Eating Healthy

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

Developing a healthy relationship with your food means eating for nutrition, sustenance, and with gratitude. Instead, in the modern age, we eat while we are standing or driving, as we rush through our day trying to meet obligations and deadlines. We eat out of stress or boredom, we over-focus on taste, and health goes out the window. The result of this unmindful eating is the feeling of being perpetually tired and health issues occurring at an increasingly younger age.

On the one hand, we have seen wonderful advancements in modern medicine that have increased longevity and help us manage many conditions while remaining active and functional, despite the effects of aging.

On the other, we live in increasingly toxic environments where we are exposed to harmful metals like lead, mercury, aluminum, and harmful chemicals in our air, food, and water.  The only way to counter the inevitable intake of these toxins is to build up our body’s natural defenses and supply it with the right kind of fuel.  A silent revolution has been taking place with our food.  Many of us haven’t noticed that the food we consume in current times is several fold more processed, and combined with harmful additives, compared to the foods consumed a generation ago.  We need to start saying no to this invasion of chemicals on our bodies.  We need to start treating our bodies with care and respect.  Not an easy task, since everywhere you look, you are surrounded by harmful additives.  We need to begin the process of choosing what we eat deliberately, rationally, meticulously.

I’m not a nutritionist but I’ve always been interested in pursuing a healthy lifestyle. And healthy eating is a big part of it. I haven’t met all my eating goals yet and I’m somewhere in the middle of the ladder to a balanced, healthful diet. I will share here what I’ve read on the subject. If anyone would like to add or correct the info included here, please do so.

Know Your Foods

1. Whole Grains – What’s The Big Deal?

Why eat Whole Grains? Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel. Refining normally removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm. Without the bran and germ, about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, along with at least seventeen key nutrients. Whole grains are healthier, providing more protein, more fiber and many important vitamins and minerals.

Some whole grains to try (in place of white rice) are quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, millet (ragi, jowar), buckwheat, bulgur, and wild rice. All these alternative grains are great for maintaining balanced sugar levels. Quinoa has the highest protein content, so it’s perfect for vegetarians and vegans. It provides all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

2. The Argument for going Vegetarian

Meat contains dense protein, which is difficult to digest. Protein needs to be absorbed slowly, in order to have health benefits. Also, meat is highly acidic, leaching alkaline minerals like calcium from bones. Meat can be toxic with all of the antibiotics and artificial hormones fed to animals to make them grow faster and bigger and can exhaust the liver and kidneys having to work overtime to detoxify the body of these toxic and harmful substances. It also takes quite a lot more energy from our body to digest and break down meat, sapping our bodies of our vital life force. Meat contains high amounts of fat and cholesterol, leading to cardiovascular problems including heart disease, atherosclerosis and stroke.

Plant protein comes not just from beans and lentils, but also from whole grains. Eating a variety of whole grains and legumes provides the optimal amount of protein the human body needs, at a rate at which it can be easily digested.

And of course, going vegetarian is good for the planet! Meat production is a huge contributor to pollution due the use of fossil fuels. In developed countries, it is the largest source of greenhouse gases and in developing countries, one of the major causes of water pollution.

For those who do eat meat, leaner (chicken, turkey) meats are better than red meats (beef, pork) and grilled is better than fried obviously.

Note: There are others who take a different stance. For instance, advocates of the Paleo diet argue in favor of a heavily meat based diet.

3. Colorful Veggies – the fashion designers of the food world

Veggies are an important part of a healthy diet. They contain dozens of essential nutrients and have loads of dietary fiber. And just by getting your daily quota of five servings, you help build your body’s immunity to illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. One of the new trends with veggies is juicing – why – because it saves time and you can get in veggies you don’t normally like eating plus it’s more water. Whether you like to juice them, steam them, or eat them raw, veggies are great for you. Remember, no frying and no cooking with oil showing up all over your plate. With veggies, think bright colors plus white. Red, dark green, and bright yellow – all of these are packed with nutrients. White veggies like cauliflower, radish and cabbage are also excellent for you.

Here’s a suggested list of to include into your diet:

Dark Green Leaves – Spinach, Kale, Swiss chard, Methi, Romaine, Bok Choy, and Collards.

Green veggies – broccoli, green pepper, zucchini, cucumber

Red veggies – carrots, beets, red pepper, red cabbage, red potatoes

Yellow veggies – squash, yellow pepper, sweet potatoes

White – cauliflower, cabbage, radish

4. Fruit are cute, but too much is moot.

Fruit are tasty and nutritious, but watch out for the high-sugar ones. Berries are the healthiest kind of fruit. Most fruit contain fructose, a healthier form of sugar than glucose, except for grapes, which contain glucose. Even if it’s fructose, sugar is sugar. Bananas, apples, mangoes, and grapes are the sweetest fruit. Pineapple, kiwis, and strawberries are medium sweet. Pears, blackberries, raspberries are low in sugar. Cranberries are one of the lowest in sugar. Treat fruit as dessert, keep it to 1 to 2 servings a day max.

5. Dairy: No need for Milk Mustache!

For the longest time, milk was thought to be super healthy. Now, many nutritionists are questioning and debunking this long held myth. In general, it is better to keep dairy products a small part of your diet. We’ve been lead to believe in the myth that you absolutely need milk to get Calcium – mostly clever marketing from milk manufacturers (remember the famous milk mustache?). The truth is that there are many other, healthier sources of calcium in your diet – including all green leafy vegetables, also broccoli, and baked beans. Exercise is another excellent way to build and maintain strong bones.

Milk also has the disadvantage of making us feel full with no room for lean foods such as veggies and fruit. The more dairy we consume, the less lean, fibrous foods we eat. Milk can also lead to lactose intolerance in some people – bloating and constipation.

If you are a milk drinker, try substituting cow’s milk with alternative milks – almond, rice, or hemp milk. Many people are becoming intolerant to cow’s milk in the US because of the way it is being processed.  If you MUST drink cow’s milk, then at least stick to organic milk and avoid brands that come from cows treated with hormones.

Organic, plain, non-fat yogurt is the better form of dairy. It contains probiotics needed to protect your intestinal tract against bad bacteria. There are also non-dairy yogurts available now – based on coconut milk, etc. Goat milk yogurt is considered healthy but I’ve never tried it.

6. Healthy Fats

Healthy fats include nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocado. I also use sunflower and safflower oils, which are more suitable to Indian cooking. Avoid processed fats like margarine and butter.

7. Drinks: Live it up! Party! Get drunk! (on water, I mean)

Soda – One of the worst things of the typical American diet is the consumption of sodas like Coke and Sprite – sodas can contain strong acids, tons of sugar and caffeine, artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, harmful colors and flavors. Coke contains Phosphoric acid – leave a nail in a cup of coke and it dissolves in 4 days. Imagine what it does to your body. Not to mention the 10 spoons of sugar that go into a regular sized Coke can. Avoid all sodas.

Diet coke is much worse. It contains Aspartame (an artificial sweetener present in many brands such as NutraSweet, Equal, and Spoonsful) which is linked to many devastating illnesses. Avoid all artificial sweeteners. Either reduce sugar, give up sugar (if you are pre-diabetic), or try Stevia, a plant based sweetener.

