Pragya’s Aada-Til-Nadu of Rural West Bengal

In Bengal, the utensils are important, and the source of the raw ingredients is crucial, and the process is twice as important. This recipe is by Dr Pragya Ray and Dr. Sumit Sur, medical officers at Sanjeevani Bhesaj in Purba Midnapore, West Bengal.

Ingredients Instructions
iron vessel
earthen pot
250 gm til
(sesame seeds without husk)
Step 1. dry roast the sesame seeds on low flame, stirring continuously to prevent overheating or burning. Use an iron vessel.
When a nice aroma is emitted after 3-4 minutes of stirring,
with a slight darkening of the seeds to a golden brown,
remove from the kadai and place into an earthen pot.
300 gm gur (jagarry) Step 2. add the gur to the iron vessel and heat with water to allow it to melt on medium heat, continuously stirring about 5-6 minutes, until the jaggery's frothing will disappear.
5 gm fresh adraka paste (ginger) Step 3. Mix in adrak paste and stir well for 5-8 minutes on low heat, then remove the vessel from heat.
wooden spoon Step 4. Take about 10gm of the hot mix in a spoon and add some of the roasted sesame seeds kept in the earthen pot, coating the mix fully into a mini ball size, known as a Nadu, while it is still warm.
Serve after it cools.

The terms nadu, naru, and ladoo indicate linguistic variations commonly found in adjacent cultures and regions of India. The terms refer to the ball-shaped snack food that is either sweet or savory and usually contains some bean, nut, or vegetable and often some sweet flavor.

The health benefits of the sesame ball are clearly mentioned in Ayurveda in the following references. In this formulation, three ingredients are used, all of which have highly medicinal value. The guna (quality) of each ingredient has effects on the VPK doshas.

Tila / Sesame

The Sesame plant is known as tila/til/तिल throughout South Asia and its products are vata-shamaka. The adjective -shamaka means that til lowers the vata that is unbalanced and flowing around in the body as micromovements that disrupt the harmony of the body's systems. To lower vata means to restore balance in subtle, micro and macro movements in the body. Subtle movements affect the mind and the intuition. Micromovements affect the cellular processes such as DNA, nerve impulses, cleaning going on in the liver every moment, and the exchange of air in our lungs with the toxins in our blood.  Macromovement affect things we can sense with our 5 senses, such as movement in our muscles, joints, our circulation of blood, wind or food moving through our gut, and our breath.

The wise doctor Bhava Mishra, who lived in the 16th century CE (in the Common Era), reinterpreted the classic medical texts to bridge philosophy and medical practice, as well as practical recipes. He describes tila -

तिलो रसे कटुस्तिक्तो मधुरस्तुवरो गुरुः |   विपाके कटुकः स्वादुः स्निग्धोष्णः कफपित्तनुत् ||

बल्यः केश्यो हिमस्पर्शस्त्वच्यः स्तन्यो व्रणे हितः | दन्त्योऽल्पमूत्रकृद् ग्राही वातघ्नोऽग्निमतिप्रदः ||

                                                                               Source: Bhava Prakash Nighantu, Dhanyavarga, 53-54

Translation: The properties of til (sesame) are its rasa (taste), which it pungent (katu) and bitter (tikta). Due to its madhura quality (fulfilling, pleasant), it is also somewhat heavy to digest, but helps build the body tissues (by cleaning out undigested things stuck in the channels leading to those tissues). | The vipaka (post-digestive use in the body) is katu (a pungence of heat-producing effects); swadu (fulfilling), snigdha and usna (lubricating and heating); and balances any kapha or pitta that is not working harmoniously in the body. || Til improves physical strength, hair, and relieves coldness on the skin, breast milk production, and helps heal wounds. | Til improves the teeth, low urine flow, gut absorption of nutrients in cases of irritable bowel, and destroys vata and improves the digestive fire (agni) by cutting through undigestible elements. ||

In practical terms, this means that sesame is beneficial to the body due to its heat and cleansing effects. It both helps build and maintain body tissues, especially muscles and joints on which it is rubbed, and it helps warm the body and clean out inflammation. This is why people do gandoosha (oil-pulling) with sesame oil, and eat moisturizing sesame seeds in larger amounts during the cold, dry season of early winter. It is also excellent on the external body as a massage oil when it is cold and dry. However, just as til oil spreads warmth, it also spreads whatever is in the channels, so it there are toxins or autoimmune antibodies, those also get distributed into deeper tissues. This is one caution for unhealthy people, to avoid plain sesame oil massages. For healthy people, sesame-laden foods are only to be eaten during the cold, dry season.

-Photo credit: Dr. Pragya Ray

Jaggery / Unrefined Cane Sugar

Gud/jaggery is unrefined sugar and is a pitta-shamaka substance. It pacifies the qualities of pitta, especially the fiery inflammation that results from too many chemical substances that create too much heat without creating heat that can actually be useful to the body, such as that heat which assists digestion, warms the body, or produces heat needed to enzymes or hormones to be properly formed and released into action. Refined white sugar is produced through intense heat-requiring processes and goes into the body and inflames it, as we see with diseases such as diabetes that are increased by white sugar.

A wise doctor of the 11th century CE, Chakrapani Datta wrote several medical books, including the Dravya Guna Saṃgraha. Dravyaguna is the description of properties (guna) of all substances (dravya). Jaggery is described for its amazing and specific properties.

गुडो वृष्यो गुरुः स्निग्धः सक्षारो मूत्रशोधनः |

   नातिपित्तहरो मेदःकफक्रिमिबलप्रदः

Source: Dravyaguna Saṃgraha Nighantu, 9/6


Explaining the benefits of gura(jaggery) for the body as a product of iksu (sugarcane), guḍ/gur improves the quality and strength of reproductive functions, especially sex drive. It is guru -- somewhat heavy to digest, but helps build the body tissues due to its high concentration of trace minerals. Fuḍ also is snigdha (lubricating) and due to its alkaline properties, it is mutra-shodhana, helping to clean the urine. | It also defeats the inflammation quality of pitta, and reduces kapha and excess fat, and infections of worms. It gives strength to the body.

In practical terms, jaggery is an ideal alternative to the hyper-purified and bleached white sugar. The closer we can use sugars from their original sources, the more easily our body can utilize them without provoking the liver and its call to the pancreas for sugar metabolism.

Adraka / Fresh Ginger

Adraka is raw fresh ginger root that has not been cooked or dried and has its own juice inside. This juice ignites the digestive fire in the belly, known as deepana, and this fire helps digest out toxins and undigested complexes, food materials, and bizarre chemical combinations that have formed in the belly due to incompatible foods causing chemical reactions that are not useful for human digestion, known as the action of pachana. Adhraka also creates lightness in the body, and it is easy to digest. Ayurveda advises that it can be used for a host of actions, especially medical conditions like chronic indigestion, and mucus in the lungs, since there are blood vessels between the upper stomach and the trachea of the lungs.

As one of the greatest books diving into deeper details of therapeutic properties of drugs, the Dhanvantari Nighantu was written in the 13th century CE; its author chose to remain unknown as s/he felt the knowledge belonged to all.

कटूष्णामार्द्रकं हृद्यं विपाके शीतलं लघु | दीपनं रुचिदं शोफकफकण्ठामयापहम् ||

कफानिलहरं स्वर्यं विबन्धानाहशूलजित् | कटूष्णं रोचनं वृष्यं हृद्यं चैवाऽऽर्द्रकं स्मृतम् ||

Source: Dhanwantari Nighantu, 2/11-12


Fresh ginger (adraka) is katu (pungent in nature) and usna (produces warmth in the body) as vipaka (post-digestive use in the body). It is hridya, producing both benefit for the heart, a sense of happy appetite and balance. Its aid to digestion helps complete work of the digestive fire and then rescues the belly, rendering it sheeta (cooling) and laghu, creating both lightness in the body, and creating an environment of easy digestion. | Adraka is deepana (lights the digestive fires), ruchidam (increasing appetite and making things taste better). It is used for diseases of swelling, phlegm in the throat (kantha) and similar diseases of kapha origin.|| It reduces kapha and excess wind in the gut, the voice, vibandha (stalling in the intestine, that shows up as constipation), and removes pain. | Its pungent and heat-producing properties (katu-ushnam) help detach phlegm from the side of the gut and send it downwards, known as rochana. Like jaggery, it is vrishya, improving the quality and strength of sex drive and reproductive functions. ||

In practical terms, Indian ginger is a medicine and a spice. It is used fresh and known as adraka. It is used dried and shown as shunthi powder and it is used as decoction. It is commonly added to cooking to enhance pungent flavor, and it is added to meats and heavy vegetables to enhance digestibility. It is also a key component in many ayurvedic medicinal formulations.


