Healthy Diet Plan Question & Answers | Dr. Prasanna Menon

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Center Head: I just would like to start the conversation with one note that there are so many myths and misunderstandings regarding diet. Nowadays, there are so many messages which are doing on the WhatsApp regarding diet. So, I just would like to ask you a simple question like what one should eat, what one should not eat, and is ghee, oil recommended, not recommended?

Dr. Prasanna: Now today, good afternoon everybody, this is a question which every patient asks me Manisha, “Doctor, what should I eat?”

Center Head: I see.

Dr. Prasanna: In fact, I feel this is such a simple question sometimes, and at times, I feel so difficult to answer. We believe animals also know what to eat, we human beings, we are so confused is because there are so many products available in the market over the shelf, so many diet plans, and so many across the Internet, the newspapers, “What you should eat, what is the caloric value of a food,” all these is absolutely very confusing. So, I would stick to the basic, I will tell my patients, “Eat what you feel like eating, whether it is rice, whether it is wheat, whether it is bajra, whether it is jowar.” Which oil to consume – what is available in your own locality because only that will help you to survive. We need not go for the fancy brands or the fancy oil like rice bran oil or olive oil. We can stick to our basic like coconut oil if it is Kerala, groundnut oil if it is Gujarat, Rajasthan; we can even go for mustard oil, sesame oil; these are the oils recommended and good for our health. So this is what is very important that whatever you eat, firstly, eat of your choice and eat with complete awareness and consciousness.

Center Head: Very well said. What Madam told us is a very right thing, that is, we should like listen to our inner voice like kind of thing. In spite of taking different diets or different products, where we know what is the calorie value or the nutritional value and other things, still there are so many deficiencies which are coming up nowadays.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes.

Center Head: Especially, vitamin D3, B12 and…

Dr. Prasanna: The list is endless.

Center Head: Yeah, so what is your opinion on that?

Dr. Prasanna: Now, mainly, today we are talking about Vitamin D deficiency.

Center Head: Sure.

Dr. Prasanna: Everybody would say, “Doctor, the whole colony is Vitamin D deficient.” They will ask me questions like what should I eat doctor and I take adequate amount of Vitamin D. Now, let me explain, Vitamin D, we ourselves synthesize by exposing to the Sunlight. So plants, animals, and we as human beings, we need to get exposed to the Sunlight on a daily basis. Sunlight is a very important element of our universe. So, Vitamin D otherwise is available if we are consuming ghee, butter, or milk and the animal products, but it has its own side effects.

Center Head: Sure.

Dr. Prasanna: Coming to Vitamin B12 deficiency and the other nutrients which are deficient, it starts right from the manufacturer, how it is produced. If lot of chemicals are used as fertilizers and pesticides, the nutrient value goes down.

Center Head: Okay.

Dr. Prasanna: After that, the grains that you get, how do you cook? If rice and pulses, if you are cooking in a pressure cooker, the nutrient comes down. After you cook, when do we eat? If you are eating within the first 1½ hours, the nutrient value is the highest. As the day goes by, the nutrient value comes down. Then it is, how do you store? If you are storing it in the copper based vessels and the steel vessels, the nutrient value is good. If you are using the plastic vessels or the containers, the nutrient goes down. So, there are so many factors which decides the nutrition or the nutritive value of a food and most important, who prepares it and how he/she prepares it. If you have a complete involvement in preparation of the food and you cook food with complete love, devotion, you offer it, you serve it that way, I think the food will be super. And mostly, do not eat the stale food. Whatever you prepare today, you finish it off today, and if you think it is surplus, just distribute among people who are your friends or neighbours, rather than eating…

Center Head: Finish it off.

Dr. Prasanna: …you know, the next day, so this is what I would say. We need to really understand the whole system to get the correct nutrition.

Center Head: So with this description what I feel, what we are consuming today is with very, very less nutritional value.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes… at the end of the day, Manisha, what we eat is only to fill the tummy.

Center Head: Exactly.

Dr. Prasanna: Okay.

Center Head: And just to pacify our tongue…

Dr. Prasanna: Right.

Center Head: …that is what is happening in… I think that is resulting in so many deficiencies and other ways.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes.

Center Head: So, apart from this cooking and food or eating habits, how much water one should drink because again people are saying, say so many litres, partly in morning and after that… and there are so many myths about it.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes.

Center Head: So what will you advice?

Dr. Prasanna: You know, we all understand that air -> water -> food, this is the order of significance.

Center Head: Right.

Dr. Prasanna: So water, one needs to consume up to 3 litres per day. There are so many kids and people who come around and say that they don’t like to take water. They may more binge on the other aerated drinks, fruit juices, so many are available today in the market, the packaged fruit juices. Now, the water is so very important because our own body constitution is 70% water, we know the blood, the urine, the tear, the cerebrospinal fluid, the synovial joint, take it anything, the breast milk, everything requires water. So if our water level goes down, we have lot of problems like headache, indigestion, acidity, constipation, the list is endless. Now, this is also important that the water that you consume, more so you will consume during the first half of the day and as the day passes off, you need to consume lesser water, so that you get a peaceful sleep at night, otherwise you are disturbed to go to the washroom.

