Category Archives: Being Vegetarian

Vegetarianism – The glass is half full

The thing about vegetarianism that I’m not a fan of is the focus on foods that ‘cannot’ be eaten. I understand the moral and religious confusion that is binding you to stay away from meat and meat products, but why the focus on the ‘cannot’ or ‘should not‘? Why not focus on the ‘can be‘ and ‘should be’ ? In other words, if you are a vegetarian you have a list of stuff that you don’t eat. But do you have a list of stuff that you should eat? Why not? Why do I hear “I don’t eat chicken ‘cos I’m vegetarian” a lot and never hear “I eat fermented dairy and spinach everyday ‘cos I’m vegetarian”?

You see my point? Why is the glass always half empty and not half full?

What is an optimal vegetarian diet?

Nutrition is nothing more than fueling yourself with nutrients. While there are moral, religious and preferential winds that influence one’s nutritional path, a good diet (and by that I mean the food you eat on a daily basis for any significant amount of time) should focus more on ‘what is needed’ than on ‘what shouldn’t be eaten’. Talking about the vegetarian diet, if you have made the choice (or have been forced to make the choice, as in most cases) to remove meat and meat products from your diet, you better find a nutritionally equivalent if you desire to live without nutritional deficiencies.

In the case of the current Indian vegetarian diet (which is possibly the only case where people are born as vegetarians and have a really hard time even considering starting to eat meat or even eggs for that matter), a replacement does exist – grains. While grains fill in the gaps (physically) and calorically, they are in no way nutritionally equivalent to meat, seafood and eggs.

Make no mistake – I’m not even hinting that all meat inclusive diets are optimal or even marginally superior to vegetarian diets. Enough junk meat and meat products are available and most people find themselves eating plenty of crappy meat/meat products that health and nutrition are not anywhere close. But when one does make an attempt to start eating real food, the vegetarians face more of a challenge than the rest.

And if you’re wondering, this applies to me too. I live in India now which is more of a vegetarian society than anything else. Even meat eaters (affectionately called “NV” or non-vigitarians) are nothing more than vegetarians who eat a little  meat. That and the fact that quality meat is not easily available, forces me to eat a vegetarian diet for the most part.

So then the question is – what is an optimal vegetarian diet? And, not surprisingly, the answer to this question is the same as for the question – what is an optimal diet? An optimal diet (vegetarian or not) is one that provides the consumer with all the nutrients required for optimal functioning.

Focusing on the half that is full

All that said, an optimal vegetarian diet should…

  • Include plenty of vegetables, especially spinach and other greens since they are abundant in Vitamin K, Vitamin A and magnesium. While this is a rule that applies to both vegetarians and meat eaters alike, it needs to be more prominent in a vegetarian diet for the reason that since most vegetarian diets are dominated by grains, vegetables are almost non-existent. Most folks tend to eat a meal of rice/wheat with some form gravy and a tiny bit of vegetables and end up neglecting vegetables. Read this article about how the Indian vegetarian diet contains no vegetables!
  • Include a significant amount of fermented foods, especially dairy due to their richness in Vitamin B12. Fermented foods help by introducing beneficial bacteria into our gut (probiotics) and adding in such bacteria has shown to be extremely beneficial to health. Relief from lactose intolerance, protection against colon cancer, reduction in IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and urinogenital infection severity and frequency are some of the benefits. Also, vitamins available in foods are more readily available when the gut contains a healthy dose of beneficial bacteria. Whole milk yogurt/curd, natural aged cheeses, kefir, natto and tempeh are excellent choices for fermented vegetarian foods (provided they are made from top quality milk/soy beans).
  • Be rich in saturated fat. If you’re concerned/confused about saturated fat and its health consequences, read my article The Saturated Fat Scam which talks in length about why saturated fat isn’t harmful but abundantly healthy. Ghee, butter, coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut in any other form are foods that feature right at the top of the list of healthiest foods.
  • Include whole eggs. I’ve said this a million times and I will say it again – eggs are as awesome as awesome can get from a health perspective. Egg yolks are one of the healthiest foods anyone (especially vegetarians) can eat. Eggs yolks contain choline which is extremely critical for the body’s proper functioning, lutein which saves eyesight, contains essential fatty acids and healthy dose of cholesterol which, again, is a substance that is absolutely required for the body to function smoothly. Read this article by Arvind Ashok – Eat that yolk! – that talks plenty more about why you should eat whole eggs. And sorry, while the lack of protein due to an egg-less diet can be compensated for in many ways, I don’t have a nutritional substitute for eggs (especially yolks).
  • Supplement with fish oil. Fish oil is magic! It is rich in EPA & DHA (the important omega 3 fatty acids that you don’t get from flax seeds or walnuts) and Vitamins A and D and has health benefits ranging from protecting against cardiovascular diseases to protection against cancer to much improved joint health to protection against alzheimer’s and much more. I’ve written about this in the past and you can read this article to understand how beneficial fish oil truly is. While it is not in anyway a supplement, from a vegetarian’s perspective, it is best considered a medicine and gulped!
  • Obviously be devoid of allergens like gluten, industrially processed vegetable and seeds oils, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and sugars.
  • Obviously not be dependent on nutritionally inferior foods like grains.

