July 4, 2013

Granny’s Rustic Tips for Health And Beauty

The other day, my friend Suma visited me after a long time and happened to notice my domestic help’s boisterous 2 year old son. “I really wonder how your maid-servant’s brat manages to grow so strong and muscular! Whatever is she feeding him? I feed my child with the best foods available and the tonics which our doctor has suggested – not to mention fruits and biscuits. But she is not half as chubby as that child!” exclaimed Suma over a cup of strong coffee.

Pic credits

We decided to ask Chinni, our maid servant the secret of her little one’s robust health. “Nothing particular. I give him nothing but my milk.”, was her humble reply.

One really doesn’t need expensive, exotic potions, lotions and creams to look beautiful and remain healthy. All the beauty aids can be got right off the kitchen shelf.

But what was her special diet of food to have such an abundant supply of healthy milk for the toddler? With the escalating cost of living and her meagre hand-to-mouth existence, how could she afford to buy nutritious food items? But all she and the likes of her have for breakfast is the earlier night’s cooked rice, soaked in water with a a few green chillies and onions to go with it. It’s called pazhaya soru/ Neeragaram in Tamil Nadu, South India. It’s a staple breakfast of the lower middle class families and laborers in Tamil Nadu.

Pazhaya soru / Neeragaram (Fermented Rice)
Until the last generation, consuming pazhaya soru (fermented rice) in the morning was a regular practice even in the upper middle-class households of South India. I clearly remember now how my granny used to press out the water from the fermented rice and mix fresh curd in it. Then she would add finely chopped onions and green chillies for that punch.

There would be the night’s left over curry, freshly heated, and some pickle to go with the rice. More often, there would be a leafy vegetable like lettuce or spinach cooked and mashed to a paste and then mixed in the curry to enhance not only the taste but also its nutrient value.

Pazhaya Soru / Neeragaram

Thinking of pazhaya soru, the sweet memories of granny’s adept story-telling also comes back to my mind. Eating fermented rice, however is not restricted to Tamil Nadu, It’s consumed in other states too with slight variations in the recipe. It’s called poita bhat in Assam, panta bhath in Bengal, pokhalo in Orissa and Pakhala Bhath in Chhattisgarh. It’s basically a cooling food and apt for summer months.

But children of our present generation would wrinkle their noses at the thought of eating fermented rice. What is so great about eating stale rice, when there are so many palatable varieties of dishes for breakfast? They would ask.

Yes, fermented rice has its own unmatched qualities, alien to other dishes freshly made. My granny used to say that fermented rice not only increases one’s resistance to various diseases but also contains plethora of nutrients, which keeps the limbs strong and the skin soft and smooth. Once I asked my granny how she could manage to keep so healthy at her 80 years. She was doing all the domestic work at that ripe age without depending upon anyone else and her vision was clear too.  “This body was nourished with fermented rice, right from childhood, my child.” she smiled. How right granny was! New research fully supports granny!

The agricultural biotechnology department of the Assam Agricultural University (1) is all praise for this water-soaked rice. It was found that lactic acid bacteria isolated from pazhaya soru/ poita bhath had the potential of removing anti-nutritional factors in fermented food. Madhumita Barooah and Gunajit Goswami who worked on this, extol the benefits of this rice.  “About 100gm of cooked rice has only 3.4mg of iron, while for the same quantity of rice fermented for 12 hours, the iron content went up to 73.91mg. Likewise, sodium, which was 475mg came down to 303mg, potassium went up to 839mg and calcium went up from 21mg per 100gm of cooked rice to 850mg, after 12 hours of fermentation of the same quantity of rice,” Madhumita goes on to say that fermentation assists in breaking down of complex micro-nutrients in rice and facilities easy digestion.

Here’s some more information from another source (2). While fermenting left over rice no starter microbial culture is added and as a result all varieties of bacteria grow in it. There are also the good ones that feed on rice nutrients and secrete  vitamin B12. Now it’s a known fact that eating vitamin B12 rich food prevents anemia and fatigue and tiredness. And as such people who indulge in laborious activities are bound to benefit from the intake of Vitamin B12 and several other micro-nutrients by eating water-soaked fermented rice.  Adding onions to fermented rice or eating those crunchy onions as a side also has a health advantage. Since fermented rice, unlike yogurt, has all sorts of microbes, including the bad ones, it’s highly necessary to negate their disease causing influence. This is taken care of by eating fermented rice with small onions or shallots which are rich in sulfur-containing anti-bacterial compounds.

