Thursday, September 22, 2016

SLow Carb vs Low Carb

It all started at our Nirmal cafe in Ypsilanti, MI. If you happen to be in the South-east Michigan and come to our cafe’s own parking lot, you would get a jolt with slogans on the windows, not typical for any restaurant leave aside ethnic food joints. ‘Eat Healthy Drink Healthy’ or ‘Pure Michigan Pure Food, Nirmal =Pure would greet you at the outside. ‘Nirmal’ does mean ‘pure’ in our mother tongue Hindi. Once you enter inside, the first poster to greet you is ‘Know Your BMI’ and then ‘why whole wheat’ or ‘Meat for Protein?’ or why eat lentils, like all components of ‘disruptive eating’ which we practice and promote aggressively. We do proclaim ourselves as a mission-first food vendor and our mission is to defeat this monster of obesity and overweight prevalence fair and square.
Let us get back to the main story.

An old lady of around 65 years of age, white and well-educated inquires about our flagship item -Food Box 555 -5 items for $5 in 5 minutes - only fast and ready food at Nirmal. Food box contains total 24 Oz of food - 8 Oz of parboiled rice, 3 Oz of whole wheat bread, two entrees of 5 Oz each out of 3 choices of the legumes, vegetables and chicken and 3 Oz of fruit. Complete meal with the requisite protein and far tastier and nutritious than the tacos, burgers and pizzas in the same price. Parboiled rice is 80% nutritionally similar to Brown rice, so the Food box has around 50% of whole grain. When we talk about the slow carb, Parboiled rice is better choice as it has glycemic index of 38-40 as compared to 55-60 for Brown rice.

This lady calls me and ask - do you really think Food box is healthy with so much carb? Honestly I was taken aback as our whole concept of ‘disruptive eating’ revolves around Indian food read Curry and our style of eating. More whole grain, More plant proteins, More vegetables and much less meat and it is not we do it deliberately. Anyway I simply blurted out - Yes it is. If not then India and China would be the fattest nations on Earth which we are not. Like the obesity and overweight prevalence in Asian countries are much less than that of  US or the Mediterranean countries eating the Mediterranean food considered the healthiest here in US. And if you are thinking the low rate of obesity may be due to the poverty, then yes the obesity rate for Asians in the US is 12% as compared to 36% for the general population and the Asians are the highest income group here.

But this incident was blessing in disguise as it opened a new window for our thought process. It actually helped us to redefine the tools for Disruptive Eating. The low income populace is disproportionately affected by this menace of obesity and overweight but the whole food system is kind of rigged for the low income populace. I would explain how?

First thing first, USDA guidelines do recommend getting 45% to 65% of daily calories from the Carb. Also around 33% calories from the grains (for 2000 calories diet), half of which should be the whole grain. Majority eat 15% of recommended whole grains and 40% does not eat at all the whole grain. I don’t see how and why the Carb is declared as a villain for obesity and overweight prevalence.

I would put Carb into 3 categories -

1. Slow carb - any food item with low glycemic index (GI) like the whole grains, lentils, other legumes

2. Fast carb - any food item with high glycemic index like white rice, white bread and any sugary item. The reference point for GI is sugar with GI of 100.

3. Zero Carb/Low Carb - All meats are zero Carb and most of the vegetables and fruits would be considered the low carb.

So let me start with the Fast Carb which I do equate with 'trash' as it is harmful for us. Foods with high glycemic index breaks into the sugar very fast giving blood sugar spikes and a sense of fulfillment quickly. So you eat less and as soon these spikes subside, you again feel hungry say within a hour or two. As we do lunch and dinner once a day, we go for the junk foods and soda to satiate our hunger. Again these are also Fast Carb and we get into a vicious circle.

We must discard Fast Carb, I would agree at least for the main meals. But the substitute is not the low carb or zero carb. I would share my struggle. When I first came to the US for my education, we used to have welcome lunch or dinner or food at the official get-together. The spread of the food in the sit-in buffet  used to be quite fabulous with one beef item, one pork item, one chicken item, then baked vegetables (read broccoli), sandwich breads and some rice too. Its another matter that majority of Indians don't eat beef or pork due to religious beliefs, Broccoli I was not familiar with then and the sandwich breads I assumed you can eat for only morning breakfasts as is done in my family. So I was left with only chicken and some rice because if all persons ahead of you taking only 2 spoons of rice, you can't take 10 spoons and just disrupt the whole line. Here I am with almost 2-3 patties of chicken (almost 30 Oz) and still not feeling full. My savior was the cookies or Ice cream as dessert. But it was double whammy. With all due respect to the Vegans or Vegetarians, I can't sustain myself on the salads or the baked vegetables though at home I eat meat only 3-4 times out of 14 full meals a week. But that credit goes to Curry. But then Curry makes 42% of India's population vegetarian as compared to only  10% of population being vegetarian in the US and only 5% in China.

