . Controlled consumption can help reduce the risk of diabetes, meet your daily fibre requirement and also slows down the absorption of carbohydrates due to its rich fibre content.
Sambhar: One of the main dishes in Onam sadhya, sambhar is made with dal and every possible vegetable available (from carrots to beetroots). The slow-cooked dish, along with the addition of asafoetida has detoxification benefits  . It is high in proteins, packed with fibre and has high antioxidant levels. This health-packed dish is easy to digest as well.
Avial: Another mixture of various vegetables, this dish is made with coconut oil. Made from drumsticks, brinjal, coconut, carrot, curd, pumpkin and turmeric powder, avial is low in calories and packed with various nutrients  . It contains vitamin A (pumpkin), fibre (drumsticks), beta-carotene (carrots), folic acid (beans) and so on.
Olan: Made with white gourd, red beans and coconut milk, this dish is fibre-packed. The white gourd has a cooling, diuretic effect which, when cooked in coconut milk (calories-high with saturated fats) turns into a healthy and wholesome meal  .
Kaalan: This one is made with yams or raw banana, coconut, buttermilk, turmeric and chilly, kaalan is a rich source of probiotics . Kaalan is beneficial for your gut health as probiotics help balance the friendly bacteria in your digestive system. "The buttermilk from this dish is a good source of calcium that helps with bone strength and probiotics that help strengthen and maintain digestive health", says Dr Karthika Thirugnanam, a Clinical Nutritionist/Dietitian at Tucker Medical, Singapore.
Puli inji: A prominent dish in onasadhya, puli inji is made with ginger, tamarind and jaggery and curry leaves. The presence of ginger can help in relieving nausea and the combination of tamarind and ginger is extremely beneficial for your digestive system  . The jaggery in it helps flush out the harmful toxins from the body and cleanse your liver  .
Parippu curry: Made with dal, turmeric and coconut, this dish is simple to make and highly nutritious. Usually made with mung dal, the dish is good for your gut health. Apart from that, it improves your digestion.
Rasam: One of the most loved dishes all over south India, rasam is central to Onam sadhya. Made with dal, tomatoes and a mixture of herbs such as fenugreek, peppercorn, turmeric and coriander seeds, the dish is a combination of macro and micronutrients that are essential for sustainability, energy and immunity. It has been, since olden days, used as a cure for nausea and stomach upsets  .
Sharkara varatti: Made with jaggery, ginger, cardamom and raw banana, this snack-side dish is a great source for improving your haemoglobin levels due to the presence of jaggery  .
Now that you are well-read about the various health benefits your favourite feast encompasses, what are you waiting for. Enjoy your Onam Sadhya guilt-free - this Onam!
Infographics by Sharan Jayanth
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