This articles provides a recipe for sesame snacks and gives detailed information on the medicinal properties of each ingredient, the source texts for that medicinal information, and some historical information about each text. It also teaches several basic concepts of gut physiology and suggests the mechanisms for ayurvedic thinking about digestion.


Why Emotional Upheavals Make the Stomach Churn: The Gut-Brain Axis

The ayurvedic sciences, known as the oldest medical treatises, highlighted the inextricable relationship between the living body, the mind, and the gut and understood the connection between physical and mental illnesses. Most sickness is rarely only physical or only mental, and usually involves both the body and the mind to varying degrees. When the body suffers more than the mind, a physical disorder is diagnosed. When the psyche suffers more than the body, a mental disorder is diagnosed. Indeed, most disorders involve both body and mind. However, from the western perception the term psychosomatic has a common meaning that the disease is not real, as it is rooted only in the mind. It infers that the person has created physical disorder from the invention of the mind, and the term is derogatory in mainstream medicine, as if to emphasize that real disease occurs only in the body, called "organic illness" that can be measured by quantitative laboratory markers and measures.

Are the origins of body illness independent of mental processes? When a person falls into the trend of eating packaged foods and junk foods that baffle the gut and challenge the metabolism, there is certainly a mental component in the choices made to put those foods in the body. The disconnection of body-mind allows the hands to feed the mouth those foods.  Perhaps some do not realize the connection between those foods and the immediate or eventual suffering from minor stomach issues such as bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, or constipation. Complaints from the gut are dismissed as minor, and food is so enjoyable that they are swatted away with a quick pill or syrup.

These signals from the gut are the true origins of your crippling tension headaches, anxiety, and uneasiness. Disease manifestation is a severe consequence. However, the shad-ripu, or six psychological emotions of kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, and matsya (lust/desire, anger/wrath, greed, delusion/desire, ego/arrogance, and jealousy/attachment) have a subtle relationship connecting the body and mind. Commonly known as the six enemies of the mind, they are elaborated in philosophical texts for mastering the mind, though ayurveda begins its discourse by stating that lack of control over these emotions are the origins for our diseases.

रागादिरोगान् सततानुषक्तानशेषकायप्रसृतानशेषान्॥१॥

औत्सुक्यमोहारतिदान् जघान योऽपूर्ववैद्याय नमोस्तुतस्मैः

Source: Ragaadi Rogan: Deeper meaning,

Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, such as anorexia, dyspepsia, vomiting, and diarrhea, are known to have a mental component. For some, even the mere thought of something disagreeable can result in vomiting. Diarrhea may happen from fear. Lack of appetite may be caused by psychological factors. Dyspepsia can be caused by mental health issues. When a hungry person with a good appetite learns of the death of a best friend or a close relative, s/he may lose their appetite.

The neurochemicals of emotion, such as serotonin and dopamine, are plentiful in the gut. In fact, over 90% of the brain mood regulator serotonin is made in the gut, some assisted by the gut bacteria in the microbiome. As Ayurveda looks presciently at patterns in the body to determine the course of disease while modern science looks at the molecules, combined understanding is now pointing to the fact that our psychological states are inextricably linked to what we intake.

Recent research has focused on the gut's nervous system, also called the enteric (ENS) or intrinsic nervous system, a mesh-like network of neurons that governs the all gastro-intestinal function from mouth to anus. The intestines and stomach have more nerve tissues and fibers than the entire spinal cord. As a result, the gastro-intestinal system, or ENS, is also referred to as a mini-brain. Stress, anxiety, depression, when it takes over the mind, an array of chemicals and hormones emancipates from the brain into the mini-brain or the ENS. These chemicals and hormones can either increase or decrease gut functions.

Disturbances in the mind will alter the nervous system and send signals to the gut, which then impede the smooth functioning of the Gut-Brain Axis, also affecting other body systems. The opposite is also possible, with imbalances in the gut creating GI and metabolic disorders which are then associated with mental disturbances and diseases.

The great ayurvedic teachers known as acharyas tried to help us understand this link by describing our mental and psychological states through mental qualities known as manasic doshas, sattva, rajas, and tamas; and through the themes that act through 5 physical elemental forces known as the tridosha, vata, pitta, kapha. Sattva signifies the body-mind being in harmony with the environment. Rajas describes the body-mind having a dynamic self-sense of being. Tamas describes the body-mind detached or lacking in harmony with the environment.

This mind-body connection is elaborated on many levels from subtle energies to chemicals of the body to visible human behaviors and reactions. It acknowledges the continuum of the living, which includes the body, senses, mind, and soul. The tridosha and the manasic dosha work together to synchronize and nourish the living entity.

On a practical level, when we spend time understanding how to be in harmony with our outer environment and finding peace and happiness in our inner self from those decisions, we create balance between our mind and body, especially our gut.  When we understand situations in which we should back away or disengage, we create disruption with the chaos of our outer environment but create peace and happiness in our inner self from those key decisions.

And when we need to be active and create change or run fast to conquer the problems in our environments, we inject a little dynamic rajas into our actions and thoughts, and create the change needed to rebalance body-mind and environment. As the environment cycles through vata, pitta, and kapha times of day and seasons, we can feel the impact of our actions on our own internal vata, pitta, and kapha. When the three doshas, vata, pitta, and kapha, and the two manasic doshas, rajas and tamas, work in harmony, the result is a body that is happy and productive.

The doshas are not only affected by our emotions and how we feel after taking actions, but they are also affected by flows and forces inside the body as it metabolizes. In addition, the gut has 100 trillion bacteria of different types that live in their own universe, pushing and pulling for space and creating chemicals that interact with our gut. They want a fresh delivery of foods they like, such as prebiotic vitamins, short-chain fatty acids, and friendly bacteria found in yogurt, pickles and fermented foods. They also detest preservatives, fillers, binders, non-nourishing colors and chemicals, and artificial sweeteners. But each person has a unique universe of bacteria, and so we must eat appropriately for them to flourish and help us keep a healthy gut.

The consumption of diets that do not rebalance our gut, combined with irregular eating patterns and habits that distract us from eating fully, causes these doshas to go haywire, resulting in pathologic conditions rather than nourishing the gut. These disturbances cause our body's agni (digestive fire) to malfunction. The imbalances that follow are often the start of a cascade of diseases beginning with inflammation.

Ayurveda advises us that all diseases are the byproduct of a disrupted agni (metabolism), particularly gastrointestinal disorders. Weak digestion or indigestion is caused by diminished agni or digestion errors. The first step to rebalancing the gut fire is to assess your habits around eating.  Do you eat with the seasons? Do you eat in a quiet pleasant space, without wind, direct sunlight, or loud noises?  Are you distracted by TV or phone?

To work our way back to the connected body-mind state of living, we must be conscious not only what goes into our vast metabolic machinery, but how. Things that siderail our intake of food include actions taken by our mind, as well unharnessed feelings and unprocessed emotion. They can bring the entire system to a halt.


Time Right for Aggressive Marketing in Indian Plant-Based Sector – Abhinav Sinha, GoodDot

At GoodDot, we always did things differently...and Olympic Gold Medallist Neeraj Chopra resonates with our brand, shares Abhinav Sinha on choosing the Olympian as brand ambassador of the plant based meat company. The unique advertising is just one part of the growth and marketing strategy being adapted by one of the first companies in the sector in India that is aggressively moving ahead.

