Insights on Healthy Nutrition & Myths and Facts on Obesity

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Doctor, even with so much information around us and all the facts pointing to the same answers do people still struggle with the question: “What to eat and what not to eat?” 

Indeed, this is THE QUESTION in all homes today which no one seems to have an answer for; what one should eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, whether one should eat breakfast and skip dinner altogether? So many questions.

This is because of so many diet plans which are floating over various web sites and also the ads which are misguiding the general people regarding which oil to use and also the calories of each food available on shelf.

We all know that eating the right food at the right time with complete awareness in itself is a great achievement towards healthy lifestyle, but unfortunately us human beings are often left confused and conflicted as we overthink about such basic daily routines which are ingrained in plants and animals, over don’t tend to stray from necessities.

Since people nowadays commute to work for hours at a time and are almost constantly busy with their daily schedule, they eat whatever they get irrespective of the time of the day. This leads to people mostly eating at nights, skipping all other meals sometimes. This is analogous to beginning your journey in a vehicle low on fuel.

Easily available aerated drinks and maida-rich food like bread, biscuits cornflakes are not the correct choice. One needs to go to basics. Freshly prepared food like idli, poha, upma is what is needed to start the day. One needs to have what is grown locally in their area, like while using oils one should use til oil, ground nut oil, coconut oil, mustard oil and not the ones marketed by big names like olive oil, or rice bran oil.

Similarly, rice, wheat, bajra, jowar or nachni; whichever is easily available as per the climate of a given place one can consume. In short eat what you like in measured quantities with full awareness.

Is ghee and oil recommended?

Ghee and oil in smaller amounts are extremely important as they lubricate our skeletal joints and are required for proper digestion as well. There are some fat-soluble vitamins which the body requires for the various metabolism processes. These are available in milk and ghee and oil. Butter is not recommended though.

Doctor, these days we find so many deficiencies in our patients. Vitamin D, B12 Complex, iron, why is so, is it because we are consuming substandard food or there is something more to this mystery.

Vitamin D deficiency mainly occurs in people who stay indoors more often. All living beings require sunlight for their survival, and we are no exception. Traditionally, a lot of us do surya puja before we start the day, and the results speak for themselves.

Moreover, we all know that what we purchase from the grocery shop, whether it be fruits, vegetables or pulses, they all lack in nutrients simply because of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and the list is endless. What we grow in our kitchen garden may it be just lemon or curry leaves they have a different fragrance and taste all together which also says that if we use organic manure the food is not only tasty but also nutritious. But the main issue lies in the fact that we just don’t have enough time to go through with any of this.

Well after buying, how the food is handled also matters. If pulses and rice is pressure cooked and the nutrients are lost, they need to be soaked the previous night and cooked in open vessel with only required water so that one need not drain the excess of water. Same goes for sprouts.

Preferably use earthen pots, or thick-bottom based surgical steel vessels which are available in the market, use iron kadai (cast iron kitchenware) instead of non-stick pans as it overcooks the food its chemical coating is detrimental to health. Avoid Aluminum vessels.

After cooking, it is important that the meal is consumed fresh within one and a half hour of being cooked, as the nutritive value of food goes down with passing time. Storage of food is recommended in steel containers and not aluminum foils, plastic containers.

Freezing and thawing strictly to be avoided.

Consuming food next day is absolutely not recommended. Instead one can share food with a friend or neighbor or under-privileged sector which will in itself be an act of consciousness and compassion.

Avoid ready-made and packaged foods as much as possible. The emotion with which the food is being cooked and served matters. It is wise to invest in someone who can execute these crucial duties with
utmost love and affection.

So, correct nutrition begins from a thought and what to buy, how to cook, store and consume.

Doctor, how much water one should drink, and why

Air, water and food. This is the order in which we should ideally tend to our everyday basic needs in order to ensure survival with proper health. Despite this, I have observed several children and adults not consuming adequate water. Our body constitutes up to 70-74 percent water, which is what we see in saliva, digestive juices, blood, joints, urine, tear almost everywhere else. If we deprive body of water, then several issues ranging from headaches, acidity, indigestion, constipation, and decreasing breast milk production in mothers. Hence up to 3 liters of water is recommended daily which should be consumed largely during first half, decreasing close to bed time in order to ensure a good night’s sleep.

There is no doubt that one must filter and boil water before drinking it. Filters should be regularly serviced, and the water should be boiled to kill the organisms. Consume warm water as much as possible as it generates probiotics in our digestive system which not only helps in digestion, but also strengthens immunity. Thus, infections can be prevented and the need for antibiotics is decreased. Store water in copper or steel bottles preferably, and avoid plastic bottles.

These days people debate over whether it is better to be a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian. What is the right way according to you doctor?