So what might such a vegetarian diet look like?

Sample meal plan

For someone who is ~ 70 kg the following should satisfy pretty much all nutritional needs.

Breakfast

  • 1 cup whole milk (maybe coffee/tea) with 1 tsp sugar/honey
  • 2-3 idlies/dosas (or idiyappam or 1 cup poha/aval/white rice) with 3-4 tbls coconut chutney and 2 tsp ghee
  • 2-3 whole eggs with 30g cheese and 1 cup vegetables (Scrambled, omelet, sunny side up, baked, boiled, curry etc etc!)
  • 1-2 tsp cod liver oil

Lunch

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups vegetables cooked in 1tbls coconut oil or ghee or butter
  • 1 cup sambar or rasam or daal
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 cups raw vegetables topped with 2 tsp olive oil/sesame oil (i.e. non lettuce real salad)
  • 1 medium fruit

Dinner

  • 2 cups vegetables cooked in 1tbls coconut oil or ghee or butter
  • 1 cup daal or beans or pulses pressure cooked with simple vegetables, without oil and topped with 1-2 tsp olive oil/sesame oil
  • 1 cup horsegram upma or sprouted pulses toasted with shredded coconut
  • 1 cup whole milk yogurt or raita
  • 1 medium fruit or a couple of dates or a square of dark chocolate.

Snack options

Firstly, snacks are unnecessary unless you’re actually trying to gain some weight. So snack only when absolutely required. That means, don’t look for something to munch just ‘cos you have nothing else to do. Snack if you’re unusually hungry between two meals or realize the next meal is too far away. Here are some awesome snack options which will keep you full and satisfied physically and nutritionally.

  •  2 cups mixed vegetable raita (1 cup raw cut mixed vegetables like cucumber, carrot, spinach, green mango etc + 1 cup whole milk yogurt + seasonings
  • 1 tender coconut or 1 cup salt lassi/lassi and a small fruit
  • Fruit & veg bowl – Cut up avocado, raw green mango, onions, carrots, banana stem & tomato. Top with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and spice.
  • Flavored paneer cubes – Mix up a bunch of spices you like and toss the cubed paneer (like a dry rub) and pan fry using ghee for 2-3 min per side.
  • Mix up  10-15 chopped nuts, couple tablespoons of fresh shredded coconut, a tablespoon of raisins, pinch of salt and pepper
  • 30-40g cheese/tempeh with a cup of fresh fruit

Note: This is NOT a fat loss diet. This is meant to fix you health by fixing your gut and once you’re able to do that, well, fat loss is just a side effect of that good health you just achieved!

And just so we’re clear

  • 1 cup = 240 ml. Anytime someone tells me ‘1 cup vegetables’ they’re talking about a cup so small you can fit in like one pea and anytime (the same) someone says ‘1 cup rice’ they’re talking about a barrel so big you can easily fit in a truck! So FYI, 1 cup = 240 ml irrespective of what is in it!
  • If you weigh more or less, adjust accordingly.
  • If fat loss is the goal, eat starch only during the meal that is immediately post workout. On other meals, stick to vegetables, cheese, milk/yogurt, lentils and fruit and stop eating well before you’re full. The best foods to pull out of this plan (when looking to lose fat) are snacks, rice and fruit in that order.
  • If you feel starved, eat more of the good stuff. Stay away from starch when you don’t need it.
  • Depending on what your current nutritional deficiencies are and what diseases you suffer from presently, you will need different amounts of different foods. It is on you to figure that out.

