An interesting expose in Bloomberg Business titled "The Honey Launderers: Uncovering the Largest Food Fraud in U.S. History
" reminded me why to avoid eating processed and packaged foods as much as you can: because they have so many components and you can never know what you are really eating.
This expose is not a lesson, but an interesting read about a German company illegally selling Chinese honey that was adulterated to US customers and how they were getting by US regulators. One choice passage: "The 50-gallon drums would be relabeled in these countries and sent on to the U.S. Often the honey was filtered to remove the pollen, which could help identify its origin. Some of the honey was adulterated with rice sugar, molasses, or fructose syrup..."
"In a few cases the honey was contaminated with the residue of antibiotics banned in the U.S.... Testing revealed one container was contaminated with chloramphenicol, an antibiotic the U.S. bans from food. Chinese beekeepers use chloramphenicol to prevent Foulbrood disease, which is widespread and destructive. A deal was made to sell the contaminated honey at a big discount to another customer in Texas, a processor that sold honey to food companies."
There's no way of not knowing everything you eat, whether it's contaminated with antibiotics, pesticides or harmful bacteria. But you can limit so much of your exposure by eating whole foods you cut and clean or cook at home after washing thoroughly.
Because I try to vegetables everyday, I sometimes impulsively buy way more veggies at the grocery store than I can reasonably eat in a week's time, so a big portion of those veggies rot and I have to throw them out. This blunts the enthusiasm some, and then I end up buying too little.
So lately I've wondered if canned veggies are as good as what you get from the grocery store. Sure they are not fresh, but either are many veggies and fruits at the counter in the local grocery store, having spent days and maybe weeks in trucks and distribution centers after being plucked off trees or taken out of the ground.
Well, it turns out that canned veggies can often be as nutritious, losing little in the process, and sometimes more nutritious than the same veggies at the grocery store, according to a scientific study described in this NY Times article. Just make sure when you read the label on the canned veggie that there is no added sugar or other hard to pronounce chemicals and little salt (which is a preservative).
The Wall Street Journal asked several healthcare experts what is one change we could make to what we eat to improve our health, just one.
While nutritionists and dietitians should have been on this panel of experts, I feel they would agree with the most common "one change" advice: (1) eat smaller portions, (2) cut "foods" that have added sugars, and (3) eat real foods (fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans, seeds, and spices).
The same rules applied to Indian food makes it much better, tastier and healthier. Read the article here, but for now here are my favorite entries (click "read more"):
We all know we can get vitamins and antioxidants in Real Food like fruits, nuts, vegetables, even meats. But instead of eating real food, many people take a vitamin pill a day and hope to keep the doctor at bay. Why?
When I say vitamin pill, I don't mean all pills such as Vitamin D or calcium to prevent osteoporosis. What I mean is the big pill marketed as Centrum or One-A-Day, which contain more than 100% RDA (recommended daily allowance) of many vitamins.
I bet many people take these multivitamin pills because somebody they know, maybe their own doctor, told them that vitamin pills are good for you, help you live longer and prevent disease. But that's complete b******t. Seriously, read on.
Almost everything I write on this blog is about food. But I can't claim to promote good habits if I ignore exercise, which along with diet, relationships and centering techniques (like meditation and yoga) is one of the pillars of healthy living.
I really like this piece from the NY Times because it's about a set of exercises most of us can do at home without any special equipment (well, you'll need a chair) in less than 10 minutes!
Read the article and see the diagram in its full glory here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-scientific-7-minute-workout.
Ever since publishing "The Healthy Indian Diet" in 2011, I've looked and looked for Indian foods made of natural foods at the grocery store, something so healthy I could endorse it. (Let's be honest, many of us don't have the time or even interest to cook -- but we want to eat healthy!) Well, I was at Whole Foods some time ago when I saw this. A bottle of lassi. I picked it up and looked at the nutrition facts label. I was impressed. Only 5 ingredients. Sure, there was sugar. But it wasn't at the top. The main ingredient by weight was real milk. And the 2nd most common ingredient? Real alfonso mango. I bought a bottle and opened it when I got home. It was refreshing. Delicious. I googled the company that made this named Dahilicious and sent an email. I was happy to hear back from "JD" Sethi, the company's founder. You can read the story of how he started the company, but I wanted to know why he started a company devoted to making healthy Indian food.