Abhinav Sinha

Abhishek Sinha and Deepak Parihar founded a foodtech company in 2016 that went on to become one of the foremost plant-based meat companies from India. From then to now GoodDot has been trailblazing its way ahead in the sector with innovation, strategy and good practices. The company has been steadily gaining recognition internationally and it has been ranked 104th in the global Foodtech500 list (the world’s first definitive list of the global entrepreneurial talent at the intersection between food, technology, and sustainability). GoodDot vegan mutton and chicken-free products, many amongst them especially created to cater to the Indian taste profile are available across India in addition to Canada, Dubai, Nepal, South Africa and Nepal. Last year the company attracted VC funding, which will further the market reach.

Unmutton Bhuna Masala

The company named after a rescued goat Guddu has its presence in India as the largest vegan QSR – GoodDo. This year GoodDot has taken its marketing strategy several notches higher. Part of it involved roping in the Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra as the brand ambassador. Advertising campaigns, marketing initiatives are all part of reaching out to larger market and make our presence felt shares, Abhinav Sinha, VP-Strategy.

He explains the thought process behind roping in a brand ambassador, and why he thinks the time is right for GoodDot, “Brand ambassador is critical for any brand that is looking at making a name. For an early-stage company like Good Dot, you have to be very careful about spends. You have to be careful about when and how do you time when you bring in brand ambassador.

We wanted to have brand ambassador, who is prominent, who resonated with our brand and how to present him was going also to be the key. You can make a typical commercial, or you can have the brand ambassador use your product and say good things about it, or you can make him talk about the category first.

Neeraj Chopra with GudduThen we had to be sure the time was right. Good Dot as a brand is growing and we have fairly strong national presence in every state of the country. We got into modern trading and e-commerce, which is more directly main stream. We needed a brand ambassador to give us the inorganic push and fairly good visibility.”

For GoodDot choosing Olympian Neeraj Chopra turned out to be a masterstroke. Abhinav agrees, “We thought of different options. Two key brand ambassadors are cricketers and movie stars, who are personalities with vast fan following. At GoodDot, we always did things differently. We got into category when nobody did. We were one of the first early movers, who took it up big in India. We are out of small town in India- Udaipur, Rajasthan. We have been widely acclaimed in international platforms as products of absolute international calibre. We were selected for Parliament of World Religions held every 20 years. Our Food Truck Good DO was selected as the World’s second-best vegan truck on the planet. We received lot of accolades.

Neeraj too brought a lot of these qualities into the sport that not many followed. He came from small town India; from rural parts of Haryana not known to rest of India. And at the same time, he has been recognised across world for his excellence in what he does. His rise was also coincidentally the way we have been successful in growing. That’s how the choice came about.”

Vegan Butter Chicken

Indian plant-based sector is on an upward curve, poised to take off. Many products and brands are in initial stages, and in need of scaling up to meet the demand. Funds are coming in and several others are looking at a growth path. In a way, GoodDot is showing the way ahead in its aggressive marketing initiatives.

Speaking about the sector, Abhinav says that in India it is growing at a faster rate than in the US.

“Plant based sector is still nascent in India. But, if our sales or new brands on different types of platforms are an indicator, suddenly there is a barrage of companies coming in, and money is pouring in, which are key indicators of how the market is going to evolve.

If you have to graph it out, we are at the inflection point when the slope will increase sharply. In a year or two it will come into its own. Newer and stronger brands will come in. Indians are more receptive and accepting of plant-based. We are at the turning point of becoming mainstream. A listers are talking about it or they themselves are getting into the sector. Big companies are diversifying to include plant-based; VCs are getting into it.

And, if you think your product is good and has got market validation right – you must begin to put in your money where your mouth is. You must start to invest massively into marketing and branding.”

As far as GoodDot is concerned Abhinav Sinha says exciting times are ahead.

everyday superfoods

The ‘V’ Cook Bookshelf – February

For the month of February we have handpicked three cook books from across the world. One is by Nandita Iyer, who has shared recipes that are healthier and use locally produced Indian ingredients. Little Green Kitchen is about recipes that are kids friendly, and the third one is by the popular chef Dan Toombs, who by his own admission calls himself the 'Curry Guy'. He shares the recipes that he discovered in his quest across India.

Everyday Superfoods by Nandita Iyer

Nandita Iyer’s essential guide to adding superfoods to the diet, which as she says – One Step at a Time was published in 2021

With Superfoods being the keyword to healthy eating, Nandita brings in the context of India, with its diversity. She writes about the local produce that’s abundantly available– from millets in Karnataka to amaranth in Himachal Pradesh; turmeric in Salem to tea in Darjeeling and so on. one can introduce superfoods to one’s diet through simple recipes that can be made everyday. Easy meal plans, choosing what to eat based on your need are ecplored in the book through easy-to-follow recipes. Nandita Iyer says this cook book is a crucial step towards wellness. Nandita Iyer is a nutritionist. Her blog is Saffron Trail.




Curry Guy Veggie by Dan Toombs

Dan Toombs is the ‘Curry Guy’ himself based in UK. His passion for discovering the curry tradition rose along with his popularity. He began to publish his blog from 1993 onwards, and has published many books.

The cook book, ‘Curry Guy Veggie’ published in 2019 features meat-free Indian vegetarian food. This was the result of Dan’s quest to discover and learn Indian recipes. The book has 100 recipes that are simple, yet delicious. Starters, classic curries, Idli, Dosa, Breads and side dishes are carefully curated with ingredients and easy to follow instructions for the benefit of vegetarians from across the world, who love Indian curries.

Every recipe can be made from start to finish without any base sauce. This is a selection of some of India’s most popular authentic vegetarian dishes, says Dan Toombs on his blog.




Little Green Kitchen by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl

The husband-wife team Luise and David of the blog ‘Green Kitchen Stories’ created simple recipes and sought the help of their three children to try, test and approve them.

Omari McQueen, UK’s youngest award-winning vegan chef with a cook book at the age of 12 has proved young kids are the changemakers. If they are happy with food the dinner table becomes a happy place.

Luise and David, the husband-and-wife team behind acclaimed vegetarian blog Green Kitchen Stories, help you perfect the art of quick and easy vegetarian and vegan meals for all the family. Tried and tested by their three small children, their simple recipes mentioned in the cookbook include creamy broccoli pasta, tofu cashew masala, plus party food options and lunchbox favourites. Their recipes also come with option to upgrade to make it adult oriented.



Chef Manjit Singh Gill

Chef Manjit Singh Gill Decodes ‘Honestly’ Vegetarian Food

Chef Manjit Singh Gill is legendary for his gastronomic innovation. As Corporate Chef, ITC Hotels, he has curated menus for the popular concept restaurants Bukhara (North West Frontier Cuisine), Dumpukht (Awadh), Dakshin (South Indian Cuisine) and Kebabs and Kurries (from across India) and the latest of all - Royal Vega ('Honestly' Vegetarian menu based on the ancient Indian system of seasonal cooking.) He has served several Presidents of different countries, and has pioneered many initiatives to promote Indian food. His passion for vegetarian food manifests in his continuous endeavour to explore, discover and research on Indian traditional cooking, and bring recognition to Indian philosophy of food based on wellness and sustainability. He holds several awards, and recognitions and continues to inspire as President, IFCA (Indian Federation of Culinary Associations).

Chef Manjit Singh Gill shares, "I believe that you need not be rich to create sumptuous food. It is not about money. It is about the skill to create soulful food."

Excerpts from an Interview with Chef Manjit Singh Gill, a visionary, who represented India at many international culinary events, authored books on Indian Gastronomy and Eating Well, and is passionately working towards discovering forgotten recipes of Indian cuisines.

Chef Manjit SIngh Gill


How did a chef who worked on Bukhara and Dumpukht that were so much about non vegetarian food become so invested in Vegetarian food?

