Yogurt, energy bars, baked chips, noodles made from whole wheat flour – all sound healthy, right? Unfortunately, they are not. A number of companies today have made buzz-words like “all-natural,” “gluten-free” “low in calories” and “fat free” very popular. However, people need to understand that these are ways to attract their attention as buying healthy, nutritious food doesn't just mean you need to buy expensive packaged stuff ultra-processed foods. When you eat healthy natural foods, it helps improve your overall health—whether that's building your physical health or sharpening your mind. The next time you visit a supermarket or order food online, make sure your grocery list does not contain these foods.
Eat your fruit, don’t juice it
Fruit juices are commonly misunderstood as health foods, as they contain various vitamins and minerals that are considered essential, like vitamin C from oranges. However, the issue with this is that juicing results in the loss of dietary fiber and essential nutrients that are present in the pulp and skin. Moreover, if someone who has health conditions like diabetes or obesity consumes it, it will spike the sugar levels considering the high sugar content. When the natural fiber is removed, the fructose is absorbed more quickly, leading to a sudden spike in blood sugar, causing the pancreas to release insulin to stabilize it. Over time, this mechanism can wear out, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Packaged juices are also extremely harmful as they are concentrated and often have extra flavors, additives, and added sugars. Hence, it is advisable to eat your fruit instead of having juices, as apart from the things mentioned above, it is great for your oral health as well.
Ditch the bars for instant energy burst
A gruelling session at the gym, right before an after-work event or in the middle of an extremely busy day, makes you crave something that would give you that extra push to last the entire day. The next time you reach out for that granola or energy bar lying in your bag, think again! Though these bars often seem like healthy snacks, they shouldn’t be consumed as they are high in calories and have added sugar and preservatives. All the effort put in at the gym or workout session will go in vain. Instead, one should switch to dry fruits, roasted nuts and seeds. Having a handful of dates, figs, walnuts, roasted almonds and groundnuts, assorted roasted sesame, watermelon seeds, etc. can help you survive those long days without getting tired.
Switch to natural from packaged Energy drinks
If you are someone who plays a sport regularly or indulges in intense physical activities each day, you may consider having energy drinks to replace the lost electrolytes. However, these drinks will add to the calorie intake considering the high sugar content as they are laden with. The best bet here is consuming simple water or coconut water, lemon water, buttermilk ,fresh herbs and spices infused waters or even our traditional kadas as it will not only quench your thirst in a healthy way, but you’ll also avoid unnecessary calories that can have a severe effect on your health.
Say no to cereal for breakfast!
Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is often connected to consuming cereal being poured out of a box into a lovely coloured bowl first thing in the morning. A lot of people think they are eating right as cereal is commonly marketed as being full of vitamins, minerals, whole grains, fiber, etc. Also, terms like ‘low fat’ cereals and ‘high protein’ cereals have contributed to their popularity. However, a closer look at the content list of most cereals will show they aren’t as healthy as they seem. They are high in sugar and classified as refined carbohydrates, making them a big no for consumption. Also, look at the implications of ultra-processed corn on health. It is advised that one looks at healthier options like, poha, upma, idlis, dal chilas, or dosas, thalipeeth etc. which can be eaten with functional and super food rich fresh or dry chutneys made from dry coconut, roasted gram, garlic and roasted seeds and spices.
Avoid the plant-based milk fad
A growing number of people consider plant-based milk like soy, almond, and oat milk healthier than cow’s milk. However, these so-called milk may come ladened with added sugars and flavours making them very unhealthy for consumption. Unless you have an allergy or a serious taste dislike, you should consume cow’s milk plain with turmeric or nuts or as buttermilk plain or to which curry leaves, roasted jeera, or pink himalayan salt can be added. Make this choice over fortified plant-based milk.
Read the label of your multi-grain bread
Often considered a healthy alternative to regular refined wheat flour bread, is the multi-grain bread. Please read the ingredient label as you may find a high content of unbleached wheat flour or a mix of refined flour to bind the grains together which does not add to the healthy factor. One should avoid bread that has the word “enriched” in the ingredient list. The word implies that the grains have been stripped of their nutrients during processing and then added back to make up for the deficit. Choose bread that lists whole grains, like whole wheat, and millets as the first ingredient.
Be careful while consuming cherries and apricots
We love cherries and apricots—raw, cooked, or in a pie. We sometimes cannot stop and can eat a box full of them. It actually comes as a surprise to find that it can be life-threatening. The stones in cherries and apricots are toxic, so one should beware if you like to chew on them while eating the fruits. If the stone is chewed, crushed, and swallowed, it produces hydrogen cyanide, which can be very harmful. This can cause headaches, dizziness, confusion, vomiting, and some serious threats like high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and kidney failure.
To eat healthily, one doesn’t need to have things that come in fancy packaging. One should stick to the local vegetables and fruit and consume them in their purest form. Just by keeping this in mind, one can attain the health goals that will keep them fit and happy! Fad diets and advice from lifestyle gurus shouldn’t be your holy grail when it comes to nutrition. Consult a qualified nutritionist to understand what is best for your body and health.
(This article is attributed to Dr. Ratnaraje Krishna Thar, Senior Dietician Nutritionist at Connect and Heal)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV)