Poha: Why it's good for you
Besides being eaten as a cooked whole grain or milled as flour to make breads of, rice is consumed in several avatars. However, for people fighting diabetes and for those trying to switch to a low-carb diet, rice is often considered a taboo but Poha seems permissible in smaller quantities. Why is this so? What is Poha made of and what makes it healthier than rice?
Poha or flattened rice, is that ubiquitous magic ingredient, which has been making swift breakfasts in minutes, long before the invention of instant noodles. The process of making Poha, with some minor differences, is broadly this—rice grains are soaked, drained, roasted in sand and then pounded to get flat rice. This process of washing and draining before pounding the rice results in a considerable amount of the inherent starch to be washed away thereby making the grain a low-carb option. When made from unpolished rice such as whole red or brown rice grains, Poha also functions as a low-glycemic index food, which means it releases sugar into the blood stream at a very slow speed thereby regulating our blood sugar levels. This is why red rice or brown rice Poha is considered an excellent option for diabetics.
Furthermore, the washed and drained rice is slow roasted and then pounded to achieve its final structure. The slow roasting ensures that the grain is semi-cooked. This is why Poha can often be eaten with minimal cooking, if at all, and even then, it is light on digestion.
Traces of iron and minerals are also found in Poha. Thus, when you pair it with a protein such as peanuts or daal or curd, and add vegetables of choice, it becomes a complete meal in itself.
Aval, the Tamil word for Poha finds mention in the Sangam literature of the third and sixth centuries AD thus establishing its importance in our ancient food wisdom. Known as Choora in Benaras, where Choora-Mutter is an immensely popular snack, the flattened Poha can be rehydrated and cooked as a hot dish in much the same ways that you can cook rice (but in much lesser time) and can also be eaten uncooked, soaked in milk and sweetened with sugar or mixed with yogurt or buttermilk for a light, summer meal.
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