So what do you think? Is this a template something you can stick to (80% of the time) for a lifetime? Are there more things you’d like on here? What else stops you from eating real food? Talk to me in the comments section!

Stay sane. Stay patient. Don’t be greedy for weight loss. Focus on food quality and you’ll give yourself the gift of lifelong health and fitness.

Peace out.

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Sample vegetarian real food ‘diet’ or what I eat on Sundays

Sunday is my only day off and I tend to take it easy… really easy! I hang at my parent’s. I wake up late. Chill at home. Dont see any clients. Listen to plenty of music. Catch up with friends. You know… the usual drill. In addition to all this, I also make it a point to not workout and/or worry too much about food. I just like to go with the flow.

I don’t count anything. I eat per appetite. And since I’m taking it easy in general, I also like to give my gut a chance to take it easy and hence eat strictly real food.

So here is everything I ate today,

Breakfast

3-4 cups of lemon tea

  • I woke up at like 10:30am and didn’t find the need to eat breakfast as I wasn’t hungry and lunch time was around the corner. That way I get to eat with my mom and grandmom who talk memories and recipes to me. Priceless I tell you!

Lunch

– 4 cups of avial

  • The avial had green beans, potato, carrots, plenty of coconut, coconut oil and yogurt.
  • I topped that avial with 2-3 extra tbls of coconut oil and a handful of fresh shredded coconut.
  • 4 cups = 1 liter

– 3 cups spinach daal

  • Soaked lentils and fresh organic spinach cooked together with spices.
  • I topped this with about 1/2 tbls home made ghee.

– 1 cup whole milk yogurt

  • This if yogurt made at home from fresh cow’s milk

– 1 scoop (not natural, overly sweet) whey in 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt

  • ‘Cos my ON Natural Whey is at my place (and not at my parent’s)

– A handful of organic raw almonds

– 1 small banana

 Snack

– A cup of black coffee with a few almonds and raisins.

Dinner

– 2 cups of leftover avial

  • No excess coconut oil this time.

– 1/2 cup of horse gram sundal

  • Organic horse gram pre-soaked, pressure cooked and sauteed with spices in coconut oil.
  • I had this with about 1 cup of whole milk yogurt.

– Paneer subji country eggs in a tomato base

  • The paneer was home made from fresh cow’s milk
  • The subji had paneer from about a liter of milk and 2 country eggs mixed in.

– Some organic fresh papaya. Say about 1 cup.

Note: All vegetables, fruit and legumes are completely organic. You can find a list of awesome organic food stores in Chennai, India here.

So there ya go. Eating real food is simple, easy, healthy and absolutely delicious. If any of this seems to not ‘fit your style’, make it fit your style. I love avial and so I eat cartloads of it. If you don’t eat, something else there. Eat more food if you’re hungry. Eat less food if this is too much. If fat loss is a goal eat slightly below appetite, skip a meal and eat food that is less dense (skip the oil etc.). If mass gain is a goal, eat up! Eat till your slightly uncomfortable and squeeze in a breakfast and/or a snack.

Keep it real. Keep it simple. Keep it sustainable.

Peace out.

 

Paleo, primal, eat real food, GAPS… really?

This is probably what you'd look like at the end of this post

I think everyone will agree that the best way to eat right is to eat plenty of nutritious foods and, if possible, eat only nutritious foods. And hence the nutrition concepts concepts such as paleo, primal, eat real food, GAPS, WAPF etc. are pretty awesome. Forget the different diets circling around the internet. Forget high fat low carb. Forget moderate protein. Forget macronutrient ratios. The concept of good nutrition is that quality of food is paramount. As long as one eats foods that are devoid of anti-nutrients and wholesome and unprocessed, it can be accepted that the said person is ‘eating right’.

So in as little words as possible, any good diet concept should preach the following.

  • Eat meat, whole eggs, vegetables, roots, tubers, fruits, unprocessed whole dairy and nuts.
  • Stay away from any and all potentially allergenic grains like wheat.
  • Stay away from any and all legumes, beans and lentils unless they are soaked/fermented.
  • Stay away from sugars.
  • Stay away from anything processed.

