I Love You India But… Things Have Changed

Picture from Littlefoodjunction

The ancient Indian diet used to…

  • be rich in saturated fats (especially from dairy, ghee and coconut).
  • contain only little vegetable oils.
  • only contain grains that had be fermented/sprouted extensively.
  • include a multitude of different spices (turmeric, holy basil, coriander etc.) with amazing health benefits.
  • provide enough calories (and carbohydrates) to fuel the intense activity of our ancestors.

The present typical Indian diet…

  • is dominated by grains which are cooked too quickly and carelessly.
  • has little to no protein.
  • is high in vegetable oils.
  • is stripped out of healthy fats.
  • is loaded with anti-nutrients from grains and legumes due to lack of sprouting/fermenting.
  • is deficient multiple vitamins (especially A and B12) and minerals due to the lack of vegetables and animal foods.
  • contains more carbohydrates than is safe for the current lifestyle.
  • is extremely high in (empty) calories (and carbohydrates) for the obvious sedentarism being commonly exhibited.

Though the country isn’t plagued with junk food and fast food chains yet and though most people still eat home cooked meals, today India…

  • has the highest number of diabetics in the world.
  • accounts for 60% of heart disease cases worldwide.
  • is home to ~ 174 million overweight/obese people (in spite of widespread hunger and poverty)
  • has ~ 71 million people suffering from iodine deficiency.
  • ranks 2nd in the world with respect to children suffering from malnutrition.
  • has 4 children under the age of 5 dying every minute due to preventable diseases and lack of immunity.
  • is the country in the world with the lowest number of total Olympic medals per capita.

Maybe there is a connection? Maybe we need to be a bit more open minded? Maybe we should stop with the ‘The Indian vegetarian diet is the healthiest diet!‘? Maybe we should consider a change?

You tell me!

Peace out.

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23 responses to “I Love You India But… Things Have Changed

  1. Lavanya April 1, 2011 at 12:32 am

    Fantastic post. Everyone that goes “generations of our ancestors have eaten this – they all can’t be wrong!” should read this. Time we learnt it wasn’t our ancestors that are wrong but us!

  2. Anu April 1, 2011 at 12:40 am

    forgive the ignorance but i was under the impression that come whatmay our life expectancy has increased over the years… Our sedentary life style is because of the increase in technology and personal choices… But then im jus rambling…

    • RG April 1, 2011 at 9:54 am

      Anu,
      Increase in life expectancy is a result of improvements in health care and trauma facilities. But truth is – though life expectancy (quantity) has increased… quality of life is down the drain!

  3. j. murthy April 1, 2011 at 4:58 am

    No one can argue the facts here, but your conclusion is off. You cannot conclude that because all these factors exist that a vegetarian diet is to blame. What is to blame is a diet with too many calories, too many simple carbs, and not enough exercise. people are moving away from labor and into more sedentary lifestyles. that, and the indian veg diet existed for centuries almost unchanged. it was balanced and nutritious. now it has changed with the introduction of convenience foods which do not have the same nutritional value and also are chock full of simple (as opposed to complex) carbohydrates… the kind that turn into sugar and then fat when not used. this issue is happening to both veg and non-veg alike.

    anu… life expectancy is up because of access to healthcare and little more.

    • RG April 1, 2011 at 10:02 am

      Disagree. The vegetarian diet (as it is today) lacks many essential vitamins and minerals. Make no mistake, the Indian non vegetarian diet also has similar deficiencies… but that’s because in India both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets are pretty much the same i.e. grain based, high carb etc. I’ll write a more detailed post on this soon.

      “that, and the indian veg diet existed for centuries almost unchanged. it was balanced and nutritious. ” – Any diet should fuel one’s lifestyle. While our lifestyle has changed and moved much closer to sedentarism our diet has remained the same… which is where the problem arises. Put another way, your great grandfather ate 10 cups of rice and 1 cup of ghee everyday and lived till the ripe age of 98 with no diseases. If you or I try doing that today we will bite the dust before 50. Why? Because your great grandfather spent hours and hours burning off those calories… as a matter of fact those calories were consumed to fuel his daily activity. You and I sit on our behinds for the most part and don’t need that many calories or carbohydrates.

      Solution – Change the diet to match the current lifestyle. Eat less in general. Eat less carbs. Eat more healthful fats… you know the drill.

