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Aliv is full of so many miracles that sometimes it strikes me as a tragedy that its benefits are not fully known or celebrated. Traditionally, grandmas would soak these seeds in coconut water and then cook them with grated coconut, ghee and jaggery and roll them into bright red laddoos. These laddoos are the ultimate power foods. Aliv is a rich source of essential fatty acids like linoleic and arachidic, and when it is mixed with coconut and ghee you get the perfect ratio of omega 3, 6, 9. The laddoos keep the post-partum blues away and also allow you to assimilate all the micronutrients hidden in the aliv, like folic acid and minerals like iron and calcium.

Post-pregnancy, a woman tackles many changes not just in her body but also in her hair. Ya, you heard that right. Loss of hair is among the most common issues that a woman faces when she’s in a hormonal flux – the lactation period and menopause being classic examples. This was one reason Vanshika had her meltdown that day. She wanted me to help her with her hair loss and I had suggested an aliv laddoo a day as a mid-meal. The phytonutrients, iron and amino acids in garden cress help prevent the oxidative stresses that lead to hair loss, thinning, split ends, etc., and help retain both the density and lustre of the hair.

And it’s not just hair. Aliv could well be our most well-guarded beauty secret because along with vitamins A and E it has this nutrient called sulforaphane, which provides the skin with an even tone, rids it of patches and naturally brightens the skin. Sounds like nature’s own Fair and Lovely, doesn’t it? Little wonder then that Ayurveda chooses to put it high on its list of post-partum food – good hair and good skin make any girl feel better about herself.

Aliv has one more trick up its potent sleeve. In Africa, the seeds are not just regarded as a post-partum essential but as a natural aphrodisiac because it has properties that mimic estrogen and energy-giving minerals. In India, pregnancy is considered a rebirth for women, and it’s almost as if aliv makes you come alive both sexually and aesthetically all over again.

Anyways, for all the men reading this and wondering mera kya, don’t worry, aliv works like an aphrodisiac for both men and women. Now surely you wouldn’t mind eating aliv to get into the mood, especially post-childbirth.

How to Eat Aliv

Aliv sprouts One way to eat garden cress if you want it for skin-brightening purposes – is to turn it into a chutney; in high-end restaurants (where it is the latest trend), the sprouts are added to soups.

Aliv greens The baby greens that you see everywhere these days. On the side of that egg dish that you ordered in London, on top of the pizza when it’s gourmet or simply as a garnish on your sandwiches. The West is loving the way it looks and the multiple health benefits it has. Give it the right PR and it could well be the next big hot trend in India.

Aliv seeds This is the comfort zone. This is how India has been eating them. Soak them overnight and turn them into laddoos or kheer or simply add a teaspoon to milk. From strength to vigour, from good looks to fertility, from curing anaemia and a weak stomach, this one is good for all ages, all genders, all classes.

Aliv oil Very niche use, smells similar to mustard oil. So you could use it as seasoning and even for external application, especially on cracked lips.

Special Note: Aliv and Cancer

It was in 2003 that for the first time I had a client sign up for a diet because she was fighting breast cancer. The number steadily rose but until 2007 it was still in single digits. And now every month my team or I are working with a new client with breast cancer. ‘The thing is that they come from all kinds of backgrounds and age groups,’ I mentioned to a Delhi oncologist over a casual conversation over coffee. ‘The only similarity that I can see is that most, if not all, of them have crash-dieted post-pregnancy, especially after the second one.’ The oncologist, only busy with his coffee till now, looked up and said to me, ‘It’s interesting you say that. And it is totally possible because the body is in such a hormonal flux, and if you cut down drastically on calories, immunity drops and then it could get to you. You need protective fats and micronutrient-rich meals because at any point cancer cells are present in the body, but we are all depending on the body’s ability to regress them.’

This is where aliv comes into the picture. It is a rich source of something called BITC, or benzyl isothiocyanate. Now this is almost like a wonder drug because studies have proved that it has strong properties that work as a powerful deterrent to cancer cells. This also makes it a chemo protective agent, one that protects healthy cells from the toxic effect of anti-cancer drugs.

Aliv, with its estrogenic properties, rich micronutrients and cancer-protecting abilities, is just everything that you need to lead a good, healthy life. It’s the chhota bomb with the bada effect on your health and well-being.

This is an excerpt from Rujuta Diwekar’s Indian Superfoods. You can read the book here.

 

 

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