Tag Archives: RealFood

The Gluten(free) Myth – Part 1

I haven’t blogged in a while and a whole bunch of interesting things have been happening. Some funny and some not so much.

  • I’m trying to complete a little study I’ve been doing on myself and for that I’ve been eating more gluten and sugar than ever. Eating pizza and subs and ice cream at will is harder than I thought! Oh well. I suffer so you can smile 😉
  • Folks seems to be pulling my leg plenty with the whole no gluten no sugar thing. I’m talking to you Orange Ice Candy and Sin-A-Mon! 😉
  • We, The Quad, had a think RealFood event during which Arvind & I spoke about sustainable nutrition as a whole and that inspired plenty of folks to starting eating RealFood and go gluten-free.
  • I was at Subway ordering the awesome chicken, bacon, ranch foot long (with extra jalapenos of course) and this dude, who was on his phone, walks up to me and goes “Are you Raj Ganpath? The Quad”?. Great place to meet someone, who I’m eventually going to keep away from that very place! And no I didn’t go “Yes. And why did the guy make me a footlong?! I asked him for a damn salad!”. Always fun when self-experiments go against the grain (or in this case, the opposite).
  • I’ve been working with a bunch of folks helping them get back to eating gluten. Yep, you read that right. And guess what? These folks are happier than when they went off gluten. Who’d have thunk?!
  • And finally, I’ve been experimenting (on myself and some unsuspecting guinea pigs) a way of eating that involves eating dessert (or anything you’d normally call cheat food) everyday or at least 2-4 times a week. Sounds like BS? Wait for it!

But before I get into the practical application of all this, I want to talk about gluten, gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance and gluten love.

I am, of course, not going to go into detail about what gluten is and why it is bad for you, but I am going to address the most important questions…

Will going gluten free help me?

Should I stay away from gluten forever?

If you spend a little time dicking around at pubmed you’ll see that there are reams and reams of peer reviewed published literature talking about gluten and how it is bad for you and gluten intolerance and celiac etc etc. So clearly the argument that gluten is bad for you, is valid.

But if you change some key words and look for studies that look at wheat as a health food, you’ll, again, find reams and reams of peer reviewed published literature talking about how wheat (and other grains) helped (and will help) humanity walk towards a healthier future.

Well, this is typical isn’t it? If you are half way into nutritional research, you’ll notice that pretty much anything has evidence on this side and the other. But if you go past half way, you’ll notice that some of these studies aren’t as well conducted as you think they are. And if you read the entire study, you’ll notice that most of these studies have some major holes. Funnily, this applies to both sides of any issue. Studies that say wheat is awesome and studies that say gluten kills, both have these biases and unfortunately, anyone quoting studies, consciously or subconsciously, cherry picks studies to prove their point. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling anyone a fraud. I’m only talking about the human tendency to find what you look for, especially in complicated matters which don’t have a black and white answer (like this issue). It is extremely easy to get carried away.

So then, what is the real deal? What studies should I rely on? What is a myth? Gluten or gluten-free? Will going gluten free help me? Should I stay away from gluten forever?

Answers to this and more in the next article. No need to comment or anything but keep your eyes peeled ‘cos this is going to be good… RealGood!


Breaking down breakfast

A big part of making RealFood sustainable is figuring out how these wholesome RealFood ingredients come together to form a meal and one fairly significant issue most of us face is during breakfast. While we understand the concept of real food, it seems to me, that a lot of us are a little lost when it comes to cooking and/or assembling a legit real food breakfast. In this post, I’ll try and fix this.

Breakfast is the first meal of the day (hence the name break-fast) and doesn’t have to be consumed at a specific time as falsely believed. While it is in no way the most important meal of the day and skipping breakfast is extremely beneficial, if you do eat it, it makes sense to eat a good meal with the right ingredients as opposed to falling into the trap of believing that processed junk like cereals, energy bars, fruit juices and health drinks are actually healthful and relying on them to keep you healthy.

It is true that we have been eating breakfast for a long long time but that doesn’t mean we know, today, what to eat for breakfast. In the last 50-70 years our lifestyles have changed so drastically and we’ve been forced to shift to a lifestyle that involves minimal physical exertion. So, obviously, what we eat today cannot be the same as what we used to eat back when we lead very active lives, if we worry about health that is.

Today, most of us, wake up, sit and then go back to sleep. I’m really not kidding. Take a piece of paper (or open a spreadsheet) and note down your posture (sitting, standing, lying down, walking etc.) for an entire day and you’ll see that sitting or lying down dominates your 24 hours by a big margin. As important as it is to fix this and find ways to feature standing, walking etc. more often, it is absolutely necessary to fuel yourself depending on your activity.

The requirements

Now let’s assume that most people (who read this) spend the majority of their day doing little to no physical work. For such people, here is what is expected out of a perfect breakfast (in the order of importance w.r.t sustainability from a common man’s perspective).

