Flatbreads – how healthy are they?-By Dr Harold Gunatillake

Flatbreads – how healthy are they?-By Dr Harold Gunatillake

Dr Harold Gunatillake


Sri Lankans are blessed with three traditional hot foods- hoppers, Kottu Roti and Pol Roti, all are insanely popular. They are popular flatbreads, are cheap street foods quite readily available in almost every little street in Colombo and other towns.

Hoppers are low calorie, hardly any added fat other than the coconut milk that goes into the fermented mix, quite healthy, low calorie and friendly to the gut microbiota, due to the addition of yeast to ferment the batter.

On the other hand, kottu roti is hot plate fried chopped food ingredients with plenty of fat in the mix and is high calorie dense food quite unhealthy.

Pol Roti consists of coconut milk, red onions, chopped curry leaves, green chillies, desiccated coconut lime and flour. These Pol Roti’s are much healthier and nutritious than Kottu Roti, because no additional oil is used to cook on a cast iron skillet or non-stick skillet or a tawa and cooked on a dry pan.

Each roti is 190 Cal. 37g of Carbs, 2g of fat and 5g of protein. Cholesterol 300g, sodium 1,902g, Fat 65g

Diabetics should restrict eating pol roties unless the blood sugar is well controlled.

Godha roti being the base of kottu roti, itself has lot of oil in the making of the flat roti. It is thin and expandable on swinging around due to the highly oil content in the dough mix. The added extra oil to the dough mix, makes it soft, spreadable, and elastic to make those thin sheet-like papery flat bread. Even your hands are full of oil in the preparation and thinning of the Godhas.

Paratas are same as Godhas, but in the process of cooking they are folded into quarter of the size.

Normally for other flat breads, flour is spread to make the dough non-sticky on the rolling pin, the flat surface where you make small balls of dough before flattening with your hands. Very little oil and more butter is used in the mix.

Hence, they are much healthier than kottu roti and parata.

When baked or fried on a hot plate they become dry flat bread. Good examples of them are the ‘Pol roti’ a mix containing the dough, onions and shredded coconut.

 Then the Lebanese flat bread, also called Pita is a flatbread found in many Mediterranean, Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisines.

It contains bread flour, little olive oil, active dry yeast, and white sugar.

Carbs in Whole Wheat Lebanese Style Pita bread is about 47 g; fibre 5 g; Protein 7 g; fats 1.5 g. and calories 233.

Being high carbs, diabetics should restrict Lebanese bread.

Popular flat breads across the World are the Tortilla, Pita, Naan, Chapati and Focaccias

Flatbread can be a great choice that is part of a healthy, balanced diet. Homemade flatbread in particular is a great option so that you can control everything that goes into your flatbread, and use whole grains, and low fat options. You can also add in ingredients like flax seeds to give added nutrition as well.

Naan is a soft, pillowy flatbread native to India and Sri Lanka. Naan is a leavened bread cooked in a special oven called a tandoor. Naan often contains milk or yogurt, which provide a unique flavor and a soft, tender texture. Naan is easily recognizable by its pillowy bubbles that form from contact with the hot oven.

Naan has 5.1 g of fat: 1.3 g of saturated fat. 419mg of Sodium; 113 mg of potassium; Total carbs 45 g. Dietary fiber 2 g, Sugars 3.2 g and protein 8.7 g.

Each Naan has 262 calories.

To burn off 262 calories in Naan you need to walk at 3mph 71 minutes:

Birth of Kottu Roti

Kottu Roti legend says that once upon a time there was a kottu seller on the east coast of Sri Lanka, in the small township of Kattankudy in Batticaloa that was closing his roti stand when a group of tourists arrived asking for some food. The roti seller only had scraps left over from the day, bits of cooked roti, some vegetables and leftover chicken curry. Instead of telling the tourists that he was all out of food, he made a mashup of the leftovers. Tourists loved it and raved about it in their travels. Thus, Kottu Roti was born, at least according to legend. Is it the true story, or is it a myth? Either way, it’s delicious!

Now let’s discuss how Kottu Roti is made.

It is a flat bread base but when served it becomes a mixture of shredded flat Godha bread with many other ingredients.

Godha or Godhambara, which is also called roti canai, which originates from Malaysia. It’s flakier cousin is called paratha in India and Sri Lanka.

Nutritional value of one Kottu roti is:

One cup full

359 Calories

Total Fat 13grams

33%Saturated Fat 6.6grams

Trans Fat 0grams

30%Cholesterol 91mg

18%Sodium 422mg

15%Potassium 533mg

14%Total Carbohydrates 43grams

22%Dietary Fiber 5.4grams

Sugars 5.4grams

Protein 18grams

 45%Vitamin A

 22%Vitamin C



Another kind of Indian flat bread is the Chapati.

Ingredients that go into Chapati’s are This recipe makes 4 Roti’s:

1/2 Cup Whole wheat flour

Pinch of Salt

1/4 Cup and 1 tablespoon of luke warm water

1/4 teaspoon of Oil

1 teaspoon of Ghee or clear butter

All flat breads are high carb and high calorie foods. If you want to go on a diet to reduce body weight you need to eat them sparingly. Also uncontrolled diabetics should avoid all types of flat bread, including kottu roti.

Is flatbread worse than regular bread?

In addition to having more calories, the flatbread also has more fat. The flatbread packs 5 grams of fat, which is more than twice what the white bread has. … Not only does it have fewer calories, less fat and more calcium, it’s bigger too, and just eating two slices daily is beneficial if you are on a weight reducing program.

Hope this video talk was useful.

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