"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” - Hippocrates.

With much ado about health, fitness & nutrition today, it’s superfluous to emphasize the importance of good eating habits & healthy lifestyle. Health is an overall well being, the food we eat daily has a proportional impact & life threatening diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer can be averted!
A balanced diet should include all the food groups in every single meal of the day. Food prepared at home should meet the nutritional requirements of all family members; should be simple, easy on time, compatible with one’s culture & eating habits.  A diet, diverse in food choices provides the optimum nutrition.

Cereal grains & products:
Whole grains (low Glycemic Index), with the entire kernel – bran, germ, parboiled grains or malted grains have higher nutritive value over refined wheat flour/ maida (white bread, naan or Kulcha) & raw polished rice. Use one or more cereals in one meal, chapathi, followed by rice. Ex: whole wheat, oats, brown rice, steamed rice, ragi, jowar, bajra, maize, broken wheat or dalia, Breakfast cereals like Whole wheat cereals flakes, oats, muesli, corn flakes, whole wheat bread or multigrain bread. They have a unique combination of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber and several B vitamins. Refined cereals/maida used in sandwich bread, fast foods & bakeries, white rice (polished rice) have reduced linoliec acid content, fiber, folic acid, selenium and Vitamin E. Since a majority of us are rice eaters, we can make a gradual change by shifting from polished rice to steamed rice & then parboiled/red rice.

Vegetables & Fruits: Indulge in plenty of colorful seasonal fruits & vegetables with dark pigmentations, either raw or cooked with edible skin & seeds, ideally in every single meal of the day.  These are high in antioxidants, protect the cells of free radicals & prevent diseases due to nutrients like folate, vitamins, minerals, fiber. They are low in fat content, have no cholesterol & have low calories because of their high water content. Fiber gives satiety, a feeling of fullness & therefore helps in avoiding overeating. It is recommended that all age groups should consume a minimum of 300-500 g of vegetables everyday & a minimum of 200- 250 g fruits. So that amounts to ½ kg of vegetables for each adult in the family!
Fruits are low in sodium & rich in Vitamin A, C, E, potassium & selenium. At least two varieties of seasonal fruits must be eaten each day. Citrus fruits are good sources of Vitamin C.

Milk & milk products: Skim milk & its products - curd, milk shakes, butter milk/lassi, smoothies & cheese, with its low fat content should take priority over whole milk. Milk is the best source of calcium; providing protein, potassium, Vitamin A & D.

Meat & beans: Lean protein like egg white, dressed chicken & fatty fish are healthier options over Prawns, crabs, red meat, organ meats, minced meat, sausages, salami, frankfurters, ready to eat poultry & meat products, due to their high fat content. Include fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, sardines (omega 3 fatty acid) at least twice a week. Whole sprouts, defatted soy products, nuts, beans(soluble fiber) are healthy options over splits dhals. Ex: Rajma, Chickpeas, cow peas, field beans, horse gram, black channa, soya beans, Lentil. These yield protein, B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Only protein from the animal source is high biological value, which can be used for body building, repair & maintenance. The proteins in dhals & legumes are secondary in quality & thus it is vital for vegetarians, to consume some milk & milk products, soya & its products – nuggets, granules, tofu or soy milk and use a combination of cereal and pulse to enhance the amino acid profile. Egg is a complete protein & has all the 9 essential amino acids required for the growth, development & maintenance.

Fats & sugar: These are calorie dense & should be consumed judiciously. It is best to use a mixture of oils or cook different food items in different oils, for ex: rice bran oil, soya oil, sunflower oil, groundnut oil, olive oil, avoiding coconut oil & palm oil. Visible dietary fats(cooking oils) carry fat-soluble vitamins - vitamins A, D, E and K from our food into our body. Fat is also derived from invisible fat in foods that we eat, from pulses, grains etc; and it is also made endogenously in the body. 

Saturated (Solids at room temperature – Vanaspati, ghee, butter) & trans fatty acids (found in fried items, fast foods, bakery/processed foods) are the most harmful & must be totally avoided in our diets. Use only MUFA rich oils like peanut, rice bran oil for occasional deep-frying(higher smoking point), as they are more stable than PUFA oils(Sunflower, safflower oil) & do not disintegrate to transfats at high temperature. Trans fatty acids are formed at high temperatures, as vegetable oil hardens and its excess consumption will lead to hypercholesterolemia, dyslipidemia and increased risk of heart diseases. Virgin olive oil is heart protective MUFA rich oil, with low smoking point and best used for salad dressing. Fat should be restricted to 3 tsp/person/day.

Sugar is void of any nutrient & has empty calories. Therefore all sweets & pastries should be had in moderation and the sugar used, should be restricted to 2 - 3 tsp/person/day.

You are what you eat!

A little planning, to eat a balanced diet and exercise each day, will enhance the nutritional status of all in the family & promote health.


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