What does Cinderella have in common with carbs?

Ask nutritionist Dr Ramesh Bijlani. 25 years of research makes him the man to go to for answers on how to eat right

While researchers across the world bring you grim new data about how modern-day eaters are doomed to suffer ill How To Exercise Horse In The Heat .com/topic/health”>health, a gentleman in Delhi, who has spent a quarter of a century researching nutrition, says it’s lucky if you are Indian. Eating a healthy diet is simple for us, claims Dr Ramesh Bijlani, because a traditional desi meal meets most nutritional requirements, if current research findings are anything to go by. Moderation, not monasticsm, is key. “Intolerable dos and don’ts about foods are impressive, but not desirable,” says the expert, who is out with his latest book, Eating Wisely and Well
(Rupa Publications).

Bijlani takes on four questions most of us are itching to get answered:

Why do you compare carbohydrates with Cinderella?
About 70 per cent of the energy content of an Indian diet comes from carbohydrates. Yet, they are often looked down on, as if they are a necessary evil. Affluent Indians often declare with an air of superiority, ‘I eat no carbs’, little realising that if that’s the case, they are following a poor diet. The science of nutrition can safely assert that if 70 per cent of one’s energy comes from carbohydrates, it is an indicator of a healthy diet. Dietary carbohydrates can either contain starches (complex carbohydrates) or sugars (simple carbohydrates). The principal sources of starch are cereals, pulses, potatoes and bananas.

Cereals and pulses are a package deal. They provide not only carbohydrates but protein, too, a small quantity (but an important type) of fat, some vitamins, minerals and so on. So, eating cereals and pulses automatically ensures a supply of several other nutrients, which the body needs. In contrast, sugar is 100 per cent carbohydrate. For once, such purity is not desirable; it is better to consume carbohydrates ‘contaminated’ with protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.

New studies throw up contradicting data each day. How does one figure how much water to drink?
We need just enough water to balance loss through urine and sweat. The water requirement of an adult may vary from one to five litres a day. There are two indicators to how much water to drink — thirst, and the colour of urine. If we depend only on thirst, we might drink just enough water, but just enough is not good enough; a little more is always better. The colour of urine can guide us towards that. If we drink enough water to ensure that the urine is colourless, not yellow, the water intake is just right.

Dilute urine prevents kidney stones and infection. Stones are born as tiny crystals, and this crystallisation is less likely to occur if the urine is diluted. Germs also need food material to grow on, and therefore, grow more easily in concentrated urine.

Why is re-using heated oil a bad idea?
Heating changes the oil physically and chemically. Physically, the viscosity of the oil is altered. Chemically, it may acquire carcinogenic substances. This is more likely if the oil also contains suspended food particles, which may get burnt during cooking to produce carcinogens. That’s why oil left over after frying should not be used repeatedly. Oil left over after one cycle of frying should be used by adding to a vegetable or dal. Among the commonly used vegetable oils, the one that stands heat best is coconut oil.

What’s the hype over antioxidants?
Drawing energy from food involves a process similar to burning wood. Wood burns with the help of oxygen. The process involved in the release of energy is called oxidation. Oxidation has an unpleasant by-product — highly reactive chemical entities (called free radicals, or reactive oxygen species) that can cause damage to the cells in the body. To prevent this damage, we have two antioxidant mechanisms. One is in-built, and the other is sourced from diet. A few examples of non-traditional nutrients with antioxidant activity are resveratrol and flavonoids in grapes and tea; lycopene in tomatoes and watermelons; lutein in carrots, corn, and yellow fruits; and allyl sulphides in onion and garlic.

Best time to have water
1. Water dilutes the digestive juices. So, drinking water during meals weakens digestion. If you must, make sure it’s no more than one glass. But it also helps rinse the mouth between morsels, letting you enjoy the unmixed taste of each dish.
2. Drinking water before a meal fills up the tummy, making sure you eat less. This might help you lose weight.
3. Consuming water after a meal serves as a partial mouthwash, helping keep the teeth healthy.


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