Know your food: Is palak paneer really the same as junk food?
Fitness experts address the question about palak paneer being healthy and reveal whether it is really the same as junk food or fried food that we eat
If you’re anything like us, you probably adore palak paneer – the creamy deliciousness of spinach and paneer has been a favourite of us desi since childhood but social media has a way of making even the simplest of things controversial and the question about ‘palak paneer’ being really healthy pops up quite often but to understand this and answer this question, we need to understand that why is this food considered unhealthy. ‘Palak’ or spinach is a green leafy vegetable that is rich in iron while ‘paneer’ is an excellent source of calcium and the question about healthiness of this recipe arises due to this nutrient combination of iron and calcium in it.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dietitian Garima Goyal, shared, “The earlier researches have hypothesised that both iron and calcium have the same receptor site for their absorption and calcium hinders the absorption of iron when consumed together but a thorough research in this context has concluded that this may not be true on a long term basis.” She revealed:
- The effect of calcium on iron absorption is short term and that the body adapts over time, which is why studies have failed to show any adverse effects on iron status.
- So though it may be better to have aloo palak, makhana palak or palak corn vegetable, but completely disregarding palak paneer is wrong.
- You get various other nutrients from palak paneer such as calcium, protein, magnesium, potassium, sodium etc. There is just a little malabsorption of iron, and that too gets compensated in the long run.
- The effect of milk on the iron absorption have been made based on the calcium content of milk and its products. The effect of milk on the iron uptake has been addressed in only a few studies, but results indicate that drinking milk or consuming its products has no or limited effect on the iron uptake. Although these studies did not include pregnant women, the advice that these women sometimes are given to not drink milk during meals has not been scientifically substantiated so far.
Miten Kakaiya, Fitness Coach and Founder of Miten Says Fitness, highlighted, “Technically, calcium in paneer inhibits the absorption of iron from the spinach in the short term and yes, palak does contain oxalates that can also hinder the absorption of heme iron. To put things into perspective, palak paneer might not be the iron powerhouse you might be looking for, but it doesn’t mean it is like junk food! Besides palak paneer made at home beats any oily or junk food from the market in all health proportions. Palak paneer is still loaded with essential nutrients and the iron factor isn’t something that should make you run away from this wonderful dish.”
He added, “Palak Paneer as a dish is rich in protein, B vitamins, folates, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, magnesium, phosphorous, and dietary fiber – that it can be a great addition to your wholesome diet. In fact, it’s a delicious way of adding some greens and high quality protein to your daily food. So put aside the debate and focus on the deliciousness and nutrition that palak paneer brings to you! Don’t let the hype make you miss out on this delicious delicacy. Go ahead and enjoy palak paneer without guilt because it is still better than any fried or junk food that you might end up eating!”