Calories: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Calories: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Everybody wants to ‘go on a diet’. Everyone knows that ‘you have to watch your calories when you diet’, but not everyone understands what exactly ‘calories’ are/mean! Most people associate calories with only junk food/ sweets/chocolates as they know that they are ‘high calorie’ stuff. But what many don’t know is that almost all foods have calories and that the body needs calories for energy purposes.
So why are calories getting a bad reputation? Well, that’s because we live in a world of abundance and we choose to feed our bodies with foods that have too many calories and too little nutrition.
To understand calories better, let us start with the some FAQ’s:
What are calories? Calories are the units used to measure energy.
Where do we get calories from? From the food we eat (fruits, vegetables, grains, pizzas, pooris, cake, chocolates, etc.) and from the beverages we drink (milk, juices, coffee, alcohol, etc.). The energy is stored in these foods in the form of ‘macronutrients’ namely carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Each of these macronutrients gives us ‘energy’ in varying numbers:
Carbohydrates= 4 calories per gram
Protein=4 calories per gram
Fat= 9 calories per gram
Since all foods have calories and since our bodies need calories-how does one know what to eat and what to avoid?
Good question! To make things simple-let’s divide calories into three groups:

Good; Bad and the last……UGLY!!
1. Good calories: are those which come from ‘nutrient dense foods’. These are foods that are loaded with other nutrients like minerals, vitamins, fiber, essential fatty acids which the body needs, in contrast to the number of calories the food contains.

Good Calories

These can be found in regular foods that are familiar to most people like fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains like brown/parboiled/semi-polished rice, whole wheat atta, jowar, bajra, barley, ragi/nachni, nuts and seeds, lean meats like chicken/turkey (skinned out), fish, soy and other dry beans/pulses. Healthy and natural fats are an important component of a balanced diet. Include natural fats like butter, ghee, olive oil , traditional Indian oils like coconut, til, mustard, peanut oil. Healthy fats can also be found in free-range poultry, wild caught oily fish, full-fat dairy products and eggs. Try to get the maximum calories through these foods and you will end up getting most of the nutrients that the body requires including the calories needed for the body to function normally.

2. Bad calories: These would be foods that man has changed from its natural format-like polished/white rice, white bread, refined flour/maida, juices, milkshakes, etc.

Polished rice

The trick is to ‘go slow’ with this group. Try to avoid or limit these foods as these have been stripped off their nutrients.

3. Ugly calories: or ‘empty calories’ are those foods that provide no other nutrients other than calories. These are usually foods that are either loaded with sugar or fat/oil/ transfat (vanaspathi, margarine).

Candy

Best examples of these would be cola/aerated drinks, alcohol, sweets (candies, cakes, pastries, donuts) fried foods like chips, fries, namkeens, pakodas, pooris, etc. Avoid eating these on a regular basis as these will provide you with only calories that you don’t need!

Now that things are hopefully a lot clearer, there are two more things to keep in mind-PORTION SIZES and regular EXERCISE!
Too much of even ‘good’ things can be bad for you. Eating balanced diets and exercising regularly is the key to staying healthy!


How to Keep Food Safe During a Power Outage

It’s bad enough being stuck in a snow storm, tornado or cyclone but to have a power outage along with that is like putting salt on your wounds. People are usually well prepared to face a storm with extra food, water, flashlights, candles but they often tend to forget about the food kept in the fridge and freezer.