Store bought fruit juices (such as Tropicana) are not healthy – they contain high levels of sugar, some contain high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener that has been linked to many illnesses. They also contain artificial colors, flavors and extracts. If you like fruit juice, please make it at home.

The best beverages to drink are –

Water – the 6 to 8 glasses rule is great if you can, but if you can’t, then drink as much as you can. Drink after every meal to aid digestion and hydrate. Avoid drinking from plastic bottles. Use a stainless steel bottle or cup, or one made from glass.

Coconut water – Make sure you buy a “clean” brand that contains no sugar or additives. The ingredients list should read: coconut water. Nothing else. And it shouldn’t say, “extracted from concentrate” or “sugar added”, etc.

Veg juices made at home with carrots, beets, etc. are awesome. Fruit juices made at home – orange, pineapple, mango, etc. Don’t add sugar please.

Fruit smoothies – Combine almond milk with your favorite fruit to make a healthy, filling drink.

Tea (hot water with tea bag – Burdock, Tulsi, Green Tea, etc.) Green tea helps you detox . Too much tea is not good as many teas also contain caffeine. Chamomile tea helps you calm down, mint tea helps you feel refreshed. Also look out for Teevana (now under Starbucks) – they have some interesting flavors like Samurai Chai. (Note on Indian tea – too much full fat milk, too much sugar, too much boiling – not good!)

Coffee – the jury’s out on this one. Some studies show that limited amounts of coffee (1 cup/day) are linked to a lower risk of diabetes. Others recommend giving up this artificial waker-upper altogether.

8. Snacks – what’s healthy, what’s not?

The short answer: the best snacks are mostly what nature offers – fruit, veggies, nuts. (And plain white, non-fat, organic yogurt.) Keep tons of these raw foods ready on hand. Everything else is unhealthy. Do not store your kitchen shelves with junk food.

The long answer (for those who love detail🙂

Remember, it is BEST to eat food in its original form or lightly cooked. The more processed the food gets, the lower it’s nutritional value and the more harmful it becomes due to additives. This is why store bought snacks are among the unhealthiest of foods.

Many store bought snacks contain harmful ingredients such as colors, flavors, and flavor enhancers such as MSG. In the olden days, people used safe, natural coloring like turmeric to make the food yellow or beets to make it red. But artificial colors are based on chemicals and have harmful health effects.

Examples of healthy snacks:

Check out a health food store such as Whole Foods for some of these and choose snacks with less sugar (less than 5g per serving):

Fruit and Nut bars (with no harmful additives, like Kind bar or Lara bar)

Trail Mix – nuts and dried fruit mix (don’t pick those with added salt and sugar)

Baked chips (Lentil Chips, Kale chips, Sweet potato chips, Vegetable chips like beets and radish chips again without additives)

Organic dark chocolate (small amounts)

Whole grain crackers with no additives, plain or dipped in hummus

Examples of Unhealthy Snacks:

Protein bars (usually contain high levels of sugar and additives)

All snacks from the Indian store (cookies, crackers) contain additives

All packaged, ready to eat, instant foods

Anything deep fried (potato chips, corn chips)

All cookies, brownies, muffins, and sugary snacks

Many brands of nachos contain high levels of artificial colors and flavors

Anything with “bbq” or cheesy flavors or trans fats or GMOs

The biggest rule with snacks – READ THE LABEL! Read Ingredients carefully. A general rule of ingredients – the fewer the better, the more easily you can pronounce them, the better.  A bottle of ketchup should read: ‘organic tomatoes, salt, water, organic paprika, organic red pepper’. Baked potato chips should read: ‘potatoes, salt, sunflower oil’. That’s it. Say no to brands with long lists of ingredients (many of which are harmful additives).

EATING/COOKING HABITS – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Cooking Veggies/Curry – when making curry, use no more than ½ tsp of oil to fry seasoning and spices, then add veggies, cover and lightly cook. Veggies must remain crisp to retain nutrients. Oil should not be sticking to plate when you serve curry. Avoid rich curry sauces that contain cream, etc. Avoid store bought sauces, they contain harmful additives such as flavor enhancers. Avoid bottled ginger garlic paste or anything ‘ready-to-use’. Grate your own ginger and garlic and if you lack time, skip it.

Vegetables like eggplant and capsicum do not taste good, when boiled/steamed. So the tendency is to fry them. To avoid frying, try grilling them. You can add grilled eggplant, zucchini, or squash to your sandwiches. You can add grilled bell peppers to almost anything – pasta, salad, sandwich, mixed grain dish, etc.

Eating Raw – There are many advocates for raw food but my personal preference is for lightly cooked foods. I feel the body spends too much energy breaking down raw foods – energy which should be used for other activities. The only veggies I can eat raw are tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and onions. I lightly steam carrots, beets, cawliflower, and all the other harder to break down (for my body) veggies.

Attitude – Sit down, chew well, and eat slowly. Savor your meals. Meals should not be eaten rushed, or while standing up. If you have little kids and meal times are chaotic, then let the kids eat first, then sit down to a peaceful meal with your spouse. As your kids get older, and you have family meals together, make it a social experience and catch-up time for the whole family. You can discuss something interesting you’ve been reading about or news from work (making sure it’s child appropriate). The dinner table can be the place for some great conversations.

Involve your children in the making of food. Children can accompany you to the farmer’s market, select veggies and fruit, and help out during meal prep, help set the table. Help your children develop a healthy relationship with food. Stocks your kitchen with tons of healthy snacks that kids can grab between meals. When kids watch you eat healthy, they are more likely to follow suit. Food battles are inevitable, especially during the teen years. Do the best you can – stick to cooking healthy at home, provide them with the right information, and when they eat out, let them make their own choices.

One of the best things you can do if you have some time is to grow a vegetable garden and get your kids involved with the planting and growing of veggies – this doesn’t have to be ambitious – even growing tomatoes is fine. This teaches children to have a healthy relationship to food and to be thankful to our planet and take good care of it. It is a therapeutic, stress busting activity and is quality time for you and your child. You can also teach them about generosity by distributing some of your home-grown veggies to neighbors and friends.

Buy seasonal, local, non-sprayed or organic produce. Don’t eat imported out-of season fruit, for instance. Support the local economy and the environment.

Eating Schedule – It is good to have a routine – that is you eat at consistent times everyday. The end goal of good eating is to be kind to your body – so your body can give you energy and focus.

Avoid negative eating habits – eating to fix boredom, to fix stress, starving to lose weight, over-eating something that is tasty, being excessively focused on taste rather than nutrition, using large helpings, craving excessive variety, random/unplanned eating or fixating on certain foods.

But, what about those darn cravings??

We all have them – chocolate, cheese, samosas, ice cream, pizza – we crave foods that are unhealthy. So should we kill our cravings instantly? The answer is NO! What happens when you suddenly eliminate these foods is – your craving intensifies. You do not feel good about eating good foods.

Instead, reduce bad foods gradually, with the goal of minimizing them. There are 2 ways you can do this – either by reducing the quantity of bad food OR by improving the quality of the bad food.

Say, you like eating pizza every month.

To cut down on the QUANTITY/FREQUENCY – You can try to cut down to a pizza every 2 months, then make it every 3 months.

You could also reduce your serving size (say from 3 to 2 slices to 1 slice), and supplement your meal with a salad.