Human beings are primarily designed to consume vegetarian food. Our digestive system is designed in such a way that we can easily digest and absorb pulses, vegetable, and fruits. Plant based food is the simplest form of life that we can consume. Animal protein found in milk, egg, fish, meat is difficult to digest and hence we find more and more milk protein, egg protein, fish protein related allergies. Moreover, these products are not consumed fresh anymore , they are refrigerated (frozen) and chemicals are used as preservatives which are extremely harmful to our systems. Recently we have heard of several waste products and harmful chemicals being found in fishes due to water pollution, which ends up affecting us when we consume it. The way it is prepared is with oil and lots of garlic onion, spices, all these cause indigestion, acidity and whole lot of problems.

Easily digestible, home cooked vegetarian meals abundant in nutrition, hygienically made and served with loads of love and devotion is what is needed for each one of us.

I know this will not go down well with lots of non-vegetarian folks, but today we are here to share the facts about healthy nutrition.

How many meals in a day should one have? Is timing important?

A healthy person actually requires only two square meals, which needs to be consumed properly placed in regards to timing and hunger. Up to three meals is permitted however too many small meals, snacking taking chocolates at intermittent times throughout the day harms our body.

Do not eat if you are not really hungry. Conscious eating or eating with awareness is preferred.

Timing of food needs to be maintained as body likes discipline. While eating, eat slowly, avoid too much of talking and staring at a screen because like I said, conscious eating is what is required. If the mind is preoccupied while eating you never know what you have eaten, how much of it you have eaten, and being able to properly appreciate and enjoy the food.

Consume more food in the first half and less in the second half, that is one is in complete sync with the nature, as the sun sets all living beings show a decrease in metabolism, and less energy. Our body’s routine should be in sync with the diurnal rhythm of mother nature and the entire cosmos at large.

Hence people who are working in night shift suffer more often with problems such as indigestion and acidity.

Early to rise and early to bed is the good old saying which has immense value, and one should finish eating by sunset, but these days people eat late into the evening or even at night, whenever convenient which causes a tremendous strain on health.

Is coffee, tea recommended?

Definitely not recommended as they are slow toxins to our body. Whole cut fruits and lemon water, butter milk, or coconut water are instead preferred

What are the consequences of an unhealthy diet?

Well, food that is a burden for the digestive system will cause indigestion, acidity, ulcers, constipation, flatulence, malabsorption, hence nutrient deficiency and low energy levels and lethargy.

This makes people very depressed as the task in hand feels so much difficult to handle and stress and anxiety and insecurities builds up. The obesity and stress related disorders contribute to whole array of illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, gall stones, hyperlipidemia and heart diseases. Lethargy in life makes people disinterested in whatever they do and to add to this misery is sedentary life style and addictions. So much negativity one develops around oneself that whatever one does goes eventually wrong, there is no involvement in anything one does because each one is so preoccupied with their health issues.

Is it true that nutrition is the sole deciding factor for good health or there are some more dimensions to be addressed for achieving overall wellbeing?

Nutrition is just one aspect, although a very crucial aspect of wellbeing. If this falls in place, the other dimensions also fall in the right manner. It’s like how plants and animals are often at peace when they acquire adequate food and water for themselves. Human beings are slightly more evolved species and hence we have other dimensions to take care as well. Physical, Emotional, mental, and of course balancing our energies.

Along with proper diet, one needs to physically work out. Any form of exercise of choice can be followed, though one must be regular with it. The input/output ratio should always be maintained. The entire musculo-skeleton system needs to be put into action on a daily basis or else they will one day cease to work. Our body is similar to a two wheeler in this way: If not started for days, it takes a greater deal of effort to get the vehicle moving.

To take care of your emotions and for mental well being one needs to be very compassionate in the first place. With this quality, one gets the necessary energies to enhance the mental and emotional well being.

Within our limits, try to identify the areas of needs, and execute them with utmost devotion and see the magic. It could just be giving a listening ear to somebody, or sharing a meal or anything. This act is as good as meditation. Hence one often finds people in hospitals and hospitality industry, they are generally emotionally well composed as they get innumerable opportunities in their daily life to execute this act of compassion. This can be pursued by anyone in any profession. This goodness needs to percolate into each and every one of us so that all of us feel responsible about our acts and execute them in a fair manner.

All of us need to strive to good for humanity as a whole and not just pursue personal materialistic goals. Every deal and transaction should be such that it is fair and beneficial to both the involved parties, a very simple fundamental truth

How do we address childhood obesity?

This is a burning issue and a serious concern. My advice is that us doctors need to help the society firstly by correcting the lifestyle of parents and helping them with correct parenting skills. This, we have already started by addressing the couples when they come to us for conception and antenatal care as they are most receptive then.

– Dr. Prasanna Menon (Currae Hospital, Thane)

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