There are fad diets everywhere but still the number of overweight people around just keeps increasing.
I too was someone who wanted to lose the extra inches throughout my youth, but I was also a massive foodie who loved eating out. It was only in the last two years, with the wisdom of the years, or shall I say, aches and pains, that my journey to discover the secret to good health began. Little did I realise that this journey would automatically lead to all the extra kilos melting away.
As I deep dived, I realised that there are prominent medical experts, who with solid research over the years, have been promoting a common optimal diet combined with moderate but regular exercise as the solution to all weight issues as well as lifestyle diseases.
So what is this optimal diet?
Well it's a diet that's close to nature and is best designed for the human body — the whole foods plant-based diet (WFPB), a fibrous diet rich in nutrition and low in calories. This means a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains and devoid of the foods listed below.
If you can't ditch these foods, limit them as much as you can:
Processed and packaged foods
Biscuits, namkeens, chips, aerated drinks, fruit juices, ice creams and the list goes on. These are high in sugar, salt, saturated fats and often contain the deadly trans fats. They have hardly any nutritional value and come loaded with chemicals to increase their shelf life.
Fast food, Western or Indian
As if our Indian fast foods weren't unhealthy enough, we've adopted Western fast foods too with extreme love.
There is good reason why they're called junk food.
Carbohydrates are the fuel the human body needs. They are rich in a lot of minerals, vitamins and fibre. But in the industrialised age, we humans began refining our grains like rice and wheat, removing their best nutrients and retaining their starch. With the fibre removed, we overeat and feel hungry quickly. To change this, choose brown rice and whole wheat aata. You can add a variety of healthy grains like millets too.
This sugar has empty calories, with zero nutrition. We consume refined sugar instead of natural sugars found in fruits and dry fruits, which are loaded with fibre and other nutrients. Foods that have natural sugar do not lead to weight gain either.
While 1 gm of protein and carbohydrate have 4 calories, 1 gm of fat has 9 calories. Even the finest olive oil is 100 per cent fat, and 14 per cent of it is saturated.
Oil starts to degrade as soon as it is separated from the plant and heated. On entering our bodies, it oxidises, leading to toxins and diseases. It has a direct association with building plaque in the arteries, leading to heart diseases.
It is easy to cook with very little oil, even without oil, and make the food tasty. But we're in the habit of frying and overcooking our food in India, killing most of the healthy nutrients in it.
Sauteing, baking and steaming are better cooking options. Of course, we do need essential fats, but these should come from natural foods like nuts, seeds, avocados and olives etc. Other plants too have low amount of fats, usually healthier fats.
Most people don't realise that all products derived from animals — meat, chicken, fish, eggs and yes, even milk and dairy products — are high in fats; especially unhealthy saturated fats and cholesterol.
To just burn off two skinned and steamed chicken legs, one would have to run 3 miles. Imagine how potent they can be both for your weight gain and diseases when cooked with oil, butter or ghee.
Plant foods are nutritionally richer, low in fats, devoid of cholesterol and have the kind of protein that our body needs.
Take a look at the chart below and see what seems healthier to you:
** Equal parts of beef, pork, chicken, whole milk. (Source: Centre for Nutrition Studies, Ithaca, NY-US)
To cut the long story short, the closer one is to following a diet designed by nature for one's body, the healthier one would be. That's why one hardly sees obese or overweight animals. Animals understand what they need to eat and just how much, unlike us humans.
Plant-based, whole foods are the ones which suit our biology the best and the one we followed for 25 million years during our evolution.
Not just as a diet, we should adopt this as a lifestyle to stay fit. This festive season, even more so.