If you have read Indian celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar's columns on healthy alternatives and the healthy Indian diet, you know what's at the core of all her advice: "Listen to your grandma."
Eat local, eat seasonal, eat traditional, and eat as much as your gut says you need. This, of course, doesn't come easily. This needs practice, and it starts with eating with all your mind in the act. Rujuta calls it "mitahar," and says that in order to listen to your gut, eat slow, without distraction and with your mind focused on the food.
Back to Basics
In her national bestseller, Indian Super Foods, Rujuta sparks a revolution of sorts when she flouts all the popular and customary myths in modern and imported diets in favour of India's age-old healthy alternatives.
The Indian diet is healthy, she pronounces yet again, informing readers of the benefits one can derive from traditional, seasonal, and locally available fresh fruits, grains, and vegetables. Adhering to her advice, I have made ghee my best friend for life, and although coconut is not exactly my favourite food, I make sure to have a portion two or three times a week, especially when I am having the south Indian crepe, dosa. Not only does it aid digestion and help me fight stress, it makes me happy too. In this book, she guides readers on how and when to consume all these Indian superfoods to get the most benefits.
Rujuta shares the same advice to all readers, whether they're a middle-aged professional who is fast approaching the official clinical obesity mark, a housewife who's always taking care of the family with not many opportunities to take care of herself, or even someone with thyroid disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOD), diabetes, or any other chronic disease.
Rujuta takes a pragmatic approach, telling readers to stop fantasizing about green tea, stop shunning fats and the carbs in your diet, stop piling on proteins in every meal because a fad diet tells you to do so, and exercise with caution. She asks you to keep yourself well-hydrated, bring back the laddoos as your dadi-saas probably tells you to, especially if you are pregnant or have just delivered your baby. She says these traditional recipes not only have the much needed and specific healing properties, they also attend to all your body's needs that must be attended to after the fiery hormonal drama you have just undergone.
In each of her books, she has unabashedly pronounced that if we are looking for great health and a fantastic waist-to-hip ratio, the pure Indian ghee should be our friend. Rujuta maintains that ghee is still the best for frying your puris and strongly recommends that good sense prevail in food and matters concerning diets.
What are super foods?
Statistics have proven that less than 20 percent of people are successful in keeping their weight in check after having just let go, she reminds her readers. "The world seems to discover asuper food every week," she writes, before asking what can be constituted as superfoods, in reality. She then lays down her definition of superfoods: "foods that, like true love, have stood the test of time." Mostly, they have five things in common, according to Rujuta:
1. They grow naturally in the same land you live in.
2. They are rich in micronutrients and taste.
3. Every part of the plant can be used in unique ways.
4. They encourage diversity in your diet.
5. They lead to a sustainable lifestyle, help the local economy, and make sound ecological sense.
She says that consuming these healthy alternatives will not only make us hearty, happy and healthy, but that doing so will also remove the burden of malnourishment and obesity from our country.
How Do These Indian Foods or Healthy Alternatives Help?
Rujuta analyzed 12 foods in the book to prove that a healthy Indian diet helps your body fight diseases. If we tried summarizing in one sentence the benefits of each of the recommended superfoods Rujuta laid down in her book, they would read as follows:
• Ghee: It breaks down fat, reduces cholesterol, eases distress, improves sleep, and helps you wake up fresher, gives you a healthy heart, and should be had 3-5 teaspoons a day to start with.
• Kokum: Prevents cavities, dehydration, acidity, and nurtures and regenerates skin cells.
• Banana: Has a low to medium glycemic index and doesn't allow the blood pressure to shoot, enhances metabolism and prevents brain fatigue, soothes the stomach, strengthens the bones, and beats the blues.
• Kaju: Reduces LDL and improves HDL in your blood, works as an anti-ageing pill, improves heart health and metabolism, and is perfect for you if you are trying to reduce weight or are have diabetes.
• Ambadi: Ambadi tea detoxes or removes a hangover and is an anti-carcinogen.
• Rice: Promotes growth of probiotic bacteria, eases bowel movements, prevents premature wrinkling, has fat-burning and anti-anxiety qualities, allows better vitamin D and calcium assimilation, and is loaded with necessary amino acids.
• Coconut: Reduces risk of cholesterol, improves heart health, reduces glycemic index when garnished on other food, prevents yeast infection in the vaginal area so perfect during pregnancies, and helps control weight.
• Aliv: Rujuta calls it the miracle food that takes care of your hair and skin post-pregnancy, cures PCOD, is an aphrodisiac, and fights cancer very well.
• Jackfruit: Low in fat and rich in fibre, this helps reduce cholesterol and menopausal pigmentation too; and of course, it boosts fertility and the health of the colon and gall bladder. Additionally, it fights carcinogens.
• Sugar: Rujuta wholeheartedly recommends that sugar is obtained from sugarcane in any form. She says we have to be critical of the high-fructose corn syrup that's available in most Western and store-bought, processed foods such as cakes, fizzy drinks, pastries, and cookies. However, sweet and yummy food is not unhealthy, she reasserts.
Rujuta makes a compelling case of coming back to square one when it comes to healthy eating. Don't reinvent the wheel. Habits are always hard to break but then again anything new needs some effort on our part. If you go by her word, eating healthy is all about keeping it simple.
Disclaimer: This publication/editorial/article is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.