Why count calories

With a major festival just behind us and more lined up in the following months, the time is right for us to get calorie conscious. Let’s ask ourselves a candid question – can you polish off a box of ladoos without any guilt? If your answer is yes, it is time you wake up to the dangers of binge eating and the havoc piling calories can wreak on your health.

In a five-part series on calories, nutrition expert Malathi Mohan will take us through the role calories play in our food and share important tips to manage calorie intake better as a family.

“Take care”. How often do we hear this? How do we take care and what are the areas which need control to take care of ourselves. According to most of us, there are many ways of taking care and one, most important, is taking care of your food or nutritional needs.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, ICMR, gives us Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA ), which are a guide to planning our daily food consumption. These are reviewed from time to time for the awareness of the layman.

However, the layman has to depend on dietitians and doctors for this information. The printed media may also publish this from time to time, but you should know how to convert theory to practice.  This means, converting food prescriptions into actual food consumption. This is not too difficult. You may just need some guidance to get on the right track.

Before we get into technical details, let us ponder over what people were consuming for centuries, ahead of all the so-called diet practices of today.

India, being a spiritual country, has had diet directions from spiritual gurus. The gist of this is that the gross body needs food for protection and being an important factor, food should be pure, sacred and wholesome and taken in moderation. Pure food is called ‘sathvic’ and even this, if not taken in moderation, can turn man into ‘tamasic’ (evil minded). In due course, this leads to the development of rajasic qualities (anger, desire, etc.).

As much as I have understood, ‘sathvic’ food needs to be pure apart from being vegetarian. Food today is not as pure as it may have been. Technological developments have contributed to many impurities – preservative toxins, pesticide toxins, hormonal imbalances and so on. So, whether it is vegetarian or not, food is no longer pure, in spite of refining raw materials, leading to nutrient losses.

Besides spiritual directions, we also have many ‘desi’ systems of medicine, which have profound influence on our dietary practices. Ayurveda, homeopathy, unani and other disciplines which have been pooh- poohed by allopathy. Even medical and diet-related information from the west which we seem to be following more and more in recent times, are questionable. There are changes and controversies, which seem to be competing with changes in gold prices and fiscal exchange rates on a day-to-day basis!

So, what is the common man supposed to be eating?

(To be continued)

Malathi Mohan

Ms. Malathi Mohan is Dean, Academy of Fitness Management, FitnessOne, Chennai.

Image: Flickr/creativecommons bijoy mohan