National Nutrition Week highlights the importance and role of the right nutrients for the human body. A balanced diet with a combination of nutrients and calories is essential for the smooth working and growth of a human body. 

Reasons behind the increase in diseases

In the last ten years, a lot has changed and there has been a rise in diabetes cardiac diseases, arthritis, asthma, and many other problems. Dhristi Bijlani Desai, Clinical Dietician and Nutritionist explains the reasons behind it. She says, “A lot has changed with our lifestyles and eating habits – firstly most of us have a routine that forces us to sit for long hours without any movement at all, we are not left with any time for exercise. Besides this, there’s so much available in the market that we have kind of forgotten the importance of simple home-made meals rich in nutrition. We have access to packaged food and this is one of the major reasons behind the growing number of diseases. We have forgotten the relationship with good food and choosing the right diet.”

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Dr. Manoj Kutteri, Wellness Director at Atmantan Wellness Centre says, “There has been an overuse of grains among Indians, which are detrimental for many diseases. We have started eating outside and have replaced home-cooked meals with restaurant food. This has resulted in an increase in salt and sugar in the body.” He adds, “Eating on the go has become the new way of life and this has a major impact on health.”

Health during the pandemic

During the ongoing pandemic, it has become difficult for all of us to take care of our diet and health. Desai believes that one should focus on their immunity and on a diet that helps in building that. “We have to include cereals, whole grains, and protein-rich lean meat, milk products, along with fruits, veggies, and nuts. Spices play a major role in boosting our immunity – turmeric and black pepper has to a part of your diet. Vitamin C, D, and A, and minerals like zinc and magnesium are important for the body.”

“Consume citrus food rich in Vitamin C, like oranges and lime, and amla will help us during the pandemic situation. There’s a concept of spectrum diet – eating different coloured fruits and veggies in a meal. This gives a variety of anti-oxidants needed for metabolic functions. Usage of MCT oil is vital for the body – include coconut oil in your diet, it will help in staying fit. Glove, garlic can also help in fighting pathogens in the body,” adds Dr. Kutteri. 

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Importance of nutrition for mom-to-be

Desai, while talking about the importance of nutrition for would-be mother, tell us that during pregnancy the goal should be to consume healthy food. “Emphasise on the five food groups – cereals and whole grains, protein group that will include pulses and lentils, lean meat and fish, along with fruits, vegetables, and Vitamin E rich food.”  

On the other hand, Dr. Manoj Kutteri, Wellness Director at Atmantan Wellness Centre talks to us about how a mother-to-be should ensure that her diet has all the good nutrients required. “During the pre-natal period, one has to focus on the intake of a lot of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidant rich diet. One of the symptoms witnessed during this period is breathing difficulty because of extra weight and expansion of abdominal. Also, gestational diabetes is another problem with mom-to-be because of the consumption of starch-rich food, along with swollen feet and high blood pressure. One should not just take a balanced diet, cut short on the intake of salt and sugar, but also practice yoga and meditation to cure these symptoms. This also helps during childbirth.”

He adds, “They should add whole-greens in their diet, like sweet potatoes, which are high in iron. Eggs are essential for the growth of both the baby and mother. Instead of consuming artificial sugar, pregnant women should consume fruits, like berries as they are rich in fiber, along with avocados and nuts rich in minerals and calcium. These are good for the neurological growth of the child. One of the most common finding during pregnancy is bloating, women should consume pro-biotic, digestive seeds like cumin.”

“During pregnancy, women should assume packaged food that is usually adulterated. This can be very harmful to both the child and mother. Along with this, they should avoid consumption of empty calories – pastries, pasta, soft drinks. They can replace these with healthier options like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice.”

Is losing weight and staying healthy the same?

Desai tells us that it’s not the same. “Losing weight can and cannot be sustainable, but your health is primary. A person who has lost weight, may not be healthy.”

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“Health is not just about being fit physically, it includes your mental and psychological wellbeing as well. You can be as thin as you want but may have serious gut health issues that can affect your brain, sleep, and memory level. There has to be a synergy between your mental, emotional, physical, and psychological health. Ensure that you are sleeping properly and including some sort of physical activity in your lifestyle. Health is determined by all these factors and not just weight loss,” explain Dr. Kutteri. 

Sleep and weight loss are related

As per a study, sleep and weight loss are related. “People losing weight who also have good sleep are known to lose more fat, but when they cut back on their sleep, only ¼ weight loss is seen in them. Also, those who are sleep deprived, feel hungrier, and produce Gremlin, a hormone that triggers your hunger and reduces energy expenditure,” Desai helps us in understanding the relationship between sleep and weight loss.

Eating every two hours is not important while working from home

She tells us that one can increase the gap between small meals to four hours as there’s not much physical activity happening. Make sure you don’t skip your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There should not be more than three things on your plate – veggies, protein, and whole-grains. You should not have any miscellaneous food like papad, pickle, and other fried items. Try having fruits and nuts whenever you feel hungry between the meals.”

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Is ghee healthy or not?

This has been one of the most controversial and debatable -topics, and Dr. Kutteri suggests that it is better than other oils available. “Ghee is a good option for hot cooking and it contains acid that is anti-cancerous and has anti-inflammatory properties. However, it should be consumed in moderation.”

On the other hand, Desai feels, “One teaspoon a day is good for the body. You should not have it in excess. If you want weight loss, you can start your day by adding ghee to your food – it is not only excellent for your skin and brain but also weight loss and intestinal health. I recommend that the ghee you are using should be homemade or from an organic store that uses cow milk and not buffaloes milk.”

Is diet for men and women different?

People tend to follow a similar diet, irrespective of their gender, however, this should not be done. “The recommended break down of calories, carbohydrates and proteins are the same for both the genders, however, men generally need higher calories and require macro-nutrients. Women, on the other hand, require micro-nutrients and lesser calories, but more vitamins and minerals. They lose all their iron during the monthly cycles, but men don’t need that amount of iron.”