Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Myths About Nutrition

Now that health concerns have become universal, we’ve been flooded with information about what to eat and what to avoid. Often, the news leaves us confused. Since this isn’t a good situation to be in, we decided to clear up the bewilderment.

Drink milk every day: Many of us believe that a glass of milk a day will keep us healthy. But according to Dr Atul Bhasin, consultant, internal medicine, B L Kapur Memorial Hospital, Delhi, you don’t need to drink milk after the age of one. “All the benefits of milk are available if you eat a balanced diet, including green vegetables and soya protein,” says Dr Bhasin. “As for calcium, sunlight is a good option.”

Small and frequent meals: Have six small meals at intervals during the day, we are told, to boost metabolism and aid digestion. But does it work? Yes, says Brunch columnist Dr Shikha Sharma. “The basic principle is that the more food you put into your body, the harder your body works to digest it,” she explains. “However, the body has a clever way to handle too much food – it puts the excess into storage. Translation: fat. But smaller, more frequent meals kickstart your metabolism, allowing the body to burn calories at a constant rate.” But eating small, frequent meals does not mean snacking on oily or junk food. Satisfy your hunger with dahi, fruit, nimboo paani or juice.

Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day: It is never a bad idea to keep well-hydrated, explains Dr Bhasin, especially if you drink a lot of tea or coffee. Caffeine and aerated drinks are dehydrating, so it makes sense to substitute them with water. If you’re tired, cranky, hungry or light-headed, water will help instantly.

Too much rice can make you fat: Rice is a simple carbohydrate that we are told to avoid. “Although rice in itself is not very fattening, it doesn’t fill you the way a chapati does, so you tend to feel hungry sooner,” explains Jyoti Arora, head, nutrition and dietetics, Artemis Health Institute, Delhi. “This is why you tend to eat it in excess.” But rice should not be avoided altogether. Its starch contains minerals and vitamins, so do not overwash it before cooking. Switch to brown rice, and eat it with whole pulses, vegetables and salad to add fibre.

Don’t mix fish and dairy: Certain communities believe mixing seafood and dairy leads to problems. But, says Dr Bhasin, there is no evidence for this. Don’t drink milk after eating papaya: “This is true as having milk after papaya can lead to diarrhea,” says Jyoti Arora. However, if you are constipated, a nighttime meal of papaya followed by a glass of milk can help.

Eating raw cabbage leads to worms: True, if the cabbage hasn’t been washed well. But this applies to all vegetables, raw or cooked. “Wash them well in normal water,” says Dr Bhasin.

Avoid dahi if you have a cold: No need, says Dr Bhasin. But to avoid risk, eat your dahi at room temperature, adds Jyoti Arora. Every morning, eat a few almonds that have been soaked overnight: Yes. “Almonds are a source of minerals and vitamins. You can soak them, but eat them with their skins on,” says Jyoti Arora.

Do not buy cut fruit from a street vendor: “You can’t be sure how long the vendor has kept the fruit in the open, or of the water it was washed in,” says Dr Bhasin. So buy whole fruit and cut it yourself.

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