Center Head: Right, we don’t have to…

Dr. Prasanna: The other thing is water should be filtered, it should be boiled, it should be consumed warm. When you consume warm water, you actually produce a lot of probiotics in your body and that is helping you in digestion plus it is also improving your immune system so that the necessity of antibiotics will come down because you are able to fight the infection in the most natural way, so that important is the water consumption.

Center Head: So, I think Madam just gave us a very good idea, how to avoid antibiotics or how to reduce antibiotics, how to fight like on ourselves with this risk.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes.

Center Head: That’s really awesome. Another thing is like, as I said earlier, the deficiencies and other things. So like there are so many myths like vegetarian people, they have more deficiencies, or if you don’t eat non-veg, you are not going to get that much of proteins.

Dr. Prasanna: Today, again, to be vegan or to consume non-vegetarian food, it’s a debate all over the world, it’s a global issue. Now primarily, we human beings, we can digest vegetarian food that is a plant based food. So, we all know that one form of life depends on the other form for its survival, like animals will depend on the plants. The plants will get all the elements from the nature like sunlight, the manure or… you know, it’s growing. We human beings, we are privileged to depend on plants or animals for our survival. But primarily it is said, the plants are the simplest form of life on planet earth, see if you consume that, that is easily digested. Now, if you take animal protein in the form of milk or see it is in the form egg, fish, meat, this animal protein is difficult for our system to digest. So when there is indigestion, the whole lot of problems begins from there. More so, the animals’ protein, that which we are talking about, the fish, the egg, the meat, they are not preserved just like that, you are using the chemicals to preserve, you are also freezing them, oiling them. The way it is prepared is with lot of spices, the oil, so but natural, it is a load to our digestive system. And nowadays, we hear that there is so much of mercury level high in the fish, the plastics that’s because of the dumping in the sea.

Center Head: Yes.

Dr. Prasanna: So whether you should eat fish has become another question. So I would say, let’s be more simple, eat easily digestible vegetarian food which will be a lot more better towards the good health. I know, this doesn’t go down well with the non-vegetarians, but here, today we are going to discuss only the facts.

Center Head: Right.

Dr. Prasanna: We are not here to satisfy one set of people.

Center Head: Yeah, right. So in short, she wants to say that even vegetarian people, like they should not face…

Dr. Prasanna: Deficiencies.

Center Head: …deficiencies or other difficulties, it is like equally distributed…

Dr. Prasanna: Yes, equally… 

Center Head: …between vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes.

Center Head: Nowadays, there are many concepts which are floating in messages and social media, how many times one should eat?

Dr. Prasanna: Yes, correct, but this is more so because so many diets have come again. Basically, we human beings, every human being require only two square meals. Two square meals is properly balanced diet. Now these meals, we already see that it should be properly placed in terms of timing as well; in the sense, at least an 8-hour gap between the two meals, okay. Now the heaviest meal, try to consume in the first half of the day, and as the Sun sets, the meal should be lighter and one should eat/finish the meal before the sunset because our own body is a form of life, it needs to be in complete rhythm with, that is diurnal rhythm of mother nature and at last the universe or the cosmos. If it is a day, it should be day for us, that is we should start eating light in the morning, and towards the end of the day, we should not eat.

Center Head: Right.

Dr. Prasanna: But here, what we are finding is people are all skipping the morning meals, the breakfast, rush to the work, and then eat in the night, so this is causing a indigestion to most of our patients. Up to 3 meals is permitted if you are too hungry, but the binge eating, too many chocolates, pastries, a small kind of drink, sugary drinks in between, just to satisfy yourself or the taste buds, that is not advisable. In between, it is not the hunger, it is just the craving which you can actually get down by drinking water.

Center Head: So it is like inverted pyramid, how the diet should look like.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes, yes.

Center Head: Okay… again like there is a group, they say that don’t drink tea, coffee, but yes, nowadays, like everybody is working and with maybe unhealthy habits but one is getting addicted to tea, coffee. So, nowadays, people are preferring, okay fine, I will go for black tea or I will go…

Dr. Prasanna: Green tea.

Center Head: …green tea, I will have tea without sugar, I will tea without milk.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes.

Center Head: So what on that?

Dr. Prasanna: Tea, see the idea of tea started in a very different ways, some of the very important herbs, you know, they were very good for health, so they were kind of boiled and a concoction was prepared, ‘kadha’, that is what was tea.

Center Head: Right.

Dr. Prasanna: This kind of evolved with time, and now, the tea has a very different take altogether. You take the tea that suits your taste bud, you kind of put milk into it, you put sugar into it the way you want it, and then consume. Now, this is more of an addiction, it is not something which is getting good health to your body. So therefore, anything which is addictive, like I even come across people who would say, “If I don’t get a 4 o’clock tea in the evening or maybe a morning cup of tea, my God, the day is bad.” You should not get addicted to these beverages, whether it is tea or coffee or for that matter some kind of aerated drinks, you should not get addicted. Whenever you feel like drinking something, let it be water, pure water, buttermilk, coconut water, what nature has got to offer in the most purest form, you know, that’s what I would advise them.