      • j. murthy April 1, 2011 at 10:11 am

        You left out what I said JUST AFTER which is: now it has changed with the introduction of convenience foods which do not have the same nutritional value and also are chock full of simple (as opposed to complex) carbohydrates.

        essentially, you said you disagreed, but then restated what I said which breaks down into this:

        1) people do not exercise enough to burn off what they are eating
        2) the traditional veg diet has changed to include convenience foods.

      • RG April 1, 2011 at 10:19 am

        The difference between what you’re saying and what I’m saying is… don’t increase your activity to match your food intake. Eat just enough to fuel your activity level. Meaning – more fats, lesser carbs.

        Exercise enough to stay healthy i.e. strength train, walk, HIT occasionally etc.

        and FYI – simple and complex carbs… they all turn into sugar.

        I do agree with this – “the traditional veg diet has changed to include convenience foods.”

  4. Sri April 1, 2011 at 9:51 am

    The biggest problem as I see it, is the fact that there is no concept of portion control.

    Also strongly agree with you on the ridiculousness of the grain dominated diet, and the fact that we dont accept that our lifestyles have changed and that our diet has to change accordingly.

    • RG April 1, 2011 at 10:03 am

      “the fact that we dont accept that our lifestyles have changed and that our diet has to change accordingly.” – This!

  5. Yogini April 1, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Raj,
    I love love LOVE the Indian flavor but more than often I am stumped when it comes to a healthy Indian breakfast or even a snack. The concept of having a healthy breakfast is not reinforced in India yet. How can we enjoy the Indian taste in our foods and make our cuisine healthier? Agree with you, change is a MUST! Over to you, nutrition coach.

    • RG April 2, 2011 at 2:46 am

      Thank you for the support. I’m working on something that should answer you question. It should be up pretty soon!

  6. Kitty April 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Fantastic post. Change is good even if it’s “back to the basics”.

  7. DSS April 1, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Raj,agreed that the Inidan diet is deficient in many nutrients etc and that the lifestyle today is sedentary when compared to a few generations ago and that change is vital. But to add to this the media also promotes some foods which have absolutely little or no nutritional value as healthy food options.When you switch on any Indian channel the ads promote biscuits,chocolate drink and what not as” healthy nutritious fare” which is totally ridiculous.So every other parent thinks he/she is doing the right thing by giving their kids these sugar loaded foods.Thus resulting in total sugar overload from a very young age.

    • RG April 2, 2011 at 2:49 am

      Excellent point! There is no denying that the government recommendations are BS and the food manufacturers take great advantage of that. In my opinion, advertising vegetable oils as “heart healthy” is as wrong as selling cigarettes as ‘stress reducers’! Criminal! But then if the government classifies vegetable oils as heart healthy why would manufacturers not jump on it?

      Thank you for bringing this up. This needs more attention.

  8. Sundar April 4, 2011 at 12:51 am

    The evolution in our lifestyle hasn’t been accompanied by the required evolution in food consumption. This is a major problem. For all the technological/medical advances we have made as a collective species, the fact that the fuel we put into our bodies have been overlooked for a startlingly long period of time is worrisome. This step in the wrong direction has to be corrected and it can only come through proper education.

    In fact, all these medical advances we’ve made today may not even be required to put into use this extensively, if we concentrate on eating healthy food for our current lifestyle.

    Thanks for the post Raj.

  9. Contemplationist April 4, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Absolutely spot on!
    It’s ridiculous how Indians strut their supposed superiority on diet while sniffling against those crazy white people who eat at McDonald’s – all the while being completely ignorant of those statistics above. Oh and they don’t use desi ghee anymore. heh

    • RG April 5, 2011 at 11:41 pm

      Now dont hate on my Indians! 😉

      The truth is… as it is today… there is no nation with a good diet. Pretty much every country’s diet is effed up beyond proportions. But you know whats funny? Every country’s traditional diet was extremely healthy! With time (and processed food and westernization) the world has slowly lost its origins. For eg. we are now adding spices to get the ‘indian flavor’. Little do we realize there is a reason for every spice added!

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  11. Aarti April 20, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    I hear Indian people always saying their diet is so healthy..they see no reason to change it . Even doctors encourage people to eat high carb lowfat diet. I am sure treditionally our ancestors ate lot of carbs but they had to work hard and also most people forget that treditionally our ancestors also fasted a lot. my 80 year old grandma fasts at least 3 days a week.

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