Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mediterranean Diet-where does the Indian diet fall short?

A recent article in WebMD states that women(I'm sure the same would apply to men too) on a Mediterranean Diet have significantly less chances of developing heart disease and stroke!
Let's analyze the ingredients for the Mediterranean Diet mentioned on WebMD and see where the typical Indian Diet goes wrong.
Mediterranean Diet: Fresh,healthy food
Indian Diet: Though we do eat lots of different varieties of vegetables,most Indians tend to overcook the vegetables which inturn reduces the nutritional values. You could try to add vegetables in dishes that normally doesn't include a vegetable(like grated carrots in phulkas, mixed vegetables in kichidi,uppmas,etc) and also include salads with every meal.

Mediterranean Diet: Portion control
Indian Diet: No portion control at all. We tend to eat till we 'feel full'. We need to keep in mind that too much of even the good things are not recommended. To get an idea of portion control,check out these slides.

Mediterranean Diet: Healthy fats and olive oil
Indian Diet: We still use saturated fats like ghee/butter/coconut oil and trans-fat(hydrogenated vegetable oils like vanaspati)in our cooking. The general belief in most houses is that unless you drown the food in oil,it doesn't taste good!!
Olive oil is expensive,but you can switch to using small amounts of oils like peanut oil,canola oil,safflower oil,soybean oil for your cooking(you could try getting a different oil each month to get the benefits of each one). The trick is to use just about a teaspoon of oil for cooking the entire dish(use non-stick pans/kadai).

Mediterranean Diet: Omega-3 fatty acids
Indian Diet: Most Indians don't eat fish,and those who do normally prefer it fried. The best way would be to eat fish in a curry or bake/broil it. Vegeterians can get their dose of omega-3's from walnuts,flax seed(and oil), pumpkin seeds, soyabeans(and soy oil) and from canola and olive oils.

Mediterranean Diet: More vegetables,less meat.
Indian Diet: Earlier this was the scene among non-vegetarian Indians,but in the recent past the trend seems to have reversed. The best thing would be to eat lean meat not more than once (or at the most,twice) a week and stick to eating more vegetables and legumes the rest of the week.

Mediterranean Diet: Wine in small amounts( 3 ounces/80 ml)
Indian Diet: Though wine does have it's benefits,it should not serve as an excuse for consuming it. You'd still get the benefits by drinking plain grape juice!

Mediterranean Diet: Whole grains.
Indian Diet: Refined foods with no nutritive values like refined flour(maida),sugar, polished rice have replaced healthy foods like whole wheat flour, jaggery, unpolished rice. Avoid (or reduce the frequency) of using these and stick to whole grains and legumes(but keep in mind the portion sizes).

Mediterranean Diet: Fruit for dessert.
Indian Diets: Desserts for us would mean 'gulab jamuns', or 'jalebis' or atleast 'kheer'. These are not just high in sugar,but most are high in oil/ghee. Eating plain fruits for dessert or even as a snack will definetly require lots of will power.

If we could just make these changes in our daily diet and exercise regularly,there would be no need for us to adopt a foreign cuisine in the name of health(and then maybe a few years/centuries down the line,researchers would advocate the Indian Diet)!!


sangeeta said...

nice suggestions , especially the portion control and about desserts..........but i believe our traditional indian food is good as a lot of whole grains , jaggery,unpolished lentils and parboiled rice have been our routine food for centuries........it's only now that a junk food n fast food culture has taken on.
secondly , i believe that olive oil has been over hyped these days , correct me if i am wrong , but my grandma only used desi ghee and she lived a healthy life and died at the age of 102, that too a perfectly natural death........these things force us to rethink about food.......i believe that unrefined , low fat and fiber rich food can be completely indian....
but yes we should always compare with other cultures to improve upon it.

Sweta (My Indian Dietitian) said...

Good point Sangeeta.
Yes,the traditional Indian diets has all it's benefits-that's why the 'mantra' among Indian health professionals is to go back to eating traditional Indian food.
Good to know about your grand mom-yes,our ancestors were definitely healthier than us,there's no doubt about it.The whole problem lies in the fact that we are not as physically active as them.They probably walked more than us,used less household appliances than us and hence had to do most of the work manually.If we started doing that-we too would be as healthy!

Varsha Vipins said...

Great Infor Shweta..I am a great lover of Med food..you said all the right points..:)

Manju said...

That is totally correct!! especially about the 'not so smaller portions" and the dessert part..as far as oils are concerned, i think people are moving towards light oils or olive oil...but yeah, it will defenitely take time to be a full convert!! loved reading this post..very informative!

chow and chatter said...

Hi love your blog, I am British and my Husband is Indian I used to work with Pakistanis and Indians in England so very aware of diet good points and pitfalls, oh and will subscribe to get good recipes from you!


I've just seen your comment on Omuraisu... It's omu from "omelet" and raisu from "rice". This is basically fried rice (most often with tiny chicken pieces, chopped onion and peas) seasoned with salt, pepper and ketchup and wrapped in a thin sweet omelet. And I think you're right, I should start another blog in English! Anyway, thank you for visiting me!

Yasmeen said...

I knew Indian diet has so many loop holes,evident in its growing rate of disease.
I agree with every point you made.Can I link this useful post too,probably next month:)

Sweta (My Indian Dietitian) said...

Great Yasmeen-that's really sweet of you!It'll be nice if more people could read it and correct the faults in their daily diets.