Healthy Pakistani Food

Pakistani cuisine is versatile and incorporates lots of different vegetables. Also prominent are fruit and fish found in or around Pakistan. Unlike its Indian neighbors, Pakistan is home to lots of meat eaters; garnished with vegetables, spices and broths. Many Pakistani dishes can also be vegetarian. Pakistani recipes can be high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and essentially low in fat.

Chicken tikka masala
Chicken tikka in a pot. (Image: vm2002/iStock/Getty Images)

Chicken Tikka

Chicken tikka is a dish made from skinless, boneless chicken breasts, smothered in a spicy paste and grilled. The chicken itself provides minerals such as iron and zinc, which are used to carry oxygen through the body and to maintain healthy hair and nails. Chicken tikka also contains garlic and ginger, which both carry antibacterial properties, that can help stave of a cold or help to break up mucus in the lungs. The paste for chicken tikka is bonded together using yogurt, which contains the mineral calcium. Calcium works to ensure the healthy growth and development of bones and teeth. Calcium is needed to prevent the development of brittle bones as you age. Since chicken tikka is grilled, it is very low in fat.

Aaloo Palak

Aloo “potatoes” palak “spinach,” is a vegetarian dish usually served as a side dish. The potatoes in this dish are a great source of B-vitamins used to metabolize food in to energy. In addition the spinach in aaloo palak contains folate, which is a B vitamin that’s used for new cell production and helps to prevent birth defects during pregnancy. According to Harvard Public Health, folic acid “folate," may also help reduce the risk of developing colon cancer and breast cancer. Aaloo palak contains a mixture of garlic, cumin, red chilis, turmeric and tomato. This vitamin and mineral rich meal contains a small amount of oil, which is used to fry off the spices.

Chapati

Chapati is a Pakistani flat bread that accompanies most meals. This bread is made by combining 2 cups of whole wheat flour, .25 tsp of salt and 1 cup of warm water; diving the dough into small balls and rolling them out, thin like tortillas. Since this bread contains wheat flour, it also contains a good amount of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is used to maintain weight, lower cholesterol, aid in healthy digestion and balance blood sugar. The bread contains no oils or fat, so it is cholesterol and saturated fat free. Once the bread is rolled, it gets cooked for a few minutes on each side in a dry pan.

Fish Salaan

Fish salaam is a main course dish made with a combination of onion, garlic, yogurt, turmeric, chili, mixed spice “garam masala”, tomatoes, lime, fenugreek leaves and coriander. These spices and vegetables are cooked and then the boneless, skinless fish is added to the sauce and cooked for 10 minutes. Fish salaam is usually served with white basmati rice, which can be substituted for fiber-rich brown basmati rice. Any fish can be used in fish salaam, so for a good dose of omega-3 add fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel. Omega-3 fatty acids contain heart healthy properties that reduce the risk of heart disease. This dish contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, which include, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, B-complex vitamins and vitamin E. Increase the health benefits of this dish by omitting the salt or substituting saturated fat based oil with olive oil.

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