In India, most systems of medicine usually frown on stale and insipid food and insist on eating freshly prepared food for good health. However this fermented rice dish seems to be an exception. For the poor, it’s a boon. Left-over rice is made good use of without any wastage. And fermentation enhances its nutritional and health-giving capabilities making for a very filling breakfast. They can work for hours together without feeling hungry in the scorching heat of the hot sun with full zest and vigor.

For recipes to prepare authentic and traditional pazhaya soru / Neeragaram, take a look here and here.

Granny’s wonderful collection of rustic tips for health and beauty

For young mothers: After my sister’s delivery, granny insisted that she should have fermented rice water in the morning so that the flow of breast milk would increase. Consuming the juice of plantain stem with a pinch of salt also brings desired effect.

Now you may have surmised the simple secret of Chinni’s abundant and long-lasting lactation.

The medicinal use of plantain-stem and fruit: It is said that the regular intake of plantain stem, raw or cooked, has the property of melting away kidney-stones and gradually curing he malady without surgery. The plantain flower has the ingredients which cure menstrual disorders and restrict excessive bleeding.

Honey and its effects: Pure honey has the power of soothing our nerves. People who suffer from insomnia and who cannot sleep due to mental tension may try consuming a cup of hot milk with a couple of spoons of pure honey before going to bed. Honey mixed with hot milk induces sound sleep.

Squeeze half a lemon in half a cup of lukewarm water and mix in a teaspoonful of honey. A regular consumption of this mix in the morning, before breakfast, helps one reduce obesity, without losing energy.

The nourishing leafy vegetables: Spinach and lettuce are the most common leafy vegetables used in Indian cuisine. These keep the skin glossy and help easy bowel movements. Apart from this, South Indian cuisine makes frequent use of drumsticks as well as drumstick leaves which have the highest iron content among leafy vegetables. This also functions as a blood purifier.

Fenugreek leaves, are also iron-rich and prevent our body from over-heating. Colocasia, bay leaves and coriander leaves are used in many Indian dishes. Coriander leaves have the property of keeping the eyesight bright and sharp. Colocasia and yam leaves have rich iron content. Bay leaves are said to purify the blood.

Onion and garlic: Raw onions are a regular feature in most Indian thalis. Onions eaten raw have the property of strengthening heart muscles and thus preventing hypertension and the subsequent heart attack. Onions also soothe nerves, and enhance, it is believed, virility in men.

Cut an onion and keep a half in the kitchen shelf. The nocturnal visits of cockroaches and lizards can be prevented by this, as these insects are allergic to the smell of onion. Garlic acts as a blood purifying agent.

The hair-growing hibiscus: The prime factor of feminine charm lies in long, black, shiny hair. The secret of Kerala women’s thick and glossy hair is their daily use of coconut oil, and hibiscus leaves. Applying coconut oil and washing hair with the sticky paste made up of hibiscus leaves is the daily routine of Kerala damsels.

Instead of soap, most of them use the sponge-like inside of dried ridge gourd (turai) or the softened bark of a certain tree called, ‘Incha’ for scrubbing and cleaning their bodies. This preserves the smoothness of their skins.

Sometimes, they drench their hair with coconut milk and then wash it with cold water. Both coconut oil and coconut milk deter untimely greying of hair, and also maintain its rapid growth. (Se Homemade Hibiscus oil)

Munching a handful of fresh coconut scrapings or gargling with coconut milk cures painful mouth and throat sores almost overnight.

The blood-red hibiscus flowers are used in cooking. The intake of hibiscus flowers help in maintaining body temperature. These also discourage the excess formation of bile, which may cause giddiness, nausea and even vomiting. Ginger and black pepper also control bile, besides curing indigestion and common cold.

Amla and Khuskhus: The application of khuskhus paste on the head is recommended not only for curing menorrhagia during menopause, but also as a remedy for mental depression seen in some women during that phase.

Amla paste is also applied on the head as a cure for depression and for schizophrenia. The intake of amla helps clean the bowels. Washing one’s eyes daily with amla water is a good remedy for short sight.