First you end up eating more meat as they are zero carb and they don't give you any sugar spikes to give you sense of fulfillment, so you go on filling your stomach physically. Meat has more fats and saturated fats than the plant proteins like legumes or tofu, nutri-gget or the vegetables, so you are eating more fats. And then because we need these blood sugar spikes at the end, you go for the pure sugary items, not good for health.

Now talk about the 'Slow Carb.' Our Food Box is the perfect example. Out of 24 Oz, you get 11 Oz of whole grain, slow carb, if you take legumes and vegetables as entrees, both slow carb or Chicken, the zero carb item. The side of fruit or salted yogurt is also slow carb. All 5 items in $5. You eat Food Box and it keeps you full for 5-6 hours. No need to spend money and time on eating junk foods and soda. This is what our patrons tell us so many times.

Any food items with GI around 50 would qualify as Slow Carb as these items breaks slowly to give you blood sugar spikes, a sense of fulfillment. So you eat your full meal and for the next 5-6 hours you are all set. Compare this with Big Mac, also almost 24 Oz in total with the white breads and beef patty and priced at $5-6 if you include soda as people do usually. It won't keep you full for even a hour or two because you are eating a combination of fast and zero carb.

But when I say that our food system is rigged because the whole wheat bread costs more than the white breads. Whereas it should be 50% cheaper. Brown rice is costlier than white rice. Very few of us know about the Parboiled rice which is better 'Slow Carb' than the Brown rice.

#EatingHealthyCheaper is in our hands. The day we start asking the restaurants to serve Parboiled rice and the whole wheat breads, they would follow suit. Then the grocers like Sam's club and GFS would start selling Parboiled rice and whole wheat flour which they don't do now.

Let us make this a movement and join us at Twitter @NirmalCurry and Facebook and Instagram (Nirmal Indian Cuisine). I am ready to debate with all proponents of 'Low Carb' because it may be good for people with the higher income, not for the majority here. And yes Indian food is all about the Slow food and the SLow carb.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Prevention is always better than Cure

