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What’s the deal with Indian food?

Give vegetables and sides priority on your plate; starch is just a vehicle to get nutrients into your system Photo: Yesudeep Mangalapilly  

Some say carbs are bad. Many say we should not eat much fat. A few say we should eat only raw vegetables and fruits. And some others say eat everything. What is true? What has worked for us in the past? What is YOUR simplest and safest path to good health?

Firstly, nutrition is simple; extremism is unnecessary for general well-being. We have to realise that our ancestors have been eating well and living long for many hundreds of years without obsession or disease. They didn’t quite worry about including olive oil in their poriyals or replacing rice with oats. They ate foods that were in season and available locally, and that gave them everything they needed. This is how our cuisine came into existence.

Indian cuisine is a result of thousands of years of experimentation. Our ancestors tried and tested various foods to create the perfect mix of nutrients, energy and taste. So, our very own cuisine has everything we need: protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, minerals and whatever else we need to thrive. So, all we need to do is eat per our cuisine. But with a few modifications.

Indian cuisine was designed for a different lifestyle. Life back then wasn’t as convenient as it is today, and physical work needed to be done to acquire basic needs. So, the way of eating was meant to sustain that kind of life — lots of activity, less pollution, less sitting, less processed foods, plenty of lifting and moving things around, 8+ hours of sleep etc. So, what we need to do is to simply tweak our cuisine to match our current lifestyles. That’s it. And here is how we should we go about it:

Firstly, what is different between now and back then?

Our activity levels are much lesser. We sit for much longer. We sleep much lesser. We consume sweet/treat foods much more frequently. Comfort foods are more easily available and we don’t hesitate to over-eat them.

So, what changes do we need to make?

1. We need more protein, vegetables and water, because we don't get enough of these.

2. We need less starch, oil and sugar, because we consume too much of these.

And how do we make these changes?

Simple: turn the plate around. Just turn it around so that the vegetables and sides are closer to you and the starch is away from you. In other words, make vegetables, protein, beans etc. your main and starch your side. It will feel weird at first, but you’ll soon get used to it. But why do this? Because the sides have all the nutrients and flavours. The starch is merely a vehicle meant to transport nutrients. This will ensure you eat more nutrients and fewer total calories, helping to get leaner and healthier.

And here is a quick tip you'll thank me for later — make your sides less spicy and oily. This will help you eat more of your sides, especially when starch is in short supply.

Again, nutrition is simple. Our cuisine already offers us everything we need. What we need to do is to simply tweak how much of what we eat, without diluting the essence of it all.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 10:35:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/fitness/how-indian-food-can-be-healthy/article8399466.ece

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