Tag Archives: real food

All about daal

And by daal I mean lentils, legumes and beans. We love ‘em, don’t we? They’re such a significant part of the Indian cuisine that you can’t ever find someone who isn’t fond of them. And rightly so, from the nutritional standpoint. Wonderful micronutrient balance, extremely rich in folate and molybdenum, scarily high in fiber, excellent source of low GI carbs and a decent source of vegetarian protein! What’s not to love for a carb loving vegetarian society?

chana-pindi-recipe

(This amazing photo was shot by the author of this really cool recipe –  www.vegrecipesofindia.com/pindi-chana/)

Anyways. Let’s keep the love and pride going but let’s be careful to not get carried away because these little pods of nutrition aren’t entirely harmless.

Phytate alert 

Now, lentils contain something known as ‘phytates’. We wouldn’t worry much about these little guys if they behaved well. But they don’t. They inhibit and/or slow down absorption of nutrients from healthful foods that work so hard to consume. So in order to reduce phytate content, our ancestors traditionally soaked all lentils, legumes and beans before cooking and consuming them. If anything that changed since then, it is the fact that we consume much lesser nutrients today and it becomes even more important to ensure their absorption is not inhibited.

Carb alert 

Also, remember that lentils are only a decent source of protein but they are a great source of carbohydrates. Depending on the type, each cooked cup will contains 12-20 grams of protein and 40 to 50 grams of carbohydrates. So the ratio between protein and carbohydrates will be ~ 1:3. Now that’s not too bad for most of us.

But the problem is when we combine it with a starch like rice or roti. Since the rice or roti is basically all carbohydrate, the ratio drifts more towards carbohydrates and ends up at ~ 1:6. Which is, well, bad especially considering most of us eat way too much carbohydrate rich foods all day everyday.

Fat alert 

And who eats a plate of lentils just steamed or cooked? We like some tadka on it or we like to maakhni it up or just add some all powerful ghee to it. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating fat, be sure to not overdo it. You don’t want too much tadka or ghee on your daal or beans. And if you’re eating daal maakhni or any preparation of lentils that is rich, you want to remember that it’s not just a harmless bowl of lentils but a dish is dominated by fat and carbohydrates.

Stupid alert 

1 cup means 1 standard cup which is 240 ml. Yes, that coffee tumbler you have at home. No, not the rice bowl you’re pointing at.

Enough alerts. Time for fixes.  

But it’s OK. Not everything is lost. I have some fixes that will help you continue the lentil love saga without having to loosen your trousers.

  1. Soak lentils, legumes, beans and even grains for a few hours before cooking.
  2. Keep the starchy foods to a minimum when you’re going lentil crazy. Yup. No roti or rice. Sucks. But you got yourself into this mess.
  3. Save the rich and creamy lentil dishes for a day of indulgence, which, I’m sure we’ll all agree, isn’t too rare these days.

Cool? Now, if you’d like to understand more, here are some links for further reading.

  1. Stephan Guyenet explains why lentils are real food and how to prepare and consume them for optimal nutrient absorption.
  2.  The fine folks at the Weston A. Price Foundation take it a step further and discuss phytates in detail.
  3. And finally, the in-depth nutritional profile of lentils on WHFoods.com.

Now, you tell me. Was this helpful? Did you learn a thing or two you could use in daily life? Do you have related questions? The more you talk, the more I talk. So share your thoughts here and share the knowledge for your health conscious friends on social media.

Always remember – when in doubt,  keep it simple.

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Does calorie counting really count?

During my initial fat-loss days, I cooked plenty but I knew exactly what went into every meal of mine. I would mentally split each dish I cooked and come up with caloric calculations so I worked towards eating a particular number of calories, protein, fat and carbs. The numbers were important. Very important. If my spreadsheet had numbers higher than required, I’d feel like I screwed up.

Anytime and every time my wife (then girlfriend) cooked for me, we’d get into an argument ‘cos my first reaction was “Tastes great but can you tell me exactly what all you put in it… and in what quantities?” or “Wow! This is awesome! But it looks like you’ve added a little too much cream” or “I’ll just take a bite”. God bless her for marrying me.

Whenever we went out to eat, I’d either order the blandest most uninteresting dish on the menu or I’d eat beforehand and come up with an excuse for not eating or, even worse, cancel plans after knowing that the chosen restaurant had no healthful options. If I did go out to eat, I was always confused. How many calories does 3 tablespoons of daal makhani contain? How about that roti? Or that burrito?