#PokemonGo became the most succesful app ever in the US within 2 weeks of its launch this month. But what was so unique about it? Like #Pokemon has been around for a while may be 20 years or so. For the first time, the gamers were forced out of their couches and wander around to catch the pokemons. Some hailed it as a kind of fitness app which can tranform the health profile of the US. Almost 70% of the US populace are overwiehgt and 36% of them are obese, inching up last year from 33%. But what is most disheartening is majority don’t think we can reverse this trend as evident from this line in the global obesity report published on April 1st 2016~
What chance does the United States have to stop the rise of obesity by 2025? Zero, the study says.
This app gives us hope. It demonstrates people want to come out of their couch potato status but they need some purpose, in this case catching the pokemons all around. But our case is not as simplistic as we intend or desire to be. Off course we believe #DisruptiveEating gives very high purpose to each of us to make the world or our planet a better place. And we tell people Indian food is key to #DisruptiveEating. But 2 things make our job more difficult - first one is natural as the eating habit after some point is not easy to change. Second is the myth about Indian food.
But first thing first. if 5% of the world population here in the US keep a semblance of health after consuming 52% of the world medicines, something is amiss. Please read my earlier posts. How your bad health or health with the medicines impact you and your family  the income and the educational opportunities. Which in turn may be not let you to come out of abyss of paycheck to paycheck or paycheck to the food stamps life. Health equality is the key to fight the income and educational inequality, not the other way round- 3 components of the social inequality. But as things stand today, there is lot of talk about income and educational inequality but just a lip-service here and there for the health equality. Do you wonder why there is the dietary guidelines by DPHP (Disease prevention & health promotion) once in 5 years? Like given the pace of change in this internet age, you won’t remember what happened in the world or your life 5 years back. See here ~ .
Like first time it says sodium intake should be limited to 2300 mg daily. We get most of sodium from the salt and various preservatives in all type of processed foods. We all know that excess salt and sugar is bad so why we need to wait for 5 years to hear it. I am happy that at least dietary guidelines are related to ‘disease prevention.’ This is what we vouch for when we talk about first 75:25 rule. 75% of our health issues owe its origins to our unhealthy life style and 75% of life style depends on what we eat or drink.
June 2016 could be a watershed month for us as we decided to project  ‘Indian cuisine’ as a key to challenge the status quo going on for too long and people not having many options to change. Take our second 75:25 rule. We ask you to try to stick to 75% alkaline food and 25% acidic food. See the chart here ~ . And you would instantly say that its most logical thing you came across. All vegetables and fruits are in alkaline category. No prize for guessing the sodas, beef and pork are in the most acidic category.  So why Indian food can make it easier for you? Indian food revolves around onions, tomato, garlic, ginger, plethora of spices like turmeric, cumin and coriander and all are in alkaline category. Lentils and goat meat are the staple food items in India and lentils are alkaline. The goat meat could be the least acidic meat in the sense that the goat milk and the goat cheese are only alkaline dairy products. Kind of inference here. Our Mother’s curry has Ph of 6.4, very low acidic as water has Ph of 7, perfect neutral. We call it Mother’s curry (onions based) because we use it at home daily and almost in all foods. Let me admit Makhani and Tikka Masala curry are the most popular items in the US and both are based on the tomato sauce. We may eat tomato based food once a week at home if not more.
I always hear from the people they can’t eat Indian food as it is too ‘Spicy.’ And that is kind of biggest misnomer.  Indian food uses plenty of spices but it is not Spicy. People equate ‘hotness’ of food with spiciness. Hotness come from Chili as in other cuisines like Mexican, Thai too which could be easily controlled. Like you can order your food as mild or medium, hot or extra hot. Our flagship item of Food Box_555 ($5 for 5 items in 5 minutes) has all mild entrees because that is only ready or fast food at Nirmal cafe. All spices are good for health in one way or other but yes it may take some time for your taste buds or bowel to adjust. And the spices are not Hot, Hot. But eating is believing.
But we would make it easier for you to believe once we launch our packaged curry in the local grocery stores this Fall. You can find the bottled curry or mostly entrees in the Whole Foods or the Costco which are beyond reach of 60%. Please read my previous post. So say once you buy a 8 Oz bottle of Mother’s curry in $4, you can use it as spread for your burgers, dressings for your salad or as barbeque sauce or mix it with lentils you cook at home to cook vegetables, chicken ot any other meat as per your choice. Basically it would democratize the Indian cuisine now considered elite. And perhaps that could be the best way to get used to Indian food.
