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ghee

After being quoted as the “new” superfood by health experts in the West, it seems GHEE has started to receive the appreciation that was long due. Get away from misconceptions of Ghee and know some eye-opening and beneficial health facts about Ghee.

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Eating right food before the exams not only helps you to boost your memory but also helps in keeping calm in the stressful times. Ensure you’re at your best on exam day!

 

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It is quite common these days to see ‘worry levels’ go up after routine blood tests and medical check-ups that reveal a “cholesterol problem”. This revelation is often followed by the advice to cut down on all fat in your diet- oil, ghee and butter, all of which are integral to our Indian diet- or risk a heart attack. Unsurprisingly, cholesterol has become a term that induces fear and paranoia, leading people to make drastic and unnecessary changes to their diet.

The fact is that this fear is unfounded as there is growing evidence that cholesterol is not the cause for atherosclerosis (formation of plaque along the arteries), heart attacks and strokes. Part of this paranoia is due to a misunderstanding between correlation and causation: just because many heart patients have higher levels of cholesterol does not mean that their heart disease was caused by the presence of cholesterol.

Therefore, it is important to get a better understanding of cholesterol and its functions in our body, before we consider dietary implications.

Why cholesterol is essential for our body

Contrary to the common mis-perception, cholesterol is an alcohol- and not a fat- that is produced by most cells of our body and the liver. It contributes immensely to the proper functioning of several parts of the human body, often playing a ‘protective’ role.

-Several important hormones including estrogen and testosterone are produced from cholesterol. Similarly, it is integral to the production of hormones that protect our immune system and the creation of vital neurotransmitters that affect our brain and nervous system. The production of Vitamin D- which is known to have a bearing on our mental state/ mood, bone density, weight loss efforts- also requires cholesterol.

-Cholesterol also aids in the repair of blood vessels and membranes and demonstrates anti-oxidant properties protecting cells and tissues from free radical damage.

-Likewise, the proper functioning of our digestive system and maintenance of the intestinal wall is also dependent on cholesterol. This is because it is essential for the creation of bile salts that are required for the proper breakdown of nutrient components namely carbs, proteins and fats.

-Perhaps the greatest acknowledgement of the vital role of cholesterol is the fact that mother’s breast milk has 60% cholesterol. We all know the priceless nature of “maa ka doodh” in the healthy development of a child.

HDLs, LDLs and the talk about good and bad cholesterol

Before we get too carried away by the technicalities of HDL and LDL, let us understand that both of these are important in either the transportation of cholesterol or the repair and damage control of cells and tissues. The “good cholesterol” (HDL) acts mainly as the cholesterol recycling system, transporting it to and from the liver, while the LDLs (“bad cholesterol”) are involved greatly in the repair and protective functions.

What is most important to remember is that the only real “bad cholesterol” is the oxidised cholesterol. Processed foods, packaged fats and refined, hydrogenated oils are among the main sources of such oxidised and rancid fats and cholesterol, which can contribute to the creation of plaque in the arteries and cause blockages.

Lessons from traditional diets: the problem is with “processed” and “refined”

A review of the traditional diets of some of the high-longevity societies in the world (mainly Europe) contradicts this myth about heart disease caused by high quantity of fats or cholesterol in the diet. For example, the French, Greeks, Austrians and Swiss people consume some of the fattiest diets in the world but their lifespans are also among the longest. Heart disease statistics from some of these countries are also significantly lower than, say, in the United States (in some cases, 50-70% lower!). This is because, unlike American diets, the fat consumed is mainly from farm-fresh, unprocessed food.

Several other instances galore, ranging from the diet followed by the Masai warrior tribe of Africa – where the animal fat intake is almost 5 times than that of an Average American- to those in the Mediterranean region, whose diets comprise almost 70% of saturated fats. In sharp contrast to what we are conditioned to accept, instances of heart diseases in these regions are much lower than what is seen in countries adopting and practising western diets.

Because of native cultures making a transition to more western diets of processed, refined and hydrogenated fats, the Japanese, who historically had the highest longevity, are now beginning to be more vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes. And is it not true that until few decades back when we followed timeless food wisdom passed on to us from our ancestors, we as a nation, lived healthier lives with a better sense of well-being?

Modern science is now in sync with traditional wisdom-

After more than 50 years of advice to avoid cholesterol foods, the current scientific thinking on cholesterol is that there is NO linkage between dietary fat/cholesterol and cholesterol in the blood and consequent heart diseases. “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” the 2015-2020 US Dietary guideline now reads.

Tips to handle this cholesterol “problem”

A common question we get in our diet consultation is how to keep cholesterol at bay. It’s quite simple really:

¬ Keep faith in your traditional diet

Let us take a leaf out of the culinary habits of the French and the Swiss and rely more on our own native, traditional food wisdom. Rely on time tested advice and eat wholesome that your great grand mom recognizes as food.

