Tag Archives: redefining nutrition

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.

Tweaking Traditional Diets – The Template

Let me start off by saying no real traditional diet needs any tweaking. Traditional diets are already a result of thousands of years of tweaking and they are perfectly healthy (and more importantly non-unhealthy) for you if done right. If that is the case, then why is a random fitness-crazy-not-old-enough-to-tell-you-what-to-do dude attempting to tweak an already perfect diet? Because…

– What you eat today is NOT the traditional diet the way it was meant to be. What you are fed today, in the name of traditional food, is some weird mutant form of the real traditional diet and unfortunately, this mutant version, is not helping on bit!

– Most traditional diets were developed during a time of food scarcity (hence the grain domination and elaborate methods of anti-nutrient reduction). The main goal then was to avoid ingesting anything dangerous. Only after this was achieved did people even look to add in nutrients.

– Though most traditional diets were healthy, they were healthy in combination with high activity levels, long sleep hours, low stress levels and clean air. People ingested way more calories and carbohydrates than we do today and still maintained low levels of body fat and high levels of energy throughout the day. Just the excess food (and hence excess calories and nutrients) provides protection against many deficiencies and it is something we cannot afford to eat today considering our sedentary lives.

The Concept of Tweaking:

Since I have readers from around the world, of different origins and with drastically different traditional diets, I’m going to first explain the concept of tweaking and then provide you with ‘template for tweaking’. Once you understand the concept properly, you can thenuse the template to tweak your own traditional diet and make it work for you by customizing it to suit your very own individual goals. This is precisely how I determined my optimal diet and will post an article tomorrow that shows some results.

I like to approach this in three broad steps.

Step 1: Create a base – with anti-nutrient free foods that were prevalent in your traditional diet.

Step 2: Add nutrients – by eating varied nutrient-rich real foods that have proven health benefits.

Step 3: Customize – by adjusting calories, macro and micro-nutrients based on current goals, activity levels and physical conditions.

Step 1 – Creating a Base:

As mentioned earlier, the first step is to not ingest anything that is potentially harmful. So the goal, in this step, is to find foods that both belong to your traditional diet and have no anti-nutrients in them. In my case, since I come from a vegetarian south Indian family, this would be cooked white rice, grass-fed organic dairy (milk, yogurt and ghee only), organic vegetables (specifically onions, tomatoes, carrots, gourds, plantains, potatoes and various greens), organic tropical fruits and coconut.

As you can see, though they are a part of my traditional diet, I have not included the different kinds of lentils and sesame oil since they, in my opinion, do contain some anti-nutrients that cause discomfort.

Step 2 – Adding Nutrients:

Now let’s look at the base I created from a nutritional standpoint. It contains rice, selected dairy, vegetables, fruits and coconuts and it has the potential to provide me with…

  • more than enough calories,
  • more than enough carbs/starch (from rice, tubers and fruits),
  • more than enough fiber (from vegetables and fruits),
  • enough minerals and water soluble vitamins (from vegetables and fruits),
  • enough healthy fats (from dairy and coconut), and
  • possibly enough fat soluble vitamins (from dairy).

Honestly, this is pretty darn good base to start off with! If you are unaware of the specifics of your traditional diet or don’t have the time or capability or patience to research and find out more, I’d most certainly suggest that you start with this as a base. The only exception might be dairy. I have experimented with and without dairy and it seems to do me more good than bad. You might want to start off without dairy and then see how you feel when you add it in.

Back to tweaking.

If you look into the nutritional profile of all these foods you’ll see that the only nutrients I’m possibly not getting enough of are…

  • protein
  • omega 3 fatty acids
  • choline
  • vitamin B12
  • selenium

In order to fill in these nutritional gaps, I either need to take supplements or add other nutrient rich real food. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I don’t recommend supplements unless absolutely required and hence would obviously prefer eating more real food to fix the issue. That being the case this is how I would approach the situation.

– What foods are rich in protein? Meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, cheese

– What foods are rich in omega 3 fatty acids? Seafood

– What food is rich in choline? Eggs, spinach and cod

– What foods are rich in vitamin B 12? Seafood, meat, poultry, eggs

– What foods are rich in selenium? Nuts (especially Brazil nuts), mushroom and seafood (especially tuna, crab and lobster)

Clearly, I’ll be best served if I add seafood, minimal poultry, eggs, mushrooms and nuts to my base diet and together these are MY optimal foods. And why MY optimal foods? Because these are the foods that

  • don’t bother ME,
  • MY ancestors have eaten for generations,
  • nourish me with the nutrients MY body needs in order to reach MY goals.

You see my point? Pretty simple isn’t it? Now to make this suit my goals.

Step 3 – Customizing:

The one main difference between our ancestors and us is that they didn’t really have the goals that we have today. Nutrition wasn’t something they monitored and they only cared about getting enough to eat. They lived in an era when food and nutrient scarcity was common while we live in an era of food abundance (at least to people who can afford it). And since food is available in plenty, we have the luxury of having goals. That said, let’s look at my goals and how I customize this diet to fit them.

What are my current goals?

  • Maintain body weight – which means eat just enough to not gain or lose any.
  • Improve fitness – which means get stronger, faster, more resilient and more mobile and that mean more muscle, less fat and well-lubricated joints.
  • Good health – which means no nutrient should be high enough to cause toxicity or low enough to cause deficiency.

In order to reach these goals, I would need to

  • Eat enough to fuel activity. Eat slightly more on training days and slightly less on rest days.
  • Eat only vegetables, tropical fruits, coconut, rice, dairy, seafood, eggs and nuts.
  • Eat isolated starch (rice and tubers) mostly post workout.
  • Eat a complete protein in every meal.
  • Eat fat in all meals except the post workout meal.

Done! This is it! The above 5 points form MY optimal diet! And why MY OPTIMAL diet? Because there exists no such thing as a perfect diet and there has never ever been one diet that suits everybody.

Now keep in mind that this optimal diet will dictate how I eat “most of the time“. On weekends or when I feel like I need something different, I will eat whatever the hell I want ‘cos, well, it isn’t 1900 AD anymore. Being 28 in 2011 and not eating pizza? I can never be that guy! This is a template you can use to come up a solid set of dietary rules to live by for the most part. Deviations are obviously acceptable and how frequently you deviate will depend on your goals and will dictate the quality and timing of results.

So there you go – an easily understandable concept that YOU can use to determine what foods suit YOU and a customizable template YOU can use to create YOUR optimal diet to help YOU reach YOUR goals and suit YOUR lifestyle. What do you think? What is your traditional diet? How can you tweak it to make it your optimal diet? What are your goals? How do you plan on mapping one to the other?

I really like the way this sounds! Maybe I should name this thing before some white guy (pissed off because Indians took his techie job in the bay area and taxi driver job in New York) names it after himself! 😉 What do you guys think? Any suggestions?

But honestly, this is just the start guys. I’ve been doing a lot of brain squeezing recently trying to fully formulate a concept and an easily workable template and I really think I might have something solid at the end of it all! I’ll be sure to share it with you guys as I get closer to the end product, but for now, please share this post with friends and family and help get the word out  .

In the next few days I will discuss my results from following my optimal diet and share some recipes that you can use to make traditional south Indian dishes much more nutrient dense and goal specific.

Peace.

Introducing EatRealFood.in

What if you can eat pure bliss like this all day everyday while you lose fat, get healthier and look awesome? Well… you’re in luck! Cos now you can! Read on.

We heard you!

We heard you say…

We get the real food concept! We understand the rules! We are ready to do it! But… how do we put this stuff together and make it a meal? And how can we come up with tasty and healthy meals on a daily basis??