And why this is important for us? Because we want to wean people away from the fast food. We are convinced beyond doubt that if we have to succeed in our mission to contain the obesity or overweight prevalence here, people have to turn to the slow food here. And Indian curry is the slowest, tastier, cheapest and the most healthy food around.
I remember one patron cautioning us about how our claims could be construed as a cure for the obesity or overweight? But here is the deal. We are out and out Prevention mode flag bearer unlike the weight loss clinics or the diet shops or the fitness centers. We say if people here eat Indian food frequently or get used to Curry, we can control the obesity or overweight menace here. And I have so many data to support our claims. Like India has 500 million vegetarians, 42% of its population whereas US has only 10% and China has 5% just for comparison with most popular ethnic cuisine. And the credit goes to Curry or our eating style. We believe that excess meat consumption is central to this meance and that we need to curtail it drastically. I am not yet factoring in the global warming debate yet. Compare this data - India’s  meat consumption per person per day is only 13 gms as compared to 330 gms for US, 220 gms for Europe and 160 gms for China. Like even if we Indians eat meat, it is not our main food. While growing up in India I used to have meat item once a week on Sundays. Off course here in the US we do eat meat now 3-4 times a week.
And we were not poor in India. That is often cited as a reason by the experts whenever I mention India having overweight prevalence of 20% only or the obesity rate of 6% compared to US’s 70% and 36% respectively. See the income level does play some part here but not the main part. If so then how you can justify the obesity rate of 12% among Asian Americans in the US which include Indians given that Asian Americans have the highest income level among all groups here including the whites. I am confident if the obesity data is for only Indian Americans, it would be below 10% as we eat far less meat than other Asians here though our eating styles - eating more grain, vegetables and eating more at home- are similar. The last one is very important to our all data.
Majority of Indians in India may eat outside once or twice a month. Here my family eat outside once a week thanks to our kids as we get to try so many different cuisines. So if you are eating Indian food once a week indulging in the buffet or creamy, oily items offered at the majority of Indian restaurants, these data are not relevant. Because for example, the buffet is not at all healthy eating. Not only one ends up eating more meat if you are non-vegetarian, majority end up over-eating. And this is what I have seen first hand at Temptations, our earlier avatar.  It could be relevant only when you cook and eat Indian food regularly at home or try to eat better at the Indian restaurants, doable due to the flexibility of curry.
When we ask you to eat Indian Curry, our hidden focus is to reduce the meat consumption here. But we are not telling you straight. We don’t have to as our mission to fight obesity is intertwined with less meat consumption. Recently I came across PETA’s announcement for $10000 award for a butcher shop in Kalamazoo, MI if they convert to a vegan shop after a fire ravaged their original store.        .
I liked such approach. Majority here care for the animals as the US has the highest per person pet animals. But read my post - Is Veganism the anti-dote to vegetarianism? The compassion for animals and the meat consumption are two separate things. First, we have to provide the substitutes for the meat and Indian cuisine has plenty.  I hereby ask PETA to start supporting Indian cuisine in the sense that let people first go for #meatless eating and then let them decide to go #meatfree or even VEGAN. See even if you don’t care for global warming or the climate change, the meat consumption as of today is not sustainable. Like 64% of the agriculture land is used for the animals’ feed. How you think we would be able to feed 9 billion people by 2050?
This week I did watch DNC for the first time. Politics is not my cup of tea but from June 2016 we decided to be a part as the politicians have played a major role to sustain this status quo as evident from the soda tax episode in Philadelphia. I admire Mr Michael Bloomberg, one man army for the prevention mode. He continues to pick-up fight everywhere for everything. I always wonder why he can’t support the cities if they agree to make the restaurants in the city Soda free. Like we may be the only restaurant out of 1500 or so in the Washtenaw county who does not offer any soda drink in the menu. The patrons go for other options, majority for the water. At least I am not aware if we lost some patrons for that. But yes the sodas are the most profitable item in a restaurant with almost 300% margin, other items may have 30-40% margins. City can always give some incentives to the soda-free restaurants in the form of 50% reduction in the food  license fees or the local banks giving loans at the reduced rates. Like all of us live in the same community and a health community would be cost effective if we factor in terms of lost man-hours or higher insurance premium due to the bad health. Two things are relevant here. First, the soda-free restaurants would be far more effective than the soda tax. Second, the water becomes the prominent drink, a neutral drink and a free option, so relevant for both 75:25 rules.