Basically, I was a slave to numbers, a stalker to tasty food, a pain to friends, a fool to myself and a stranger to real nutrition.

Calories

If you think counting calories is way to go then you might as well believe this too

Hello there. We haven’t met, but, if you’re reading this, I’m pretty darn sure you are or were like I was. And today I hope to help you learn from my mistakes. I hope to teach you nutrition. I hope to break your shackles and let you live free as you continue to lose fat and gain health.

Why calorie counting doesn’t really count

1. Body smart. You dumb.

Realize that the human body is a product of 4 million years of evolution. It is a machine that has been continually improved. This machine is equipped with some stunning organs and millions of cells, all working to keep you alive and well. So, in spite of whatever you do to your body, it will do everything it can to make the best out of the situation and keep you alive and kicking for as long as possible.

As shocking as this might be for many of you, this machine regulates hunger, appetite, excess energy (fat) storage, fat oxidation and energy production magnificently well. That being the case,  it should be obvious that the super computer that is your body is much more capable of “counting”, monitoring and regulating calories and other nutrients than you ever can.

2. All calories are not the same

A calorie is not a calorie. In other words, calories you get from carbs are not the same as the ones you get from protein. They serve different purposes and they serve different individuals differently. Based on your genetic make-up, athletic history, current level of physical activity, hormonal (dys)regulation etc., the effect of a calorie from different foods is different on you than it is on someone else. So, setting a caloric budget and living under that, might make you skinny and weak but it ain’t making you healthy. 

3. Consumption isn’t absorption 

When counting calories, you count the calories you eat. But what is consumed is not what you absorb! Say you eat, 3000 calories/day. Depending on your gut health, chances are you won’t be absorbing all these calories. The calories in vs calories out equation holds true, but only at the gut and not at the mouth. You will need to take into account how many of your ‘consumed calories’ are converted into ‘absorbed calories’ in order to use the equation. Your simple equation just got uber-complicated. And considering there is no easy way to find out the conversion percentage, well, your equation just became worthless.

4. Health is more than calories 

Fat loss is a side effect of good health. Nothing more and definitely nothing less. While total calories matter, providing your body with enough nutrients (protein, fat, carb, vitamins and minerals) matters more. Focussing only on calories while dropping the ball with nutrients is being penny-wise, pound-foolish.

5. It is simple math. But you will get it wrong almost every time.

A banana has 80 calories. Say you eat 20 bananas in the next 10 days. So that is 1600 calories? But what if the banana was bigger or riper than the one used to make the calorie calculation? What if the banana actually had 98 calories instead of 80? That works out to be another 22.5% calories you didn’t account for. If this is the case with something as basic and unprocessed as a banana, what about cooked foods and dishes? How many calories are you really off by when you eat that avial or Korean charbroiled chicken? Is your calorie counting software telling you the truth or just spitting out a random number?

6. Life is too beautiful to be spent counting.

The only way you’re going to stay in shape is to continue counting calories for every morsel you eat for the rest of your life? Really? Definitely not what I call healthy living.

How to lose fat and gain health without ever worrying about calories

Step 1: Eat real food

Real food is any food that we humans can eat without any allergic reactions. Now this changes from person to person and most people today don’t really know what they are allergic to. But enough studies have been conducted to prove that for most people the safest non-allergenic foods that contain an abundance of nutrients are organic vegetables and fruits, farm fresh dairy, high quality meat/seafood/eggs, pre-soaked lentils/beans and cooked white rice. As a first step, build MOST of your meals around these foods and eat others sparingly.

Step 2: Prioritize the right foods 

In addition to eating real food, it is absolutely critical that you prioritize the foods that help you walk towards your goals. If fat loss is your primary goal, then prioritizing produce, dairy, meat, seafood and eggs is your fastest, healthiest and most sustainable approach. In other words, fill your plate with plenty of these and have starches (rice, other grains, beans etc.) as a side.

Step 3: Eat only when hungry 

I know you’ve been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that 6 small meals a day keep your blood sugar under control yada yada. But unfortunately none of that is true. You see, we humans are adapted to the ‘feast & fast’ method of eating. Back when we were hunter-gatherers, we hunted and when there was food we ate like there was no tomorrow. Following that, we fasted till we found more food. The people may have changed but our genetic make up has hardly changed in the last 4 million years. So stop listening to corporations and experts trying to make a buck out of you and listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry.