And we decided to put our heads together and give you an ultimate solution to this problem. Introducing our brand spanking new food blog…

About EatRealFood.in:

From the many articles we have written on nutrition (here and here) and the many clients we have personally worked with, we observed a trend –

People are hesitant to try our recommendations initially but once they give it an honest attempt… well, they get addicted! Addicted to feeling good, looking great and eating lots of delectable food!

When we looked into this further, we realized that the reason most people are hesitant to try it at first is, not because they don’t understand the concept, but because they are intimidated about cooking palatable food on a daily basis. Folks just didn’t want to sign up for something that will leave them with hardly any options to eat!

Our typical conversation goes something like this…

They: What is the healthiest way to eat?

Us: Eat vegetables, meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, fruit and nuts. Stay away from junk, grains, legumes, vegetable oils and sugars.

They: No grains? No beans? No oils? How many meals can you really cook with this? I don’t think I can do such an extreme diet!

Guess what? You can make a gazillion different meals without grains and sugars and junk! And that’s exactly what we want to prove with EatRealFood.in

How to design and create foods that are undeniably delicious and unbelievably nutritious… all at the same time!

So what can you find  at EatRealFood.in?

  • Recipes
  • Food porn
  • Nutritional information about various foods

What are the guidelines under which these recipes are created?

You can get the full scoop of our dietary recommendations here.

Will the recipes be vegetarian friendly?

Absolutely! We respect people’s food preferences and will do everything we can to make EatRealFood.in a happy camping ground for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. And moreover, three of the five bloggers who contribute to EatRealFood.in are vegetarians!

How can you be involved?

We want to keep the atmosphere at EatRealFood.in inviting and fun. So please take a couple of seconds to comment on the recipes we post and if you have any suggestions for recipes or have some recipes that fit the bill, please email it to us. We will post it up and provide you with the credit you deserve! Fair enough right?

So hop on to EatRealFood.in, find out more about the chefs food fanatics and please spread the word!

Help us help you eat better!

Eat Real Food – Redefining Nutrition (Part 2)

In the previous post, I wrote about how there are so many different nutrition camps and everyone seems to be recommending what they, per their research, believe is the best way to eat. Unfortunately though, all these theories have research and anecdotal evidence proving and disproving them! A sad state really.

My Experience

In my journey towards health and fitness, I’ve spent a significant amount of time (and money!) experimenting with myself. High carb, low carb, high protein, leangains, p90x, weight watchers, very low carb, zero carb, zone, paleo/primal, south beach, atkins, vegetarian, ketogenic, vegan, raw, GOMAD, warrior – I’ve tried ’em all! Which one works? Well, every single one of them! Let me explain.

It all depends on your goals. If your goal is “weight loss”, then pretty much any diet that restricts calories in some way will work (for a while). So every time I tried one of these diets, I had a specific short term goal in mind (fat loss mostly) and these diets helped me reach my goal. But this wasn’t enough. I wanted to learn to eat in a way that helped me stay healthy, strong and in shape for the rest of my life without having to worry about diseases that plaque 90% of todays population – from the common cold to cardiovascular disease!

But the way it turned out,

  • The diets that gave me quick results weren’t healthy in the long run.
  • The ones that were healthy weren’t affordable.
  • The ones that were healthy and affordable were not ‘real life friendly’.

Clearly, none of these ‘diets’ are really a solution! So, how do I get past this yo-yo dieting that most of us end up doing and find an ultimate solution? How do I redefine nutrition? The answer was simple really – Read more. Learn more. Experiment more.

This was when I met Arvind Ashok, who was on the exact same journey as me and from that day forward its been nothing but research, experiment, measure and record… over and over and over! From all the experimentation and monitoring we did on our bodies, lipid profiles, CRP, performance, endurance, strength and body composition and from all the data we collected from our clients, we came up with the following dietary guidelines which we believe will result in long term health while helping one stay in awesome shape without having to go on multiple diets. In other words…

This is the last ‘diet’ you will ever be on!

