Eat Clean in 2016
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The Ancient Greek forefather to modern doctors, Hippocrates himself, was on to something there.
But in India’s rich food culture, many of India’s food myths can stand in the way of us finding a good healthy meal.
In a recent survey, we asked a million people around the world what was holding them back from living fully, and 15% of Indians identified their health as holding them back from success. As such, the first step to a healthier life may just be to rid ourselves of our own food fictions.
1. Ingrained ideas
Myth: A meal isn’t complete without grains.
Avani Kanoi, Delhi based food blogger, notes that many of our myths “get in the way of eating clean and eating healthy.”
One example? That there’s nothing to be gained without grains. “We’ve been brought up with this idea that you need to eat grains [like rice] for your meal to be complete — and so people often won’t choose a dish which doesn’t have grains.”
Perhaps hunger is one reason people always stack up a healthy meal with rice or naan — they help you feel full, after all. But they can also encourage you to overeat carbohydrates, causing an unbalanced diet.
Try taking only the amount of starch necessary for your body, and fill up on vitamin- and fibre-rich vegetable dishes instead. Occasionally taking the option of a green salad sprinkled with some high protein nuts and seeds can balance things up nicely.
2. The vegetarian blind spot
Myth: I’m automatically healthier because I don’t eat meat.
With ever more research piling up that eating red or processed meat increases your risk of cancer, many Indians feel proud of their vegetarian lifestyles. But being a vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve unlocked a key to health.
In fact, Indians have a 50 to 400% higher rate of heart disease than other countries — while Indian vegetarians are just as likely to be struck by diabetes as non-vegetarians.
“I think it’s because many veggie dishes ‘compensate’ with a lot of fat and salt, and portion size is also an issue,” says Manjula Chandrakar, who started to create healthy non-meat recipes once she began cooking for her boyfriend.
“Now I opt for heart-healthy oils, and skip the sweet desserts we used to treat ourselves to after our ‘healthy’ meals.”
Quick tip: You can’t move on social media these days without friends pushing food fads, from kale to coconut oil. But do the latest hip diets and so-called superfoods actually work? Here, one newspaper stress-tests 2016’s trending food fashions.
3. Mother knows best
Myth: I should follow traditional dietary advice when pregnant.
In large traditional families, pregnant women can be inundated by well-meaning advice that actually hampers you or your baby’s health. Take the old adage that sipping pure ghee with milk at night will lead to an easier delivery.
In fact, says one obstetrician, “There is no medical basis to support this idea.” Instead, it’s more likely the high-fat ghee will go straight to your waist! So take traditional advice with a pinch of salt, and do your own research.
4. The raw truth
Myth: Raw veggies are more nutritious.
While there is some truth to the idea that raw veggies are more nutritious than cooked ones, because several vitamins are indeed lost in the process, cooking can in some cases make nutrient absorption easier. Tomatoes, for example, release more antioxidants when cooked, as do carrots, spinach, mushrooms, cabbage and peppers.
Good news for those who find a lovely vegetable stew can feel far more appetising than a cold salad. The key is to vary your recipes when cooking at home, and ideally eat a combination of raw as well as cooked veggies – and plenty of them!
There are many more false food beliefs that hold Indians back, so start taking a close look at your diet and unveil a truly healthy you.