And if it isn’t clear already, it is absolutely healthful to skip a meal every now and then, not because you’re trying to eat lesser calories, but because you’re just not hungry.

Step 4: Eat to satiety 

What makes sense – eating until you reach a certain number that, as explained above, has no physiological significance for a multitude of reasons, or eating to satiety? Numbers are new. So is the science of determining how many calories are present in different foods and the pseudo-science of restricting a certain number of calories to lose fat. What is old and flawless (for a generally healthy person) is the body’s ability to regulate hunger and appetite and signal satiety. So, as far as quantities are concerned, the only thing you need to do is to eat till your satiated but never till you’re full.

Spelling it out

Here is how I like to deal with nutrition. No plans. No time-tables. No nonsense. Just a simple sensible list of everything one can eat in a day. It is then up to the consumer to figure out what he/she would eat when or how based on his/her lifestyle, likes/dislikes, cuisine/recipes, food choices, availability etc.

Here is what a moderately active 70kg adult needs to eat per day in order to lose fat at an optimal rate. Eat more/less based on bodyweight and activity.

  • Organic vegetables – 300-500g
  • Organic fruits – 1-2 medium
  • Meat/seafood – 100-200g lean meat/white fish
  • Whole eggs – 2-3
  • Starch – 1-1.5 cups cooked rice or equivalent
  • Lentils/beans – 1-2 cups cooked
  • Oil – 1-2 tablespoons ghee/butter/olive oil/coconut oil
  • Farm fresh dairy – 1-3 cups whole milk/yogurt
  • Natural cheese (in place of meat) – 40-50g of paneer or other cheese

So leave the counting to blackjack and just eat real food.

Peace out.

– – –

PS: I originally wrote this article for The Week’s SmartLife and it was published in their November ’12 edition. 

Image credit: http://www.juxtapost.com/

The EBV meal

As we slowly move our fat behinds and spilling bellies into the 21st century making good food choices becomes more and more of a struggle. For instance, we first had cookies. Then we had Oreo cookies. Now we have Oreo stuffed cookies! Are you kidding me? What’s a fat boy to do?! Not eat it? Blasphemy!

While I’m super excited about what is up next, I’m also petrified about how this is going to cause an uncontrollable downward spiral of our already crashing healths. That being the case, it becomes more and more important to make good food choices on most meals so that we can live long enough to enjoy tomorrow’s awesome treats. One of my recommendations to eating right while still keeping taste, nutrition and satiety levels high is the EBV meal and this is how it works.

You eat beans, eggs and vegetables. Nothing more. Nothing less.

You will need…

  • 2 – 4 whole country/free range eggs
  • 1 – 1.5 cups pre-soaked beans (any kind. mixed is fine)
  • 1 – 2 cups raw vegetables (mixed is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons ghee or coconut oil or lard
  • Salt, pepper, spices and toppings per taste
  • 1 cup milk or yogurt (optional)

You will need to…

  • Make a serving of beans. You can make it the Indian way (daal) or mexican way or american way (chili) or my way i.e cuisineless (add stuff you like and make it taste awesome). Of course, you can very well add your 1-2 cups of vegetables and cook them along with the beans to make the cooking simple.
  • Cook your eggs. Hard boiled, sunny side up, omelet, poached they’re all fine. You can even make this a gravy and add in the vegetables if you choose to.
  • Cook your vegetables. Saute, pan fry, broiled, steamed, baked they’re all fine.Or eat ’em raw if that’s how you roll.
  • Top your vegetables and/or beans with 1-2 tbls of shredded coconut (optional of course) or raw cut onions or green mango or cheese or bacon whatever else floats your boat.
  • Other options:
    • Top the beans with vegetables and eggs.
    • Scramble the eggs along with the beans and/or vegetables.

Nutritionally, you will have consumed…

  • Calories: 500 – 900 kcal
  • Protein: 30 – 55 g
  • Carbohydrates: 50 – 85 g
  • Fiber: 15 – 22 g
  • Fats: 20 – 40 g
  • Vitamins: Plenty (depends on choice of beans and vegetables)
  • Minerals: Plenty (depends on choice of beans and vegetables)
  • Satiety: Very high due to the abundance of protein, carbs and fiber.
  • Taste: Awesome (but that’s only ‘cos I’m a pretty good cook. So suit yourself!)