So I asked JD if we could do a Q&A. He said yes. So without further ado.1. What compelled you to start a company that makes lassi drinks from all natural ingredients, especially with no background in the food business?
Naivete and love for lassis. When I first moved to the US, I didn’t find a lassi on the shelf and the ones that were there were too sweet and contained ingredients that I could not pronounce or understand. So I decided to do it on my own – launch a line of authentic, natural, clean-ingredient lassis in the US market. Had zero experience in food, but was lucky that my family gave me a long leash and put with numerous business errors I made in the beginning.
2. What about Dahlicious' lassi makes it healthy?
First, probiotics. Our 12 hour incubation process allow the probiotics to grow to their full potential. Second, we believe that food should be simple. None of our items have more than 5 ingredients. You can find all our ingredients in your kitchen. The only exception is inulin – we add it to enhance the fiber content and for increased probiotic benefits. Last, low added sugar.
3. Which flavor is most popular?
Mango is by far the most popular. I really love Banana though – unfortunately it is the least popular. I love it for the fact that it has zero added sugar.Thank you JD. Well folks, there you have it. Real people making real Indian food. If you know any more people making healthy Indian food, please let us know at email@example.com.
The most popular health story of 2013 so far is how the "Mediterranean Diet" reduced strokes, heart attacks and deaths overall in a large clinical trial comparing it to a typical modern diet. Many of you may think, "Well, I already knew that," and rightly so.
But in terms of hard science, there wasn't much to say the Mediterranean Diet was definitely better for you than what you were already eating. The advice to follow this diet had been based on extrapolating from what experts observed in people eating it or who used to eat it the past, not on actual trials. So when the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of this first such rigorous trial comparing the Mediterranean Diet to a typical "low-fat" (i.e., high-carb) diet and looking not at blood cholesterol but actual health events like strokes, it was big news.
You can read more on the study here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1200303. Here's the conclusion reached by the authors of this study:
Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.
Now that we have good science supporting that in people at risk for heart disease and stroke that the Mediterranean Diet is indeed going to lower their risk, I am compelled to write that everybody switch. But because of our human nature, almost nobody will switch (myself included). This realization brings me back to square one. You see, years ago I tried to get my parents (who grew up on a Gujarati Diet and continued eating this way in America in the 1960s) to switch. They tried. But they couldn't.
I learned that people will have a very hard time changing what they eat because their palates are formed to like what they've been eating all along. This doesn't mean one can't try and like new foods. But a diet -- a pattern of foods one eats most times everyday over a long period of time -- becomes almost hard-wired into our minds, and deviating from this diet prompts our on-board circuitry to reject it. And this is a big reason why a new way of eating doesn't stick over the long-term for most people.
But looking back over the many years that have passed since I first tried to get them to switch to the Mediterranean Diet, I see an interesting thing has happened after all: my parents eat an Indo-Mediterranean Diet!
Or perhaps a Gujarati-Mediterranean Diet. What I mean is that today on their dinner plate there's a salads of fresh raw vegetables (sometimes including Mediterranean herbs like sweet basil and rosemary from their garden), whereas in the past when we were eating a typical Gujarati meal there wasn't any salad. They have cut down the rice and rotli (flatbread) and eat more of the salad, shak bhaji (a dish of vegetables such as spinach, channa or chickpeas, sweet potato, onions, and so on cooked in oil), and dal (lentil based soup).
Guess what they put on their salad? Olive oil, a Mediterranean Diet staple. When they have time for a luxurious morning, they eat berries and other fruits like oranges with a small amount of nasta (usually fried grains, similar to chips). Before their Indo-Mediterranean Diet, they used to eat lots of nasta and less fruit. Also, they snack on nuts (another food of the Mediterranean Diet) like pecans and pistachios instead of the fried stuff.
