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To eat or not to eat? Is Indian food healthy?

Written By Reena on 13 Nov 2009 | 06:14

People quite often express surprise when I say that Steve and I typically eat Indian food at home.  The consensus is that Indian food is very oily and full of fat.   If your only experience of Indian food is from the occasional takeaway at Hussein's Raj Bhaj, then I can see how the perception may arise but it is the equivalent of an Indian stating that all European cuisine is deep fried following a trip to the local fish and chip shop!

The basic principle is that fat is tasty.  As such, the majority of food (of all cuisines) served in restaurants is high in oil, butter, ghee or cream.  I concede that some Indian restaurants take this too far and the texture of the dish can become too greasy and unappetising - especially when there is a layer of oil floating on top of the dish.  Please do not assume that that is typical Indian home cooking - and it is certainly not an example of good Indian cooking. 

Even in good Indian restaurants there are dishes that are high-calorie options that can easily be avoided:
  1. Avoid deep fried appetizers e.g. samosas, bhajias
  2. Avoid obviously fat filled curries e.g. butter chicken (the name says it all)
  3. Choose chappatis or boiled rice instead of naan (made with butter) or pooris (deep fried)
  4. Choose fresh fruit for dessert instead of the traditional Indian desserts e.g. kulfi (made with condensed milk), jambu (deep fried and soaked in syrup).        
 When cooking at home you can control the ingredients you use and the recipes you cook.  I am not suggesting that all Indian home cooking is low fat; there are many Indians that are overweight and eat too much fat at home (although the fact that prior generations did not place any importance on exercise is also relevant here).  Conversely there are just as many Indians that are health conscious and use an abundance of vegetables, lentils and pulses in their cooking to ensure a low fat, balanced diet.  However, as in most cultures, celebration food tends to be high calorie and either deep fried or full of sugar, butter and whole milk.  As such even though the majority of the dishes that I post on this blog are healthy, I will occasionally include a high-calorie dish to give balance to the recipes I share.  After all there is a lot of pleasure to be had from eating and the occasional indulgence is good for the soul.

About Reena


  1. Dear Reena,When I spoke to my good friend Hussein Raj Baj he was most upset and denied everything. He said his fish and chip shop was and always has been very healthy indeed! I think I was able to pacify him although when he left he was mumbling something about human rights and race relations but I think he will be alright, I just wouldn’t eat out for a while if I were you. X

  2. I agree with your post, introducing Indian food to someone who has not tasted true Indian home cooked meal is still a challenge due to many Indian restaurant who primarily make dishes which call for loads and loads of fat,but its changing and lets hope Indian cuisine come out of the myth of being only fatty and non healthy.

  3. Hi Reem, hopefully between us we can change this perception. Great website by the way! Take care. Reena