No rice. No carbs. No fats. No oil.
These recommendations that are part of so many fad diets today are nothing short of amusing and bewildering. Somehow, most people have internalized the idea that weight loss is an arduous journey and that there’s no way around giving up ‘bad’ foods.
The rise of obesity as a global epidemic has given birth to a cottage industry that supposedly helps you lose weight. Such diets may emphasize certain nutrients and completely leave out others. They may help out with weight loss but you won’t be able to function well on a day-to-day basis and will likely put back the weight you lost.
In the general discourse, the focus is rarely on having a balanced diet — a diet that provides the body the nutrients it needs, keeps you feel full for longer and helps lose weight in a sustainable manner. When you help your body provide the nutrition it needs, the cells in your body function well and you help your body feel better, not just lighter. Portion control, instead of crash dieting, is the way to go.
A healthy diet doesn’t fundamentally change your relationship with food. It takes into account the fact that food not only sustains us but also makes us feel satisfied and content. A balanced diet doesn’t need to be bland and boring; it can satisfy your taste buds as well.
Think of a routine meal at home. It can be roti with aloo-gobi, simple dal-chawal or rasam-rice. It keeps you full until your next meal and nourishes your body with a variety of nutrients. When you combine this meal with fruits in the morning, raw sliced vegetables and nuts in the evening, you get a diet that fulfils the body’s nutritional requirement.
Most importantly, designing a balanced diet doesn’t have to be that complicated. You just need to make sure it includes a few key components. Let’s take a closer look:
Fruits and vegetables
Whether you like to munch on sliced carrots as a side dish or bite into an apple for breakfast, it’s a choice that will serve you well. Fruits and vegetables go a long way to keep your body nourished.
Fruits and vegetables contain ample amount of dietary fibre that helps out with better digestive health, cholesterol management, balancing blood sugar, feeding good gut bacteria along with antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and free radical damage.
Fruits and vegetables are alkaline in nature, which means that they help balance acids in the stomach. This helps keep away gastric ailments. It is particularly helpful to have green leafy vegetables, root vegetables and citrus fruits. Fresh, local and seasonal fruits are a better choice as they go through minimal processing and their nutritional value remains intact.
They are also rich in live enzymes that help break down nutrients during the digestive process.
Fruits and vegetables provide your body with necessary vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.
Lentils, pulses and legumes
From rajma-chaawal to sambar rice, a variety of lentils, pulses and legumes are ubiquitous in the Indian diet. As part of a balanced diet, they provide a number of benefits.
By including some form of lentils, pulses and legumes in every meal, you can ensure that you have some form of protein in your diet. Contrary to popular belief, a vegetarian or even a vegan diet, does not have to lack in protein.
It is recommended to have lentils and pulses in combination with cereals such as wheat or rice to fill in for the dietary requirement of amino acids, phosphorus, B vitamins, iron and other essential nutrients. A simple vegetarian meal like dal rice or khichadi is a good source of protein with a complete amino acid profile. These vegetarian sources are inexpensive and available everywhere.
Along with the quantity of protein, one should pay adequate attention to the quality of protein. During digestion, proteins are broken down into amino acids which are then used up by the body for maintaining immunity. Your muscles also use up amino acids.
Here are some nutritious pulses and legumes that should be part of a balanced diet.
Boiled rajma (red kidney beans) simmered with spices in a thick gravy and paired with rice is a delicacy that many savour in the northern parts of India. Boiled rajma can also be used as a delicious filling for sandwiches. This North Indian comfort food dish is a fabulous source of protein (9 grams of protein per 100 grams of boiled rajma). It is also rich in a number of other nutrients.
(i) When consumed with rice, your body can make the most of amino acids present in protein.
(ii) Rajma is rich in resistant starch which can help you in effective weight management.
(iii) Like other foods with a dark maroon in colour, rajma beans are rich in antioxidants. They help boost the immune system and protect the body from the effects of harmful free radicals.
(iv) Boiled rajma with a pinch of asafoetida helps boost kidney function and is a remedy for kidney stones as well.
(v) To deliver the best possible nutrition, Tata Sampann Rajma do not go through artificial polishing processes. The individual beans are consistent in size and quality. They also have low moisture which gives your body more protein with every serving.
Caution: Wash the beans well before cooking to get rid of enzymes that can be harmful to the body. Soak them for at least 14 to 16 hours and then pressure-cook them. Individuals with elevated uric acid levels need to go easy with pulses that are purine rich like rajma as such pulses could aggravate the existing condition.
Chana or chickpeas is another legume that makes for a delicious and wholesome Indian meal. The legume, also known as garbanzo beans, is native to the Middle East but is enjoyed around the world in different forms. There are quite a few reasons to include this legume in your diet.
(i) Chickpeas contain a lot of fibre and protein. They help you feel satiated for a longer period of time and are thus a good option for those looking to manage their weight.
(ii) Chana is also a great source of minerals such as zinc, iron and manganese.
(iii) If you are looking to boost hair health and look great, this is just the food for you. As the legume is extremely rich in biotin (B7), chickpeas are a superfood to maintain hair and skin health.
(iv) Pan-roasted chana is a protein-rich snack that can help you keep your energy levels high in the evening when they generally tend to dip. The snack doesn’t have as many carbohydrates, little fat and a lot of fibre and protein.
With all these foods, you can see how getting rid of excess weight doesn’t mean depriving your body of essential nutrients. Instead, a healthy diet can be built into your daily lifestyle. You can focus on having foods that satisfy the needs of the body and target the real culprits of obesity – overeating, eating with a stressed mind, sedentary lifestyle, etc.
That’s just what you need to stay healthy in the long run.
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