As you can see, the emphasis here is staying away from all foods that could potentially hurt you and eating only foods that are benign. And as it turns out, the foods that don’t hurt you are actually filled with plenty of nutrients and actually help you w.r.t health and longevity. Now getting into a little more detail, the following minutiae really matter.

  • Red meat is great but all red meat should be grass-fed/finished.
  • Poultry is healthy but all poultry should be free range.
  • Seafood is filled with nutrients but all seafood should be wild caught.
  • Whole eggs are more loaded than multi-vitamin tablets but all eggs should be organic and free range.
  • Vegetables and fruits are king but all vegetables and fruits should be organic.
  • Dairy, and especially dairy fat, is healthful but all dairy should be from grass-fed animals or should at least be organic.

What’s the problem really?

All these nutrition concepts – paleo, primal, eat real food, GAPS, WAPF – work and there is absolutely no surprise there. If you eat high quality food and stay away from any and all anti-nutrients that irritate your gut, there is no chance that you won’t get healthier.

But here’s the catch. These concepts only works under one condition – you have got to do it right!

Let me explain.

Health is a not short-term goal. Health is the cumulative result of many years of eating good food among other things like leading an active and stress-free lifestyle. So for any of these nutrition concepts to help with long term health (and hence longevity), one needs to ‘do it’ for many many days. In other words – the diet needs to be sustainable. So then, the question is…

Are these concepts sustainable?

If you live in the US or in any other developed country, you’d notice that most things are easy. This holds true for everything from cleaning the house to depositing cash to eating nutritious food. But if you live in India or in any other developing country, you’d realize that it is indeed hard to get things done. And eating right isn’t an exception.

As much as advocates of all these nutrition concepts (yours truly included) argue that their concept of eating is suitable for everyone, sustainable and more environmentally friendly than agriculture dependent feeding, I still haven’t found answers to the following questions.

  • If meat, seafood & eggs forms a considerable portion of one’s diet and if high quality meat (grass-fed, wild caught etc.) is a requirement, what about places where high quality meat is unheard of?
  • If dairy is healthful and necessary for healthy living (especially in the absence of meat), what happens if grass-fed cows don’t exist and the term organic milk is always associated with ‘what is that?’ or ‘now you owe me your car’? You could go raw, but what happens if raw milk is diluted with questionable water and if raw milk is indeed unhygienic?

If you’ve read even some of my articles, you’d know that I’m a big proponent of sustainability and I keep banging on the same point over and over again…

Is your super healthy diet and/or nutrition concept sustainable?

The answer to this question depends on many factors and two of the main factors are ‘availability’ and ‘affordability’. Sure, you may have discovered the world’s best diet, but can you ‘do it’ right? Are high quality foods available? If yes, are they reasonably affordable? If yes again, is this affordable availability sustainable?

And IMHO, if you don’t have answers to these questions, then you’re just buying into another fad! Why? Well, because what isn’t sustainable doesn’t last!

Coming to India:

As most of you know, I recently moved to India (a developing country) from the US (a developed country) and I cant guarantee that the fight to ‘eat right’ is harder here… much harder.

Allow me to elaborate.

Let’s say Rahul, a chubby 40+ metabolically deranged desk-job worker with a sedentary lifestyle and limited experience and enthusiasm towards health and fitness, has been advised by his doctor to ‘eat right’. So he decides to try one of the above stated nutrition concepts. All his meals contain mostly meat, eggs, vegetables and fruits. He consumes limited whole milk dairy and enjoys a cup or two of rice say every once or twice a week.

While Rahul read the right literature, took the best advice and is following the plan as closely as possible, he doesn’t realize a few things.

  • The commonly available meat (beef, lamb, chicken etc.) is in no way close to grass-fed or free range.
  • Most commercially available seafood is farmed.
  • All commonly available eggs are from factory farmed hens.
  • Whole milk available in regular supermarkets are made from milk solids.
  • Vegetables and fruits are loaded with pesticides.

Ummm… this is what I call – epic fail!

I’m sure many of you can relate to our imaginary Indian – Rahul. You’ve made up your mind, modified your pantry and even tweeted your resolution! But are you doing it right? If yes, care to share? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Do I have answers to these questions? Have I modified my dietary recommendations? Are things really that bad or am I just orthorexic? We’ll find out in the next post.

Peace out.