¬ Cut down on processed foods

Instead of worrying on the potential effects of eggs, makhan and ghee, focus on cutting out processed and refined food items from your diet. Both butter and ghee have numerous benefits, as highlighted in our previous blogs. So ditch the cookies, biscuits, chips, muffins and start putting ghee back on your rotis and dal.

¬ Engage in regular physical activity

As we have continuously advocated, regular physical exercise is a must to keep various ailments at bay- including diabetes and heart disease. Make sure that you give up a sedentary lifestyle and keep moving. Adequate movement itself will go a long way in keeping your heart healthy.

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REFERENCES

1.Low cholesterol levels are worse than high: Dr.Axe

2.Cholesterol might not be a nutrient of concern, Time magazine

3.Cholesterol in diet advice overturned in US, CBC News

Confused by the misinformation about potential health problems with traditional Indian foods? Get in touch with well-known Mumbai dietitian and nutritionist, Munmun Ganeriwal, a strong advocate of the holistic, wellness benefits of fresh, local, and traditional Indian foods.

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How a balanced diet improves productivity at work

As professionals, we face a world of possibilities and challenges every day at the workplace, where our mental fitness is tried and tested, time and again. Surprisingly, when we think about the factors that help contribute to our daily performance and productivity at work, we probably would not give “food” much thought. Yet, age-old wisdom and modern research both point to the positive effects of a balanced diet on the way we think, feel and work. Wouldn’t you agree that anything that can improve your brain health and mental functioning capabilities is literally some serious “food for thought”?

According to the teachings of Yoga, the ancient Indian philosophy, the Annamaya kosha (our physical body) and our Mana (mind) are a direct reflection of the Anna (food) we eat. Modern research concurs with this ancient wisdom and is now telling us that what we eat, how we eat and when we eat, all affect our body and brain. Our diet influences not only how we look and feel but also our cognitive performance while taking decisions and executing plans, as this article in the Harvard Business Review points out.

Similarly, an article published by the Mental Health Foundation indicates that food plays an important contributing role in the development, management and prevention of specific mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s. The Foundation’s study showed that people who ate healthy foods on a daily basis had fewer mental health problems than those who preferred unhealthy foods (packaged food and takeaways). A balanced diet providing adequate amounts of carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and water can contribute immensely to a balanced mood and feelings of wellbeing, the study asserts.

The temptation to eat junk food

The temptation to eat junk food

To better appreciate the cause-and-effect relationship between food and our work performance, let’s understand the functioning of our brain in simple terms. The brain needs energy to perform its functions and be alert. This energy comes from conversion of the food we eat into glucose. When we do not eat well and allow the glucose levels to drop, our energy is drained which in turn affects our ability to focus. No wonder we often hear people say, “I cannot think on an empty stomach”.

Unfortunately, this is often when one falls to the temptation of unhealthy, junk food. Despite intuitively knowing the difference between “good” and “bad” food, it is quite common to succumb to the lure of unhealthy food choices that seem more appetising, cheaper and convenient.

How to Start Eating Right (healthy)

Thankfully, it is not too difficult to avoid falling into this trap: all you need is a practical action plan than can help you accomplish healthy eating goals. As the HBR article rightly points out, “the trick to eating right is not learning to resist temptation. It’s making healthy eating the easiest possible option.”

# Tip 1: Don’t wait to be very hungry

Advance planning of what to eat and when is quite an effective strategy to keep both hunger and temptation at bay. Regular intake of small amounts of the right food ensures that the glucose levels are maintained and the brain is not deprived of the energy it needs. Importantly, it also prevents binge eating which happens when one gets too hungry. So, it is perfectly ok for “healthy snacking” such as some nuts (peanuts, cashews and channa) or a serving of fruit.

# Tip 2: Eat slow and chew your food well

Whether you are getting your lunch dabba delivered to your office or you prefer the spread of the office canteen, if you don’t watch how fast and how much you eat during lunch, the post-lunch session can be quite a drag. If you eat too much and/or eat too fast, then the digestion of food consumes a lot of energy instead of the energy being supplied to the brain for other work. Lethargy sets in and productivity takes a serious hit! You can imagine the consequences when you have important meetings or presentations immediately after lunch!

Add locally grown fruits and vegetables to your diet

# Tip 3: Add locally grown fruits and vegetables to your diet

Fruits and vegetables not only provide essential vitamins and minerals for our general well-being, but also are proven to contribute to some very desirable workplace attributes. A study by the British Psychological Society that monitored the food choices, consumption levels, mood, and behaviors of participants over a two week period found that people who ate fruits and vegetables were comparatively happier. This is because these provided a better supply of vital nutrients that fostered the production of dopamine, which plays a key role in the experience of curiosity, motivation, and engagement. As any professional working in an organization knows, these qualities are enormously valuable. The key is however to include locally grown fruits and vegetables as they have smaller food miles. The smaller the food miles, the better it is for your health!

# Tip 4: Supply brain-friendly food

There’s a whole range of easy-to-obtain foods that provide the brain with a range of nutrients that will aid in keeping your energy and productivity levels high. Ghee being rich in omega 3 boosts brain power and improves memory and cognitive function. For optimal brain health, try to include at least 1 tsp of ghee each into your main meals.