  • Taste
  • Momentary satisfaction or (vaguely) instant fullness
  • Duration of satiety or ‘time to hunger’ after breakfast and energy levels between breakfast and next meal
  • Micro-nutrient richness (and absence of allergens/anti-nutrients)
  • Hassle-free availability and societal acceptance

The ingredients

Now that we have the requirements listed, let’s look at the ingredients that satisfy these requirements (in the order of significance)

1. Whole food proteins

  • Sources: Country eggs, natural cheeses and high quality meat/seafood.
  • Offerings: Excellent momentary satiety, long gastric emptying time resulting in lasting satiety and micro-nutrient richness.

2. Organic produce

  • Sources: Any and all vegetables and fruits.
  • Offerings: Excellent momentary satisfaction, taste (when cooked right) and micro-nutrient richness.

3. Farm fresh dairy

  • Sources: Whole milk, whole milk yogurt, cheese, whey, kefir, salt lassi and buttermilk.
  • Offerings: Taste, long gastric emptying time resulting in lasting satiety, micro-nutrient richness, easy availability and social acceptance.

4. Benign starches

  • Sources: Cooked white rice, rice based dishes (idly, dosa, vermicelli, pongal, puttu), pre-soaked/sprouted legumes/beans/pulses, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, taro and other tubers.
  • Offerings: Taste, excellent momentary satisfaction, micro-nutrient richness (pulses and lentils), easy and wide availability and social acceptance.

5. Oils

  • Sources: Ghee, butter and coconut oil for cooking and olive oil/sesame oil for toppings
  • Offerings: Taste, long gastric emptying time resulting in lasting satiety and micro-nutrient richness.

The meal

Now that we have the identified the right tools to do the job, let’s talk about how to do the job. Here are some examples for a 65-70kg male who works a desk job and works out 2-3 times a week.

Example 1

Two home-size ghee dosas topped with an egg each and a handful of vegetables + coconut/spinach chutney + 1 cup milk/yogurt + 1 fruit (if required).

  • If eggs aren’t an option, make them cheese dosas using about 20g of cheese per dosa.
  • If meat is an option, have the dosa with a light (little to no oil) meat gravy.
  • If fat loss is a goal, drop it down to 1 dosa and keep everything else the same.

Example 2

Three home sized idlys or 1 cup pongal/poha + coconut/spinach chutney + 1/2 cup sambar + 2 cups vegetables cooked in 1 tsp oil + 1 cup milk/yogurt + 2 eggs.

  • If eggs aren’t an option, a scoop of whey protein mixed in with the milk/yogurt will do.
  • If fat loss is a goal, drop it down to 2 idlies or 1/2 cup pongal/poha and keep everything else the same.

Example 3

Three eggs cooked any style + 150 g potatoes baked/pan-seared + 2 tsp oil + 1 cup roasted/steamed vegetables + 30-40 g cheese.

  • Potatoes can be replaced with any other root or tuber from radishes to beetroot.
  • If cheese is not an option, a cup of yogurt or salt lassi or raita will do.
  • If eggs are not an option, a scoop of whey in a cup of milk is a fair (but in no way an equivalent) replacement.
  • If meat is an option, eat bacon.

Example 4

Two cups of daal or pulses + 1-2 cups of cooked vegetables + 1-2 cups of fruit smoothie made with 1 cup yogurt and 1 cup fruit.

  • If meat is an option, add some grilled meat or smoked salmon etc and drop the pulses and yogurt to 1/2 a cup.

Example 5

Two cups of breakfast smoothie made with 1-1.5 cup whole milk, 1 scoop vanilla whey powder, 1 medium fruit/1 cup berries, 1/2 cup baby spinach, 8-10 cashew nuts.

  • If chocolate whey powder is what you have, make a similar smoothie with milk, whey, coffee powder, fruit and cashew nuts or almonds.

Example 6

Forget all of this and have a couple of cups of green/black tea or black coffee without sugar and enjoy intermittent fasting.

The reasoning

  • Listen, I know we don’t need much protein to stay healthy. But we also don’t need to sit in front of a freakin TV for hours and hours everyday or eat mountains of rice in every meal. We do the latter oh-so-happily and frequently, so we need to balance it out by doing the former. So stop trying to fight change and embrace it. If for nothing else, protein is extremely satiating and hence helps keep you fuller longer and in-turn controls overall calorie consumption.
  • If you’re going to eat any food in plenty, you better make sure you buy the best quality. Obviously you should be eating vegetables in plenty and so make sure you buy organic. No way around it. Stop being penny wise, pound foolish and invest in high quality ingredients. You’ll eat better tasting food and live a longer lasting life.
  • Starches aren’t ‘necessary’. That doesn’t mean you completely avoid them. Starches aren’t evil. That doesn’t mean you base your meals around them. Considering today’s food scenario, starches are important because they are easily available, satisfy most people’s taste buds and help most meals look & feel complete. In other words, starches are important because they make eating RealFood sustainable. So eat your starches per your activity levels and make them benign by avoiding allergenic grains.
  • If fat loss is your goal, you need to pull out as many empty calories as possible. That translates to removing as much starch as possible. If endurance training is your thing, you’ll need more starches than listed here. Eat up!

