Finding a food solution, not a foody one!

A severely malnourished 20-year-old had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 15. Professional consultation with nutritionists at the Association of Evidence-based Dietetics and Nutrition (AEDAN) is expected to put her back on good health. The case was found during the month-long campaign during the National Nutrition month September 2021 by the nutritionists in Kerala. The nutritionist concerned would be closely monitoring her progress. It was found that the girl did not have a balanced intake of food. The intake combinations were faulty which resulted in little absorption of nutrients.

It has been found that many combinations of food had proved to be detrimental to health. For example, combination of tea or coffee with food could result in less absorption of essential nutrients like iron. In most homes these beverages are part of the breakfast. And many take it after lunch too. There are also those who take these stimulants after dinner and also many who take it a number of times through the day. It may be an energetic drink but it competes with iron absorption when taken before or after food. Nutritionists’ advice is to cut down on the drink to a maximum of two cups and also space it away from your food time.

Tea Trivia: It is interesting to note that tea drinking habit of the subcontinent is a cultivated one – with a history of just over two hundred years, perhaps. But the people of India have domiciled the stimulant herb so much that now the best world varieties of tea is grown in India. Tea could be easily categorized as a major contribution of the British colonial times. It made business sense to the British traders and administrators to grow tea in the vast lands in India at very low cost and then export it at a high price. China was at the time a major tea supplier.

Nutritionists are among the best consultants to let us know what could be a good combination in foods. Why the Indians eat the way they do is a study that has revealed many little secrets of healthy intake, making every regional Indian thali with its diverse flavours a good healthy combination. In Ayurvedic food science or which could be better termed as Aahar-Vihar (living), milk is not combined with fruits. Says Dr. Leena Bavadekar, Ayurvedic practitioner in Pune, it is a kind of slow poison that could give rise to quite a few skin diseases. Dr. Bavadekar spoke on Diet and Conduct during Pandemic at a webinar organised by Shakti, a women’s movement of Vigyan Bharati on Preventing the Third Wave of Covid 19.

There are reasons why the South Indian cooking has a tempering of mustard and curry leaves or why there is a jeera tempering in the North, the importance of having dry ginger powder in the delicacy of sweet savourings of jackfruit and jaggery (chakka pradaman) in Kerala, the combination of fenugreek in curries made with curd and its usage as seed and leaves in many curries across the south and north Indian cuisines. Ayurvedic food science had been in practice in Indian kitchens and have been handed down through generations through mothers and grandmothers that had kept a large population relatively healthy even in the changing environment.

Ayurvedic living is perhaps the most ancient Indian lifestyle habits that keeps people equipped to deal with seasonal illnesses that could befall man and also keep the body attuned to adapt in fighting what is now called the “lifestyle” illnesses.

The National Nutrition Month or the Poshan Maah comes to a close this month. But certainly, awareness about nutritive value of foods and the intake of a balanced diet should continue at all times. Even if there are hundreds of diet packages flaunted on the Internet by self-styled gurus of physical and mental fitness, a scientific solution is closer to studying the needs of one’s own body.

The Covid 19 pandemic has made people realise that food is the best medicine they can have. But it is difficult to change habits overnight. Small measures in changing food habits are a beginning.

While the pandemic had pushed more people seeking alternative (other than modern) medicines, it is not just the pandemic that has turned people seeking diet solutions on the Internet, says Mumtaz Khalid, president of AEDAN, which operates in Kerala. One case of a 30-year-old was brought up in the case studies where the woman with a polycystic ovary and hypothyroid problem had been taking diet suggestions by searching the Google, says Dr. Khalid. The problems she had were more than a year old. There are many who believe in most diet suggestions that come up through various social media too, she said.

AEDAN had been running a campaign through its social media page reaching out to people in need for nutritional consultation for the national nutrition month. As a scientific charitable society, members of the association could be contacted through the WhatsApp numbers 9846073623, 7012319180 or 8281697080 or could write to .

The National Nutrition Month this year had dedicated a theme a week for the month to promote various activities towards healthy food habits. The first week was dedicated to growing vegetables and fruits. Promoting a kitchen garden was one of the initiatives. Awareness was on consuming seasonal vegetables and fruits as much as possible.

The second week was on promoting Ayurveda and Yoga. A combination of Ayurvedic living with Yoga provides a good combination of healthy living. Third week was to reach out to areas which have a burden of nutritional deficiency and fourth theme was to enrich the nutritional content of child’s food.

As modern times have gradually reduced manual labour, most people in the urban and many in the rural regions also have reduced levels of physical activity. Hence, indulging in daily practice of Yoga – again, an ancient Indian science of keeping fit body and mind – would be yet another method of healthy living. 

Depending upon a reduced physical activity cereal intake could also be cut down to two times a day instead of three.  Instead of consuming grains – which increases the intake of carbohydrates providing the body extra calories that does not get burned, a person could easily replace it with fruits and vegetables – raw or cooked. This would enhance uptake of nutrients while keeping a check on the unwanted energy.

It is most important that proteins are part of every meal too. Legumes, sprouts, meat, fish and eggs are major sources of these body builders, which have an important role in replacing the dead cells and tissues.

However, it is best to keep the frequency of meat to just two times a week, says Dr. Leena Bavedekar. Human body and mind functions best with food that is easily digestible, she says. The meat should be cooked properly – not overdone or undercooked.

The National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad had been discussing how best the burden of malnutrition nutrition could be equated through fortification and how effective it could be to meet the nutritional needs in various regions. An important discussion could be viewed here:

Attractive presentation is what lures children to food. Mothers (as fathers in general have not yet taken up that duty to feed their child on a daily basis) are always trying ways and means to cook a meal that satisfies the child. And most of her instincts are right when she wants to make it colourful by adding the variety from nature. The Indian thali – with all its regional varieties offers food in myriad colours.

For children, it is boring to see colourless (equated with bland) food. Even adults, for that matter, like to have some colour on their plate. A trend needs to be created to pick from the nature’s bounty!

Suggested reading:

Benefits of sesame seeds –

Ayurvedic food factors: Food Related Factors (Aharaja nidana) — Vikaspedia

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