Tomatoes and cucumber: The tomatoes, the “love apple” as it was called by the Greeks has rich and varying qualities in preserving beauty and maintaining good health. Cut a tomato and rub the pulpy portion on your face, neck and hands. After 15 minutes, wash with cold water. Doing this thrice a week will certainly endow your face and hands with a shiny look and silky texture.

Applying cucumber paste on the cheeks, forehead and neck makes your skin fairer. Keep cucumber slices over your eyelids for 10 minutes and then remove them. Your eyes will feel cool and bright.

Fruits and their medicinal value: An ounce of ripe papaya juice, the juice of pineapple (ananas), and the juice of amla each mixed in equal proportion and administered thrice a day to a child suffering from worms will cure him forever of the ailment.

Pomegranates, papayas and oranges have lots of wonderful nutrients and antioxidants in them and hence excellent to ward off aging.

The banana which is called the poor man’s fruit (though its cost has sky-rocketed these days)  is rich in nutrients and minerals. Ripe banana relieves your from constipation. We can even boldly say, “A plantain a day keeps the doctor away!”

Water, the balancing agent: Drinking 8-10 glasses or water a day will keep your digestive system in good condition and drive away constipation. During summer, the intake of water should be even more to guard ourselves against dehydration.

The importance of exercise: Above all, exercise is the most important factor in maintaining good health and a beautiful physique. Village belles have a robust physique. The reason for this is their hard work.
Drawing water from the wells and grinding and pounding in the primitive fashion, give their chest, back and shoulder and hand muscles frequent and ample exercise.

But we, the elite and city bred, with modern amenities and easy-to-work kitchen accessories, have no opportunity for such exertion. Instead, we can do skipping and spot-jogging for at least 15 minutes daily, so that our muscles and limbs do not get sluggish.

Instead of stocking vegetables and fruits for a week in the fridge, one can go to the market nearby, say, within a distance of 2 kilometers. This will give one the chance of a brisk evening walk – and fresh green vegetables and fruits too.

While walking, care should be taken to hold the chin high, the chest straight, and the stomach in. This mode of walking prevents the developing of an ugly paunch and maintains an elegant and attractive posture.

Walking should be brisk and rhythmic with the heels planted firmly first. One hour of cycling burns 250 calories of energy. The same amount of calories are used for walking for an hour. When 3500 calories of energy are spent are spent, a person is supposed to lose a pound of weight.

Thus, with granny’s good old methods to follow we can maintain and preserve a healthy and beautiful body with the help of cheap and readily available fruits and vegetables coupled with simple exercises, without spending a fortune on costly diets and exotic gyms.

Guest Post by S. Shankaran

References: (1), (2)

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  1. Srahsthi3:34 PM

    Put water on a pan and wait till it boils, put your face in the stream with a towel around you for 5ish Min's, then put pure acholo (vodka) on your face with a cotton ball, wait till it dries and then use moisturizer. Made my skin soft and clean.

  2. Preeti3:35 PM

    using carrots on your face will reduce redness

  3. Kamala2:56 PM

    for severe sinusitis is 1tsp of cinnamon with a drop of water, mix to form paste and apply to sinus areas making sure to avoid eyes. This paste will redden skin and it does tingle but results are amazing for sinusitis.

  4. Kaveri3:06 PM

    Soothe your sore throat using grandma's old-fashioned remedy! Take 3-4 dried sage leaves and put them into a cup of hot water and let stand for approximately ten minutes then gargle while it is still warm. Additionally, to treat canker sores add lemon (1/2 tsp.) to the concoction. Or, finally, there's always the salt-water gargle! Do this by adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water and gargle to relieve the pain.

  5. Kamal3:08 PM

    A solution of salt water (I/4 teaspoon to a cup of water) sniffed from the palm of the hand unclogged a stuffy nose.

  6. Time repeated prove that a Granny's/kitchen's beauty tips are the best, affordable, easy to prepare and more so, without side effects.

  7. Anonymous3:57 PM

    apples contain quercetin an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. It also has considerable amounts of pectin, a soluble dietary fibre, known to reduce blood cholesterol level, help burn body fat, improve gut flora and help in binding loose stools, typically therefore used in diarrhoea

  8. Expert3:57 PM

    Guava, a powerhouse of vitamin C, protects us from cold and flu with 4 - 10 times more vitamin than citrus food


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