A good breakfast isn’t where it ends. Understand the concept of RealFood and make smart choices during all meals. If you think this will be of help to your friends or family, do share.

Peace out.

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Photo credit: http://www.esquire.com

What is RealFood really?

The future of health & fitness

Alright folks. I know I’ve been MIA for a while now but I’m not going to write a big story about how my life was super busy or how I enjoyed a great vacation forgetting to blog blah blah. The important thing is that I’m back and I promise to blog more frequently moving forward.

Let’s get practical

So in the last 6 months or so, if you realized, I haven’t written much sciency articles or anything that talks about the minutiae in nutrition and/or fitness. The reason for this is two fold.

1. Most of the important stuff about nutrition and training that applies to the health and fitness enthusiast, I’ve already covered. I’ve written about RealFood and saturated fat and grains and vegetables and protein requirements and macronutrient splits and superfoods and alcohol and overtraining and the best exercises and running and cardio and fat loss and much more.

2. That being the case, I’m trying not to force my readers into the ‘paralysis by analysis’ zone. I find that there are plenty of great websites/blogs that get deeper and deeper into nutrition (and fitness) resulting in (inadvertently) confusing the reader. While analysis is uber important, for the common man and for the health & fitness enthusiast whose profession is not nutrition or health or fitness, such in-depth obsessive analysis only results in paralysis.

What I have realized in the last 6 months to a year is that people don’t succeed in moving towards a healthier fitter lifestyle, not because they don’t know what to do, but because they don’t know how to do it. Let me explain.

Real-life examples help

I have an awesome online client whose goal was to lose some fat and get healthy. She was in the heavier side to begin with and had specific weight loss goals. As you may know, the heavier the person, the more the absolute weight loss you expect to start off with. So when we started, I expected her to lose about 1 kg per week. She started and saw a kilo (~ 2lb) of weight loss in the first 2-3 weeks. This could be attributed to reduction in junk food consumption and water loss and hence not true fat loss.

As weeks went by, she kept updating me with her weight and measurements and weirdly we saw no change. No fat loss. No weight loss even. Measurements were also the same. I checked with her and she said she has been doing everything required – eating only real food, working out per the plan, sleeping enough etc. She admitted that she had a few slips here and there but she had been sticking to the plan for 95% of the time.

This obviously, baffled me. I went back to her food log, again, and had a nice long look. It all seemed fine. When asked about how she felt otherwise, she mentioned that she saw improvements in all areas except weight and measurements. That is, her mood was better, energy levels were high, skin was better etc etc. So, clearly, RealFood was definitely doing its thing, but was not helping with fat loss. While I asked her to wait things out and give her body the time to heal I was concerned as to why this was happening.

My next suggestion was to get her thyroid checked. She got it tested and all her numbers were kind of normal. Her TSH was a little high but nothing too crazy. Again… baffled. We had a few calls back and forth trying to figure this out and then she sent me an email saying she was going to give this plan an honest shot for the next 30 days. If things went well, that’s great. If not, this plan didn’t work for her. I agreed and she said she wouldn’t contact me until the 30 days were over.

At the end of 4 weeks, she sends me an email saying she’s lost 5 kg.

Well… how did that happen? Did we change the plan? No. Did she eat any special superfood or pills? No. Did she go out and start working out 10 times a week? No. Then how did this happen?  Simple really. Initially, she didn’t do the plan as is. Now, in these 30 days, she did it. And why did this happen? During the initial stages, she was unaware of how to do this right and as a result did it wrong. In the last 30 days, since she set a hard deadline for herself, she was determined to find a way to do it and, well, she found a way and did it right.

What’s my point here?

Most people either take this too lightly or don’t put in enough effort to do it right. And why does this happen? Because most people are lost in the “how to do this” zone. For example, my client, from above, would’ve been able to do this right the first time if she had better a better understanding of the “how to” part of the concept.

To try and solve that issue, I’ve written in the past about how to create your own optimal diet and about how to design your own training plan. I’m know it helped a bunch of folks, but I still don’t think it is enough. So, moving forward, I plan on writing a lot addressing the practical aspects of RealFood, optimal training and lifestyle changes. In other words, my future articles will focus on…

  • Sample diet plans
  • Examples of training routines that can be done with little to no equipment
  • Ways to eat RealFood when traveling
  • RealFood recipes
  • Simple non-obsessive ways to include more RealFood in your diet
  • RealFood for kids
  • RealFood for older folks
  • RealFood with little to no meat
  • Motivation

In my dictionary, sustainability is more important, MUCH more important, than anything else. If you look at RealFood as another diet to lose weight, then it will only act like another diet i.e making you skinny, weak, unhappy, irritable and eventually, fat again. The point is to make lifestyle changes.

We live in an age of information overload. The problem is not lack of information but over abundance of it. The future of health and fitness is sorting through the BS and finding a way to make sustainable lifestyle changes. And that’s exactly what I’ll be focusing on.

If you guys have any thoughts on this or any suggestions as to what you’d like addressed talk about it in the comments section and I’ll be sure to address it.

Peace out.

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