April 18, 2016

FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has recently issued guidelines on making nutritious foods available to school children.  To implement this, one of the ways suggested by FSSAI is for the schools to ban the sale of HFSS (High Fat, Sugar, Salt) foods within 50 meters radius of the school.  The underlying principles for such a ban is that a) children are not the best judge to choose healthy foods, b) schools are not the right place to promote HFSS foods, c) benefits of traditional nutritious foods cannot be replaced and d) school children need to have better dietary habits.

Although the intention of FSSAI is very good and this is a positive step towards making the children healthier, the implementation might have many hiccups.  This method not only requires the school authorities to improve their food / canteen facilities, but also requires regular inspection of the children’s lunch boxes.  There are a few schools that are already checking the students’ lunch boxes regularly but this needs to be done at every single school in our country.  Secondly, the parents need to play an important role in ensuring that their children carry and eat nutritious foods while at school and at home.  Careful planning of meals and buying healthy foods from the grocery shop can go a long way in making meals nutritious.  Lastly, children’s participation in shopping, chopping and cooking can also help in increasing awareness and making healthier decisions in food choices.

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June 23, 2014

Is there a difference between the two conditions?  Yes.  It can be difficult to determine whether one has an intolerance or an allergy because the signs and symptoms overlap.

A simple explanation of the two conditions –
Food allergy = immune system reaction to food
Food intolerance = inability to digest a food

Food allergy symptoms show up immediately whereas an intolerance may or may not manifest soon after ingesting the food.  In food allergy, the reaction can occur with smallest quantities but in food intolerance, the person is able to tolerate the food in small amounts or over a period of time. Food allergy can be life-threatening sometimes but not food intolerance.  A physician or an allergy specialist will be able to diagnose the problem.

Nuts, dairy, egg and fish are the most common food allergens.  Common food intolerance list includes wheat, gluten, milk, yeast, food additives and preservatives.

Symptoms of food allergy can vary from dizziness, swelling of lips and throat, itchy skin and red eyes, to nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, wheezing, shortness of breath, or blocked nose.  Food intolerance can show up as bloating, stomach discomfort, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, wheezing, hives or runny nose.

If you’re aware of the problem that you have, check labels when you buy packaged foods.  The best way to prevent such problems from occurring is to avoid the foods that cause these problems.  Maintaining a diary of the foods that you eat can help to trace the allergen or the food that causes the problem.

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June 9, 2014

The popular health magazine Prevention (India Today Group) had organized a Readers’ Meet last Saturday (June 07, 2014).  The event was held at Carrots, the vegan restaurant in Koramangala.  Supported by Washington Apples, the interactive meet saw about 30 interested readers and food bloggers.  The program began with a short introduction by Sanghamitra Chakraborty, Editorial Director of Prevention & Women’s Health magazines.  This was followed by a brief talk on summer foods by me, which led to an interesting discussion with the audience.  The last part of the event was a demonstration of 2 apple recipes by Carrots Chefs Singraj Gurung and Susmitha Subbaraju.

Sharing the recipes with you.

Roasted Apple Sauce

4 Apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
15 ml  Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Lemon Juice
25 gm Brown Sugar
3 gm Cinnamon
2 gm Nutmeg

Toss the apple pieces in a bowl.  Bake in a preheated 400F oven until the apples are very soft, about 30-50 minutes. Mash the apple. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Vegan Russian Salad

20 gm Sweet Potato Cubes
20 gm Carrots Cubes
20 gm Green Peas
100 gm Cashew Mayonnaise
30 gm Apple Cubes

Steam/boil the potatoes, carrots and peas. Mix all ingredients together and chill in the fridge for about an hour.


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May 8, 2014

For many years, we believed that eating foods high in cholesterol & saturated fat increases the blood levels of cholesterol which in turn can spell trouble for the heart.  So, butter, ghee, coconut oil, egg yolk (yellow), red meat, cheese, and other foods that contained either cholesterol or saturated fat were deleted from the shopping lists of many homes.

Then came studies that showed egg yolk didn’t raise blood cholesterol levels, in spite of containing high amounts of cholesterol.  Of late, there’s a lot of talk on whether saturated fats raise blood cholesterol or not.  Many studies are indicating that ghee, coconut oil and other sources of saturated fats are not as harmful as thought earlier.  Trans fats and refined carbohydrates (sugar, maida, white bread and white rice) are the ones to watch out for.

Cholesterol is not a bad thing.  It is an essential item and has many functions in the body.  So, if you have any fear about cholesterol, please remove it from your minds.

Two days ago, I was listening to a talk by a very senior Swedish professor who basically trashed the information that cholesterol from foods and saturated fats can be harmful.  He said that refined carbohydrates are the culprits causing damage to our health.  He felt sad that many Indians have stopped using ghee, coconut and coconut oil.  He encouraged the use of these foods.  He also said that we use too much sunflower oil and should reduce it’s use.  Increase protein intake through foods, include lots of vegetables and fruits, leave refined carbohydrates, was the advice given.

I agree with most of the points given by the professor.  But we need to be careful of the quantity of fats that we use.  Also whole grains like brown rice, atta, millets, are an important part of our meals.

It all comes down to eating sensibly and exercising regularly.  So, go ahead and use a spoon of ghee or coconut oil in your cooking.  Don’t forget the garnish of grated coconut!

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April 7, 2014

Last weekend saw me in a restaurant that claims to serve only sattvic food, in Bangalore.  I was curious to see and taste their variety of sattvic dishes.  Unfortunately, the restaurant serves only buffet meals and no a la carte.  So, small eaters will have to go there with a large appetite!  Anyways, a lot of their starters and main course dishes appeared to be sattvic.  I couldn’t really dissect each dish but by and large they were palatable.  What surprised me were the desserts.  While there was a section of Indian sweets (probably with sattvic ingredients), there was another section of pastries, tarts, creme caramel, cup cakes and a chocolate fountain!  I’m not aware of the entire list of sattvic foods, but I don’t think maida (refined wheat flour / white flour) and refined sugar belong in the sattvic food group.  To top it, there was a take-away counter selling only cakes and pastries under the same sattvic brand!

Well, to my knowledge, sattvic foods are those which are easy to digest, beneficial for the body and promote mental health and clarity of thought.  Water, whole grains, pulses, dals, most vegetables, fruits, nuts, honey and raw dairy foods (unpasteurised, non-homogenised) fall into the sattvic group.

If any of you have more information on sattvic foods, please do share.  Thank you.


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