What's even more interesting is many Uncles and Aunties I've spoken with have told me that they are eating this way too, mixing their own homegrown Indian cuisine with foods like healthier whole grains (such as millet or brown rice) that are a part of the Mediterranean Diet. And people of my age who eat Indian food at home also eat fish and wine, which are also considered staples of the Mediterranean Diet.
I hope this development -- the Indo-Mediterranean Diet -- continues to grow and spread to all corners of the world because the science shows the Mediterranean Diet is good for people at risk for heart disease and stroke (many of us). Combining elements of the Mediterranean Diet with elements of a Healthy Indian Diet based on other fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, healthy fats, nuts, yogurts, and above all else spices like turmeric and black pepper lets us reap the benefits and tastes of both worlds.Read more about expert opinions on this Mediterranean Diet study here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/health/mediterranean-diet-can-cut-heart-disease-study-finds.html.And here's a great summary of the study: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324338604578326160736614012.
It's been more than 6 weeks since January 1, and many of you are already off your resolutions, whatever they may be. Then there are also some of you who are still sticking with them. What makes the difference between those who can't or don't keep their resolutions, and those that do?
I think the answer lies in a few tips I'll describe in the context of eating healthier Indian food. I developed them after reading quite a bit in the social sciences lately. So without further ado...
1. Focus on Changing your Environment, Not your Behavior.
It's hard to stop eating Indian junk food or sweets when they are sitting right in front of you on the dining table or countertop. Move this processed unnatural food to places you can't see them like the pantry closet. Which leads me to...
2. Don't Stop Snacking, Just Go with a Good Snack instead of a Bad One.
If you're used to snacking at work or upon return home or whenever, stopping this habit will be tough. Your body, hungering for that daytime dose of food, will rebel against your brain and you'll go back to your habits. So instead, replace what you snack on (if it's junk food) with something good for you (nuts and fruits).
3. Aim for Near-Perfection, Not Perfection.
People punish themselves or feel bad if they aren't perfect with their resolutions. But this is counter-productive. Strangely, the bad feelings from not being perfect transfer over to the thing we're trying to get perfect at. This prevents us from following that thing. Aim instead to be "almost perfect." Give yourself a day to not be perfect with your diet.
4. Enlist your Spouse, Family or Friends to Join You, not just Support You.
This goes back to the environment thing. If people around you eat crap food, then it's easy for you to eat crap food, too. If they eat well, you're more likely to eat well, too. Now if you you live with your parents (or you live with your children) or you are married and live with a spouse, tell them to help you out by being a food cop (to tell you don't buy unnatural food at the grocery store) or a coach (to encourage you to make positive changes to what you eat). But even more powerful would be if you told them to join you in improving the food you eat every day.
5. Act Now.
We tend to put things off until some special day. But it never comes. It's our mechanism to postpone something that appears painful. And eating better may be painful at first. But once you eat well daily, you feel good with what you eat. It becomes painful to eat crap food. So the best way to make a change like this, to not postpone your new food habits, is to start now. This minute. This second. Today. Pack something healthy for lunch, or when you're in the line at your cafe check out the salad or lean meats and pick something up there. Skip the carby stuff like cookies and chips, and eat nuts or a fruit. Whatever you decide on to eat as part of the new healthier you, start eating it today.
Image Source: The Gloss. URL: http://www.thegloss.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/calvin-and-hobbes.jpg.
Many people say our ancient Indian ancestors knew how to keep their bodies healthy. They were after all perfecting and practicing yogic exercises and meditation for centuries. Apparently, they were also eating well: 3 spices that many feel are the quintessential spices of curry -- ginger, garlic and turmeric -- were found to be in their diets.Read more on the research breakthrough where scientists were able to analyze old earthenware found at an Indus Civilization city's ruins, finding plant starches from ginger, garlic and turmeric and discovered the use of these spices 4,500 years ago: "The Mystery of Curry."