Local food: Keep your platter local and fresh: Why traditional foods benefit more than imported ‘superfoods’


While you may be tempted to think that ‘imported’ foods are great for you, being familiar with local foods can benefit both your health and pocket in a big way, writes Rashmi Ramesh.


The confusion over which foods are good for us never seems to end, thanks to widening choices and information deluge. If one health website claims a certain food is the cure for all diseases, your family doctor may not agree and ask you to avoid it at all cost.

While we’re a generation that’s becoming more health-conscious by the day, most of the information available to us in this regard is based on Western diets. So, what’s really better for us? Traditional foods that our grandparents swear by or the ‘imported’ superfoods that have taken the health industry by storm?

LOCAL CONNECT IS KEY
According to Dr Partap Chauhan, director of Jiva Ayurveda, staying healthy is all about connecting with nature.

“So, desh (location) and kaal (time) are important. Our traditions are reflections of the knowledge that has been passed on to us through generations. So, the traditional diet of a person inhabiting the coastal regions will be different from the diet of a person who resides in drier, desert-like climates of the north-west (of our country). Through centuries of observation, our ancestors have included foods that suit us better. Traditions are more than unexplainable practices; they are grounded in the science of nature,” he said.

Dr Anukalp Prakash, senior consultant (gastroenterology) at Gurugram-based Paras Hospitals, said that Indian food is diverse and forms an ideal balanced diet.

“The variety of foods, spices and dishes that are native to India makes Indian food one of the most wholesome in the world. The staple Indian diet consists of roti, rice, dal, vegetables, meat, fish and chicken, which forms an ideal balanced diet, he said.

WHAT ABOUT ‘IMPORTED’ FOODS?
Dieticians, mostly based in the West, conduct researches on the action of certain foods on a specific demography and publish their findings; the operative word here being ‘demography’, Chauhan said.

“These findings may or may not include enough Southeast Asian subjects. As consumers of such research findings, we are not technically inclined to find out if the demography was skewed or balanced. These recommendations then start cascading through the dietician community. If nature had intended that you eat something, it would have provided it to you within your reach,” he said.

So, while the recommendations of Western superfoods could be perfectly valid, we need to make more educated decisions regarding our health, Chauhan said.

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Ritika Samaddar, regional head (department of clinical nutrition and dietetics) at Max Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi, said that industrialisation and urbanisation have led to a drastic change in our diet.

“The increase in intake of processed and refined foods are leading to various lifestyle disorders. Hence, dieticians are recommending healthier options of fibre-rich foods such as quinoa, hemp seeds and chia seeds, but one must also note that their local equivalents like dahlia, ragi or barley have similar health benefits and can be much cheaper.”

Chauhan said, “Hemp seeds are what is traditionally known as ‘bhaang ke beej’ — it has psychotropic properties that can alter your mental state or cause mild diarrhoea in some people. Chia seeds have very similar properties to sweet basil (tulsi) seeds. Ayurveda has been recommending people to chew basil leaves every morning since ages.”

Sometimes, dieticians may advise people to eat exotic foods such as hemp seeds or chia seeds instead of their local equivalents as patients “think” the exotic foods will affect their health in a more positive way, said Tanu Arora, HoD (clinical nutrition and dietetics) at Delhi-based Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital.

“For example, if you take a generic medicine and a branded medicine with the same composition, people believe that taking the branded medicine will make them better faster. It’s a similar mindset here as well,” Arora said.

DON’T JUMP INTO FAD DIETS

“The goal of fad diets such as keto is to achieve ketosis — a state in which the body is using fat as its primary fuel, rather than carbs. When your body enters ketosis, it goes into fat-burning mode, which supports weight loss. Cutting carbs also causes your body to retain less water, which can lead to weight loss. It is not the recommended method of weight loss as it may cause increase in your blood sugar levels. The ideal way of losing weight is to do regular exercise and take a balanced diet, which includes carbs/fats and protein in optimum proportions,” said Prakash.

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“Just try to stick to regular, consistent meal times and avoid large meals at one go,” he said. Instead of following fad diets such as keto and paleo, a balanced diet with exercise will help with weight loss, Prakash said. “If you are not sure of what you should eat, please speak to a doctor before consuming it.”

IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING TO A DIFFERENT COUNTRY…
According to Prakash, “When you are miles away from home, sticking to your normally healthy diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins isn’t always a priority, or even a possibility. But when you’re more focused on filling your belly quickly, rather than carefully, you may experience unwanted consequences. A healthy diet is a diet that helps maintain or improve overall health. A healthy diet provides the body with essential nutrition: fluids, macronutrients, micronutrients and adequate calories.”

Chauhan said it may be necessary to make small changes in our diet according to the geography. “We all have a unique body type, that is, prakriti (a unique proportion of vata, pitta and kapha in every individual), which must be kept in balance to prevent diseases. A simple way to deal with that is to find foods that match your prakriti. Also, every food in the world has a dosha type (vata, pitta or kapha), just like we humans have a dosha type. Know your dosha type and eat less of foods in the similar dosha group. For example, if your dominant dosha is pitta, eat less of astringent, sour and spicy things. Eat foods in the other two dosha types — this keeps your prakriti in its natural balance and you will be healthy. Consult an Ayurvedic professional to know your prakriti and the food groups.”

The Smog Can Choke You: Eat These Five Foods To Protect Yourself

Quick Immunity-Boosters

8 Nov, 2017

Changing weather and a thick layer of smog can result in various kinds of illnesses like common cold, sore throat, ceaseless cough and other respiratory problems.

While staying hydrated and working out is a must, one must consume the right foods to boost their immunity.

Dolly Kumar, founder and director at Gaia, and a wellness enthusiast, shares benefits of five foods that help build immunity and keep you healthy in the changing season.

WHAT IS THE THUMB RULE FOR EATING?
According to Chauhan, the ideal food is one that keeps your prakriti balanced, makes you feel energetic and satisfies your hunger as well as your mind.

“Ayurveda recommends a few things on eating healthy. First, eat according to your prakriti. Second, always prefer local produce — consuming things that are in our immediate reach keeps us healthy. Third, eat fresh. Fresh vegetables and fruits have prana energy, which starts reducing after they are harvested. So, when you eat fresh, you nourish yourself with prana energy. Food that is kept in cold storage for extended periods of time, or processed with chemicals, have low prana energy. Fourth, be regular about your meal timings. Everything in nature has a specific schedule, so does your body. It expects nourishment on time, so do not miss your meal timings,” he said.

Prakash said it is advisable to avoid uncooked fruits and vegetables, not eat peeled fruits and vegetables unless you are the one who peels them, never consume unpasteurised food and beverages and make sure that all meat is completely cooked and steaming hot when served to you.

Food Items You Should Eat And Avoid, According To Your Blood Type

Pick The Right Food For Your Body

20 Aug, 2017

Consuming food based on your ‘Blood Type’ helps in better digestion, increases the energy levels, and prevents diseases and illnesses. Moreover, it also helps you lose weight.

Deepika Dua Arora, Dietitian Mutation Diet Clinic talks about the relationship between the blood group and nutritional aspect of food consumed.

Here are the food items you should consume and avoid, according to your blood group – A, B, O and AB.

(Image: ThinkStock)





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