I am a vegetarian by choice. My sisters were studying in a Jain school and one day we decided meat will not be cooked at home. I have tasted meat for the first time only after joining hotel management. I do not mind tasting meat as a chef, and while doing that I can eat quite a lot; but my meals are always vegetarian. Even after working for many restaurants, what always bothered me was that the vegetarian eaters are not always happy to see a lot of meat around on buffets or even at an alacarte set up. Even the menu displays the non-vegetarian section first. And, there is hardly any choice on the vegetarian side. There are atleast 10 - 12 dishes made of paneer. Unlike what non-vegetarians think, vegetarians are not so fond of paneer. They would rather eat dishes made with fresh locally sourced vegetables.

Vegetarian food is much more balanced, more alkaline, and according to me it has more variety, that gets better with each season. It dramatically changes with season, and brings much more satisfaction when you eat food. I am talking about eating vegetarian food. Indian philosophy of vegetarian where dairy is also added.

Vegetarian menu is a combination of different elements like protein, carbs, fibre and fat and supplies ot body's desire for balanced food.

Chef Manjit SIngh Gill


How was the experience of creating the all-vegetarian menu for ITC's Royal Vega ?

Vegetarian food is available in every restaurant, but it is made in the same kitchen using same spices, and by the chefs who cook both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. When I got the opportunity to work for a vegetarian restaurant, it was easy for me to understand the sensibilities of vegetarian food. However, I realized that it was not that easy to create the menu. I took three years. For vegetarian dishes the quality of ingredients is very important. This is true even for meat dishes, but the quality of meat covers up for the other condiments. Whereas for cooking vegetarian food one cannot compromise. We realized that we cannot work well without making specifications of spices, which was never made before this. For every vegetable there is a different mix of spices that has to be used.

Vegetarian cooking is closer to sea food cooking. Also at the restaurant we call our food honest, and not just pure. We can cook pure food like we do in Bukhara where there is even a separate tandoor used for vegetarian; it is still subjective. Honesty is not subjective. At Royal Vega we created honestly vegetarian food. It is an attitude that creates an aura around the food and restaurant.

'You Eat What You Are! Can you elaborate on the statement?  

There are three types of food - Satvik, Rajasik and Taamsic, and these are well defined in Bhagavad Gita. Satvik food is advised for teachers and preachers of the religion. They are good listeners. The food is based on milk and vegetables with mild spices. It is not very high in spices and well balanced in tastes.

Rajasic is for people who are like the kshatriyas, who had to fight wars and do hard labour. They needed different power. They ate non-vegetarian food, consumed liquor, and the fat level was higher in their food. They needed aggression.

Taamsic food is highly acidulated, highly fermented and is for people who do nothing. Their body is busy digesting food, and no other energy is spent. When you say you are what you eat – it is more like 'You Eat What You Are'.

In today’s world, you don’t need food that warriors ate. However, restaurants serve more of rajasic food and little of satvik.

With most of the people in the modern world working in the corporate world, doing jobs and working - they need to eat both satvik and rajasic food. There is no harm in eating Rajasic food when you are in the race - you need a little aggression as well. But, one should never over eat Taamsic.

CHef Manjit SIngh Gill


Restaurants and hotels seem to be increasingly adopting traditional Indian cooking. What is your view on this? 

I strongly believe and its going to happen that the restaurants will increasingly plan their menus according to Ayurvedic principles and guidelines. For example, there is no concept of sweet after the meal in our tradition. Sweet after meal is a Western concept that according to my study goes back to 200 – 250 years. In our restaurant we tell people that if the food is balanced in six tastes - sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent; you will not desire sweet after food. You must eat sweets between the meal, an hour before or after the meal. As per Indian gastronomy, and culturally sweet as taste is included - this keeps the stomach cool and increases the appetite. But it is definitely not a course on its own, which affects digestion.

You have been travelling a lot. Would you like to share any experiences? 

I am discovering a lot of dishes from different parts of India. My first love is to work on vegetarian food. I found the tribal food of Indian from Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya has fantastic recipes absolutely cooked from basics. We need to write more about this food.


Agromatic Nutrifoods launches Letz Vez Plant-based Meat Products

After years of extensive research and development, food technology company Agromatic Nutrifoods announced its foray into the alternative protein segment with the launch of a new plant-based meat brand ‘Letz Vez’.

LetzvezzThe brand aligns with the company’s philosophy of offering high-quality, healthy, authentic food products to consumers that nourish their taste buds and their bodies. The vegan and vegetarian friendly range launched in the initial phase includes six products - Kebabz, Keemah, Nuggetz, Pattiez, Popz, and Sausez.

Letz Vez plant-based meat is free from trans-fats and cholesterol, and rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The protein extracted through the latest high moisture extrusion technology is healthier protein alternative say the founders.

Speaking at the launch, Vishal Baid Jain, managing director, Agromatic Nutrifoods, said, “Coming from a vegetarian family, I never tasted meat in my life. Most of my co-founders are also vegetarians, and therefore, when we first heard about plant-based meat, we felt it doesn’t fit into our ideology. However, it struck us that this product segment could help non-vegetarians and flexitarians quit meat. The idea felt revolutionary because through one product; we had the power to not only help people make ethical and healthier food choices but also protect the environment – all without compromising on taste!”

“Through Letz Vez, we want to cater to consumers looking for tastier and healthier protein-rich products. Considering that a large chunk of Indian population is vegetarian, we want to widen their options by offering them a delicious range of innovative products,” he added.

The Letz Vez range comes in frozen, ready-to-cook format and takes only a few minutes to prepare. The products are priced at a range of Rs 350 to Rs 595 and are currently available in Bengaluru.



Contemporary Twist to Ayurvedic Recipes on Hilton India’s New Aayush Menu

Hilton India launches Aayush, a sustainable health-focused vegetarian menu across all its properties in India.

Sustainable eating is making rapid inroads into fine dining and top hotels. Hilton India joins the trend with its new expanded menu that offers sustainable dining experience. The hotel advocates healthier eating through its brand new Aayush menu. The vegetarian menu is a modern spin on the immunity boosting Indian cuisine.

ayushAayush, the sustainable health-focused vegetarian menu brings back traditional Indian recipes that are rich in nutrients, low in calories and with natural healing properties. It will be available in all properties across India, curated by the culinary team in Hilton.

Aayush is a mindful creation that focuses at offering a healthier option, aimed at rejuvenating, purifying, and restoring inner strength of the body. The hotel believes in celebrating ancient Indian food combinations and flavours through Aayush, a contemporary version that perfectly blends with the shift towards plant-based alternatives, vegetarianism, and vegan diets enduring to be dominant trends in 2022.

aayushCommenting on the new menu, Prashant Kulkarni, Director F&B, India-Hilton said, "We at Hilton are amongst the pioneers in India to bring wholesome and mindful food options alongside our regular menu. It is part of our continuous endeavour to support the growing appetite for sustainable dining. In the past, our association with Wakao foods was welcomed by our guests for its innovation, sustainability, and deliciousness. Now with Aayush, we want to expand and cater to our conscious consumers with a satisfying meal, making dining out at any Hilton brand across the country a friendly and reliable experience. The menu includes immunity-boosting dishes like "Moringa Saaru," a drumstick soup from Southern India that is full of potassium, vitamin C, and other essential nutrients.”

This one-of-a-kind menu is Hilton’s venture into re-popularizing ancient Indian ingredients and superfoods through an array of starters, main courses, and desserts—guests can savour dishes like Tulsi aur Jau ka Shorba, Kapalanga Thoran, Kathal Sukka, Malabar Nadaan Curry, Vegan Quinoa Kheer, and Turmeric Latte, among others. According to Ayurveda, food has a great influence over one’s overall wellbeing, with people across the globe switching to Indian alternatives for foods and superfoods.



The Many Names of the SUPERFRUIT Amalaki

Known in Hindi as amla - the term for sour - amalaki is a living symbol for everything related to sour and its powerful effect on the body. Called the Indian gooseberry in English or the emblic myrobalan in botanical parlance, its taxonomical name is now Emblica officinalis, derived from the Sanskrit term amlika, meaning sour; and officinalis, the Latin term for a workshop-laboratory whose items are of use, especially medicinally to man.

