Are carbs evil? Is snacking late at night a bad habit?
Turns out that there aremany notions about food that you have been getting wrong. Priya Chaphekar fact-checks the most popular ‘truths’ at the table
Whether we’re at work or a party, we’re bombarded with health advice from colleagues, friends and family—don’t eat this, don’t drink that! We take these old school myths too seriously, well, most of the time. While some of us force ourselvesto gulp down bland, low-fat food, others skip that piping hotplate of rice altogether. The biggest mistake we make is to blindly follow the crowd, without digging for evidence or knowing what works for our body. What happens next? We swear off our favourite foods because we think they’re harmful for our health. But what if we tell you that most of these myths have no scientific backing? That rice can be good for your health and you can indulge your sweet tooth once in a while? Take heart, as we bring you the real deal.
Whenever the weighing scale indicates not- so pleasing results, we embark on a fruit diet. There are apples in our bag and bananas on our desk. We sip on smoothies for breakfast and satisfy sweet cravings with fruit salads. But studies have shown that eating too much fruit can actually lead to obesity. “Fruits are an essential section of the food pyramid that contribute to the natural vitamins required by the body,” says Karishma. However, fruits are not calorie free—they contain fructose, calories and carbohydrates. Eating too much of them can lead to high sugar levels and weight gain.
Over the last few years, health fanatics have suddenly started referring to carbohydrates as ‘demon food’—which is a very wrong notion. Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients found in food, besides fat and protein. They are the primary sources of energy in a healthy balanced diet. Skip them, and you’ll end up feeling dull and lethargic. “I have a lot of clients who tried to omit carbs from their diet,” says Suman Agarwal, founder, Selfcare, Mumbai, “However, instead of losing weight, they started gaining more.” Suman advises to eat one serving of rice every day. “Eliminating an entire food group isn’t advisable. Carbs give you a sensation of fullness and provide you with essential nutrients that the body needs. Any food,if overeaten, will make you fat. The trick is to manage what you eat and how much.”
Calories are calories, regardless of when you eat them. It’s the total amount of food you’re eating and not the time of the day that determines your weight gain. “Calories -to-fat conversion depends on an individual’s metabolic rate as well as the quality and portion size,” says nutritionist Karishma Chawla. “Metabolic rates become slower as the day progresses, which is why most dieticians advise their clients to have a heavy breakfast and opt for a light dinner. You can curtail caloric consumption by snacking on healthy foods like fruits or grilled veggies instead of bingeing on burgers and fries.” Try to sleep as early as possible to avoid such cravings. Eating too close to bedtime not only causes indigestion, but also leads to problems in sleeping.
Studies show that any kind of cooking—be it steaming, boiling or microwaving—decreases the nutritional value of vegetables to a certain extent. “Nutrients are lost only when the food is overcooked. The time period for which you microwave the food is important,” says Karishma. Since microwaving involves shorter cooking time and less heat, it is, in fact, the best way to preserve nutrients. Just be sure that you’re using microwave-safe containers to avoid unhealthy chemicals from seeping into your food.
Dark chocolate contains less sugar than milk chocolate and is one of the best sources of antioxidants, which help
protect the heart. It not only lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, but also lowers blood pressure. Several studies suggest that eating dark chocolate boosts the production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. “But dark chocolate still contains a significant amount of calories and thus must be eaten in moderation, like any other sweet,” warns Karishma.
“Indian cuisine includes peanuts in every form—poha has whole peanuts; a variety of chutneys and curries have ground peanuts,” says Suman. We also use groundnut oil instead of olive or corn oil for cooking. Peanuts should be included in the traditional manner instead of mimicking the west because packaged peanut butter contains preservatives. But if you’re struggling to make breakfast every morning, a peanut butter sandwich is a relatively healthier option. Packed with protein, potassium and good fat, it can serve as your energy boost for the day.
In India, there are several religious reasons to fast. But for most of us, fasting starts on a Monday morning post a weightcheck. And then follows a parade of crazy diets. “Fasting leads to starvation and muscle breakdown, slowing down the body’s metabolism, which leads to the body storing calories in the form of fat. A well balanced diet with adequate water, sunshine and exercise can keep toxins out of the body,” suggests Karishma.
Drink plenty of fluids during the day for better digestion. Swap your cola for a cup of herbal tea as it contains more nutrients.
After the ‘Go green’ revolution, the radical shift from white to brown has taken the world by storm. Brown rice, brown pasta and brown sugar is the way to go. At coffee shops, we immediately ask the attendant if they have demerara sugar. But is it really healthy? The answer is no. The difference lies only in the taste and texture. Compared to white sugar, brown sugar has a richer taste, is moist and clumpy. The truth is that the two varieties of sugar are only marginally different in their nutritional values. While white sugar contains 99.9 per cent pure
sucrose, brown sugar contains 97 per cent sucrose, 2 per cent water and 1 per cent other substances. Although the molasses in brown sugar comprises a number of minerals, they are present in negligible quantities, not enough to bring you any significant health benefits.
From mothers to gym trainers, everyone keeps reminding us to do one thing— drink more water. But is it advisable to drink water during your meal? Well, yes and no. “This is the most common myth that has gained popularity in recent times,” says Tripti Gupta, lifestyle nutrition consultant, iPink. “Let’s make it simple. Think of your stomach as a mixer grinder, which has to churn food and break it down for absorption. Now, if your meal comprises dal, curries and buttermilk, there are plenty of fluids to aid the process of digestion. But today, most of us grab a bite on the go. This needs to be accompanied with water for the effective transportation and absorption of essential nutrients.” To strike a balance, take small sips, swap the cola for a hot cup of herbal tea and keep yourself hydrated through the day.
We all have read countless articles about the harmful effects of cola—teeth damage, bone damage, kidney failure and obesity among others. So we decide to pick its so-called healthy twin—diet cola that is also packed with harmful chemicals and won’t even help you lose weight. “Diet cola is loaded with artificial sweeteners and chemicals that are bad for your digestive system. Always pick a fresh fruit juice or fresh lime soda instead,” suggests Suman.
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