Or to improve the QUALITY of the pizza – you can try going for thin crust pizza, with less cheese on it.

Thus you have not entirely eliminated the pizza or whatever it is you crave in one shot, but your consumption of it has been modified to be less unhealthy.

If you feel you are drinking too much coffee or tea, first try eliminating sugar in your coffee/tea without entirely giving up your ‘energy booster’ drink. Now, you don’t have to worry as much about your habit because it’s not as unhealthy. Next try eliminating milky tea and go for hot water and tea bag.

If you love ice cream, save it for special occasions or eat it with a fruit salad.

If you decide to eliminate a food, do it gradually by reducing your consumption over a period of time. In the end, you must be able to give up the food in peace, without feeling bitter about it or aching for it so much that you just gorge on it after a long gap.

POTS AND PANS – is it time to go shopping?

Avoid non-stick pots and pans.

Minimize the use of microwave ovens. Microwave ovens use radiation, which alters the chemical composition of your food.

Use glass containers and avoid plastic, for storing food. Glass is inert so nothing leaks into your food. Plastic is bad enough when cold but downright toxic when heated. Even BPA free plastic contains harmful chemicals. Glass and high quality stainless steel containers are healthier. Avoid zip-lock bags as much as possible.

Baking with glass (Pyrex) is way better than using metal pans to avoid leakage of metals into your food.

Pressure cooker versus slow cooking – slow cooking is healthier, soak grains (rice, quinoa, etc.) for an hour and cook on medium to low heat on stove top. Cook all veggies on stove top on low to medium heat.

Cooking pots – this is where most experts disagree – obviously non-stick cooking pots are unhealthy due to Teflon. Some people recommend glass cookware, and even though glass is inert and strong enough to be heat resistant, I still don’t feel comfortable using glass cookware. I currently use stainless steel cooking pots. My favorite brand is Cusine Art – the pots are heavy stainless steel. All stainless steel pots do have a bit of nickel and other metals in them – but they won’t seep into your food unless they’re scratched. So don’t scrape the bottom of stainless steel pots and pans. Use enough water to keep the curry or rice moist, to avoid scraping.

NEXT STEPS

Eating better is a process and it takes time to get there. An at-a-glance way to assess where you are in this process:

Level 1 – you eat lots of sugary and oily snacks, don’t pay attention to labels, and eat out a lot

  • You need to reduce sugar and unhealthy fats.
  • Trash the junk food from your kitchen shelves and stock your fridge with cut up veggies and fruit to meet your in-between-meals hunger pangs.  Also keep small quantities of raw nuts on hand when the munching urge strikes.
  • Cook some simple, wholesome meals at home.

Level 2 – you cook simple, wholesome meals at home pretty regularly, avoid sweets and oily snacks, stick to some basic health rules like avoiding MSG and packaged foods. You eat some vegetables and fruit but you could do better. You also rely more on grains and less on fiber on hectic days. You may also be eating some refined grains.  You may sit down and have a peaceful meal for dinner, but breakfast and lunch, you eat on the run because you are pulled in many different directions – the needs of work, home, kids, self. (Level 2 is sort of where I fall.)

  • Include more fibre in your diet by adding more fresh veggies and fruit.
  • Move closer toward whole grains.  Aim for grain rotation (quinoa, millet, Amaranth, brown rice, whole wheat – try to eat a different grain everyday and keep rotating).
  • Re-org your day (wake up earlier if needed) so you can set aside time to sit down and eat mindfully. Create a pocket of time to chop veggies and fruit to be used for next day.

Level 3 – you eat whole grains, lots of fresh veggies and fruit that are seasonal and local, you get optimal amounts of protein and healthy fats, you avoid colors and flavors, GMOs, avoid packaged foods, and eat at home as much as possible by cooking simple meals with fresh, organic ingredients.

  • Find ways to maintain this.
  • Keep reminding yourself of the benefits – you have optimal levels of energy, you are calm and focused, and better able to handle stressful situations.
  • Get everyone in your family to join you, if possible.

References

Healthy Eating Info websites

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating

http://www.ayurveda-holistic-medicine.com/ayurvedic-diet.html

https://unblindmymind.org

Whole Grains –

http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whole-grains-a-to-z

Vegetarian Protein –

http://sacredsourcenutrition.com/plant-vs-animal-proteins/

http://kindrednutrition.blogspot.com/2011/06/plant-vs-animal-protein.html

Leafy Greens –

http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/leafy-greens-rated

Fruit Sugar

http://www.thehealthyeatingguide.com/sugar-content-of-fruit/

http://www.sugarstacks.com/fruits.htm

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/fruits-vegtables-good-low-sugar-intake-2148.html

http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/whattoeat/a/whatfruit.htm

Milk overrated – http://www.mercola.com/article/milk/no-milk.htm

The ugly effects of coke – http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060823150145AAUrVMa

The danger of artificial sweeteners

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx

Is Coffee Good For You? – http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/coffee-new-health-food

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coffee-and-health/AN01354

Artificial colors in snacks – http://www.naturalnews.com/032512_artificial_colors_food.html

Going Organic http://www.care2.com/greenliving/15-reasons-to-eat-organic-food.html?page=3

Harmful ingredients to avoid –

http://www.naturalnews.com/033162_food_ingredients_chemicals.html

Dark Chocolate –

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/6-health-benefits-of-dark-chocolate.html#b

Quality of Food goes down with processing

http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/23-ways-eat-clean/11-soup

98 thoughts on “Eating Healthy

  1. Priya, great post. I would like to add another very important point towards healthy (and environment friendly) lifestyle: Eat Local! We almost always shop at farmers markets (they are year round in bay area, which is a huge plus!). The food miles have a HUGE impact on the environment. Eating local and whatever is in season ensures you eat fresh and nutritionally dense produce and are not contributing much to your carbon footprint. Plus, you support local farmers, which is a huge plus.
    I am kind of obsessed with farmers markets! I absolutely love seeing so much great produce, and it in turn motivates me to eat more veggies. On the weekends we are in town, we make it a family outing of shopping at the market with our toddler. He loves snacking on the berries samples (another reason to take him along) and enjoys the free music and entertainment they have.
    Eating raw is also something we follow in our household. I used to eat a lot of “koshimbirs” (raw yogurt based salads) growing up and i love them. I would love if my son chooses to be a vegetarian, but for now we do give him fish once a week. Hubby is a bengali and hence loves cooking and eating fish. Since I am a vegetarian, hubby has cut down a LOT on meat but once a week is what we do.
    I am not big on fried stuff/pizza/soda etc. My only downfall is sugar. And specifically chocolate. Trying to include it in my diet without it being the start!
    I would also like to add that replacing white rice alltogether is not a great idea. Especially since Indians are used to eating it and it is also important to include foods that one has grown up eating. Eating mounds of rice and little veggies is not a good idea, but it can very well be a part of balanced diet without being completely replaced by whole grain options.

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    • Mypunchingbag, I was sort of hoping you would comment because I know you’re into healthy food🙂
      I think I mentioned eating ‘local, seasonal, organic’ somewhere in my post.
      Thank you for the other great healthy eating tips and ideas!
      I’m waiting for input from Boiling, MR, and Hidden Passions as well as they’ve blogged on this a lot …..
      Pizza – have you tried Pieology? Super thin whole grain crust, pesto sauce, little or no cheese (whatever you desire), grilled bell peppers, olives and other loaded veggies. Seems completely healthy and guilt-free to me, and a far cry from Pizza Hut and Dominoes.