AMlakiAmalaki, known as amla, avra and nelli, also has a multitude of both regional language names and variety names. Amalaki rose to fame outside India due to a solitary study that verified high vitamin C content, showing it contained 479 mg of Vitamin C in 100mL of juice or 750-850 mg of Vitamin C in 100 gram of fruit pulp, compared to other common fruits apple, lime, pomegranate, and two types of grape (ref PFHN, 2004, Jain, Khurdiya).

The ancients of Bharat however knew the marvels of this little round hard lime green-yellow fruit. Through thousands of years of history,  Sanskrit captured its value with many names, among them dhatrika, shriphala, amruta, sheeta, rochani, vrushya, gayatrei, tishyaphala, pancharasa, and kayastha. Its synonym dhatri comes from the Sanskrit term for the earth, and with dhatrika as the feminine form, with the connotation of mother or the act of nursing. In mythology, Dhatri is the god of health and domestic tranquility. Dhatri also refers to the nourishing and protection that the planet gives to us who live on it. It points to the deeper wisdom that this fruit can nurture our gut and help us grow.

Amalaki is also known as Shriphala, the fruit of Shri, the symbol of auspicious prosperity, good fortune and abundance. Keeping people healthy and strong, it allows them to work and live long, so that they can create and enjoy the wealth that good health brings. Amalaki is known as Amruta, because it preserves life and is thus like ambrosia. Called Sheeta, its veerya (potency) is cooling, so it cools the body’s pitta.

Its name Gayatrei refers to mother earth and her abundance and balancing power. Vrushya comes from the Sanskrit term Vrsya, which refers to the healthy spread of seed for growth and sustenance. Rochani refers to its use in healing wounds. Tishyaphala is the fruit (phala) of tishya, which means both auspicious-fortunate, is also another term for the month of Pausha, which falls during December/January. This is the best month to harvest the ripe fruit for medicinal formulations. Charaka also calls amalaki with the name pancharasa, because it has five (pancha) of the six tastes acknowledged by the rishis, as described above. Kayastha, means to dwell or remain in (-stha) the body (kaya), implying the body is healthy enough for the soul to remain in it as a happy home. In the areas near the Himalayas, the fruit is known as amala or a close variant, meaning cleansing and pure.

Preparing The Earthen Pot

Bhairavi Singh introduces the traditional cooking vessels that bring with them energy and nutrition. She shares the cleansing ritual that she follows as Sadhana, in order to keep them safe


The earthen pot has been a cooking vessel for thousands of years. It is a naturally perfect container that absorbs excess water and fire, the two elements most utilized in the transformation of food known as cooking. Maa bhumi is also considered sacred, as she gives us minerals and allows seeds to grow;  by cooking in her earthen vessels, we allow her sacred essence to be imparted into our food. Cooking becomes part of a daily sadhana.

My entry into the world of traditional vessels for cooking came from a hankering for old, lost worlds, where flowing with the rhythm of nature was the only way to be. The use of earthen pots thus became for me all about acknowledging the five elements of nature that encompass the entire macrocosm and microcosm through methodical variations, creating everything that is known and unknown. The use of earthen vessels brings into our food -- and thereby into us -- the energy and wisdom of ancient traditions that will withstand the storms of time.

traditional vessels

Earthen vessels add many micronutrients into our food that cannot be supplemented through a pill or powder. Slow cooking allows for the retention of flavors and breakdown of the ingredients to release their deepest essence. This allows for nourishment on every level.

The lack of nourishment on every level of dhatus is the major factor in obesity and most other imbalances in the body. Slow cooking in an open vessel makes food easy to digest, protecting the Jatharagni (master digestive fires) from diminishing.

Working with traditional vessels and methods of cooking is also connecting to a time, place, and people that emphasizes sustainability as not just another commercial idea but a way of living in each moment. The care and effort required in the preparation and maintenance of traditional vessels, the time required to learn and understand which kind of vessel is best suited with which dish and in which season is by itself a sadhana and science.

Since most wisdom traditions are fractal by nature, walking deeper into any one part will open doorways to other aspects, all connected yet complete in themselves. We have to look at all journeys into these preparations of food as passage ways rather than destinations or endpoints. This gives us permission to enjoy modern and perhaps more convenient methods of living. As long as the preparations are not harmful to either our inner or outer environment, we can enjoy the timeless wisdom.

We can use vessels made of steel, pre-seasoned earthen pots, or glassware. We can also enjoy the more attention-intensive unseasoned earthen pots or other traditional ware if we are in fine balance. As our senses begin to get clearer as our dinacharya (daily routine) aligns us, we will automatically find ourselves inclined toward using and employing those methods and means of living that are more and more in resonance with nature.

Care and Cleansing Ritual  

Earthen Pots

To begin each unique new journey, I purchase each vessel based on the earth being used (the soil of the region), the vendors, the place, and what I am visualizing using the vessel for.

After bringing it home, I first soak the unseasoned pot in clean water for 8-12 hours.

I put it in the sun to dry or find a sunny and warm spot inside. This can take 1-7 days, depending on the altitude, season, climate, and humidity.

Once it dries, I massage both the inside and outside with oil. Usually, I use organic sesame oil or mustard oil, but any cooking oil can be massaged into the new pot based on your usual healthy practices and experience.

I would not advise coconut oil because of its cold potency and tendency to harden in cold weather.

When the oil has soaked in, I fill the clay pot to the top with tandulodaka (rice water rinse) after washing the rice I will be cooking that day. I allow the new pot to sit with the water overnight. The murky water contains some starch and rice husk proteins, but no grains of rice.

After a full overnight soak, I bring that rice water to a slow boil in the new pot using only low heat. Then I turn off the stove and let the vessel rest.

After the pot has cooled, I wash the pot with a gentle cloth or scrubber. I use no detergents or soap unless I know what is in the soap. Personally, I am not ok with the residues of soap that will seep into the pores and eventually into our food, so I avoid soap completely.

Sometimes I use besan if I feel there is excess residue that needs scrubbing.

After the pot has been washed, I allow it to dry, which may take a day or two.

Then I massage with oil again and store in an open, airy place, not in closed cabinets.

This whole process need not be done every time you use the pot, but must be done before the first cooking. If you are using unfinished pots with no glaze, then repeat this process every month or so.

If white mold forms inside the pot, simply fill it with water and baking soda for a few hours and then clean it with warm water and a gentle scrubbing cloth.

If you are a very super-busy person, and cannot invest the time, there are other options today. While it is best to do sadhana by preparing the pot yourself, many vendors I work with now prepare pre-seasoned pots for sale. Even if I get a pre-seasoned pot, however, I will still engage in my saadhana and complete the whole process of soaking in water, drying in the sun, and thoroughly massaging with oil. Only then do I feel it is ready for my cooking.

Sadhana includes remembering that these are breakable pots, much like glassware or china-ceramic in the kitchen. You may want to try cast iron pans and pots if you break too many earthen pots.

Iron pots and pans

Iron pots and pans allowed a level of freedom for cooks, especially if frequent breakage was an issue.  Because metal also conveys energy, as well as heat, some special preparation or curing is a must.

For iron pots and pans, I begin with washing the vessel using wood ash. After washing, I put the vessel on low heat for 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the vessel. I then massage the entire pot with sesame oil and store it an upright position to allow the oils to move with gravity into the base.

Special Metal Vessels

Special metal vessels include those made with tin, brass, copper, or bronze.

Often these are finished for use with the art of kalai, a process of coating a layer of tin metal over the alloy surface of copper or brass, known as supashastra in ayurvedic cooking. This tin layer prevents the development of black copper oxides from air exposure or the green toxin copper carbonate that occurs when copper reacts with the moisture in air.

Kalai increases the sadhana needed for a vessel as tin melts at temperatures above 425oF (218.3o C). Because the tin coating also wears away with time and use, kalai is required about every two months if the vessel is used regularly. To protect the coating, one should use wooden spatulas and avoid metal utensils. One must also avoid cooking acidic foods in the vessels.

To clean copper or brass vessels, I strictly avoid harsh scrubbing because it will remove the tin coating and there will be unnecessary effort and expense to getting it coated every time. Every once in a while, to keep the oxidation residues off the vessel, I will massage it with a paste of lemon and salt, or a paste of baking powder. This removes those dangerous chemicals that are produced between metal and air, and metal and water, and keeps the vessel therapeutic.

