CHENNAI:The systematic consumption of traditional functional food provides an excellent preventive measure to ward off many diseases. Rasam, a soup of spices, is a traditional South Indian dish. It is prepared using tamarind juice as a base, with the addition of Indian sesame oil, turmeric, tomato, chili pepper, pepper, garlic, cumin, curry leaves, mustard, coriander, asafoetida, sea salt, and water. Rasam is a classic example of traditional functional food with all its ingredients medicinally claimed for various ailments. The preclinical and clinical studies on rasam and its ingredients support the traditional claim.
It is estimated that an adult in India consumes 80–200 mg/day of curcumin, the bioactive component of turmeric, and 50 g of garlic in a week.Hence, there is a realistic possibility to reach a therapeutic dose by daily dietary consumption.
Functional foods comprise some bacterial strains and products of plant and animal origin containing physiologically active compounds beneficial for human health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. The functional ingredients are as follows;
- Probiotics and prebiotics
- Dietary fiber
- Omega-3-poly unsaturated fatty acids
- Conjugated linoleic acid
- Plant antioxidants
- Vitamins and minerals
- Some proteins, peptides, and amino acids
The traditional Indian food is “functional” as it contains high amounts of dietary fiber (whole grains and vegetables), antioxidants (spices, fruits, and vegetables), and probiotics (curds and fermented batter products). Due to the chemical diversification of the ingredients, these Indian traditional foods exhibit synergistic effect. Indian traditional foods which are mainly based on plant products are very rich in natural dietary fiber and low fat which naturally reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The health benefits thus derived may range from ensuring normal physiological functions in the body such as improving gastrointestinal health, enhancing the immune system, weight management, providing better skeletal health, reduction of blood cholesterol, decreasing oxidative stress, minimizing the risk of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, and also possible prevention of diabetes.
Spices play very important role in digestive function, and the Indian tradition has a long history of use of spice in food as medicines to prevent and treat diseases.The credit for identifying the spices with medicinal and culinary values goes to Siddha and Ayurveda system of Indian medicines. The South Indian traditional foods are based on Siddha system of medicine, which in natural way aims in achieving physical and mental wellness.
Rasam is a very popular South Indian traditional soup. It is consumed on a daily basis in every South Indian home. It is also called rasam or chaaru or saaru in South Indian languages, namely, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada. In Sanskrit, rasam means “the essential products of digestion.
Rasam is mostly eaten with rice and rarely separate as a spicy soup.The strong blended flavor of spices used in rasam preparation makes it unique in taste and flavor. The main spices used in rasam preparation are coriander, garlic, curry leaves, tamarind, cumin, black pepper, mustard, turmeric, red chili, and asafoetida.Rasam is the spiciest soup and the thick orange liquid delivers layers of flavor that nourish and heal.There are different types of rasam based on the permutation and combination of its constituent spices.
In South India, rasam is considered an effective home remedy for cold.It can be used as an antidote for flu or fever. Tribal families of Krishnagiri district, Tamil Nadu, consume rasam for the treatment of fever, common cold, and diarrhea.Mani et al., 1997, have reported that the glycemic index and the triacylglycerol response in ninety normal volunteers after South Indian meals with rasam significantly controlled diabetes. Banerjee, 2004, has reported that green pea and tomato rasam play a major role in controlling diabetes. Bolla et al., 2015, have reported that South Indian diet with rasam everyday showed a significant reduction in the blood sugar levels of forty volunteers between 30 and 60 years.
Rani and Paulraj, 2013, have reported that blood iron profile – hemoglobin, serum iron, transferrin saturation, serum ferritin, total iron-binding capacity, and unsaturated iron-binding capacity – in anemic patients was greatly influenced by dietary intervention with the functional food Spirulina incorporated in rasam.Mamatha and Prakash, 2016, have reported that >70% of iron was bio-accessible, in comparison to 30%–37% in controls when iron-fortified tamarind-based rasam was administered.Salau and Hasan, 2014, have studied major and trace elements in rasam and reported that rasam can be exploited for health maintenance, remedy, and even cure for mineral deficiency diseases.Rajan et al., 2001, have reported that rasam is given daily in the evening to nursing mothers for inducing more secretion of milk. Rao et al., 2006, have reported that rasam is one of the daily preferred food items during pregnancy and after delivery among the tribals of north coastal Andhra Pradesh.
A significant antimicrobial activity of rasam against Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Bacillus subtilis, Klebsiella Pneumoniae, and Escherichia coli has been reported . the processing in the formulation of rasam involves heating the spices in water and oil. This processing provides tremendous opportunity for a completely altered/different chemical composition of the finally formulated rasam. Loss of active principles or synergetic effect or breakdown of inactive metabolite to an active one or formation of new chemical entities (NCEs) is a real possibility.