Without further ado, here are the ‘Eat Real Food’ guidelines in my words…

Rule No. 1 – Eat Real Food

Real food is any food that you can safely consume raw. Oh hell no! I’m not suggesting that you eat everything raw. I’m just saying choose foods that can safely be consumed raw and base your meals around these foods. To get specific, things that can be eaten raw are meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, nuts, dairy and tubers and things that cannot be eaten raw are grains, legumes, food additives, junk, fillers and other chemicals/ingredients you can’t pronounce! This is a pretty harmless recommendation I think, but if you are wondering why you should eat real food, here is why.

Nutrient density

Let’s say you earn 100$ a month and thats it. What will you spend your money on? New shoes? TV? Candles? Maybe a haircut? No? Why not? Well, you earn only a few and you want to use the money wisely on stuff that really matters… like food, water, clothing and shelter.

Similarly, you can only eat so much per day without getting fat and you want to use those calories wisely to supply your body with as much nutrients as possible. Real foods are loaded with micro and macronutrients and any smart person will ensure he/she takes advantage of this.

Food and evolution

In the most simplistic terms, all living thing (plants and animals) don’t want to be killed and eaten and hence have developed defense and offense mechanisms to help protect themselves. Animals fight/run/hide and plants contain harmful toxins. While we, as a part of evolution, have learnt to fight/chase/find animals and have developed defense mechanisms against some of these plant toxins, evolution is an excruciatingly slow process and we still haven’t physically evolved to digest grains, legumes and other non-real foods. While these toxins are not acute toxins (like alcohol) they are chronic toxins and do have a cumulative negative effect on our health. For example – Grains are rich in energy (calories) and will be an amazing source of calories for a population of 7 billion people. But unfortunately we (unlike birds and rodents) haven’t evolved yet to deal with the anti-nutrients they posses. Oh well!

To spell it out, base all your meals around…

  • Meat – Grass fed beef/lamb, organic free range poultry, wild caught fish, pastured pork
  • Vegetables – Any and all vegetables that you can tolerate
  • Fruit – Any and all fruit that you can tolerate (in moderate quantities)
  • Nuts – Raw nuts (in limited quantities)
  • Dairy – Raw or organic unprocessed full fat dairy

Rule No. 2 – Mix it up

By now it should be obvious that no one food contains everything we need and there is no food that isn’t harmful at high doses. So clearly, eating the same food day after day will result in the deficiency of some nutrients and overdosage of some others. For example, spinach, though extremely nutritious, contains oxalates which when consumed in high doses can lead to kidney stones.

These potential risks can be overcome by eating a wide variety of foods in each class. Practically speaking, quit eating the same rice and lentils or chicken salad or turkey sandwich day in and day out. Vary your food choices every week and eat some seafood, poultry, eggs and red meat along with a nice mix of cruciferous, fibrous and starchy vegetables with a bit of fruit to satisfy the Vit C cravings! Whole unprocessed (and especially fermented) dairy can of course be added to some of these meals. As for the vegetarians, get a bunch of eggs along with whole milk yogurt, some organic tempeh, natto and miso instead of meat and seafood.

Rule No. 3 – Hate them numbers!

Your body isn’t dumb! Realize that the human body is a product of 4 million years of evolution. It is a machine that has been continually improved for years and years and years. This machine is equipped with some stunning organs and millions of cells, all with one purpose – to keep you alive and well! So, in spite of whatever crap you do to your body, it will doing everything it can to make the best out of the situation and keep you alive and kicking for as long as possible.

Are you telling me that such a complex machine with such a noble cause can’t control hunger and appetite? You can bet you ass it can! Your body doesn’t need you to periodically feed it with a certain number of calories. Listen to your body. When you are genuinely hungry – eat. When you are satisfied – stop. I swear to God it is as simple as this!

