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Monday, August 22, 2011

Busting popular food myths

Myth: Cutting carbohydrates from yourdiet will make you lose weight 
Most health fanatics are cardophobic. To clear the confusion: highly refined carbohydrate sources like white bread, sugar, refined white flour and white rice is what we should stay away from (the simple carbohydrates). However, we all need the carbohydrates out of whole grain namely brown rice, nachni, millet, jowar and bajra (complex carbohydrates). The body needs glucose as the main source of fuel for energy. And complex carbs provides exactly that. These give us sustained sugars (good for our brains) and keep the insulin levels in check.

If you are worried about your weight loss, remember that healthy is not just about the race to being size zero. By cutting carbs completely, you cut off the fuel supply. Your aim should be healthy bodies first; thin will follow. Besides, you wouldn't want problems like constipation, bad breath and bingeing on sugars, would you? That's exactly what happens when you stay off carbs completely.

Myth: It's ok to have Honey, Jaggery, Maltitol, Xylitol instead of sugar 
Sugar is just not just the white crystals you consume, but is also present in white bread, pasta, cereals, processed foods, sauces. These are your simple sugars often mentioned on packages that get camouflaged: maple syrup, high corn fructose syrup, honey, sucrose, molasses, cane juice. Even the chocolate bars that claim to be sugarless have maltitol, xylitol and erythritol which are used to replace sugar only because they have fewer calories. Nevertheless, they are all derivatives of sugar and cause the same problems as sugar. The natural sugars from fruits is the only alternative for sugar at present in the Indian markets.

Myth: Our prime source of calcium is dairy foods 
It's a huge misconception that our prime calciumrich food is milk. Milk is full of saturated fats and cholesterol, which clog your arteries. Caesin, the basic molecule in milk, stresses the liver, pancreas, stomach and intestines. Commercial dairy cows are pumped with hormones and to counter udder infection they are given antibiotics, which in turn affect the villi in your intestines. So even though milk is loaded with calcium, it does not help us in any way. The alternative to dairy to get your dose of calcium? Cutting back animal foods and choose a plant-based approach. Have dark leafy greens, broccoli, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu. All these sources give us useable calcium, which nourishes us.

Myth: Cutting back all oil (liquid fat) reduces weight 
We need liquid fat (which we get from liquid oils) and the monosaturated fat (olive oil, avocados, canola, almond, peanut oils) for normal bodily functioning. We don't need saturated fats (margarine, hydrogenated oils). The most crucial one is the polysaturated fat (flax seeds, sesame, sunflower, soy, walnut, safflower - rich in omega 3, 6 and 9). We also need essential fatty acids (EFA's) because the body does not make these and you need to supplement your diet with them. Low fat or fat free diets will cause us to be hungry (depleting the omegas) which in turn will cause us to binge. Healthy liquid fat consumption actually promotes weight loss.

(Shonaalii Sabherwal is a macrobiotic food counsellor ) 

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