Frozen food

While non-perishable foods will keep well when left outside, the perishable foods like milk, cheese, poultry, meat and left overs will become a breeding ground for pathogens if it is kept above 4C (40F) for more than 2 hours. To prevent food borne diseases follow these simple tips:
1) When you get to know about the storm or blizzard make sure to set your fridge at it’s coldest setting.
2) Move all the perishables like milk, and leftovers to the back of the fridge or into the freezer.
3)Keep coolers, ice packs and extra ice blocks ready .
4)During the power outage stack the food closer to each other both in the fridge and the freezer. Closely packed food tend to keep cold longer.
5)Keep meat,poultry on trays or ziplock pouches in the freezer to avoid the drippings from contaminating other foods in case it does thaw out.
6)Keep the fridge and freezer doors closed to keep the cold trapped inside.
7)If the power outage is for more than 4 hours, then put the ice-blocks into the coolers and move the food into that.
Keep in mind that without power the fridge will keep cold for just 4 hours while the freezer (if it is full) will most likely keep for about 48 hours.
Discard any food that has been stored above 40F (or 4C) for more than two hours. If the food smells bad, has changed in colour, texture or if you simply are in doubt-then throw it away. Better to be safe than sorry.


Healthy Heart Diet for Indians

The World Heart Day is on the 29th of September. A Heart Healthy Diet is not designed only for those who have problems related to the heart (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, etc), but also for those who would like to reduce the risk of heart diseases in the future. Following a Heart -healthy diet can be beneficial for all, especially since research shows that Indians are genetically predisposed to heart disease. Low physical activity, low vegetable intakes along with high fat intake has added to our problems due to which obesity and diabetes are now common among Indians.
A heart friendly diet should be:
1. High in fiber-studies have shown that a diet high in fiber helps in reducing cholesterol. Include whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat atta, ragi, jowar, bajra, whole wheat bread/pasta) and pulses, fresh fruits, vegetables and green leafy vegetables.
2. Low in saturated and trans fat– a diet low in fat, especially trans-fat (dalda/vanaspati, margarine,) is shown to be beneficial. Non-vegetarians can choose from lean meat like chicken and fish (especially those high in Omega-3 fatty acids like Indian Mackerel, sardines, salmon)

3. High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids– a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is seen to benefit those who are at high risk for ischemic heart disease (IHD). It is essential for numerous normal body functions like building cell membranes in the brain and controlling blood clotting. Fish, walnuts, flax seeds, soy beans, spinach/palak should be included see the benefits.
4. Low in sodium-sodium is known to increase the BP and put more pressure on the internal organs including the heart. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for salt is less than a teaspoon/day.
5. Rich in Antioxidants: Found in coloured fruits, vegetables and grains, antioxidants are believed to help prevent disease by fighting free radicals which are substances that harm the body when left unchecked.

6.Rich in Fermented foods: Fermented foods contain ‘probiotics’ or in other words ‘live bacteria’ and yeasts that are thought to have health benefits.  desi ferThe most commonly used fermented food in Indian houses is curd/yogurt/dahi, lassi, chaas/buttermilk.  Check nutrition labels carefully for added sugars, thickeners and other additives that are used commercially and remember that fermented foods should be ‘live’ so need to be kept in the fridge. Heat treatment that may be used to preserve or cook these foods destroys probiotics.

Along side a healthy diet, being physically active is also very important. Speak to your doctor and then choose an activity or exercise that you can do for at least 30 minutes every day.

Here’s a sample Indian diet for healthy heart:

On rising: Water + Walnuts
Breakfast: Oats porridge (old fashioned/steel cut/rolled oats NOT Instant)+ Blueberries
Mid-morning: Green tea + Apple
Lunch: Brown rice + Palak dal curry+ Cabbage and pea’s sabzi
Cucumber and tomato salad+ Buttermilk/chaas (made from skimmed milk)
Evening: Tea/ Coffee with Channa chaat
Dinner: Paushtik Roti (with flax seed powder) + Baingan ka bharta + Fish curry
Carrot raita(made with non-fat curd) + Red grapes
(NOTE:Portion control is very important. To find out the right portion sizes, do contact your dietitian.)
Prevention is always better than cure and this is true even for the matters of the heart! Why wait for heart problems to crop up and then change your diet? By eating healthy now, you may be able to prevent/avoid heart diseases in the future.

For those interested in getting a personalized diet chart-check out the Healthy Heart Packages or simply fill out the ‘Contact Us’ page