Why go through all this effort with today's array of convenient vessels? The taste of food cooked in earthen vessels is indescribable. Dahls, vegetables, and grains are richer in flavor and have a robust energy in them. Minerals are slowly imparted into the food as it cooks slowly in these vessels. When people are in a hurry, ancient cookwares remind us to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n and bring sadhana back into our food.



Living with Amalaki         

In the regions where it grows, local people understand the uses of the amla fruits, branches, leaves, and tree bark. Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya and Dr. Ankita Ankush write about the immense value of Amlaki, and how people include it in their lives

In the places of the world where people cannot live with amalaki and watch it grow on the local tree, they use preserved forms of amla fruit, as it is commonly known. Understanding its immense value, and also its natural course of growing only in cooler temperatures, amla was thus processed into a myriad of forms.

Many Edible Forms of Amla

Amla is found in many edible forms accommodating its tight adherent pulp, such as murabba in a syrupy candied amla, dry amla candy, dried amla powder known as amchur, fresh expressed amla juice, amla cider, amla chutney made by adding fruit pulp to dhanya leaves then hing, salt and pepper; and triphala made of three fruits amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki. Its most popular form is chyavanpraash. Cosmetic uses include amla shampoo, hair oil, dye, tooth powder and face creams.

The annual day of paying respect to the amalaki tree is the ekadashi (11th day) of the Shukla Paksha (waxing increasing phase after the new moon) in the 12th month of Phalguna in the ancient calendar of Akhanda Bharata, which usually occurs in the Gregorian calendar of February or March. It is celebrated in Himachalpradesh and Uttarpradesh where amla grows most plentifully. Lakshmi is thought to reside in the amla tree.

There are at least ten types of amla, with variants due to various climates and soils where it grows. It prefers to grow in light and medium heavy soils of dry regions. While it is a tropical tree, it can tolerate the freezing temperatures in higher altitudes. Local people understand the uses of the fruits which can be 1.5 to 4 cm in diameter, branches, leaves, and tree bark.

The largest fruits, which are bigger than 4cm round, and which are free from blemishes and bruises are used for making aacharchutneys, murabba candies, and a variety of preserves. Fruits with defects are cut and salvaged then dried in the sun and powdered for use in triphala. The smaller fruits are ideal for the annual batch of chyavanprash. In general, the picked fruits can be stored 2-3 weeks if kept at 10 -15 C.  They are enjoyed as daily culinary side dishes through the season, switching over to the preserved dishes until the next season of amla arrives.

Varieties of Amalaki

Of the dozen varieties or cultivars of amla, there are four main ones, Banarasi, Krishna, Francis, and Chakaiya. Banarasi amla is one of the most popular varieties and like most amla plants growing in Varanasi district around the ancient city of Kashi/Benaras in Uttarpradesh state of India, it is the variety with the best medicinal qualities.

This variety ripens early compared to others, maturing fruits between mid-October and mid-November, at the time of the devi pujas. Each fruit weighs about 50grams, with smooth light-green skin and the typical 6 green striations from stem to sepal. But the fruits are more fragile and do not have a long shelf-life, and thus are not readily transported for commercial sale, but rather collected and used immediately, sometimes in culinary chutneys. but mostly they are quickly converted preserved as murabba. Freshmade Banarasi murabba can be found at local shops all over Benaras and nearby villages. The chyavanpraash made from Benarasi amla are the most therapeutic, and local residents who know clamor to the BHU (Banaras Hindu University) pharmacy outlet to get their annual supply, made accurately by the doctors of ayurveda and pharmacy staff, without any preservatives or substitutions.

Krishna amla is a commercial variety of amla due to its early ripening between late-October to late-November and into December. Its darker fruits are slightly smaller than Banarasi amla, with and average medium to large sized fruits of 45gm in weight. The skin is always smooth and the 6 stripes along the long axis are well marked. A tree will yield an average of 123 kg each season, and is commercially coded as the NA-5, Krishna amla.

Francis amla is a also mid-season crop, with fruits ripening between mid-November and mid-December. Its large fruits average 46gm in weight and are lighter, with a greenish white color. Because its branches droop significantly with the weight of its high yields, the Francis amla tree is known locally as the Hathi Jhool. These high yields make them a favourite for commercial manufacturers of amla-based products but they do not have the medicinal strength of Banarasi amla.

Chakaiya amla is a late crop, ripening between mid-December and mid-January. While the fruits are smaller compared to other varieties, with medium-sized average weight of 33gm, it contains high levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which is used as a standard marker by authorities.  The fruit is rich in fibre and pectin and yields a heavy crop every alternate year. Because is the most durable variety for transport and preservation, it is used for making pickles and drying shreds that are used for further product-making.
Increasingly, the non-clinical scientists, botanists and agriculturists are cleverly using economic variables to increase crops and sale of amla. They see amla for its vitamin C value and do not connect the ayurvedic nutrition value of the fruit and other parts of the tree.

Amla helps manage indigestion by improving the core digestive fire of the gut, known as pachaka pitta, the transformation of cooking. Amla also has a mild laxative property called rechana that assists movement of the gut for easier excretion of stool. At the beginning of winter, when most people have increased appetite and crave heavier foods, it is wonderful to have the belly cleaned out regularly.


Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplements vs Diet    

Dietary supplement industry use has grown drastically around the globe for the past decades, with sales increasing from 135 billion USD in 2016 to 205 billion USD in 20211. The premise of taking a pill to fulfil our daily nutrition requirements is captivating, but the underlying evidence is in conflict to this narrative.

One study says, "Dietary supplementation with folic acid to lower homocysteine levels had no significant effects within five years on cardiovascular events or on overall cancer or mortality in the populations studied." 2 Another says, "Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D increased the risk of cardiovascular events, particularly myocardial infarction." 3 The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, showed that “Vitamin E supplements could increase the risk of prostate cancer among healthy men.” 4

Most published studies show no overall benefits and some even point towards deleterious effects5. However, the sales of dietary supplements have increased steadily in the past few years, with market sales predicted to surpass 308 billion USD by the year 20281. On the flip side, dietary inadequacy is still a major concern across the world.

“In 2017, 11 million deaths and 255 million DALYs (disability-adjusted life year) were attributable to dietary risk factors. High intake of sodium (3 million deaths and 70 million DALYs), low intake of whole grains (3 million deaths and 82 million DALYs), and low intake of fruits (2 million deaths and 65 million DALYs) were the leading dietary risk factors for deaths and DALYs globally and in many countries”. 6  * DALY (Disability-Adjusted Life Years) is a measurement that examines years of healthy life lost due to disability.

Why are we forgoing a wholesome and healthy diet in favour of the masses adopting dietary supplements? Have dietary supplements filled the gaps in our diet? Whether or not they work, dietary supplements have managed to grow popular over the years.

Dietary supplements are products taken in addition to the normal diet and may include7:

  • Vitamins and pro-vitamins
  • Minerals and trace elements
  • Fatty acids, protein components
  • Herbs or other botanical products
  • A concentrate, metabolite, constituent, or extract
  • Others like brewer's yeast, algae, and probiotics

The use of dietary supplements can be traced back to an era in the past century where overt nutritional deficiency diseases were predominant. Food supplementation became favoured as people found the need to supplement B-group vitamins that were destroyed during food processing of white flour, white bread, and white rice. The widespread use of dietary supplements and the perceived benefits of vitamin C in scurvy or the benefit of cod liver oil in rickets continue to influence people’s perception of dietary supplements as an important constituent of a healthy diet because processed food products have become a way of life. But easy access to food products has also led to overconsumption, and people question whether eating food is better than focused intake of missing nutrients as supplements.8

Aggressive marketing of dietary supplements and their claims of numerous health benefits have succeeded in convincing the public, though the benefits are sometimes misleading. For example, using a Harvard study which showed an inverse association between prostate cancer and dietary lycopene -- the pigment found in deep-red ripe tomatoes, one brand promoted the use of their MVMs, MultiVitamin/Mineral supplements containing lycopene, though it contained many other constituents that might affect the user. The study was neither randomized nor tracked the effect of lycopene on overall health5.

