Makar Sankrant marks the beginning of festivals in India.On Makar Sankranti, the sun enters the sun-sign of Capricorn or Makara(the Indian rashi). Therefore the 'Makar' in the name. The word 'Sankranti' signifies the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to another. Thus, the name of the festival literally means the movement of the sun into Capricorn. Though extremely popular as Makar Sankranti, the festival is predominantly a harvest festival and is celebrated throughout India, from north to south and east to west.
While Makar Sankranti is most popular in West India, down south, the festival is known as Pongal and in the north, it is celebrated as Lohri. Uttarayan, Maghi, Khichdi are some other names of the same festival. Lohri,too is a harvest festival of North India and marks the beginning of the end of winter and the coming of spring and the new year.
The munching of seasonal goodies like popcorn, reori, peanuts and sugar cane forms an integral part of the celebration.Indian festivals are incomplete without a lavish meal and some exclusive food items which are consumed during that period.
Lets have a look at what Makarsankranti, brings to the table for us.
FOODS THAT ARE RELISHED DURING MAKAR SANKRANTI
On Makar Sankranti the first harvest of sugarcane is enjoyed.This sugarcane reap is converted in jaggery .Sweets made of jaggery are distributed during the festival, as a part of the traditions of Makar Sankranti. Here are a few important health benefits of sugarcane and jaggery.
·It energizes the body and refreshes it at the same time.Sugarcane is also good for digestion, as it can effectively work as a mild laxative because of its high potassium content.
- Jaggery is rich in iron. Taking a few grams of jaggery each day is known to be beneficial. It also increases haemoglobin level of the blood and prevents anaemia.
- It is also a Rich source of potassium and magnesium.
- Jaggery helps in relieving constipation, thereby improving digestion.
- Helps people with water retention problem and reduces blood pressure in hypertensives.
- It also cures dry cough, and is helpful for throat infections making it a useful winter ingredient.
- Jaggery is also helpful for asthma patients as it has anti-allergy properties too.
- It also contains antioxidants that help in preventing premature ageing.
- Mixing jaggery with water helps reduce tiredness and relaxes the muscles, nerves and blood vessels.
TILL GUD LADDOOS
People exchange Til Gul (Sesame-Jaggery sweet) that is a speciality of the festival.While exchanging tilguls as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying – ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’. The under-lying thought in the exchange of tilguls is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends.
BENEFITS OF TILL (SESAME SEEDS)
- Great protein source :Sesame seeds are full of high quality protein. Protein makes up 20 percent of the seed with 4.7 grams of protein per ounce.
- For healthy skin: The high zinc content helps produce collagen, giving skin more elasticity and helping repair damaged body tissues.
- Boosts heart health: Sesame seed oil can help heart health by preventing atherosclerotic lesions with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound known as sesamol.
- Encourages bone health and prevents osteoporosis :A handful of sesame seeds contains more calcium than a glass of milk. The high zinc content of sesame also boosts bone mineral density.
HOW MUCH TO EAT: 2 no. Of small laddoos
Chikki is also another traditional sweet consumed during makar sankranti, but now is available all round the year due to its popularity. Chikkis from tourists spots like Lonavala , Khandala are well known for their quality and variety. Traditionally made from peanuts and jaggery, chikkis are now available in different flavors and are made of different ingredients. Lets have a look at the benefits of peanuts.
BENEFITS OF PEANUTS
Peanuts are rich in energy (567 calories per 100 g) and contain health benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
- Growth and development: Peanuts are rich in proteins. The amino acids present in them are good for excellent for growth and development of body
- Anti-oxidants: Peanuts contain anti-oxidants in high concentrations. These anti-oxidants become more active when peanuts are boiled. There is a 2-fold increase in Biochanin-A and 4-fold increase in Genistein content. These reduce the damage done by free radicals produced in the body. 1.Protects Skin: Vitamin E in peanuts helps in maintaining the integrity of cells of mucous membrane and the skin. This protects them from free radicals which cause great damage
- Heart Health: Peanuts contain mono-unsaturated fatty acids. It helps lower LDL bad cholesterol and increase HDL or good cholesterol level in the blood. The compound resveratrol in peanuts also dilates the blood vessels thereby improving the flow of blood.
- Vitamins: Peanuts contain B complex, vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, pantothenic acid etc.due to the presence of niacin it also improves memory and boosts brain activity.
- Minerals: Potassium, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium and zinc are some of the minerals present in peanuts. These play an important role in many different body functions.
HOW MUCH TO EAT: A 4 inch piece of any chikki bar.
Anything in excess, is not going to do any good to your health. If you go overboard with these delicacies, you are adding on extra unnecessary calories, and end up putting on some extra kgs after the festival is over.
So enjoy Makarsankrant guilt free!