Making the south Indian diet super healthy!

In the first article in this series we saw what the real traditional south Indian looked like and how it differs from what we eat today and in the second article we saw how one can tweak the south Indian diet (or your traditional diet) to create his/her optimal diet.  Today, in the third article of the series, we’ll answer two questions –

– We have the concept and even the specifics figured out, but how do these come together as food on our plates?

– How can we tweak the traditional south Indian diet to make it healthy and sustainable in the long term?

Revisiting The Basics:

Irrespective of what your food habits and goals are, the first step towards creating the optimal diet is eliminating or at least reducing greatly anti-nutrients from all foods. Specifically…

– Oils – Avoid all vegetable oils. Cook everything in butter, ghee or coconut oil. Use olive oil for super low heat cooking or as dressing.

– Sugars – Avoid anything that is sweet (except fruit). This includes ALL sugar from table sugar to honey to maple syrup to sweeteners and flavored foods from nonfat vanilla yogurt to diet soda to all natural orange juice.

– Grains – Avoid all grains except white rice. This includes all grain containing foods from roti to poori to rava upma to biscuits.

– Beans/legumes – Soak raw beans, legumes and lentils for 18-24 hours before cooking.

Once the clean canvas has been created, we add nutrients. The goal here is, in each meal, to reduce the total calories consumed from foods that contain little nutrition (rice, lentils etc) by substituting with foods that contain plenty of nutrition. For example, instead of eating 3 cups of rice, rasam and potato, eat 1 cup of rice, 1 cup of fibrous vegetables, 1 whole egg, 1 cup meat or vegetable gravy and 1/2-1 cup yogurt.

Following are food groups that are rich in nutrients and lend themselves well to be paired easily with our anti-nutrient free base.

1. Vegetables – Any and all vegetables that are in season and available locally. Organic is of course preferred.

2. Fruit – Any and all fruits that are in season and available locally. Organic is of course preferred.

3. Meat – Any and all meat that is locally available and is free range or grass-fed as the case may be.

4. Dairy – Whole milk, whole milk yogurt, full fat cheese, ghee. Organic and grass-fed is recommended.

5. Eggs – Chicken or other bird eggs. Eggs from free range chickens are recommended.

6. Seafood -Any and all wild caught seafood that is locally available.

Reinventing Traditional Foods:

Now that we have brushed over the basics, I’m going to take 5 very typical and traditional vegetarian south Indian dishes which either lack nutrients or contain anti-nutrients and reinvent them to make them super nutritious and more importantly, nutritionally relevant to our sedentary lives today. Honestly, this is so ridiculously simple and intuitive that you’re either going to kill me for the hype or kick yourself for not coming up with this yourself!

The Dosa:

I love dosa like an anteater loves ants! Every time I came home for vacation from college, I would eat about 10-12 of my mom’s awesome dosas every single day! That’s how crazy I am about this crispy sheet of crack!

Traditionally a typical dosa meal is pretty much just dosa that is served along with some coconut chutney and/or chili powder and/or sambar. Though very skinny in anti-nutrients, the meal is heavily skewed towards carbohydrates and has little to no micronutrients. Here are some ideas to fix this.

– Top each dosa with 1-2 eggs, an ounce of cheese and some finely chopped vegetables. Serve this along with a side of vegetable-coconut gravy for a well rounded meal that is rich in protein, fat and carbs and filled with vitamins and minerals.

– Make the dosa a burrito of sorts and fill it with ghee sauteed vegetables and/or eggs and/or meat. Add in some yogurt to replace the sour cream if you care.

– Make any meat or egg or seafood gravy plump with Indian spices and have plenty of it as a side for the dosa. This is exceptionally delicious and ensures that you get your protein and reap the benefits Indian spices have to offer.

– Make a large dosa. Top generously with traditional tomato chutney, mixed vegetables and/or fruit (onions, mushrooms, peppers, pineapple etc.) and shredded cheese. Bake for 10-15 min or until the cheese melts to create a nutritious and very satiating dosa pizza.

– If you’re in a pinch, soak the dosa (or Idly) in a cup of yogurt along with some spices and have that with a side of fruit.

Sambar:

If you haven’t been the source of the greatly embarrassing but absolutely poetic iisssslllluuurrrrppppppp when eating sambar, you haven’t yet been south Indian completely! Sambar is very dear to south Indians and almost every single one of my client’s have asked me ways to include sambar in their diet!