The allure that a chemical compound can compensate for deficiencies in the diet stems from the original vitamin studies, but also from today's fast and disposable lifestyle filled with machines that move with fuel. “Prescription is more convenient than proscription.” It is easier to shift an imbalance by perceiving it as a deficiency that can be compensated by a supplement than to face the idea that an imbalance is due to tasty unhealthy foods. Rather than cutting down on junk foods, fast foods, fun foods, and our ill dietary habits, it is easier to take a pill.


  1. Statista. 2022.Dietary supplements market size worldwide 2028 forecast | Statista. [online] Available at: <>.
  2. Clarke R, Halsey J, Lewington S, Lonn E, Armitage J, Manson JE, et al. Effects of lowering homocysteine levels with B vitamins on cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cause-specific mortality: Meta-analysis of 8 randomized trials involving 37 485 individuals. Arch Intern Med.2010;170:1622– –31.
  3. Bolland MJ, Grey A, Avenell A, Gamble GD, Reid IR. Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular events: Reanalysis of the Women's Health Initiative limited access dataset and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2011;342:d2040.
  4. Klein EA, Thompson IM, Jr, Tangen CM, Crowley JJ, Lucia MS, Goodman PJ, et al. Vitamin E and the risk of prostate cancer: The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) JAMA.2011;306:1549–56.
  5. Kamangar F, Emadi A. Vitamin and mineral supplements: do we really need them?. Int J Prev Med. 2012;3(3):221-226.
  6. GBD 2017 Diet Collaborators (2019). Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Lancet (London, England), 393(10184), 1958–1972.
  7. [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. What are dietary supplements? 2008 Jun 25 [Updated 2016 Sep 8]. Available from:
  8. Lentjes MAH. The balance between food and dietary supplements in the general population. Proc Nutr Soc. 2019;78(1):97-109. doi:10.1017/S0029665118002525
dietery supplements

Forgetting Diet in Blind Favour of Dietary Supplements

Dr. Vyshna Ravindran and Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya look into the increasing trend of consuming dietary supplements, the continued tension between health and medicine, and the laws and regulations formulated to work around this tension

Dietary SupplementsAround the world, the burgeoning industry of dietary supplements has required laws that protect it from pharmaceutical regulations for chemical compounds and allow patients the freedom to use products such as vitamins, probiotics, extracts, herbs, protein powders, and minerals as well as trace elements without fear of domination over their personal health choices. This tension is best seen when food is considered medicine.

Terms around the world vary from dietary supplement, food supplement, phytopharmaceutical, health supplement, vitamins and minerals, health product, and food product.

In the United States, the tension between health and medicine has created laws that regulate these chemical substances more like food products and not as drugs, because they were taken out of foods during the food processes that emerged in the past century. Called "dietary supplements" in the USA, the government regulation of DSHEA in 1994 allows them to be marketed and sold without the required preclinical trials that drugs require1.

As long as supplement makers make no curative or medical claims -- skirting the fine line between health and medicine -- their claims must not be substantiated by any clinical evidence; else they will be forced to file a New Drug Application. Any claims of benefit against disease stand the risk of prosecution by drug regulatory authorities, because any ingestible item - food, dietary supplement, or new drug -- that shows medical benefits must undergo the testing required for drugs to be safe for the American public; this burden of proof is both time-consuming and expensive.

Of course, around the world where supplements are regulated differently and where these products are legally regarded as effective medicines, there are excellent studies of proof of efficacy. However, it is legally unwise and a necessary strategy to distance any dietary supplements from any claims made by their maker. At best, this confuses the consumer. But consumers, who are dedicated to taking certain compounds have always found ways and means for securing the supplement they wish to intake, in the name of personal freedom.

Dietary supplements have also become popular due to experts who create alarming connections between the chronic depletion of the soil due to profit-based farming and lack of proper bioavailable nutrient content in our food, rather than emphasizing the deleting techniques of food processing. Many rip away minerals, then reconstitute them artificially from non-native sources. Others add nickel and other metals as well as bleach to purify the smell and colors of natural products so they are more palatable. Still, other processes add fillers, preservatives, binders, colouring agents, flavour agents, and coating agents in the name of usual standards.

No regulation requires the labeling of non-nutrient in detail, such as the concerning percentages of these non-beneficial elements in each pill. These form the massive bulk of most dietary supplement pills. Capsules have non-nutrient compositions, either of the animal intestine, gelatin usually made from animal collagen taken from unidentified parts of the body, or plant cellulose. The burden that this unnecessary bulk puts on the body's detoxifying mechanisms is also significant and may correlate with the overwhelming reports of dietary supplement-induced liver injury (DSILI), which is on the rise2. Documented case reports of herbs and dietary supplements have identified the spectrum of DSILI: “elevated liver enzymes, hepatitis, steatosis, cholestasis, hepatic necrosis, hepatic fibrosis, hepatic cirrhosis, veno-occlusive disease, acute liver failure requiring a liver transplant, and death.” 3

Through marketing, dietary supplement makers have convinced consumers that supplements are superior to a wholesome meal and essential for compensating perceived insufficiencies of conventional store-bought food. In a time-conscious society, it is also easier to pop a pill on the way to school or work than to source then prepare organic and healthy food, especially in places where there are shortages of unpackaged food. People living in housing without kitchens, and people who travel frequently readily accept the convincing arguments for making dietary supplements part of their rationalized lifestyle.

These issues have never been addressed by large-scale evidence-based dietary intervention studies. Protecting the public from blind unrestricted intake of supplements seems less important than protecting them against medical claims of benefit. In ancient times, medicines were defined as those interventions that did no harm.

Any evidence that emerges that dietary supplements do indeed provide some benefit is countered by the legal consequences of providing adequate evidence for efficacy, as then the items are pulled off the market and forced to undergo paths for medical claims. In such biased states of evidence-making, studies that would point towards long-term side effects are also suppressed. Interestingly, vitamin toxic levels due to excess consumption have been selectively reported, fueled by the quack busters, who prefer profit and control of the pharma industry.

Observant health-seekers, who were encouraged by the freedom to access supplements have been following the trends and fall into two categories: those who seek more technological advances to help them regulate their intake of protein powders, vitamins, and high-dose biomarkers associated with health, often bio-hacking their way through the system; and those who have returned to hunting for nutriments that connect them to ancient successful and delicious ways of eating. Heritage foods and ancient grains have come alive again.


  1. Questions and Answers on Dietary Supplements [Internet]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2022 [cited 1 February 2022]. Available from:
  2. García-Cortés M, Robles-Díaz M, Ortega-Alonso A, Medina-Caliz I, Andrade RJ. Hepatotoxicity by Dietary Supplements: A Tabular Listing and Clinical Characteristics. Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(4):537. Published 2016 Apr 9. doi:10.3390/ijms17040537
  3. Brown AC. Liver toxicity related to herbs and dietary supplements: Online table of case reports. Part 2 of 5 series. Food Chem Toxicol. 2017;107(Pt A):472-501. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2016.07.001
Virat and Anushka

Virat and Anushka Sharma Will Bring In More Awareness to Alt-Protein – Sohil Wazir, Blue Tribe

As brand ambassadors and investors at the Indian Alt-Protein Brand Blue Tribe, Virat and Anushka will bring in more awareness to the cause, says Chief Commercial Officer Sohil Wazir

Its big news in the Indian alt-protein sector. Actor Anushka Sharma and cricketer Virat Kohli are now the brand ambassadors to the popular brand ‘Blue Tribe’. They have also announced their investment in the emerging company that currently has in its product range plant-based kheema, sausages, and momos. The couple has for long been advocating healthy living and planet-friendly lifestyle, and they are animal lovers.

VIrat and AnushkaSpeaking about the decision in a press announcement, Anushka Sharma said, "Virat and I have always been animal lovers. It's been years since we decided to adopt a meat-free lifestyle. The collaboration with Blue Tribe is a step to tell people how they can be more conscious and leave less impact on the planet by switching to a plant-based diet.”