Note: The issues related to obesity/appetite dysregulation (which is caused by and result in leptin & insulin resistance) come into play only when you eat non-foods… especially sugars. As long as you eat real food, you have nothing to worry about.

Rule No. 4 – If its food… eat it!

This is simple. Really. You need protein, carbs and fat. Sure your body can make do without carbs. Sure your body can survive with minimal protein. And sure you can build an awesome physique on a super low fat diet. But considering each macronutrient plays one or more critical roles, your body thrives when all three are available in optimal amounts. Now how much of each is optimal? Totally depends on your activity level and training regimen and I’ll be sure to dedicate a post to macro-nutrient ratios in the near future.

But what about the good protein? Good carbs? Good fat? Well, this could get really long, so I’ll try to come up with a general rule.

Protein:

  • How much? 1 gm per kg of bodyweight is plenty if you are sedentary. That amount can increase unto ~ 3 gm per kg of bodyweight if you strength train.
  • From where? From animals and animal products just ‘cos those are the most complete and bio-available proteins. I’m talking meat, seafood, eggs and dairy. Click here for a comprehensive list of vegetarian protein options.

Carbs:

  • How much? As much as you want “need”. If you do a lot of glycogen depleting work, you’ll need more and if you don’t do much, you need less.
  • From where ? Plants… and not plant products. I’m talking vegetables, fruit, roots and tubers.

Fats:

  • How much? As much as you need to feel satiated. There is really no upper limit to this.
  • From where? Real foods. Meaning, try to limit the use of “oil”. Get your fats from meat, eggs, milk, coconut, avocado, fish and raw nuts. Ghee is an exception simply because it is fureeeekin delicious (and bloody damn healthy!).
  • What about good fats? Here ya go!

Rule No. 5 – Fuel ‘your’ body

As far as I’m concerned you need to fuel your activities. In other words, you need to eat based on your lifestyle. If you strength train 4 days a week your diet should be drastically different from that of someone who runs 40 miles a week or someone who hardly ever trains. If your definition of exercise is walking to the restroom and back, then you’re better off with some protein, fat and a tonne of fibrous veggies. But if you consistently workout/train, things get a little tricky.

You need to feed your body based on the stimulus you provide it. If the stimulus is high in intensity and frequent, deviations may be required and are acceptable. Folks who strength train on a regular basis or are currently undergoing a body transformation can do well with some quality liquid protein (whey or egg protein) immediately post workout. Sure it isn’t the most real food, but its also not real to balloon up and then work hard to shrink down. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. Once you have reached your goal, drop the liquid protein and get back to real food.

I’d make a similar argument for rice. If you perform some form of glycogen depleting activity, glucose becomes a requirement and the best source of glucose is starch. In addition to sweet potatoes, yams, taro and tapioca, white rice seems to a decent source of starch with very little anti-nutrients. It is also noteworthy that the most long lived traditional cultures have been consuming rice on a regular basis with no known ill-effects (unlike wheat and corn).

Rule No. 6 – Devour that ice-cream!

Ha! I saw those eyes light up!

The paleo diet with organ meats and grass finished beef and wild eggs might be the diet that will help you do the chicken dance on your 112th birthday… but what if you just cant live on meat and veggies and fruit? What if eating a pizza meal every other Sunday will take you to say 95? Heck I’ll take it!

Listen, I agree that a diet which is 100% real and minimally cooked is the best diet there is. But you need to realize that we live in a different world today. A world with weekly parties and donuts and pizza and TV and sport and movies! In such a world, the best ever diet is of no use to you if it isn’t sustainable! Make the ‘eat real food’ guidelines sustainable for you! And yea, even when you cheat, have some common sense and stay away from stuff that you are allergic to.

Summary

Nothing ground breaking here really. I’m saying, for the most part,

  • eat red meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, whole milk, whole milk yogurt, unprocessed cheese, any and all vegetables, any and all fruits, nuts, coconut, rice and whey.
  • eat per hunger/appetite and never count calories.
  • make the diet sustainable by eating your favorite foods once a week.