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  2. Priya, this is a wonderful post! I am not sure if I should be asking you this but I recently learnt that jowar bhakri is better than roti, aka phulka, chapati, poli….I have tried making jowar bhakri but I am not good at it, to say the least, could I just roast lightly on my griddle ( and I use Scanpan for this) and roast in oven? Please help if you can.
    Thanks so much
    Shubha ( from Sydney)

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  3. Great post.
    I have saved it up for re- reading and sharing.
    I agree with all your observations.
    Cutting down on milk here in California helped me feel much better.
    The bloated feeling reduced drastically, when I switched to lactose free milk.
    Reducing rice and mixing quinoa with rice also helped.
    By itself, quinoa does not taste good,
    We mix 25 to 30 % quinoa in the rice and the taste is acceptable.

    Switching to olive oil for cooking, and totally avoiding butter and ghee and cheese also helped.
    At 66 my capacity to tolerate and digest rich food is now greatly reduced.
    I have lost 8 pounds in the last four months , here in California by eating healthy, influenced by my daughter who has been preaching everything you have mentioned here.
    Of course, being away from home and all the tempting stuff available there has also helped.
    I am hoping I don’t go back to my old bad eating habits when I return to India next month.

    Let me share a tip.
    To kill the craving for snacking in between meals I keep some “saunf” handy and pop a generous pinch into my mouth. It de-sensitizes the taste buds and kills the craving.
    Sometimes I pop a clove or cardamom and let it linger long in my mouth.

    Another good habit I have developed is not to eat after sunset.
    We have dinner around 7 pm here in California when the sun is still up.
    I am able to sleep better on a light stomach.

    Regards
    GV

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to know you are feeling better as a result of those healthful practices! I agree with you about early supper. We follow that rule too. When I visit my parents in India I have a hard time with the late dinner they eat🙂 Great tip with the saunf/clove/cardamom – will try it.
      Also along the lines of helpful seeds, if something we eat doesn’t digest well, popping some carom seeds helps.

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      • Agree. Here I’m buying a certain ghee that is recommended by nutritionists as the ‘right kind’. The brand is Pure Indian Foods. It is USDA certified organic and says it comes from grass fed cows.

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    • Saunf is best for people who have sugar craving. This is what I do too🙂
      and I must confess that my sugar cravings have gone down alot in last 2 years.

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    • GV uncle, Do try quinoa upma with a lot of vegetables. You’d do the same seasoning as you would for rava upma, except use quinoa. It really tastes like rava upma. We ate this for dinner last night with some fresh homemade thakkali thokku(gotta love summer and beautiful tomatoes!).

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  4. Hi Priya, great post. The only thing I want to add is to be wary of non-fat yogurt. The non-fat ones I have seen are laden with sugar to make up for the taste. If you know any healthy non-fat yogurt brands, do let me know. I haven’t found any to date even at Whole Foods.

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    • Thank you RD. Whole Foods has it. 365 brand, regular sized yogurt can (not the small individual sizes). It is organic and fat free. The can color – green and beige. Also the ‘O’ organics brand (found in Safeway) has organic 1% yogurt (again regular sized can, not individual sizes which always seem to have either sugar or fat).

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      • Gosh! That was revealing.
        I have been gorging on Pavel brand Russian non fat yogurt as it was yummy.
        The ” non fat” label made me feel there is nothing to worry.
        I did not know about this sugar trap.
        I will try out 365 brand non fat yogurt from Wholefoods.
        There is a Wholefoods outlet within 20 minutes walk from where I live.
        Regards
        GV

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      • Since we are on the topic of yogurts, also try out the full fat greek vanilla yogurt Wallaby brand available at whole foods. It is very close to vanilla ice cream and I treat myself to it whenever I get ice cream cravings, which is everyday in summer!
        Also, when it comes to dairy, I always do full fat – whole milk, whole milk yogurt, cheese etc. It is more “whole” and gives you the satisfaction of eating it.

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    • Non-fat yogurt does not have the vitamin D required to complement and absorb the calcium and also very little Vitamin A. I advocate having full-fat dairy from grass-fed sources. Fat is not the enemy, carbs are.

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    • I would recommend full fat plain yogurt. Besides, many Indians make yogurt at home no? Fat is not really that bad in small quantities and it is better to have little full fat yogurt/milk than low fat.

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  5. If you guys have followed the Maggi saga – you would have read – that Chocolate sold in India contains Vegetable fat. Whereas in the west a product cannot qualify as Chocolate if it contains vegetable fat / oils. I wonder if that caused sore throat every time I ate Chocolates. I doesn’t happen when I eat chocolates my friends & cousins bring from the west.

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    • The regular chocolate brands in the US like Hersheys, Reese’s, Snickers etc. have terrible ingredients. Now, we are beginning to see some better/safer/cleaner chocolate products here …. Alter Eco, Equal Exchange, Theo, Divine are some good ‘clean’ brands.

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  6. 3 points/questions-
    1) Is there a Whole Foods in India?
    2)Regarding this statement-
    “On the other, we live in increasingly toxic environments where we are exposed to harmful metals like lead, mercury, aluminum, and harmful chemicals in our air, food, and water. The only way to counter the inevitable intake of these toxins is to build up our body’s natural defenses and supply it with the right kind of fuel.”
    Building up your bodies ‘defenses’ (natural or otherwise) will in no way protect you against ingesting harmful metals & chemicals. Typically the human body simply ‘stashes’ metal & chemical toxins in fat deposits or the fatty lining of our nervous systems. There are certain substances that can ‘chelate’ some of these specific toxins but it’s best simply not to ingest these toxins in the 1st place. Supposedly buying ‘organic’ will help you avoid toxic metals & chemicals. Unfortunately in India the soil, air & water are so contaminated with toxic metals & chemicals buying ‘organic’ means practically nothing.
    3) “You may also be eating some refined grains.”
    If you eat white rice you are eating refined grains.
    Most Indians don’t seem to realize this.
    I’m working on a pamphlet on diet for diabetics in India & Nepal. I am shocked that doctors in India & Nepal will tell their diabetic patients to avoid ‘sugar’ but fail to tell them to avoid white rice & potatoes as well as other ‘high glycemic’ foods that will send their blood glucose levels soaring. (For diabetics brown rice is a better substitute for white rice & avoid potatoes altogether.)

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    • 1) I dont know. There may be equivalent stores – those living in indian cities please enlighten. Also there are online sources for ordering organic ingredients like spices. I get my spices online from Indus or Mantra brands.
      2) No you can’t stop ingesting toxins. You can however consume foods that help with the detoxing process.
      3) Yes white rice is sugar.

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  7. “Minimize the use of microwave ovens. Microwave ovens use radiation, which alters the chemical composition of your food.”

    No. This is incorrect. Microwaves use,as the name suggests, microwaves to heat food,that is, electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength in the micrometre range. Other forms of radiation are radio waves and X-ray. Radio waves are low energy, hence they are not harmful while X-rays are extremely high energy so we try to limit our exposure to them.

