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Nihari is, without a doubt, a favourite dish for Pakistanis, especially during the monsoon and winter months. A slow-cooked curry made with beef leg-shank (bong), and lots of spices, nihari is believed to have originated in Old Delhi in the late 18th century during the Mughal rule.
Surprisingly, despite popular belief, nihari actually has a lot of health benefits due to the ingredients that are used to make and garnish it.
Red meat is an excellent source of protein and minerals such as B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, selenium and zinc, all of which are required by the body in order to build and maintain muscles and bones, repair tissues, boost immunity and improve blood circulation.
The wide range of spices (including bay leaf, black and white peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, dried red chillies, nutmeg and turmeric), that are used to cook the beef in, have a host of benefits. They improve blood circulation, digestion, regulate blood pressure and some of them can even lower cholesterol levels. Due to their anti-oxidant properties, these spices are believed to lessen the occurrence of a host of diseases including cancer and diabetes, purify the blood, help fight off infections and even aid weight loss. Furthermore, these spices have historically been used relieve aches and pains, including those caused by arthritis and shingles, since they can fight inflammation.
Last but not least, the ingredients used to garnish nihari with (including coriander, ginger and lemon) help aid digestion, improve blood circulation, boost immunity (due to the presence of vitamin C), and are believed to be effective when it comes to preventing and treating sore throats and other ailments caused by bacteria, because they have anti-bacterial properties.
However, due to the high level of saturated and unsaturated fats and cholesterol in nihari, it is advised that people should not consume it on a regular basis, because it can lead to cardiovascular disease and other complications.
– Saba Gul Hasan
The writer is a nutritionist.