Diwali is here and you are finally back home, snugly ensconced among your near and dear. After a night of indulgence, gift giving and bursting fireworks, you wake up to the smell of brewing tea and breakfast. You move towards the balcony to enjoy it with a view of a beautiful morning, but all you get is a lungful of smog and the sight of spent fireworks strewn about. And now your stomach is turning from the previous night’s purchased sweets and snacks.
Where the festival of lights was once celebrated on grand scale yet in a simple manner, it has now been over-commercialised. It is time we went back to celebrating it in a traditional way, to lower our carbon footprint and to bring our health back on track.
Ways to celebrate a Green Diwali
1. Use eco-friendly decorations
Somewhere in the blazing lights, vibrant plastic flowers and cheap rangoli powder, the rustic charm and warmth that Diwali is supposed to bring is lost. While they might appear glamorous, all they do is add to pollution. Use more eco-friendly decorations instead.
Local communities make plenty of earthen lamps and diyas. When you purchase from them, you help uplift them too, and isn’t that a gift in and of itself? Using handmade garlands and wreathes made of real flowers instead of plastic ones fills the house with a fresh and relaxing aroma that contributes to the cosy ambience of the festive season. Rice flour, turmeric (haldi) and kumkum are easily accessible powders you can use to make your beautiful rangolis. For additional colours, there are plenty of eco-friendly powdered colours available both online and offline.
2. Say no to fireworks
Fireworks are an absolute nuisance to the environment. Not only are they terrible in terms of air and land pollution, but the loud sound they create is torturous to animals. You can spend time playing family games instead. They create a jovial atmosphere and strengthen the ties of family.
If you still wish to play with fireworks, there are green fireworks available. Prepared by the CSIR on the Supreme Court’s behest, they are relatively less noisy (125db) and cause 30% less air pollution.
3. Thoughtful gifting
Gifting is a way of expressing love but it is important to ensure you are mindful of what you gift. Skip the cheap plastic toys and showpieces for quality gifts that people will use. Handmade crafts, good quality clothes, electronics, gourmet food and house plants that are easy to maintain are a few thoughtful gift ideas. Not to forget the gift of time; keeping materialistic gifts aside, time is the best gift you can give anybody.
4. Eco-friendly packaging
Thousands upon thousands of plastic gift wrap is wasted each year during the festive season. Use paper or cloth gift wraps made from recycled material and tie them with twine, wool or cloth ribbons. You can even decorate them with dried flowers or leaves as a cherry on top.
5. Homemade healthy snacks and sweets
During the festive season, sweets and snacks purchased from shops are often made with adulterated, stale and unhealthy ingredients to keep up with the demand. It is always best to share homemade sweets and snacks. It gives you the room to customise them with choice ingredients.
6 Natural Food Products to Bring Good Health to Family and Friends
Refined sugar is the ingredient that renders sweets unhealthy. Traditionally, Indian sweets were made with jaggery or gur as evidenced by records found in ancient Ayurvedic texts like the Sushruta Samhita. It is rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium. With a lower gylcemic index than sugar, it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels drastically. In addition to improved digestion, it has immunity boosting and medicinal properties, making it much healthier than refined sugar, especially for the elderly or people with elevated blood sugar. Not only it is a healthy natural sweetener but it tastes amazing too. There are multiple variants such as sugarcane jaggery or sugarcane gur, palm and coconut, each with its own health benefits and flavour profile. They are available in powder, solid and syrup form so they can be easily incorporated into any sweet dish be it barfi, laddoo, payasam or gulab jamun.
2. Plant milk
The ability to digest milk decreases as we age and hence, causes bloating or hinders digestion. Moreover, a study of 272 non-diabetic women showed a marked relationship between dairy intake and increased insulin resistance.
Fortunately, there are many plant milks available that substitute regular milk perfectly. Of all the plant milks, coconut, cashew, almond, oat and hemp milk have the thickness and creaminess akin to regular milk. Their availability in powdered form makes them easier to use for various types of sweets. For instance, kheer made with coconut milk powder tastes rich, creamy and absolutely scrumptious. You can also use it to make melt-in-your-mouth barfis. It is rich in MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides) that are known to help in weight reduction. Making use of plant milks instead of dairy will also help you cater to your vegan and lactose intolerant family and friends too.
3. Healthy flours
Karanji, shankarpali, samosa or gulab jamun—refined flour (maida) is widely used to make traditional Diwali snacks. By substituting 20–30% of it with coconut flour or jackfruit flour, you can turn those carbohydrate bombs into nutritious delights that even diabetics can enjoy, albeit in moderation. Both of these flours are rich in fibre. Findings in a 2003 study conducted on 10 diabetic and non-diabetic subjects showed that the glycaemic index (GI) of coconut flour-supplemented foods decreased with increasing levels of coconut flour.
Another study on 40 people aged 18–60 years, diagnosed with type 2 diabetes demonstrated the efficacy of jackfruit flour in glycaemic control as a medical nutritional therapy.
4. Ghee and unrefined oil
This Diwali, use natural unrefined oils or traditional ghee over unhealthy refined oil. They are healthier and add an authentic Indian flavour to food. If you are looking for a vegan alternative to ghee, then mahua oil is the perfect choice. It is a rich source of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that prevents and repairs free radical damage such as inflammation or cellular damage. It is also rich in oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that has antidiabetic effects.
Virgin coconut oil is also a good alternative to refined oil. It is rich in MCTs so it helps reduce waist circumference. This means you get to enjoy your Diwali delicacies without worrying about gaining weight.
5. Dry fruits and nuts
Dry fruits and nuts add a burst of flavour and a unique texture to food. Additionally, they are replete with essential vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds that help lower bad cholesterol. According to a 2010 scientific review on the health benefits of nut consumption, nut consumption has an apparent positive influence on cholesterol, inflammation, vascular reactivity and oxidative stress.
6. Authentic spices
Spices not only bring life to dishes but are medicinal too. Studies carried out both in vivo and in vitro have demonstrated how they act as antioxidants, digestive stimulants, and hypolipidemics and show antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral activities.
Adding authentic spices like cardamom, saffron and turmeric to your Diwali snacks will give them a healthy twist and make adults as well as kids coming back for seconds. If the spices are hand-pounded, even better!
Authentic spices can be hard to come by so make sure you purchase yours from a trusted vendor.
This Diwali let us be the beacon of light, and share love and good health with our loved ones and the Earth.
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