    These microwaves produced by the oven polarize the water molecules in the food you are heating,causing them to vibrate. This vibration heats the food. It is perfectly safe.

    All cooking “alters the chemical composition of your food”. That’s what cooking is, it is a chemical process.

    Studies have shown that even the total amount of radiation that a microwave oven leaks in its lifetime is 2mw, which is well below the the level that is harmful to humans.

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    • I’m sorry I absolutely disagree. Numerous studies have linked the use of microwave ovens to cancer and other illnesses. Enough to make many nutritionists and health experts suspicious. The physics of how a microwave works is pretty clear. What is not clear is how our bodies take in things and react to them. When it comes to protecting our bodies, it is better to err on the side of caution. Numerous times a paper will come out telling us why something is bad for us. Something we suspected all along and the proof comes much later.

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      • It doesn’t matter if you disagree, you’re still wrong about this.
        You can’t have an “opinion” about basic physics, it either is or it isn’t.

        The problem is that people hear the word “radiation” and they get frightened. All radiation is not harmful. Ionizing radiation, the kind that is released by nuclear activity, causes cancer. UV radiation (high energy) is harmful. No other kind of radiation is harmful. All heat is radiation, All light is radiation. The radiation from the microwave cooks the food, it doesn’t contaminate it.

        Many studies have been done to disprove this microwave causes illnesses myth. In fact,studies have actually shown that microwaving food can reduce the number of carcinogens in it, compared to other cooking methods. There is simply no evidence, in spite on numerous studies, that microwaves causes diseases or even that microwave radiation is harmful.

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        • Yes you can have an opinion because scientists and researchers aren’t infallible.

          Plastic was once ‘proven’ to be completely safe. Food coloring was considered safe. MSG was considered safe.

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        • For those who are interested in knowing more about microwave ovens, please read the book Overpowered by Dr. Martin Blank who has a Ph.D in Physical Chemistry from Columbia and in colloid science from Cambridge. Also Dr. Martha Hebert has published papers on EMF, she is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard medical School. Both of their research advises against the use of microwave ovens. In Hebert’s words, ““Powerful industrial entities have a vested interest in leading the public to believe that EMF from these devices is at safe levels.”

          Bear in mind that the FDA and other govt. regulatory agencies have a long history of reacting a bit late to dangers posed by foods and environmental factors. For instance, it took a lot of pressure from consumer orgs to get FDA to require labeling of GMOs (in the early 90s) at least in some cases where there is a substantial difference in the safety or nutritional characteristics of the food. .

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    • I would sit on the fence here.

      I do not think microwaves are terrible things, they have their uses. They don’t need to be banned unless one is extremely sensitive to EMFs. We do need to be aware that as much as corporations and scientists bullshit us, so do these “health bloggers” who are selling a holistic lifestyle. I am equally skeptical of both. I do not think I am going to die of cancer just because I microwave my food for 5 minutes like many health bloggers lead you to believe. I love it when they claim all technology is out to kill you when they spread their message and earn money using laptops and wifi telling people to go back to “olden golden times”. We have ended up glorifying a lot of our past – clean air, naturally organic food blah blah. The reason civilisation has moved in a certain direction is because it was better for survival. I am not saying all that we have now is better or smarter than our ancestors, but most of these bloggers /health coaches – including Dr Mercola and the likes speak from a very privileged point of view because they live in a DEVELOPED country, they can afford to romanticize ancient way of life. If they were let loose in a traditional society/ real village, they would not last a day. They can say our old way of life was good, vaccines are bad, because they have never had to suffer from want of basic needs.

      On the other hand, I do not believe that just because something has not been proven by science YET means that it is bullshit. Science moves way slower than we think and it is a very flawed system. Trust me, I have done research.

      Microwave – it being good or bad- would depend on our usage unless you have EMF issues, then just avoid it. If you are using your microwave to heat food in glass or the like, I don’t really see a problem. But by microwaving you mean eating those unhealthy readymade microwave food a lot, then maybe it is not good.

      Between ordering a pizza from pizza hut and microwaving cooked rice with some broccoli, I would go for the healthier meal than beating myself over using a microwave.

      Liked by 2 people

      • i agree with you that there is BS coming from the holistic side as well. I became wary of microwave ovens and other EMF devices after reading about a study in LA school district which studied the correlation between the rising rates of ADHD and having both microwave ovens and wifi in the classrooms. Dr. Blank who wrote Overpowered is a respected researcher. Dr. Hebert teaches at Harvard Medical school. One of my friends is an Environmental Eng prof at Berkeley and she was involved in one such study. In the past, she won the Obama award for outstanding research in the category of environment’s impact on lifestyle for a different project. Another friend of mine works as a certified nutritionist at the Cancer research Institute and helps cancer patients with various holistic approaches to healing. She also felt EMF is a bigger problem than we’re acknowledging. When all these rational people working in reputed schools/institutions/hospitals questioned it, I began to feel skeptical as well. That we’re missing something here.

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      • Thank you for this balanced point of view and not a jabbing-finger-in-the-face approach that simply refuses to consider other possibilities such as a subset of the population that may be more sensitive to EMF. The thing is we don’t fully understand how our bodies respond to things in the environment, because each one of our bodies is so different. If we knew that, we would have a definitive cure for cancer, Alzeimer’s and autism by now, all of which are on the rise at alarming rates.

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  8. Sorry to keep posting.
    but regarding aspartame: It’s perfectly safe. It has no proven links to any illnesses. All supposed links to cancer etc. have been proved false multiple times,in multiple countries, by impartial research organizations.
    Is aspartame nutritive? NO. Is it harmful and disease causing? NO.
    It is merely a sugar substitute. Use it as judiciously as you would use sugar.

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    • And regarding the mercola.com link that you’ve used as evidence? Dr. Mercola is a well known “quack” who has been ordered multiple times by the FDA to stop make false claims on his website.

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        • You can quote me on my milk experience.
          For a whole lifetime, I have been a milk and milk product flag bearer, thinking that for a vegetarian like me, it’s consumption is not just good but essential.
          Believing that it was wholesome and essential (impressed by claims that it was rich in protein, calcium, etc), we forced it down our children’s throats too.
          I used to consume several milky drinks a day.
          Bourn vita, horlicks, Viva, Badami haalu, milk rich tea and coffee and of course I never refused a second helping of payasam.
          Dharwad pedas, and other milk-sweets, were consumed liberally and without guilt as I argued (and kidded myself) that it was not deep fried, so it was ok.

          I never suffered from lactose intolerance till last year.
          May be my age is catching up, and my digestive system is putting up its hands.
          I didn’t suspect milk at all, as the cause of my chronic tummy discomfort and distension in the bowels till my daughter put her finger on the problem.
          I experimented for a few days by avoiding milk totally and the result was immediate and utterly convincing.
          I now consume only lactose free milk, and in very limited quantities (just a quarter of the earlier quantity)
          Just to to verify, I resumed my milk consumption and the symptoms were back.
          I now need no further convincing.
          Limited consumption of fat free yoghurt is not troubling me now but I am willing to give that up too if it is going to help.

          Butter, cheese and ghee have long ago been given up and the craving too has totally vanished. I am not even tempted.

