Ending diet dilemma
As food fads continue to confuse, Naini Setalvad clarifies the issue by simply recommending the healthiest option—a balanced diet
With so many different ways to lose weight bombarding us, I just had to pick up the pen to write this article.
Let me take you back to my weight loss journey which began when I was in the 7th grade, roughly in the year 1978 and went on till the year 1996. High protein, low carb, pill popping, health farms, fasting, two meals a day—you name it and I had done it al! I did lose weight whenever I followed a weight loss plan. However, the question was whether I was able to sustain any of these regimens in the long run. The answer: an emphatic ‘no.’
Finally, in 1996, when I did a diet which did not cut out any food group and ate foods which were familiar to me, I dropped weight slowly and steadily and came down from 160kgs to 60 kgs. In the last 20 years, I have been counselling people to gain health, lose weight, and prevent diseases with simple Indian food, and the success levels are so good. Of course, all the time I come across people who have gone on the merry-go-round of various diets. They lose weight, then put it on, and their health parameters go out of whack. Constipation, irritability, anxiety, and lack of energy are part and parcel of these diets. Such people get fed up, feel gloomy and end up putting on weight again. My belief is to make it easy on yourself and just stick to the basics (which I will explain to you). All the same, let me share with you a little of my knowledge on some of the most popular diets and their effects on your body.
Keto Diet: The ketogenic diet is now one of the world’s most popular fad diets. It came into existence way back in the 1920s. The keto diet consists of a nutritional diet pattern of excess fats and limited protein for patients who get seizures due to epilepsy. It uses fats as an energy source instead of carbohydrates. It was realised that carbohydrates were the culprits which increased seizures. Cutting out carbohydrates as well as controlling the protein intake made the patient lose weight.
Shortcomings: This diet is not sustainable in the long run as it entails cutting out carbohydrates, that is, all your grains, vegetables, and fruits. Natural sugars, fibres, and numerous vitamins and minerals are withheld in this diet. This may cause lack of energy, low moods, and constipation, thereby forcing you to constantly supplement yourself artificially. Often, this diet can take you into a state known as ketosis,which may damage your kidney function. The high fat would increase the lipid profile which may lead to heart problems.
Meal replacement: Often people skip a meal and swap it with a meal replacer which may be found in the form of a nutritional bar or nutritional drink.
Shortcomings: Side effects of some meal replacement products include fatigue, irritability, nausea, constipation, headaches, dizziness, hair loss, and dry skin and breath. In a state of deprivation, which occurs with some meal replacement products, the body is enduring a significant degree of stress.
Vegan Diet: Being vegan is a way of life where one eats a plant-based diet that is completely without meat, dairy, and eggs. It essentially consists of fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses, grains, nuts, dry fruits, seeds, and spices. The fat used is from coconut, seeds, and avocados. This diet has shown to reduce obesity and improved heart health due to a positive effect on your lipid profile. However, it has its shortcomings too.
Very often, a vegan diet can go high in plant-based fats and sugar due to the new vegan convenience foods that have now entered the market. A lot of people land up eating more sugar and more grains to fill them up as they get huge cravings. This often leads to indigestion in the form of bloating, constipation, or diarrhoea. This diet definitely needs to be supplemented with Vitamin B12 and maybe Vitamin D also.
Intermittent fasting: This method of weight loss was a way of life for the Hindus and Jains since the beginning of religion. People ate the first morsel of their food mid-morning and the last, before sundown. Normally, they did not even have water between sunset and sunrise. Often, it was just two meals a day. Intermittent fasting advocates that there are 24 hours in a day and essentially you have to eat your meal in an 8-hour time gap. In the balance 16 hours of the day, you can only sip on water. Unfortunately, people do not follow the circadian rhythm followed by the Hindus and Jains of eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset, thus causing ill-health.
Shortcomings: Frequently, the long gap of not eating could cause overeating in the 8-hour open window, leading to indigestion. The long gap between the last bite and the first bite could reduce your electrolytes, making you feel weak and dizzy. Since there is no particular time restriction on when to choose your eating or fasting period, one tends to mess up the body by eating the first meal mid-afternoon and a late dinner.
Balanced Diet: The best thing for you is a balanced diet where you eat seasonal, regional, unprocessed vegetables in plenty, and a limited quantity of fruits, whole grains, good quality fat, and proteins. 40 per cent of your food should be vegetables, one fruit a day, and the remaining 60 percent should be divided between whole grains, good quality fat, and proteins. Please remember,vegetarians do not lack in protein as there are many plant-based vegetarian sources such as pulses, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Your grains too contain a small amount of protein. Add on spices and natural salts to make your food tasty.
1 cup tuvar dal
200 gm Cluster Beans (guvar), chopped long
200 gm okra (bhindi), slit and chop into big pieces, about 2-inch size
75 gm Bengal gram flour (chana atta)
100 ml tamarind (imli) pulp
1 ½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 tsp mustard seeds (rai)
1 tsp cuminseeds (jeera)
1 tsp fenugreek (methi)
2 green chillies
1 tsp grated ginger
5–6 curry leaves (kadi patta)
1 tbsp coriander and mint leaves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
1. Pressure cook the tuvardal and set aside.
2. Steam the guvar and keep it aside.
3. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a wok (kadai). Add methi, jeera and rai seeds. As it starts crackling, add curry leaves, green chillies, grated ginger, red chilli powder, and haldi.
4. Add chana atta and roast for five minutes till it turns golden. Add the cooked dal and cook for another 10 minutes.
5. Add ½ litre water as it thickens after boiling and cook for five minutes.
6. Add the raw bhindi.
7. Cook for another five minutes. Add salt, tamarind pulp, and steamed guvar.
8. Add chopped coriander and mint leaves
9. Let it cook well for 5–10 min.
10. Serve hot with boiled basmati brown rice
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