Center Head: Right… so basically, even tea, coffee, maybe in limit… 

Dr. Prasanna: In limit and trying to avoid it as such.

Center Head: So as we just went through discussion, there are many unhealthy habits which I think most of us are going…

Dr. Prasanna: Yes.

Center Head: …we are doing it.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes.

Center Head: So, what is the result of those unhealthy diets or habits on our body?

Dr. Prasanna: Now here, we will be talking about the consequences of this unhealthy diet on our body. The food that we eat, if it is not digested well, it will cause acidity, gastritis, flatulence, constipation, it will also interfere with the absorption of the nutrients. So obviously, we will have deficiencies, low energy. Low energy will make you eat more, that means obesity. Then the obesity-related problems, you are unable to walk, that means you are not able to do your exercises well, you are not able to perform your day-to-day activities well, you feel helplessness within yourself that is going to add to your stress because the given task, you just cannot finish it. You feel, oh God, this is such a huge task for me. The stress builds up, then comes the stress-related issues, it will be diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, the list is just going on and on.

Center Head: So it’s like a vicious circle.

Dr. Prasanna: It is vicious circle.

Center Head: One leads to other… one leads to other and goes on and on and on.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes, on and on.

Center Head: Is nutritive diet or nutrition contributes to good health or anything else is also required?

Dr. Prasanna: Nutrition is just one aspect of wellness. So far, as plants and animals are concerned, I would say nutrition is the very, I mean important aspect for them. We are evolved, we are human beings, for us nutrition is just one aspect, there are other dimensions equally important, it will be the mental and emotional well being and also to balance our own energies.

Center Head: Yes.

Dr. Prasanna: Now, when we say that we take a good meal, we start working well, we start thinking well, so we also indulge ourselves in many good activities, activities of compassion, helping each other. It will be just listening to somebody more carefully, helping each other with kind of whatever services you can, or it may be just sharing a number, which could be of use to somebody else.

Center Head: Right.

Dr. Prasanna: So these kind of small activities of compassion…

Center Head: Starts.

Dr. Prasanna: …we start doing it, this builds up the positive energy within ourselves and that goes a long way in building up our own emotional and mental well being. At no point you will feel you are alone, there is somebody who sends you a message, either asking for a small help, who knows that, “Yes, I will be helped genuinely,” or it may be a thank you message.

Center Head: Right.

Dr. Prasanna: Both the ways, you are benefited, you are not at loss.

Center Head: True.

Dr. Prasanna: So I would say, we need to indulge ourselves in so many deals and activities, which is fare in both the parties, which is going to benefit both the parties. We can look at it that way, it gives lot of positivity, positive energy, and but natural a very beautiful emotional well-being. So each act that we do has to be done with complete awareness and complete consciousness.

Center Head: Nowadays, we are observing maybe teenage obesity or childhood obesity as well. So, we are observing many students or kids who are really obese, so what is your opinion?

Dr. Prasanna: Childhood obesity is very scary, and when I look at it, I don’t know where to start from, how to address this issue. To a great extent, what we have done is whenever couples come to us during the conception, they come to us for counselling, even they attend our antenatal classes, I think the couples are more receptive during that time. So it is nice to address them their lifestyle issues, correct it there, make the pregnant lady start eating well, so that we also know that the nutrition to the baby who is growing in the foetus is perfect. From there, we take on and we start counselling on the parenting sessions: how to handle a child, how to say no to a child, how to really work on the emotional level of a child, a complete good well-being, and then talk about the nutrition because when you work on the emotional level of a child, they listen to you.

Center Head: Then…

Dr. Prasanna: It’s not going to work if you just say or tell the child that the burger is not good or the pizza is not good, we need to tell them the values, it starts right from there, Manisha, it is not only the food I think.

Center Head: Right.

Dr. Prasanna: It’s only then I think we can address the childhood obesity, which is actually a burning issue these days.

Center Head: I think that topic is not… because that is a different, we can have a different session on that.

Dr. Prasanna: Totally different session, that’s right.

Center Head: Okay… so thanks a lot, madam, because though it is very simpler form of information which we passed on but definitely it is very useful in our day-to-day life, at least we will start thinking of whatever we are doing, whether it is in a correct manner or not.

Dr. Prasanna: Yes, right. Manisha, I would like to conclude like my audience may think that, I mean whether I evolved this way, did I make mistakes. Yes, I also made mistakes but we learned from our mistakes.

Center Head: Right.

Dr. Prasanna: And then today, I am in a position to say what is good and what is bad. It may be difficult to really apply all these in our day to day life but at least make one step at a time, it could be just water, it could be just timely eating, it could be just decreasing the number of meals or decreasing the addictions. So with that note, I think we would end the session.

Center Head: We will end…

Dr. Prasanna: And all the best for our audience. And thank you very much for really having me for the session, thank you for the organizers and the Currae Hospital. Thank you.

Center Head: Thanks Madam.

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