Nutritionist and Diet Consultant Pooja Malhotra solves some common food-related dilemmas of her clients and shares her advice on healthy eating habits.
‘But I recently read in an article that rotis (Indian flatbread) will soon become extinct! Is it true?’ exclaimed Sonia, on the phone yesterday. I wasn’t surprised to receive this query, since an article ‘ Rotis will soon become extinct’, was going viral on social media.
A few days later, another client Radhika proudly told me about her preference for ‘Atta’ (whole-wheat) noodles over ‘aloo-mattar’ (Potato-pea curry). She was surprised when I told her this wasn’t the right choice; that potatoes were better than noodles. After all, all vegetables are natural, whereas noodles are factory-made.
A glut of advice leads us astray
Sometimes, I think I could could make a full time job out of busting myths and food fads. These days, so much free health advice floats about, confusing everyone. The same food item is either worshipped or demonised, at the same time.
Every few months, a new ‘superfood‘ pops up in the market, and popular notions about healthy and unhealthy foods change. Healthy eating seems to be a dilemma, these days. But it doesn’t need to be.
New theories challenge the old
Today, multiple theories exist about what is right and wrong in nutrition and food. New research contradicts the old. For example, recent research shows that your dietary cholesterol doesn’t impact blood cholesterol levels. Heart disease, it says, is the result of inflammation and oxidative stress. Your genes are to blame!
Going by this theory, you should eat mindlessly, and then blame your genes for the consequences. What a self-defeating move! In the end, your health depends upon a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. So do work on cultivating healthy eating habits.
Research funding may dictate findings
To begin with, don’t accept or junk new theories outright. Instead, figure out how much weight to give them. Check out the credibility of the study that’s grabbed your attention. Is the study sample large enough? And is it published in a reputed journal?
Then, ascertain the source of the research funding. You’d be surprised at how much the vested interests of pharma giants influence conclusions.
Pooja’s eating tips
#1 Take cues from traditional wisdom
Rely on traditional food wisdom and common sense when it comes to food, and eating. It’s best to eat foods traditionally grown in your region, and consumed by several generations before you.
Remember, there is wisdom in customary food combinations. Your body assimilates seasonal, locally grown food better than any other kind. So don’t pay much attention to isolated studies on Google, performed in other countries, and on people genetically different from you.
#2 Avoid packaged items
Reject foods with additives, preservatives, stabilisers, flavour enhancers and artificial flavours and so on. After all, these are less healthy than natural foods, without question. This is a very simple thumb rule, which doesn’t require a scientific background to understand.
#3 Practice moderation or portion control
Another basic thumb rule to implement, is to moderate your portion size. You can indulge once in a while, but don’t make a habit of it.
Pooja is an award winning nutritionist in Delhi-NCR, who custom makes diet plans based on her clients’ metabolism and health objectives.