"At the end of the day, I'm a foodie too. I want to enjoy the kind of food I love without leaving a huge carbon footprint. I know a lot of people feel the same way. This is why I believe, if we can have a lower dependence on meat, without short changing our taste buds, there is potential for a planet-changing impact. This is where Blue Tribe is proving to be a gamechanger, striking a perfect balance between food that's really tasty and good for the planet."

Sandeep Singh (Co-founder, Blue Tribe) said, "In India, over 60% of the people are non-vegetarian, and most people have no idea about the negative effects it has on the planet. The good thing is that we are becoming aware of what we eat, and we are grateful to Anushka and Virat for supporting Blue Tribe and spreading this message further.”

Virat and AnushkaSohil Wazir, (Chief Commercial Officer, Blue Tribe Foods) in an interview with Ayuve, shared, “You are aware that Blue Tribe is into plant-based meat. Through our marketing initiatives we are trying to reach out to more and more people and show how meat consumption is damaging the planet. We want to tell them there are meat-free alternatives that are similar in taste and texture. As part of our marketing, we have been taking on chefs who cook predominantly non-vegetarian food, and asking them to create recipes with our products. This continues to be our content building exercise. We are also available in Five-Star hotels’ menu and the recipes made using our products are named after Blue Tribe. We worked with Anahita Dhody for NDTV Food channel. Currently we are working with Chef Varun Inamdar for his very popular show ‘Get Curried’. People who are into vegan food already know us; it is the early adapters we want to reach out to.”

“In the West, several sports celebrities, and actors etc., have been endorsing alternate protein brands. There are brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Meat reaching out to customers. Virat and Anushka wanted to invest in an Indian brand. When they approached us, we knew we would be able to make more people to understand to cut down on their meat consumption and adapt alternative meat on atleast few days of the week,” he added.

As brand ambassadors Virat and Anushka will surely amplify the brand voice. In addition the investment is a shot in the arm for the young company that is already a familiar name on the Vegan food shelves. “We have in our products Kheema and frozen Momos that are extremely popular. Soon we will be launching burger patties – both meat and chicken. We will also be launching Indian dishes. In 2-3 months, we will be launching our Kebabs. We plan to expand well into other cities of India,” Sohil shared the growth plans.

Ewoke Vegan Cafe

Being Woke at Ewoke Vegan Cafe in Hyderabad

Being Woke is about being conscious, and being responsible says Mohanlal Chowdhary, one of the founders of Ewoke Vegan Cafe and Store. The well-stocked store is like a poster display of all Indian brands producing alt-protein, plant-based and vegan food alternatives, and organic brands. There is a dazzling variety of imported brands as well.

Ewoke Vegan Cafe
Team Ewoke

And as you walk through this vegan manna, you enter the conscious café, where the extensive and ever emerging menu boasts of French, Italian, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisine. Coconut milk cheese, almond milk, tofu, alternate meat etc., are all used to create food fare that includes classic dishes that one would assume were not possible without using dairy or meat.

E`woke is a product of passion and a dream envisioned by Mohan, along with Vaid Mohan and Anil Chowdhary.

Ewoke Vegan Cafe
Spaghetti Meatballs Pasta

In an interview over some amazing vegan, gluten-free pizza and Spaghetti Meatball Pasta, Mohanlal Chowdhary introduces the café, which is one of the foremost on the vegan curve in Hyderabad, India, and explains the concept and future plans for Ewoke Vegan Cafe.

How did you become a Vegan?

I am a born vegetarian by virtue of being from a Marwadi family. I personally have always been conscious of the environment and an activist too. After watching a few documentaries, I thought to myself - to teach compassion we have to be kind towards animals too and in order to be able to preach one must practice. And that’s when I decided I will be a vegan.

How difficult was it to convince your family?

Ghee is big time part of life and culture in Rajasthan from where our roots are. When my mother first heard about me turning into a vegan, she thought I went crazy. She even wondered how she could cook anything for me at all. I had to tell her to just remove dairy while cooking food and I shall happily eat. Even today she thinks something will happen to me and that I will fall ill because I have removed animal sourced dairy totally.

What were the main challenges that you faced as a new vegan?

One of the major challenges was non-availability of vegan alternatives. There was no access. Before becoming mainstream, vegans used to order online. Shipping was exorbitant and would take time, I have been a vegan for two years now. Even earlier to that I was on and off a vegan mainly because I was finding it difficult to source food. We wondered what we could do to bridge the gap. That is the main reason for me to start Ewoke, as a dedicated store where one can get everything that they need to make a meal in their kitchen.

Ewoke Vegan Cafe
Ewoke Vegan Cafe

How did Ewoke Vegan Cafe come about?  

I am originally into wholesale distribution in the construction industry. After starting Ewoke, I realized this needs more attention and so I spend most of the time here attending to customers, and answering to the curious customers. Especially, post pandemic more and more health-conscious people are wanting to know about veganism and many walk in with a bunch of doubts. In addition to having access to a store, people need to know how to integrate the ingredients into cooking. If someone picked up almond milk, or vegan cheese they must know how to use it. They must know that vegan food in addition to being healthy is also tasty. And, for this reason we started Ewoke Vegan cafe, where we use ingredients from our store to create the menu.

Ewoke Vegan cafe
A few vegan dishes at Ewoke Vegan Cafe

We did a whole lot of research that went on for six months before we started. Most of the Vegan products are manufactured on smaller scale. And, for us, we need to be very careful about the quality and check if a brand is consistent in maintaining it. We need to place trust, but we need to also check everything, read the backside of the packaging, and understand the ingredients, and this is an ongoing process.

We experimented a lot while creating menu as well. There have been hits and misses. We tried using various cheese varieties and combination to create vegan versions of familiar dishes - burgers, pizzas, bolognaise made of vegan meat…

What is the status on the challenges in procuring ingredients?

Sourcing and price continue to be a challenge. While it is value for money if we consider the health benefits of eating vegan food; ours is definitely a price sensitive market; and we continue to face the challenge.

Unlike in the US where Veganism has become mainstream and hence better researched, the scale of Indian made vegan alternatives is much smaller than the demand. That said, with big companies like ITC trying to bite into a chunk of the market indicates, Veganism has surely arrived. With film actors Riteish and Genelia starting Imagine Meats, now a lot more people are inquisitive, and the number of vegans converting for health reasons is increasing. We need to have more standalone stories selling vegan products. Accessibility has to increase. We are planning to open few more standalone stores and a café in Jubilee Hills soon.

Saraswati Puja

Saraswati Puja Special Tiler Naru for all times

My mother and aunts were quite proficient at making sweets appropriate for each festival, each season, and each climate. They hunted in stores for the right ingredients as they traveled the world, and always brought Bengali culture into our modernized, westernized lives. Naru means a bright, golden color. These golden yellow balls are perfect for Saraswati Puja.

Here is the recipe for Manashi’s Tiler Naru – Sesame Gobstoppers


White Sesame Seeds     100 gm

Date Palm Jaggery         100 gm

Water                                 2 T

Ghee                                   1 Tsp


Step 1: Begin to heat a kadai/wok and dry roast the sesame seeds on medium heat, stirring continuously.

When a nice aroma is emitted, with a slight darkening of the seeds to a golden brown, remove from the kadai into a bowl. This will take 3-4 minutes of stirring.

Step 2: Add the jaggery to the kadai and add some water to allow it to melt, as it heats on medium heat, with continuous stirring to break it down. Do not raise the heat as it may cause the jaggery to burn.

After about 5-6 minutes, the jaggery will turn into a foamy and golden brown paste. If it drips in a long stem from the stirring spoon, or if it dries immediately on the hand, it has fully cooked. Turn off the flame.

Step 3: While the jaggery is still hot, add the sesame seeds and stir completely until it is homogenous.

Step 4: Before the mix cools fully, quickly rub some ghee on the palms and roll 1 tablespoonful into a ball on the palm.

Place naru in a bronze bowl to offer to the divine during Saraswati Puja before eating.