          I thought vegans were weird.
          I am wiser now.
          May be I may become a vegan someday.
          Regards
          GV

          Liked by 3 people

        • Thank you GV jee. 2 of my close friends have given up dairy and are feeling much better – no bloating, more energy. Eliminating dairy has also helped with my son’s allergies and my aunt’s asthma.

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        • I agree with milk part here, one of uncle suffered from allergies all through his life, post retirement he invested in learning about healthy food. He read in one of those books about holistic nutrition to give up milk for getting away from allergies, and he did for past 4 years. Absolutely no allergies. He advocates that from time to time to others on this very topic.

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        • I agree with theories on milk. For years we have been told we need milk but it is so not true. I cut down my milk consumption dramatically and it helped me a lot. Now I do use organic milk in my chai but nothing else usually. I try to use goat milk and goat/sheep cheese as much as I can instead of cow’s milk.

          Liked by 1 person

    • There are a lot of articles that discuss the links between aspartame and cancer. Numerous times, research to prove that a product is “safe” is often funded by agencies that can be traced back to the makers, removed multiple times. Read both sides of the debate and make your decision.

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    • No need to get contentious. Every comment of yours has been published. These are not ‘false claims’. These are not even ‘claims’. This is a bunch of information compiled together, things I came across while reading on the subject (I say this right at the beginning of the post). Almost every food/ingredient, good or bad, can have research on both sides, contradicting each other. The best thing to do is to read up on it and make your own decisions.

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      • I have to agree with goobe on microwave. Scientists can be wrong about theories and hypothesis, but science itself does not deal with opinions, it deals with data. And the current data shows that mircowave radiation does not cause any harm to the human body. If you claim that microwave does indeed cause harm, then there should be data to back it up.

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        • One concern for me is that many microwavable foods come wrapped in plastic containers – chemicals from the plastic enter the food being heated/cooked. Another concern I have is the EMF factor. Please refer to the book ‘Overpowered’ by Dr. Martin Blank here (you can also see that some reviews are from fellow physicists):
          http://www.amazon.com/Overpowered-Dangers-Electromagnetic-Radiation-about/dp/1609805097

          Another reason for skepticism – companies that aim to sell certain products invest billions of dollars in research to fund what they believe will yield convenient results. For instance, we were told food coloring is safe. I remember my kids when they were in kindergarten doing cooking projects using food coloring. Some kids would even lick it! Everyone would smile and think how fun this is! And now we have new studies that show how harmful food colors are. There were also articles asserting that arsenic in cigarettes is ‘safe’. Who funded that research? The cigarette companies?
          I’m not CLAIMING, I’m CAUTIONING based on what I’ve read and people are free to not feel cautioned.

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        • Although not related to food, but of similar nature. 50 years back when it was said that, smoking causes lung cancer, no one believed it, and eventually it has happened. Similarly, using excessive cell phone causes brain cancer – no one believes it now, you will see more brain cancers in the next 20-30 years. Unfortunate, but sad truths. It takes time to collect data, analyze and give the information to public, by then most of the lives have been lost. At the same time, it is very hard to prove. So doing lots of research, going with gut feelings and doing what you feel right for your body is probably the one of the useful approach.

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  9. My parents live in the US at the moment and they are absolutely insane about healthy eating. Pretty much every meal (including pizzas, baked pastas, thai curries, you name it) is made from scratch and it’s delicious!

    I live in India (Hyderabad) and man…eating absolutely healthy is impossible. Everything here gets made from scratch too — even coconut and peanut based gravies and chutneys made at home are all from scratch. But the calorie levels in these foods are insanely high.

    Going vegetarian is next to impossible for me. I tried going vegetarian for a week to detox but then ramadan started…and haleem isn’t vegetarian.

    Somehow, I feel it’s so much easier to eat healthier in the US/ Canada–here (in India) even if you want to make something simple like a salad, you have to first rinse the veggies then soak them for a looong time in potassium permanganate, then rinse again, and then eat them all the while thinking ‘oh please lemme not get any worms in my brains’ while eating said salad.

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  10. Just one point about the milk. While some veggies do have high calcium level, milk has a higher percentage of “available” calcium. Also i’m reading a lot of studies lately about butter and fats (ghee) not being as unhealthy as they have been made out to be.

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    • Ghee (the clean kind) in small amounts is supposed to be good for you. I think the problem is people will tell themselves this and end up eating way more than small amounts🙂

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    • You are right, Sruti. (Cholesterol may not be as bad as once thought). Below are two articles by Ray Peat, one of the most respected nutritionists.

      1. There have been several studies in India showing that consumption of butter and ghee is associated with a low incidence of heart disease; for example, according to one study, people in the north eat 19 times more fat (mostly butter and ghee) than in the south, yet the incidence of heart disease is seven times higher in the south.

      2. Coconut-eating cultures in the tropics have consistently lower cholesterol than people in the U.S.

      Note to IHM and all the vegan ladies: Something about coconut oil’s beneficial effects on women — women in geographies that consume coconut oil are healthy and beautiful and live long (Caribbean, Central America, Philippines, Kerala, Sri Lanka). Read Ray Peat’s article above. It may not advisable to consume it with polished rice, though (or with heavy meals). Using it as a spread is a good idea.

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      • I feel so torn about using coconut oil … I keep reading about the health benefits but it feels too rich to me. Maybe small amounts if the key …..

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        • Never used in cooking, but used coconut oil to moisturize my skin – including face. It worked like a charm for me. I deviated from it coz of smell, but I will slowly get back into that form.
          I have come across many people from kerala, they use coconut oil as part of their day-to-day cooking and it seems like an healthy option. I never really enjoyed fried stuff in coconut oil, but for regular meals it seems to be edible for me.

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        • I have tried virgin coconut oil recently and found that the smell was tolerable. I ideally use it for the “tadka”

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        • I think a little of coconut oil is actually good. if you see all the latest health blogs, it is the in thing and they use it for literally everything.

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  11. I try to include spinach in everything because of its high iron content. Women are twice more prone to iron deficient then men. Spinach+aloo sabzi or daal with spinach or spinach pizza.
    I also use lot of green leafy methi (fenugreek leaves), usually I put chopped methi in flour and make yum rotis.
    I am lactose intolerant so I heavily rely on soy milk….I eat chicken outside and dont prefer to cook at home. My main source of protien comes from soy milk and egg whites.
    Also, I eat brown rice mostly…white rice once in a while when I miss India🙂

    Eating healthy is not difficult, its just you should be aware and need to control your cravings

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      • priya – have you tried smoothies for your kids? My 21 month old digs it. He loves chocolate (who doesn’t?!) so I make this smoothie: almond milk+cocoa powder+super ripe banana+spinach+vanilla. Tastes chocolatey and you have your spinach! (use baby spinach for mild flavor)

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      • I love sautéed spinach. Or “spinach Thoran”, which is a Kerala style preparation. Another thing that I love. is stir fried brocolli. Actually the Chinese have the right idea. Steamed veggies taste delicious. I find that in indian cooking we over cook the vegetables so that it turns into a boring, bland mush, whereas if veggies are grilled they are healthier and tastier.
        I’m trying to learn to cook for university! And have come to the conclusion that raw meat/fish is DISGUSTING, so I’m going to be a semi-vegetarian, only eating meat when Someone else cooks for me🙂

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    • Soy milk has phytoestrogens ! Phyto estrogens work just like estrogen so for women overdoing soy products like tofu and soy milk is like a death sentence ! Brest and uterine cancers are activated by estrogen along with other risk factors ! The problem with healthy eating is people cut down on lot of things immediately ! There is no need to cut down on food groups altogether until and unless you have undergone diagnostic testing which labels you as ‘gluten intolerant’ ,lactose intolerant etc !
      I am personally not in favour of becoming vegetarian overnight or giving up meat altogether ! Vit B 12 deficiency is real minerals like zinc are more easily available through meat !
      The key is moderation ! Roughage like vegetables should form bigger part of adult diet next to whole grains !
      The problem in India is produce !
      There is so much contamination in the water systems and pesticides in food that healthy eating is a struggle !
      About sugar substitutes aspartame and others ,they are supposed to be used in moderation ! One can’t use them like white sugar !
      And Indians are diabetic because we are primarily vegetarians eat too much carbohydrates rice,potatoes and way too much sweets ! And exercise is absent from peoples lives ! Only poor do hard labour for others there are maids !