While super delicious and very traditional, sambar generally has more oil that is required and is skinny on nutrients other than carbs. To fix this…

– Try making sambar with ghee and use just the right amount of ghee since the richness of the ghee will make make even a little seem like a lot.

– Load the sambar with plenty of micronutrient rich vegetables. And by plenty, I mean PLENTY! This will result in making the sambar super thick. Top this bowl of awesomeness with 1/2 cup of yogurt and make it a meal!

– Forget the concept of making sambar with a specific vegetable and make mixed vegetable sambar more often. Vary the vegetables you use and see how much variety that brings upon. Though you eat sambar everyday, mixing up the vegetables introduces variety in your diet which in turn nourishes you with a wide range of micronutrients.

– As weird as it sounds to the seasoned south Indian ears, trust me on this and try making the sambar with eggs and/or meat. You will be pleasantly surprised at how well the textures and flavors blend. Since sambar is a lentil and tamarind heavy dish, I’d recommend that you go with meats with a neutral taste like chicken to ensure you don’t have too many competing flavors and aromas.

Tamarind Rice:

There are few things that are better when made for a thousand people than when made at home for a small group and tamarind rice is one of them. Even as a little boy I was never big on temples. I constantly whined and complained and questioned everything from the rituals to the temple cow to the priest’s hairstyles and there was only one thing that could shut me up – the tamarind rice distributed at the temple!

From a nutritional standpoint, there are only two issues with a tamarind rice meal – it is made with vegetable oil and it has nothing more than rice in it. Solutions?

– Make it with ghee or coconut oil.

– Add vegetables and dairy to the meal. The vegetables can definitely be a side and so can a cup of whole milk yogurt which provides some protein and a much needed cooling effect on the tongue.

– If you dare, pan-fry some boneless skinless chicken thigh meat and add it to the other ingredients during the mixing step. The acidity from the tamarind and the heat from the chili powder keep the meat tender and flavorful resulting in some non-traditional awesomeness!

Curd Rice:

There is sushi and pizza and brownies and pot pies and fried chicken and monster burgers… but none of this will ever come close to good ‘ol stupid simple curd rice and pickle! I’m not exaggerating here – curd rice is so close to every south Indian’s soul that no amount of research can take it away him/her for more than a month. Curd rice is food in its entirety – soulful and simple.

That being the case, the only thing that is required on a plate of curd rice and pickle, is vegetables! A meal which has 3/4 cup cooked rice, 1 cup whole milk yogurt and 2 cup of vegetables cooked with ghee contains just the right amount of calories, carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, oooohs and aaahhhs!

Poriyal and Kootu:

Ever heard of a world where vegetables are as tasty as comfort foods? Welcome to India!

But sadly today’s south Indian (vegetarian) diet has little to no vegetables! Vegetarians seem to care only about not eating meat and don’t seem to care much about eating vegetables really! Traditionally, vegetables in the south Indian diet basically meant poriyal and kootu. Poriyal is shredded or diced vegetables that are shallow fried or sauteed along with spices to produce a dry dish and Kootu is vegetables (and coconut) added to lentils to produce a semi-solid dish.

I’m sure every cuisine has a way of including vegetables in the diet, but there are two things unique about the south Indian diet – one, literally any vegetable, from bitter gourd to broccoli, can be made as poriyal or kootu with ease and two, vegetables (in the form of poriyal or kootu) are unbelievably delectable and are loved as much as the other dishes listed above!

So, today, what is wrong with south Indian vegetables? They are cooked using plenty of vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fats and they are consumed in small quantities. And what is the fix? Cook ’em using reasonable amounts of ghee or coconut oil and consume them, not by the spoonfuls but, by the bowlfuls! Done!

Summary:

– Rid your diet of all anti-nutrients like lectins, gluten, vegetable oils and sugars and prepare your beans and legumes very well prior to cooking.

– Eat less of foods that don’t have much to offer like rice, dosa, idly, oils etc. and eat plenty of nutrient rich foods like vegetables, eggs, wild seafood and good quality meat.

– If general health is your goal – eat per hunger, eat modified traditional foods to satiety to ensure you get enough mirconutrients and stay active.

