During Navratri, whenever I had to bring something for fruit, my mother used to say go, bring the fasting laddoos and I also used to run from the neighboring shop to get the fasting laddus. There used to be six or eight laddus in a packet. Even if two were eaten in a day, it did not seem that he had fasted for the whole day. These ‘vrat wale laddus’ are called Chaulai ke laddus, they came to know in high school. But till then only it was known that these laddus are made from the seeds of the amaranth plant and eaten during fasting.
After school, first went to Delhi for college and then to Hyderabad. Wherever I stayed in the city, I used to search for chawlai laddus during the fasting days. Even in Delhi, laddus used to be seen in shops. But people in Hyderabad had little understanding of Chaulai. I used to think that the people there do not know Chaulai. But when I came to Ahmedabad a few years ago, it came to know that Chaulai is known by many other names. Like in Ahmedabad it is called Rajgira and in some places Ramdana also.
In the metropolitan cities, it is famous as Amaranth. By the way, Chaulai is not even an Indian crop or plant. It is believed to have originated in the forests of Africa. Scientists call it ‘false grain’ and record it as a species of wild grass. But for the last hundreds of years, amaranth is being grown in India. That’s why it is called desi diet. Green and red amaranth are grown in India. The greens of both the leaves are made. Vijaya Tiwari, a gardener at her home, says that once amaranth is planted, it spreads a lot. You can eat fresh greens of its leaves for a long time.
The seeds coming from the amaranth plant are called Rajgira or Ramdana. Laddus, Chikki as well as flour are made from them. You can make roti or paratha with this dough. In most of the houses in small towns or villages and countryside, Rajgira is probably eaten only during fasting days. But when it comes to big cities, Rajgira is not a fast food but a ‘superfood’ recommended by many gym trainers and dieticians to keep oneself healthy and fit.
Rajgira is more nutritious than quinoa
People working on their fitness want to have a healthy diet. So that they get good nutrition and their body remains energetic. In addition, their weight also decreased. Therefore, on the suggestion of their gym trainer or dietician, people are adding superfoods like quinoa to their diet. Quinoa is a very good option in terms of nutrition. But the problem is that buying quinoa is not possible for everyone. It is exotic diet and hence expensive.
Archana Batra, a dietitian and diabetes educator based in Gurugram, says that there is no doubt that quinoa provides a lot of nutrition. But that doesn’t mean there is no local option in India.
He told that people in India have been consuming Rajgira since time immemorial. Because when it comes to nutrition, even quinoa cannot compete with Rajgira. According to Archana, if someone is working on fitness, then without any hesitation, they can include Rajgira in their diet.
Because Rajgira has all these qualities
*Gluten Free: Rajgira is gluten free. Therefore, if someone is allergic to lactose, they can include Rajgira in their diet. Rajgira also has more nutrition than other gluten free grains. It contains all the micronutrients like manganese, phosphorous, magnesium.
*Power House of Protein: Rajgira contains a high amount of protein and all the essential amino acids, which are helpful in keeping you healthy. It also contains calcium and iron.
*Fiber Rich: Along with a good amount of proteins and vitamins, Rajgira is also a good source of fiber. Hence it keeps your digestive system good.
Archana says that people training for fitness or weight loss should include Rajgira in their diet as per their dietician’s suggestion. But in general also if someone wants to include it in their diet, then they can do it in many ways. For example, many people use it to make smoothies, laddus etc. In many places, rotis of Rajgira flour are also eaten.
NASA suggested eating Rajgira in space mission
According to National Geographic, the history of the origin of Rajgira is 5000 years old. Today around 60 species of Rajgira are being grown and eaten in the world. Rajgira, which has been grown for years in countries like India, China, Mexico, has also made its place in western countries like America in the last few years. Rajgira is being eaten abroad for a long time, but it got recognition when the World Health Organization described Rajgira as ‘a balanced diet’ and NASA also suggested consuming Rajgira during space missions.
It is said that on October 3, 1985, the space shuttle Atlantis, which made its first voyage, was sent to Rajgira. Crew members experimented with sprouting Rajgira in space, and a NASA chef prepared Rajgira cookies for the astronauts to eat during the mission.
Surprisingly, the history of Rajgira is so old but still it is a new thing for many people that Rajgira, which is easily available in local markets, is actually a ‘superfood’. One cup of cooked Rajgira contains 251 calories and nine grams of protein. Whereas one cup of quinoa contains 222 calories and eight grams of protein. So now the question is, what would you like to include in your diet? Costly quinoa imported from elsewhere or cheap and sustainable Rajgira grown by local farmers.
Editing – G N Jha
Also read: Sattu: This indigenous diet, considered to be ‘food of the poor’, has now become a superfood of foreigners