Know what you eat

Alisha Shinde
Tuesday, 18 September 2018

As we observe National Nutrition Month, experts tell us why we must know the nutritive values of food to reap maximum benefits, eat in moderation and exercise daily to keep healthy and strong

September is observed as National Nutrition Month to fight against malnutrition. But even if you aren’t undernourished or overweight, you may not be consuming food rich in nutritive values. We talk to a few nutritionists to find out how you must eat healthy to have stay healthy.  

“Nutrition has been an important part of our diet for a long time, but in the past few years we have seen two extremes when it comes to nutrition. While some adults and children have become malnourished because of under-eating, a few have become over-nutritious which has led to obesity mostly because of junk food,” says Meghana Kumare, a Nagpur-based nutritionist. Kumare adds that it has become extremely important to understand what nutrients to consume so that the body reaps the maximum benefits. She believes that being aware of the nutrients that we consume is the first step of healthy eating. 

“With the advent of the internet multiple theories have sprung up. We are often told that carbs and oils are bad for health but that is not the case. What we fail to understand is that everything should be consumed in proper proportions because our body needs the nutrition from these food items,” says Kumare. 

The key to a healthy body is to eat in limited quantities, one really does not have to give up on certain foods to become healthy. “Many people come up with this idea that oil needs to be replaced with ghee, but we should understand that our body also needs this certain oil and the nutrients from it,” Kumare adds.

Based on our lifestyle, we need to make our food choices. “We have desk jobs with very little movement, but to maintain a proper BMI, people should keep in mind that they need to move every 60 minutes to optimise their energy drawn from the food that they consume,” says Kumare adding that the food pyramid nowadays must also include exercise. “Exercise is the key to a healthy lifestyle and people should customise their diet and exercise regime according to their level of physical activity.”   

According to the food pyramid, people should consume more vegetables, milk products, fruits, grains and seeds. “To be healthy, you have to eat smart,” says Kumare adding the key to eating healthy is to not miss out on breakfast. “Breakfast is an important meal of the day, the day you skip breakfast you certainly feel more hungry and then during lunch you tend to overeat which causes a food deficit. Then around 4 pm, you feel hungry again so you tend to binge on junk food.” 

It is okay to eat in between meals but eat something that will give you energy and not something that will make you lethargic. “When you feel hungry eat nuts, seeds or fruits, which are fibrous and will keep your energy levels flowing.”

Madhuri Ruia, fitness, posture, Pilates and nutrition expert, says that most of us have easy access to processed food. “They are not only convenient but also easy on the pocket. What we fail to understand is the harm they actually cause to our bodies,” she says. A lot of time, these products lack the nutritive compounds which the body requires and moreover are packed with processed sugars which makes it easy to digest. “With absolutely no fibre and protein, which our body needs to break down to source energy, these shelf foods are easily absorbed by our system, which then stocks up to actually being toxic.” 

Ruia explains that shelf foods are known to drop sugar levels in our bodies which is the reason many of us feel a sudden rush of hunger and end up consuming even more junk. “Once you start consuming a good amount of nutritive packed food, you get to see the difference,” says she adding that the skin looks better, energy levels rise, the body does not face any water retention, which further optimises the overall bodily functions. 

The only way to counter the damage that we have already done to our bodies is to eat the right kind of food. “Vegetables that are green in general are a good choice but over cooking (cooking them on a high flame) or over boiling drains all the nutritive values,” says Ruia adding that sometimes the cooking techniques that are used in households kill the nutrients and vitamins. “Certain items like leafy vegetables and vegetables that add a bit of roughage should not be cooked for more than three minutes. After three minutes these vegetables start losing their nutritive values,” she points out.  

The Indian kitchen is the best place to find food rich in nutritive values. “The vegetables that are native to our land, the condiments and spices that we use on a daily basis — all have nutritive values,”  conludes Ruia.

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