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      • “overdoing soy products like tofu and soy milk is like a death sentence”.
        I am glad people are realizing the harmful side of soy. Fermented soy (tempeh, miso) and dehydrated (soy vadi) maybe fine if eaten in moderation. Other forms of soy come with serious risks.

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  12. I have been trying to stay on a Vegan diet for a while and it’s amazing how easy it is today – because there are readily available or easy to make, and healthier, alternatives.

    Milk was the last thing I gave up, just to try, after reading somewhere (and hearing from others with similar health concerns) that it could aggravate the sore throat that I am (was) prone to – and this has been a very good decision. Milk and curd seem to cause and aggravate sore throat in my case, and this seems common amongst others with similar symptoms.

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    • I agree … with more awareness, it is getting easier because we have more choices available. My friend is sensitive to gluten – 10 years ago this would’ve been a nightmare. Now she has so many gluten free products available to choose from. (Gluten intolerance continues to grow in the US and some people think it is because of the way the crops are cultivated.)

      Eliminating dairy has also helped stop my older son’s allergies (such a relief!) and my aunt’s asthma.

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    • According to ayurveda,milk and its products cause phlegm and congestion in certain people , a lot ! If you can identify its better to eliminate and see if it helps as you have done !
      Adults don’t really need milk and as you grow older digesting milk is a problem especially if you are also eating salads high finer diet !
      As I grow older I find my appetite reduced, digestion capacity reduced so I have been forced to make changes to my diet !
      I have never eaten badly ,even junk food always in moderation and only eaten at home mostly ! Hotel food I eat only in weddings,trips etc and I don’t feel well after that !
      I have done years of healthy eating no alcohol or cigarettes yet I don’t feel healthy ! While I see people smoking well into their 70s and do fine !
      My exercise schedule is erratic but I do all housework, outside work and always moving but neither the weight budges nor the cholesterol !
      I still eat healthy,moderately and more important less ( quantity) but I am certain that physical health and energy is a gift ,a lottery, some people have it some people have to struggle for it !

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      • hi cosettez!
        I am not a doctor/nutritionist but from my experience and lots of reading of material/talking to people on these issues, this is what i feel:
        Did you get your thyroid checked? Also, do you have PCOS/PCOD (a common problem in women in india these days). People with either of these issues have a difficult time maintaining their weight and energy levels. Also, housework/outside work does not constitute to valuable exercise. They just sap you off energy without strengthening you. High intensity cardio and more importantly weights and strength training are crucial for overall good health and energy. I feel a definite increase in my energy levels when I include weights in my workout routine. You can refer to Rujuta Divekar’s books. She has good information.
        Hope this helps!

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        • For a long time I did gym routine then life caught up ! I don’t have thyroid ,pcos problems I have got it checked !
          Doing housework keeps me moving and also gets work done…… otherwise sitting everywhere,waiting and sitting ,sitting in office ! Nowadays the only thing I manage is regular walks !
          I know gym routine results in good weight loss but one has to do gym for the rest of the life ! Once you stop gym,weight comes back !

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  13. Great piece. I am still at Level 1 while occasionally dipping into level 2. Need to be more committed to the plan.

    Any thoughts on Greek yogurt?

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  14. Hello Priya,
    I am enjoying the topics that you are bringing up for discussions. This time though I feel that the post was a bit preachy and in some areas, opinionated rather than factual. Also, there was a major emphasis on eating right in the US. The Indian context is a little different – no kale here and broccoli is too damn expensive! While I agree with the general points, here are thoughts that I had after reading your post and comments:

    1. Just like marketing agents fund studies to show that their products are “safe” so too do lobbies to protect farmers interest, for e.g., in the case of genetically modified food. The introduction of Vit A in rice will have a major impact on nutritional status of children in sub-saharan Africa, yet they won’t be able to adopt it because then the EU won’t buy their produce! So, I think in terms of analyzing scientific data, one must be cautious at both ends of the spectrum – the “For” and “Against” both have powerful interest groups.
    2. In Bangalore, we have a number of organic stores and some of them do offer veggie delivery home. The question raised – how do I believe it is organic? Well, you can’t till its USDA certified. But let’s examine this more closely: USDA certification requires lot and lots of money and 5-7 years before a license is granted. A farmer cannot lose his income during this time. Also, if his neighbor sprays his field with inorganic pesticides he loses his pass. So, at least personally I support pesticide-free labels from farmer collectives, rather than the “organic” label. Timabaktu Collective is my go to for Millets, Dals, Oil, Peanuts. “Buffalo back” for tamarind + veggies + powders. Local Rajmudi rice (hand pounded) from our local organic store “Sara”. Milk from desi cows fed an organic diet – Akshyakalpa. These are Bangalore-based.
    3. Meat – Your arguments against are valid. For me personally it’s been a painful transition to accepting meat back in my life because my vegetarian diet was not sufficient. My mother is a nutritionist and can vouch for my vegetarian diet being optimal. It turns out that your body absorbs some nutrients better from meat sources than plants, and for me this has made a difference in Iron levels.
    4. Cast Iron pans are the alternative to non-stick and stainless steel. Builds your biceps too, since they are heavy to handle!
    5. Not all snacks from the Indian snack corner are bad – roasted peanuts and assorted dals? candied whole amla? Perhaps not ideal, but also not as bad as french fries?

    My personal belief is that eating right has to be placed in a cultural and geographical context, along with the calorific and nutritional requirements in the stage of life that you are at. Your post very nicely brings out the key ways to do this. Ultimately everyone needs to decide for themselves what the right balance should be. “Moderation” is the only denominator that I see being common to all dietary suggestions.

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    • Megha, all the “shoulds” I mentioned in my article are not being followed by me. I’m only halfway there (I say this in the early part of my post). The “shoulds” come from nutritionists here in the US. Therefore I’m neither preachy nor opinionated, just saying this is supposed to be done this way, this is where I am with it, and take away what you will from it. I will not judge you if you choose not to do something on this list or are not yet ready or something is unavailable where you live (because I’m not entirely ready myself).

