Every country’s diet consists of healthy and tasty-but-unhealthy options. So do Russian cuisines. As a rule of thumb, “your health is in your hands”, so you are the one who should choose the right foods for yourself. Eating healthy could be as simple as tweaking your daily menu and lifestyle to reflect better alternatives. And if you stay in the world’s largest country, here’s ten choices to help guiding you on how to eat healthy in Russia. Worry not, because Russian healthy foods are well-known as delicious treats as well.
Healthy Main Courses and Side Dishes
Borscht occupy the top seat among famous soups in Russia for plenty of reasons. It is yummy, of course. But Borscht is also extremely healthy and a favorite choice among nutrition consultants in and out of the country. Take a bowl of Borscht as your lunch, and you would not need to worry about your stomach.
It is made using various vegetables with or without meat broth, but mainly featuring beets. Beets itself is highly beneficial for your body as it contains betaine, an antioxidants that helps fight inflammation and boosts liver health. Add in other vegetables such as cabbages, mushrooms, potatoes, or carrots to make it richer in vitamins, lower in calories, and higher in fiber.
2. Kasha (Russian Porridge)
In general, whole grains that is used as main ingredient for Kasha is always healthy; regardless if it is buckwheat, millet, barley, oats, or any other. They are rich in B vitamins, potassium, iron and fiber. A bowl of Kasha will fill you up for a few hours as its complex carbohydrate releases energy. Kasha also boosts heart health and reduces risk of colon cancers at the same time.
However, your choice of water, milk, or cream to make Kasha will determine how much healthier it is. Water or milk is good, but cream is less preferable because it is too high in fat. Aside of that, the dish which accompany your bowl of Kasha will also influence its quality. It is advisable to choose veggies and fruits instead of meats, although meat in proportionate amount is good for the body.
3. Beef Stroganoff
An iconic food to eat in Russia, Beef Stroganoff is an excellent example of good meat for healthy living. Beef by itself provides high quality protein, easily absorbed iron and zinc, as well as B vitamins. The mushrooms in Beef Stroganoff supplies fiber, minerals, and low in calories. As the result, Beef Stroganoff is a highly powerful energy booster, also good for your immune system and metabolism.
There are some tricks to make it even healthier. First, increase the amount of mushrooms. Second, choose low-fat sour cream for its gravy recipe. Third, to take better advantage of a healthy Beef Stroganoff, serve it with Kasha or other Russian buckwheat dishes.
4. Dressed Herring
Dressed herring is one of the most popular Russian fish dishes as well as favored traditional salad. It consists of chopped pickled herring covered by coat of vegetables on top with mayonnaise or sour cream dressing.
Herring is a good source of protein and omega-3 fats that are good for your heart health. Veggies topping such as beets, carrots, and potatoes provides beneficial nutrition as well. However, take care not to overdo the mayonnaise dressing, because it is full of unhealthy fat. Consider to use low-fat mayonnaise or sour cream instead.
Cabbage is one of the most popular ingredients in Russian cuisine. It is made into dozens popular soups and Sauerkraut, a type of fermented cabbage. As a side dish, Sauerkraut complements your main course with several major health benefits, including vitamins C and K, antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, irons, and manganese. It is also one of Russian healthy meals you can try for losing weight. However, take care not to consume it excessively, because it may lead to unpleasant flatulence.
Nutritious Russian Snacks and Drinks
There’s a craze for Kefir, a yogurt-like fermented milk drink, in natural health communities since a few years ago. High in nutrients and probiotics that is good for digestion, some people even think that Kefir is healthier than yogurt. It is rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus, various vitamins, and magnesium. There is a whole load of vitamins A, B, D, K, and E. What else do you need!?
Recent studies link Kefir to increased calcium absorption in bone cells and improved bone density, which should help prevent fractures and lower risk of Osteoporosis. Better yet, Kefir is good for you who usually cannot drink milk due to lactose intolerance because it is extremely low in lactose.
2. Black Rye Bread
Can’t live without bread? Choose Russian black rye bread instead of plain white bread. It contains a large amount of fiber and a small amount of fat, with additional phytoestrogens and lower glycemic index. In other words, eating rye bread will curb your appetite, balance your hormones, keep your heart healthy, and lower risk of breast cancer. Also, rye is known for its high levels of iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, E vitamin, and a variety of B vitamins.
3. Kvass (Fermented Rye Bread)
When in Russia, you would do well to choose Kvass instead of Vodka for a round of drinking session with friends and family. It is a traditional fermented beverage commonly made from rye bread with low alcohol content (approximately 0.5-1%). You have learnt how nutritious rye bread is, and so do Kvass. In addition, it has B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, amino acids, and pantothenate. It is also rich in lactic acid and simple sugars.
4. Mors (Berry Drink)
Mors is non-carbonated fruit drink from berries, which has lingered among Russian traditional table for as long as Kvass. It is made by pressing berries, then left for a few days in a warm place. After strained and sweetened, it is boiled, then poured into jars. Modern Mors are commonly sold with processed sugar as sweetener, thus less healthy for you. However, homemade Mors can be cooked with honey.
Health benefits of Mors are plenty as it is also known as medicinal drinks. Depends on what berries are used in the recipe, Mors might have different therapeutic effects. For instance, cranberry is beneficial as antipyretic, while lingberry is good for colds. They may be more advantageous for you compared to chemical medicines.
5. Honey-sweetened Desserts
There is an abundant centenarians in the Caucasus part of Russia, mainly due to a diet of fermented milk products, cheese, non-fried meats, and a lot of veggies, nuts, and fruits. Aside of that, desserts in this region is sweetened using honey and other naturally occurring sugar from fruit and milk. Let’s say Baklava and Medovik (honey cake) which is among some of the most popular cake in Russia. Modern recipes of the cakes usually add some processed sugar, but they can actually be made with only naturally occurring sugar and honey.