– If fat loss is your goal – eat less, eat enough protein, eat starchy carbs only post training, get 80% of your calories from the nutrient rich foods and only supplement with nutritionally skinny traditional foods until you reach your goal.

– If sport performance is your goal – eat enough to recover well, eat plenty of nutrient rich foods, eat enough (modified) traditional foods to satisfy caloric needs, eat plenty of protein and carbs on training days and protein and fat on rest days.

Peace.

Note: None of the pictures used in this article were clicked by me. If you are looking for the recipe or want to compliment someone for such awesome pictures, the websites/blogs from which these pictures were taken are on the pictures themselves.

Being Vegetarian: Got vegetables?

Sure looks awesome... but is it really that awesome?

Most of you probably know that India is the most vegetarian country in the world and that it houses more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined. Considering we Indians don’t eat meat and we have multiple reasons, ranging from moral to religious to health, to stay the hell away from meat, one would assume that we eat a very nutritious diet comprising mostly of vegetables and fruit. I mean, if meat is out of the plate and whole dairy is to be consumed in moderation, one would imagine that our plates be filled with vegetables! After all we are proud “vegetarians” aren’t we?

But is this really the case?

I was born and brought up in South India and from my experience, a typical south Indian diet contains…

  • White rice
  • Dosa (Rice, lentils)
  • Idly (Rice, lentils)
  • Chutney (Chili, coconut)
  • Molaga podi (Chili powder, vegetable/sesame oil)
  • Vada (Lentils deep fried in vegetable/sesame oil)
  • Chapathi (Wheat)
  • Poori (Wheat deep fried in vegetable/sesame oil)
  • Sambar (Lentils, tamarind, vegetable/sesame oil, negligible vegetables)
  • Daal (Lentils)
  • Rasam (Tomato, tamarind, spices, water)
  • Vegetable poriyal (Vegetables, vegetable/sesame oil)
  • Vegetable kootu (Vegetables, vegetable/sesame oil, coconut)
  • Avial (Starchy vegetables, coconut, coconut oil)
  • Yogurt
  • Coffee (Coffee, milk, sugar)
  • Tea (Tea, milk, sugar)
  • Biscuits (Wheat, sugar and other junk)
  • Muruku, thattai, cheedai (Flour or lentils deep fried in vegetable/sesame oil)
  • Lemon Rice (White rice, lemon juice, vegetable/sesame oil)
  • Tamarind Rice (White rice, vegetable/sesame oil, tamarind extract)
  • Potato subzi (Potato, onions, vegetable/sesame oil)
  • Papad (Lentils deep fried in vegetable/sesame oil)
  • Pickle (Vegetable/fruit pickled in vegetable/sesame oil)
  • Pongal (Rice, lentils, ghee)
  • Idiyappam (Rice)

Ummm… maybe its just me, but I didn’t see too many “vegetables” in the “vegetarian” diet! I’m sure I’ve missed out of a bunch of other things south Indian people normally eat and I know I haven’t listed what vegetarians from other parts of India eat. But what is obvious here?

  • Clearly 90% of one’s calories come from grains, vegetable/sesame oil, lentils and potatoes!
  • A negligible amount of calories come from vegetables and fruit.
  • Though junk food consumption is less, little to no nutrition exists in the entire cuisine.
  • The majority of one’s calories come from carbohydrates and that too from grains and lentils.
  • Most of the fat consumed is from vegetable and sesame oil which are both super high in the very easily oxidizable polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Protein is almost non-existent

Why is this wrong with this?

Honestly… tooooooo many things! While I don’t have the time to get into great detail, here is what you need to know in a nutshell.

If this is wrong, then what is right?

  • Control the carb intake and include more good fats.

I guarantee you that making just these four changes will cause a very significant improvement to your health and quality of life. Try it for a month! Seriously, whats there to lose? Worst case, you’ll end up not eating your favorite foods for 4 weeks. But best case, you could better you health and possibly cure everything from asthma to diabetes to eczema or chronic fatigue to high blood pressure to high cholesterol to joint aches to sleep issues!

In the next few weeks, I will write about how to modify the current traditional Indian diet to make it more nutritious while still keeping its very own unique flavors and taste. While I do that, why don’t you folks spread the good word around? Sharing buttons below!

Peace out.

Image credit – http://www.tamilspider.com

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