      1) I do agree with you that the emphasis was on the US – but that’s only because I live there and know what I can buy there – I was hoping people living in other parts of the world would share what’s working for them, what they have access to, and if they could share their own solutions.
      2) That is completely fine. I understand.
      3) That’s great that you’ve switched and it’s working for you.
      4) Yes, this is what I meant when I said avoid non-stick pans.
      5) The Indian stores (at least here) seem to not have any expiry dates on any items. The foods also travel over a long distance. Have they been stored properly, at the right temperature? Highly questionable. perhaps Indian stores in India are better – the stock is fresh.

      I agree with your conclusion and did not not mean to say all of this is a do or die thing – I thought I made that obvious by saying it’s a process and I myself am not doing everything on this list.

      Although never a very unhealthy eater, eating more consciously is a new journey I’m embarking upon. As with anything new, we read a lot, we are excited, and want to share in the hope that others can also learn and we can exchange some great ideas on how to cook something or how to go vegan or what has been your experience with milk. I have literally stolen a few minutes every night after kids went to bed, at the end of some long days, to write this in hopes of the above. It was neither my intention to preach nor judge anyone.

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  15. Dear Priya – Very informative article indeed. I vary between all the levels mentioned here.
    I try to source my fresh veggies as much from local farmers market, although I feel they are super expensive. A mexican store offers grocery for reasonable pricing, close to my place seems to get fresh produce almost everyday for the huge supply and demand, but cannot ever know how fresh they are.

    Also, I am also against fat-free stuff, I mean, what do they do to remove natural fat? I can never come to terms with the concept? fat-free, non-fat, does not make much sense to me.

    I am a vegetarian and try cooking variety of lentils and variety of greens (I mean it, there are no new type of greens left from farmers market or store that I did not try including in my diet). If I do not know what to make with greens, I have steam cooked, put them in a processor and mixed them with quinoa and made delicious patties for sandwiches, and they turned out just great.
    I am also against of all the processed food, soda’s of any kind and usage of plastic (and yet, I use them once in a while) , not sure, if using them would lead to decreased immunity, ergo more cancerous cells.?. so I have no degree/ knowledge around the terminology / data to back it up, this information is from all the internet/documentaries/in person conversations that I have been gathering.
    In order to gain more knowledge for my own being, I am in search of finding an online course on Holistic Nutrition. If you know any such good schools that offers, or if any one have done this would be really helpful.

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  16. I could’ve written this five years ago. Most of my life I was vegetarian and for some it it I was vegan. Then, for certain fitness and health reasons, I turned Paleo – very high fat and low-carb, lots of sustainably sourced animal protein. I have never been fitter or healthier.

    But this kind of lifestyle doesn’t work for everyone. Find what works for you and stick with it. If I move back to India and can’t source grass-fed meat, etc., I will go back to being vegetarian – but high-fat and low-carb.

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    • Low carb diet is something that everyone should be aiming for ! Being non vegetarian it gets easier ! People whose parents have got diabetes at young age and is poorly managed by them could take heed and revamp their diet !

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  17. I agree with many things but I would like to point out
    – That all fat is not bad. If trying to stick to food closest to nature is good, then nauture does not have low fat milk or yogurt. ADEK are fat soluble vitamins right?
    – I am a vegetarian but I would not say that all meat is bad. Eat less meat, more fish and even more veggies. Some people may thrive on no meat, some on a little but don’t over it (like eating it every day 2 times) and preferably try to stick to organic/hormone free meats.

    On the other hand, this advice is more west centric and it is quite difficult to follow for someone living in India in small towns.

    My ideas/suggestions for healthy living in India and the biggest unhealthy steps I see people taking (again, these are my suggestions, take it or leave it, and pick and choose whatever you like) –
    – Eating on time and having dinner by 7 PM. This is one of the biggest issues I see – people have chai and deep fried snacks at 5- 6 PM and have dinner at 8-10 PM. A big no. Have the dinner at 7 PM and skip the chai time snacks.
    – Deep fried foods are supposed to be an occasional treat, not a daily habit.
    – Avoid snacking. Just have 3 good meals a day. Many people I see, eat snacks like sweets and namkeen throughout the day including just before dinner. Then, they have a small dinner and then snack again later. If you eat well, you should not be hungry to eat after the meal.
    – Most of us live have too many carbs and too little of veggies. Increase the proportion of veggies and decrease the rice. I have seen so many people eat a large portion of rice with sambar or rasam and curd rice and then claim they are too full for veggies.
    – Try to have as many green as possible. And dal. There is no need to go for fancy ones like broccoli/bok choy. They are popular because western research funds studies on them. We have so many desi greens – palak, methi, murangga keerai etc. They are as healthy as any western veggies.
    – Have more dal if your are a vegetarian.
    – Avoid potatoes and rice/roti in the same meal because carbs + carbs.
    – Try to eat fruits as much as you can.
    – Don’t eat salads if you don’t like them or don’t trust the quality.
    – Decrease sweets and cut down on them slowly. Sweets are for special occasions.
    – Do not let people serve you food. People are always trying to dump too much onto your plates and then make you feel guilty if you cannot finish. Just serve yourself.
    – Avoid visiting peoples home around 5-7 pM because that would be your dinner time.
    – Develop a thick skin and refuse food if you are not hungry.
    – Avoid milk with sugar + bournvita/horlicks. That is equally bad. Request for no sugar and add it yourself rather than someone adding in too much. Slowly decrease the amount of sugar you add in drinks.
    – Exercise. Indians don’t really encourage exercise.
    – Again develop a thick skin – there will be 20,000 uncles and aunties calling you too skinny, how will you have kids etc, mock you for being health conscious etc. Who cares.

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    • Forgot to add…

      – Preferably do not have many snacks in the house. The more snacks you have, the more likely you are to eat them.
      – Eat nuts – kaju, kismis, badam, pista etc.
      – Try different cereals – barley, rage, jowl, bajra, besan (not a cereal but as a variety of flour) and millets.
      – I would get myself in a twist because I cannot get or afford organic, but I try to eat as clean as I can. If you have some farmers you know, by all means, encourage them and try to find out more.
      – Use vinegar to wash off pesticides from conventionally grown veggies.
      – Try to have plants in your house. We also have to do our bit in terms of food and respect to plants, right?
      – Allow yourself occasional indulges. Don’t beat yourself just coz you ate a samosa. Relish it!

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      • Also, I find it amusing when so many Indian doctors and scientists blame our genes and ‘modern lifestyle aka pizza burgers’ for the diabetes epidemic without even addressing the obvious lifestyle and dietary choices we make most of which are desi

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  18. http://www.amazon.com/The-South-Asian-Health-Solution/dp/1939563054
    The South Asian Health Solution by Dr. Ronesh Sinha. Debunks the cholesterol myth and focuses on the root of all issues – inflammation.

    Fat is your friend. especially saturated fat like coconut oil and ghee and monounsaturated oils like sesame and e.v. olive oil. Avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils.

    After switching to a high-fat low carb diet of 99% natural foods, my body fat percent is at a constant of 17% (I’m 40 plus and female) and my muscle tone has improved significantly. 20% of my calories come from protein and I am fastidious about having protein with every meal.

    I practice marital arts and and was a competitive athlete until recently.

    Sounds insane, but after following conventional wisdom for decades, I’m glad I changed my approach. No matter what you eat, exercise is important. ALso eating natural foods and avoiding processed ones (including non-fat this and that) is important.

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