And you will realize this is awesome, because…

  • The meal is filled with nutrients.
  • The meal is free from gluten, sugar, soy and other anti-nutrients.
  • You can very easily modify the meal to suit your goals be it fat loss or performance or muscle gain or general health – high/low calorie, high/low fat, high/low protein, high/low carb etc.
  • Variety is unlimited ‘cos you can vary the vegetables and beans every time (black, kidney, toor daal, pinto, moong daal, chick peas, double beans, ) and the nutritional value will still stay high up.

So next time you’re out of options for a meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, soak some beans, crack some eggs, chop some vegetables and you’re good to go!

Adios!

Success Story: Swarna got her life back!

I don’t post many success stories in here, but this one has to be read and is long due! Swarna sent this to me back in September 2011, but I just have been lazy! Apologies.

Swarna, was truly an amazing client. She trusted me, stayed the course, was open to making any and all changes that I recommended, very respectful of my time and, most importantly, a tiger when it came to implementation! Not once, and I repeat, not once, did she ever complain or whine about not being able to eat wheat or that she didn’t know how to make real food tasty or that the workouts were too intense or blah blah. In short, no excuses, no BS. All action, all results.

I know I say this about all my clients who see great results, but it is the fact! Stay true to your goals, trust your coach, don’t complain, don’t get greedy and look for shortcuts, don’t find ways to justify quitting, do the program AS IS, eat as told and results are inevitable! If you are indeed serious about your goals, be it fat loss or joint health or strength or performance, 6 months of watchful sensible eating and staying active is a breeze. And even better, what you get in return for 6 months of being diligent is just worth so much its hard to describe! Don’t believe? Ask Swarna… or Neha or this 61 yr old or any of my other clients who stayed the course.

OK. I’ll shut up now and let Swarna talk.

In one sentence if you want me to describe the effect of my nutrition/fitness session with Raj it is “Raj gave my life back”.

When I came across Raj’s blog my condition was thus:

  • Excess fatigue attacks, which lead me to sleeping straight 18 hours.
  • Severe joint paint which made me immobile. Knee pains as if I am 60 year old and not in 30s.
  • Doctor diagnosing that my condition is mostly Fibromyalgia and referred to a neurologist and even though I know I was not depressed I was given anti depressant
  • Flu like body pains
  • Sever heartburn, stomach cramps
  • Recurrent vertigo attacks
  • Insomnia, trouble getting sleep and very less sleep of only 3 hours or so
  • Neck and shoulder pain.
  • Every day morning the possibility of facing the day was gloom. No energy, no stamina. Everyday living was a chore.
  • No energy
  • NO zeal for life
  • Concentration level down in the dumps

Then I came across Raj’s blog. That was definitively my lucky day. I enrolled in Raj’s online fitness regime and within a month there were so many changes. Going of grain immediately solved my insomnia. Real food solved my chronic constipation and stomach cramps. Off sugar stopped vertigo attacks. I was about 11 pounds overweight, but within 3 months I lost 14 pounds, more than I bargained for, which is wonderful

Raj was very helpful throughout and answered questions and suggestions to help my health. I, being a lacto vegetarian brought up in India, never thought this, but found I was milk intolerant and thanks to raj for helping me to find this .

I feel much better these days…maybe I got rid of my fibromyalgia…if that is even possible…or at least I almost did it.

By cleaning up my food and adding stuff rarely on cheat meals I found that I am very intolerant to gluten, milk and vegetable oils. If I avoid those I am not just good but great 🙂

The workout routine has made me more energetic. No more severe overall body pain or neck pain or fatigue crashes. Very less pain these days and I am sure over the period of time I will conquer that too.  And as bonus my weight has also come down.

No pain reliever pills, no fatigue crashes, life is wonderful and my concentration level has rocketed high. For the first time, yesterday, I played soccer with my son! It was humongous achievement for me, because 4 months earlier getting out of bed during weekend was a big question.

Thanks Raj!

Swarna continues to follow my real food recommendations eating awesome wholesome meals with plenty of fat, carbs and protein. She is healthy, solid and still very curious and helpful, questioning, learning and contributing in our FB group.

Heres wishing Swarna awesome health and continued success in 2012!

Peace out.

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.

 

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