Friday, November 27, 2015

We need all-out #WarOnObesity

Did you see the recent report on the obesity rate inching up here in the US? See link - 
So many people were shocked, I was not. I would tell you why. Think of the effort CDC, other government agencies, various foundation and organizations putting in this battle. The first lady Michelle Obama is at the forefront of this battle against the childhood obesity. And the childhood obesity rate has gone down. But everything is in the battle mode not the war. A country with more than 70% overweight prevalence including 36% adults being obese and with almost $100 Billion spent every year to fight this menace, we needed #NoHolds war. And this situation is persisting for more than 10 years.

We are not doing the basic things right. Its common knowledge that the low income populace are disproportionately affected by this menace. If you see this report, the obesity rate for the African American women is 56% and for the Hispanics women is 46% and you can guess why though the report does not mention the income link. 2 things are happening here. The knowledge gap and the access to the healthy food.

The survey after survey points out that 60% of the adult Americans don’t know about the BMI, the Body Mass Index. Is it not outrageous? Like this is the first thing you should know if you are overweight or not. Because then you can think of what you should eat or how much. In the New York city, the restaurants are putting the calorie value of food items since 2005 and as per the surveys, only 30% of the patrons took notice of it. I was wondering why the people would take the notice of something which does not concern them. I mean if people know they are overweight, then they would see the calorie. So why not the BMI poster like us which we have put at the entrance and the back-page of our menu. We have BMI in our logo and the phone number too. Like if you interact with Nirmal once in any form, you can’t escape the BMI, period. See various posters at our website under ‘Nirmal at a glance.’ My point is how long our fellow citizens would suffer under the garb of some rights, or the amendment or the limited government? See being overweight is the precursor to the most of the health issues and here I am not talking about the kids being bullied for being obese and some cases ending up in the suicides.

Now take Glycemic index (GI), other critical factor in the weight watch. What’s your guess of % population knowing it? My guess is 10% plus or minus 5%. We all should eat the food items with the low glycemic index. What happens when you eat foods with high GI is that it results in the sugar spikes and the crashes. Momentarily you would feel full and in the very short period, you would again feel hungry. And you go for more food, mainly the fast food. Meats and the most vegetables except the potato have very low GI and here the majority eat meat as their main food, so no need to worry about GI.

But that leads to another issue which I mentioned earlier – the access to the healthy food. In the US, the meat is synonymous with the protein or the vice-versa. But there are 2 other sources of proteins too. The meat protein has medium to high fat and low saturated fat, the milk protein has high fat and saturated fat both and the meat or protein substitutes such as lentils, soya chunks, tofu, other legumes have low fat and zero saturated fat. The last option is the cheapest source too. When I was growing up in India, my protein profile was 50% from the milk, 40% from the substitutes mainly lentils and soya chunks and 10% from the meat (goat meat). No surprise here as India is the largest producer of the milk and the 2nd largest for both the lentils and the goat. Now here in the US, it is almost 33% each from all three sources. And my BMI has hovered around 24 for the last 10 years, just below the overweight mark of 25. My guesstimate for the majority’s protein profile here is 70% meat, 25% milk and rest other sources. But you can ask where you can try eat lentils, soya chunks or tofu. My answer is the home cooking like most of us Indians or Asians do. You can try the lentils, other legumes at Indian restaurants, the lentils being the staple food for the Indian cuisine and the Mediterranean restaurants do carry the legume dishes. No one serves soya chunks as per my knowledge Indian or any other restaurant and I don’t see tofu dishes even in the Chinese buffet, kind of surprise for me.

I have mentioned in my earlier posts how the veggie protein misses just one item-B12 as compared to the meat protein and B12 is plenty in the milk and egg. Vegans do need the supplement. If you have any other doubt about the efficacy of the veggie protein in deciding the intelligence quotient or the academic prowess of you or your kids, you have to watch out for the Asians or Indians in your city or the neighborhood. Not the CEOs of Microsoft, Google or Pepsi. Let me admit I don’t find many vegetarians among the sports persons. I remember reading one report long time back how Viswanathan Anand, the only world chess champion from India, became the meat eater while living in Spain from a staunch vegetarian. And mind you the chess is not physical sports, right. But my point is how many of us earn our livelihood from the sports.

Asians have the obesity rate of 12% as compared to 36% for the others as per this report. We Indians could be easily the flag-bearer of the vegetarianism as India has 42% of population as the vegetarians, almost 500 million, 65% of the world total. Asians do eat plenty of meat as for example China has just 5% population as the vegetarians. But one thing is common, our eating style. Like we eat rice and/or bread as the main item and the meat or veggie entrée as the side dish. Let me explain. When I came to the US, I had never cooked before. So I used to have the lunch at the school cafeteria. And my favorite lunch was the chicken dish which came with 2 Oz of rice, some mashed potato and almost 15 Oz of chicken breast. This is 400 gms of chicken with almost 120 gms protein where a male adult needs just 56 gms and female 46 gms. Compare this with our lunch food box. It has 8 Oz of parboiled rice, one whole wheat bread of 3 Oz, 2 entrees of 5 Oz each and one side fruit or raita of 3 Oz, total 24 Oz. (1 lb = 16 Oz) Even if you take both entrees as Chicken, it would be 10 Oz of curry which contains just 6 Oz of Chicken and around 50 gms of protein.

Are the people eating excessive protein here? I don’t think the excessive protein is a problem for most of us, But the accompanying fat is. Specially the meat and the milk products have plenty of fat. Am I asking you to eat Asian or Indian style? Yes, if this changes your protein profile and reduces your fat consumption. Like if you want to eat lentils, soya chunks etc, you have to eat them in Indian style, not as the salads or soups. Basically I am pitching for the home cooking which gives you much better control and choice of what and how much you eat.

We made switch to only whole wheat bread (called Roti) and the parboiled rice in Feb 2015 in tune with our mantra of Eat Healthy, Save Energy, Save Our Planet. The Naan bread, made from all purpose flour, is made in Tandoor oven which consumes 3 times more energy than the Roti made on Tawa, the way we make at home and eat daily. So we discarded Tandoor oven as well as Naan, almost synonymous with Indian cuisine here in the US. Some patrons got upset and we lost some business too. But is it worth? Yes as both whole wheat bread and parboiled rice have much lower GI and very high dietary fiber in comparison. Like 1 whole wheat bread is equivalent to 8 white breads. Please read our website blog ‘Why whole wheat’ to get more reasons to make switch. But the issue again is where you would find the whole wheat bread and the parboiled rice. I don’t see the whole wheat flour and the parboiled rice at the Sam’s club and GFS in our locality, the two biggest suppliers for the restaurants. So I can guess there are not many options for you.

Did you come across the recent WHO guidelines about the processed and red meat? See this link -
The Indian food and our style of cooking is the slowest. One reason is the usage of plenty of spices which take its own time for absorption. Now I think you have plenty of reasons for the home cooking specially the Asian or Indian way. Give it a try, see if it makes the difference or not and then decide.

One thing for sure, if you #EatRight in 7 steps, see my earlier post, you are making a global impact helping millions, not just yourself.

Now to summarize, the tools for #WarOnObesity:

1.   Know BMI and let others know, try Nirmal’s way
2.   FDA to label the food items for GI
3.   Change the protein profile of your food intake
4.   Home cooking and try the slow food

5.   #EatRight, not just #EatHealthy