Flower Power: A Colourful Way To Stay Healthy
Apart from adding a dash of color and zing to your plate and palate, flowers have multiple health benefits
Exquisite blooms on your dinner or lunch plate are usually seen as a garnish or an attempt to accentuate the presentation.
However, not many are aware that these pretty little flowers can also amplify the aroma, texture and flavour of your meal, and are often loaded with health boosting phytochemicals. This article delves into the numerous benefits of integrating this cocktail of flowers into your traditional and contemporary dishes to not just captivate everyone’s palate, but also .
A plethora of research literature backs the pharmacological benefits –including anti-anxiety, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, aphrodisiac, anti-arthritic, diuretic, anthelmintic, immunomodulatory and anti-microbial properties -- of several medicinally important flowers. Antioxidants help in inhibiting free radical induced damage to the tissues, and flowers have an abundance of them. The active components present in these alluring components of the flower help to deter chronic diseases in humans and oxidation in food. Scientific investigations demonstrate that Osmanthus, Marigold, Cosmos and Saffron flower extracts have powerful antioxidant properties.
Periwinkle, Calendula and Jasmine flowers present substantial wound healing properties. While your lipid and blood sugar levels are bound to go haywire on the regular consumption of soft drinks and refined sugar loaded milkshakes, switching to a tea infused with Hibiscus flower extracts is shown to have hypolipidemic and anti-atherosclerotic effects.
Chamomile tea is currently the rage worldwide for its soothing and relaxing properties, and works like a godsend to put insomniacs to sleep. It is rich in flavonoids, and can help scale down inflammation as well. Additionally, Chamomile and Chrysanthemum are used to treat fever, muscle spasms and menstrual disorders.
Diabetes is one of the most prevalent diet related chronic disorders in India, and the changing dietary patterns rich in fast food and sugar sweetened beverages is to be blamed. Tanner’s cassia, Chrysanthemum and Trifolium flowers have anti-diabetic potential. So, the next time you feel the urge to indulge in a can of cola, try a cup of tea infused with these nutrient packed flowers instead.
These brilliant creations of nature are not just good for your health when consumed, but including them in your routine food items can also facilitate their preservation. Stinking chamomile flowers and its essential oil has insecticidal properties. Cassia fistula have been documented to demonstrate anti-fungal activity for treating skin and nasal infections. Hawaiian hibiscus, Hollyhock and Buttonweed flowers have revealed antibacterial activity against a range of pathogens.
Hibiscus tea is also relished by an abundance of people for its mildly tangy flavour. Other popular infusions of flowers include Blue pea, which has mood boosting properties and Marigold, Jasmine and Osmanthus flowers for their refreshing zest. The colour Lavender is in fad these days as it is literally the colour of the season, rain or shine. Likewise, Lavender is also loved by an array of gourmets as a key ingredient in their tea. Blooming tea is an illustrious tea preparation of China consisting of an assortment of tea leaves enveloped in dried flowers. It is high in antioxidants and prevents the onset of chronic diseases. Blooming tea comes in a myriad of flavours like Cinnamon, Vanilla, and numerous fruit flavours.
Who does not like to put some jam on their Paratha and toast once in a while? Although it is high in sugar and thus not meant to be eaten regularly, savouring your favourite jam once in a blue moon is always a treat. It is time to move on from your regular mango, strawberry and orange jams and marmalades. Let these flowers add some flavours as a topping for your puddings and pancakes. We all have revelled in the good old Gulkand made of rose petals in our childhood. Geranium, Jasmine and Rose jams are profoundly common. Dandelion jelly and Violet jelly preparations are customary part of spring celebrations in some parts of the world. These may also be added for a distinct colour and flavour to your next bowl of salad. The petals can also be candied and relished.
However, no matter how appealing they are to the eyes, it is of paramount importance to note that these flowers may not be safe for consumption by everyone, and some people may be allergic to it. Not all flowers are edible, so proper research and consulting experts and books on the same might be a good option before devouring them. Care should also be taken while procuring the flowers, as most of the commercially available flowers may be loaded with pesticide residues or other chemicals.
(The author is a Ph.D. scholar in the department of Foods and Nutrition, Faculty of Family and Community Sciences, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara)