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Popular diets, the Indian way

Nipa Asharam

Nipa Asharam
4 May 2020

This article is authored by Nipa Asharam. Nipa is a full-time practising life coach and wellness coach under the brand 'Eat.Breathe.Smile'.

Sometimes, we take a whole circle to come back to simple home food to maintain weight, feel satiated and have a sustainable healthy lifestyle.

This has been true for me and it feels like freedom because you aren’t trying to force yourself to eat meals that you don’t necessarily like but are trying hard to! Besides, I learned the Indian way can be the best way if you eat in the right proportion and balanced meals.

The typical Indian meal: Indian food is famous for its spices and range of dishes. Different regions of India have distinct cuisines, but most of them contain varieties of vegetables, legumes, rice, and breads that may help a person lose weight. Spices such as turmeric, fenugreek, coriander, ginger and cumin are at the forefront of traditional dishes, adding rich flavour and powerful nutritional benefits.

Turmeric, one of the most popular spices used in India, is celebrated for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. A compound called curcumin has been found to fight inflammation in the body, improve brain function and reduce risk factors of heart disease.

The most common diet - The Lacto-Vegetarian Diet - typically includes this:

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- Vegetables: Tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, mustard greens, okra, onions, bitter melon, cauliflower, mushrooms, cabbage and more.

- Fruits: Including mango, papaya, pomegranate, guava, oranges, tamarind, lychee, apples, melon, pears, plums and bananas.

- Nuts and seeds: Cashews, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, watermelon seeds and more.

- Legumes: Mung beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lentils, pulses and chickpeas.

- Roots and tubers: Potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and onions.

- Whole grains: Brown rice, basmati rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, barley, corn, whole-grain bread, amaranth and jowar.

- Dairy: Cheese, yogurt, milk, kefir and ghee.

- Herbs and spices: Garlic, ginger, cardamom, cumin, coriander, garam masala, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, methi, basil and more.

- Healthy fats: Coconut milk, full-fat dairy, coconut oil, mustard oil, olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil and ghee.

- Protein sources: Tofu, legumes, pulses, lentils, dairy, nuts and seeds.

All of the above then is divided into 3 meals to make eating wholesome and coming from natural foods.

1. Breakfast: Important meal that provides body with energy functions through the morning. This usually comprises carbohydrates and fibre. Some options here are fresh fruits, millet upma or other lentil preparations and dahi as probiotic.

2. Lunch and Dinner: A healthful lunch or dinner should contain a mix of whole grains, protein, vegetables and dairy.

a) Vegetables are an excellent source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Mixing different types of vegetables, such as leafy green and root vegetables, will have the greatest health benefits.

b) Protein is essential for the growth and function of cells, tissues, and organs throughout the body. Incorporating protein into a healthful Indian diet is fairly simple. Most Indian diets are vegetarian. There are many good sources of protein for vegetarian diets, such as legumes, pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

c) Some options of preparations are different kind of fresh vegetable curries, khichdis made with a mix of grains and pulses, paneer sabzis and dahi or buttermilk is always great to add for probiotics.

3. Snacks and treats: Many Indian snacks are highly processed, high in sugars, or high in saturated fat. Choose healthful snack options, such as dried or fresh fruits, seed mixes, lentil or bean chat and idli made from oats or rawa.

4. Seasonal preparations: Anything prepared with what is harvested in a particular season will always have a high nutrition value. India is known for harvesting fresh food across the year through its 4 seasons so always pick what is grown in the season as the first option.

Some things to watch out for:

Radish

Indian food is healthy and delicious but people tend to miss out on the following -

- Portion control: Anything extreme is always harmful; if we do not have food in the right portion, weight gain and health issues are imminent.

- Cooking in moderate oil and ghee: We tend to believe that anything made at home, ‘ghar ka khana’ means healthy. Well, if it is loaded with ghee and oil, then we lose the ‘health’ factor completely that can affect our heart.

- Low glycaemic diet: The glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of how carbohydrate-based foods affect blood glucose. Foods with a high GI cause larger spikes in blood glucose and are less healthful. The Indian diet traditionally contains foods with a high GI. This includes chapattis, wheat rotis, jasmine rice and white potatoes. We do not need to avoid them but restricting them would be ideal. We also have healthier replacements such as white rice with brown rice, proteinaceous pulses and lentils with which we can prepare dosas, pulao and chillas.

I love an Indian healthy diet and when we are conscious of these points and eat mindfully, it could be our best option for a life long nutrition plan.



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