What we accomplish at work is a major contributor to our happiness and sense of well-being (or otherwise). Considering that we spend well over one-third of the day and have at least one major meal (for many in metros like Mumbai, it is two meals) at work, one can’t over-emphasize the need for healthy eating with a balanced diet at the workplace.

The next time you pack your lunch dabba (or get somebody to do it for you), make sure that you are getting everything your brain and body need to whizz through the day, with energy, enthusiasm and clarity.

Image courtesy : Google Images

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Freshly churned this morning, a dollop of this white makkhan just made its way to the top of my morning paratha. Feeling full with just one of it; instead of my usual two parathas, I thought to myself that the good fatty acids in butter are at work here, stabilising my blood sugar. When our blood sugar is stable, rather than jumping from super high to super low, we do not overeat or experience sugar cravings. In short, ek butter, I mean, ek teer se do nishaneObesity and Diabetes or ‘Diabesity’

homemade makkhan

Diabesity’ is one of the two health epidemics that has caught the attention of food experts across the world; other being ‘Hidden hunger’, which essentially is a deficiency of micronutrients like Vit D. The ‘rich’ in developing countries like ours are busy looking down on Vit D carriers like makkhan and are replacing it with other vitamin enriched oils or ‘fat free’ alternatives. As a result, they are not really hungry or undernourished in the physical sense but have all the signs of hunger & malnourishment, i.e., struggling to sleep at night, getting up tired in the morning, getting acidic, constipated, irritable and having low energy that strikes at the core of their health and vitality.

A day spent BETTER with BUTTER!

The “live culture” in my homemade makkhan was already making me feel cheerful and my gut light and as I reached my office, I could see my intern thanking her stars not to see her usual grumpy boss today. I opened my mailbox to answer a client’s concern on his rising cholesterol levels. His doc, he said, had asked him to go completely fat free; no butter, no ghee. “Usual, routine instructions” I thought. If only the doctors had known that the lecithin in butter helps in proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol in body, we would not have been misinformed and the world would have been a thinner place. Moving away from my own thoughts, I wrote to my client asking him to have some white makkhan with his lunch. No, he will not protest. The Arachidonic acid (AA) in butter works towards optimal brain health and will make sure my client overcomes unreasonable food fear and takes smarter decision about his health 🙂

What am I doing now? Reaching out for my lunch dabba to savour some bhakri butter and chutney. Aapne khaya kya?

Confused by the misinformation about potential health problems with traditional Indian foods? Get in touch with well-known Mumbai dietitian and nutritionist, Munmun Ganeriwal, a strong advocate of the holistic, wellness benefits of fresh, local, and traditional Indian foods.

References & other related articles-

Where Dietary-Fat Guidelines Went Wrong- TIME Health

Butter And Cheese Not Bad For Heart Health: Study- Huffington post

Sweden Becomes First Western Nation to Reject Low-fat Diet Dogma – Health Impact News

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The journey of ghee in India has very much been similar to that of yoga. From being thousand years old wisdom that originated in our land, to getting dismissed and disregarded by ‘modern day’ gurus and scientists only to be picked up by the West and reintroduced to us by a different name, both are India’s greatest export to the world.

Ghee or ‘clarified butter’ (as they call it in the West) has always been considered as the promotive of health, memory, intelligence, fertility, of vital essence and nourishment in Ayurveda. Food cooked in desi/ asli ghee used to be a status of prosperity and good health. Until, sometime in 1970s, nutritionists, doctors and pharma companies joined hands to poop that party. A low fat diet was pushed by U.S. Dietary Guidelines in 1977. “Saturated fat is bad for our heart, increases cholesterol and causes heart attacks”, they said. Back at home, we too listened to it and dropped our ghee. Ghee thus made an exit from our foods, our plates and our kitchens.

THE RE-EMERGENCE OF GHEE AS A SUPERFOOD

Now fast forward to today and here’s a new thought – what if research issued 40 years ago was not based on solid evidence? What if we were wrong about ghee?

In the latest review of studies that investigated the link between dietary fat and heart health, researchers say the guidelines in the 1970s got it all wrong. In fact, recommendations to reduce the amount of fat we eat every day should never have been made. In April 2015, USDA reviewed its guidelines and removed the dietary cholesterol upper limit declaring that fat/ cholesterol from food had little to do with the cholesterol circulating in the body. American supermarkets started stocking ‘Indian ghee’ and promoted it as ‘liquid gold’. In Nov 2015, Ghee made it to the list of “The 50 new healthiest foods of all time” by TIME magazine.

So amongst food companies, government policies and scientific bodies, a 5,000-year-old wisdom got erased to be reintroduced as the ‘new’ health food. But the question is –Will ladoos, halwas, parathas smothered with ghee regain its lost glory? Will we be able to overcome a fear that has lived with us for 40 years?

READ ALSO-

BENEFITS OF BUTTER– A day spent BETTER with BUTTER

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