You tell me – Is this really too hard? Is extended disease free life, strength, endurance and awesome body composition not worth giving up junk and sugars and grains?

Finally, I realize that this is just a very broad framework and most of you will have specific questions about how much protein/carb/fat, what kind, when etc etc. In the next few days, I will get into the nitty gritty of eating real food and follow this post up with a post on macro-nutrient composition for various ages and activity levels (pre-natal, senior, endurance, strength, general fitness, general health etc.). I obviously can’t tell you the exact numbers here, but I’ll guarantee you that this ain’t low carb or low fat or anything that even resembles a diet!

But I can do this only if there is enough interest! So 50+ comments and I’ll write the macro-nutrient recommendations post soon!

Let me know.

Eat Real Food – (Re)Defining Nutrition (Part 1)

Someone asked me when exactly I became interested in nutrition and why I started researching about it. It was at that point that I realized that I didn’t actually ‘start’ it per se. I mean, I know when exactly I decided to not be a wuss and start getting fit, but, like a many others, nutritional research was really a slippery slope that I mistakenly led myself into.

Though my entry into nutrition was pretty typical, my stance is a little unique. Unique in that, I refuse to enroll in any one particular school of thought. I try to read everything about nutrition instead of reading only inside the circle agree with. This helps me come up with my own recommendation and ensures that my thoughts are not just a an average of the thoughts of people who I follow. In short – I’m never married to any nutritional ‘ism’ and I don’t buy into anything unless I am completely convinced!

But the draw back of such open-mindedness is confusion! The more you read, the more you learn and the more you learn, the less you know!

On one side you have low carb purists saying you totally need to keep your carb intake to under 50 g (or 100 g or 150 g), and on the other side you have lipid hypothesis lovers saying fat, and especially saturated fat, is bad and you need to keep your fat intake low by replacing fat with carbs from whole grains. On one side you have registered dieticians saying too much protein affects kidney function and on the other side you have well-seasoned fitness enthusiasts telling you to up the protein ‘cos it is invaluable. I can go on, but you get the idea.

Though I’m sure I’ll come across as a smartass, my response to all this is – Stop. The. Nonsense.

But why is this nonsense?

Ummm… let’s see…

What do you observe? No trend! None! Nada! You have arrows pointing in every direction there is!

So what’s your point Raj?

Clearly, no one knows anything definitively when it comes to nutrition! The truth is that there is enough scientific evidence to prove and disprove everything! Funny isnt it? Sure. But its scary too right? I mean, who do you trust?

  • The low carb researcher who has stacks of evidence supporting his claim that carbs causes diabetes or your doctor who says eat whole grains and less fat else you’re going to end up with heart disease?
  • The vegan Gods who say animal protein causes cancer or the paleo kings who say animal protein is paramount?
  • This study that says cheese consumption increases risk of bladder cancer or this study that says cheese consumption protects against bowel diseases?

Honestly, the answer to the above questions is – none! You can’t trust either one or anyone! If you drop down dead tomorrow will Mr. Low Carb shed a tear or will Dr. Whole Grain give a crap? Does the fact that there are so many contradicting studies prove that the human body is capable of adapting to various types of foods or does it just prove that we are masters of designing studies with known outcomes? Does the one size fits all concept apply to nutrition alone because we are all basically humans or is it more like every size fits all? If it is the first case, what is that ‘one size’? If it is the second case, then why is the majority of the population diseased?

These are all questions that I kept asking myself over and over again during my path towards the ideal diet. But did I answer these questions? What dietary recommendations did I come up with? Why those dietary recommendations? Did my recommendations evolve over the years?

The answer to all these questions, I’ll share in the next post. In the meanwhile, you tell me what you think – low carb or low fat? paleo or vegan? pro or anti dairy? What has your experience been? How have you fared in one or more of these diets?

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