Whether you’re eating dosa or paratha, pulao or naan, a little chutney on the side always lifts the meal up. Chutneys, which are basically slightly thick relishes made with mild spices and fresh foods, are a staple in Indian cuisine no matter which part of the country you come from. Given the variety of dishes produced in India’s regional cuisines, it’s natural that there are hundreds of types of chutneys prepared in homes around the country every day.
But the question to ask is, are chutneys healthy? The simple answer is yes. If you consume chutneys prepared at home that don’t have excess sugar, salt or preservatives, you are eating something healthy. A study published in the Journal of Food Science & Technology in 2018 suggests that just like pickles, Indian chutneys freshly prepared at home are packed with nutritive qualities gathered from their basic ingredients and are great for your intestinal health. The study also points out that while chutneys aren’t fermented and have a shorter shelf life compared to pickles, they are also quick and easy to make.
The following are some common Indian chutneys and the health benefits you can gain from them.
1. Mint-coriander chutney
Like all herbs, both mint and coriander are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Moreover, these herbs aren’t high on calories but they do pack a substantial amount of dietary fiber. Adding other ingredients like garlic and green chillies add to the concentration of nutrients, especially the bioactive compounds.
2. Garlic chutney
A study published in Antioxidants in 2020 suggests that garlic is incredibly nutritious and has many disease-preventing properties. It suggests that eating garlic daily can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Usually, coconut, peanuts and red chillies are also added to garlic chutney, which increases the concentration of antioxidants in this relish.
3. Tomato chutney
Tomatoes are not only rich in vitamin C, B, E and minerals like potassium but also contain a bioactive compound called lycopene. Lycopene can protect your cells from damage, and therefore is a very important disease-preventing agent. Eating tomato chutney can therefore be quite beneficial but make sure you don’t add any sugar to it. Instead, use jaggery or dates to balance the taste of this chutney and add to its benefits too.
4. Coconut chutney
Though coconuts enjoy a reputation for being fatty, the fact is that they contain medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are much healthier than the saturated fats derived from animal foods. This apart, coconuts also contain high amounts of fiber, copper, manganese, iron, selenium and phosphorus. Even though they’re not rich in vitamins, coconuts are nutritious and so is a simply prepared coconut chutney.
5. Peanut chutney
Peanuts may be high in calories but they’re low in carbs and rich in plant proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A peanut chutney usually also contains tomatoes, onions and garlic, which adds to the concentration of nutrients in the dish.
6. Tamarind chutney
This sour fruit has very high amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B5 as well as minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and phosphorus. Tamarind is also exceptionally rich in flavonoids, which makes it additionally good for your health. Tamarind chutney also includes ginger powder and asafoetida, which adds to the antioxidant richness of the dish.
7. Hemp seed chutney
Hemp seed chutney is especially popular in states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Hemp seeds not only include all nine amino acids – which makes them one of the best protein sources out there – but also contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E and B6, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Eating hemp seed chutney can give your heart, metabolic and cognitive health a good boost.
8. Raw mango chutney
Raw mangoes are exceptionally rich in vitamin A, C and E and are packed to boot with minerals and antioxidants too. Though only available from spring to summer, this raw fruit is very nutritious and makes a delicious sweet-and-sour chutney. However, make sure you don’t add white sugar to this chutney and instead rely on jaggery or brown sugar to add sweetness.