Similarly the heart related disease is No 1 killer in the US. We know that simply switching to whole wheat bread can reduce this risk by 20% as per research of University of Washington and similar study by Harvard. Please see our website blog 'Why whole wheat bread.' We also know the majority of restaurants here don't serve whole wheat bread as the Sam's club and GFS, two biggest suppliers for the restaurants, don't even carry whole wheat or grain flour. Then why not the cities can goad or give restaurants incentives to serve only whole wheat bread. We proved at Nirmal that the food exclusion works. We only serve whole wheat bread called Roti at Nirmal whereas Naan white bread is synonymous with Indian cuisine here in the US.

I can here murmur of 'Freedom of Personal Choice' or 'are we slaves' all around which I did take on in my earlier posts. It is all about 'Freedom to let People Suffer' and trust me majority belong to 60% of 10:30:60.
Have you heard - Honesty is the best policy only if majority are honest? Same here - Prevention would work only when the majority start practicing it, not wait for the cure.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

10% vs 30% vs 60%

Two news items may have missed your attention this month as we were swamped, starting with the farewell to a living legend Muhammed Ali to the last Presidential primary to #OrlandoShooting to the Cavaliers’ win to #Brexit to Messi’s retirement. The posterity would remember June 2016 for long, we too though for different reasons and two news items would change the direction of our campaign.
First, Philadelphia became the first major city in the US to impose the soda tax.  Actually major or minor, it is only second city after Berkeley, CA to go that route. Needless to mention the millions were spent from both sides, Mr Bloomberg on one side and the beverage companies with Teamsters union at the other.  But the Mayor of Philadelphia Mr Jim Kenney in his speech at the signing event did not mention a single time why the soda tax was imposed in a city with 68% of obesity and overweight prevalence. Like he did mention he needs money for the community schools, health centers, parks but he did not have courage to say reduced soda consumption in his city would be better for its residents. Berkeley did not mince words though.
Second news item involves soon-to-be the world’s largest agriculture company Bayer AG, a German company, who is buying Monsanto, the US company.  So someone at Bayer’s crop science division tweeted ‘reduced meat demand would be good for our planet.’ And there was such a blow-back from the farmers here in the US that Bayer’s unit apologized to the farmers. See article here -
I was shocked but not in disbelief. I don’t think anyone needs a college degree to know the sodas are bad for our health and the current meat consumption is not good for health as well as not sustainable. Please read my earlier posts. We do have data  - the obesity rate inched up to 36% last year and then the last line of this global obesity rate stamped what we suspect already~
What chance does the United States have to stop the rise of obesity by 2025? Zero, the study says.”
Are we so helpless? Is not the ‘Freedom of Personal Choice’ being misused? Remember our first 75:25 rule. 75% of the health issues owe its origins to being overweight or obese. Need proof? The US has 5% of world population but consumes 52% of total world medicines.
Read here ~ .Is not this crazy? Like some experts would claim the longevity of the population has gone up, the mortality rate of some groups has gone down but with the help of piles and piles of medicines. Whereas the world over lot of people are leading the healthy life without medicines.
But both of these news items authenticated my classification of 10% vs 30% vs 60% which I mentioned fleetingly in my earlier posts. I would explain. Second, I am not very political and for me, 99% vs 1% is over simplified. But from now, we decided to go for the socio-political campaign for #DisruptiveEating to maximize its impact.
10% of people are super rich and they don’t get impacted by our issues. Like nothing means nothing can change their fortunes or well-being except for some untoward heavenly interventions. They are out of my purview.
30% of people are well educated and skilled in some way or other. It includes the people working for the Beverage companies to the meat industries to the Teamsters union to the restaurant owners to the big food and agriculture corporations to the pharmateutical companies to the health insurance providers to the hospitals to the majority of politicians.They are well-paid, majority of them earn in excess of $50K per annum.
60% people live paycheck to paycheck or the paycheck to the food stamps and back, majority on the hourly wages. So 5%% people may be jumping around between the last two categories. Incidentally almost 70% of people are overweight here in the US. And the obesity rate among the African-American women is 56%, Hispanic women 46% as against 36% for all. No brainer this menace is directly linked to the income level.
In the Philly case, Teamsters union who represents the workers of the beverage bottling plants argued that due to soda tax, the consumption of soda drinks would go down, hence the bottling of sodas would go down and hence the workers would lose jobs. The same logic for the farmers who forced Bayer AG to apologize because they are earning million per year and are not ready to take a hit due to the reduced meat demand.
So these 30% people are smart. Barring few they are not overweight or obese. They have money and access to buy the healthier options. That’s why Whole Foods Inc, Trader Joe flourished during the worst recession of our time. Like they are not drinking sugary drinks or eating red meats in tons, trust me I put myself in this category. And I meet people all the time who won’t touch even potatoes, leave aside the red meat. Or if they become obese or overweight, they have resources to go for weight loss surgery, or buy diet meals from big name experts or see a nutritionist or join the fitness centers.
Now take 60%, majority of whom are obese or overweight. They don’t have money or access to healthier options and nobody tell them or restrict them to eat or drink whatever they want under the garb of Freedom of Personal Choice. So they become slaves to their bad health and the medicines, spending their most of time, energy and money for the good health. Once you are not healthy, it is an uphill task to achieve the income and educational equality as you spend your resources traveling to and fro to health care providers to buy medicines, skipping hours at your job or missing your kids’ home work or absence of them at the schools.
All of us know these things, right? They why we don’t do anything about it? Why we accept the status quo meekly? Why us 30% for our extra well-being or good life let our fellow community members from 60% to struggle to get their basic things right? People are compassionate here no doubt if you think of multitude of the foundations, the money spent on the charity and the respect for the animals of all types. They why we could not be a bit extra compassionate towards our fellow human beings? Like why we can’t prevent something which are preventable rather than spending money for the cure?
When I mention ‘I am OK’ is not enough, I mean exactly that. let me share an example. We all know the whole grain is good or the whole wheat bread is good. Like if you read our blog at website ‘Why whole wheat bread’, you would think why I am eating the white breads when 1 whole wheat bread is equal to 8 white breads. We struggled for a year to discard the Naan white bread at Nirmal, synonymous with Indian food here as 95% of the Indian restaurants serve the Naan. Naan white bread is made in Tandoor oven which consumes 3 times more energy that that used for making Roti, the whole wheat bread, at Tawa. The way of working at Tandoor oven endangers the health of Tandoori chef as his face and hands continuously come into contact with 900 F. But what clinched the issue for us was a NPR report when the expert called the ‘white bread’ a trash. yes you read it right because the white bread harms you like other high glycemic index (GI) foods. You feel full for sometime due to the blood sugar spikes when you eat high GI food items and then you again feel hungry say in one-two hours forcing you to eat the junk foods, kind of double whammy. But because majority of 30% eat other healthier options, they are OK with Naan white bread or do-nuts or bagels or white bread burgers. That is the reason I don’t find the whole wheat flour at nearby Sam’s club or GFS, the two biggest suppliers for the restaurants. And as majority here eat outside, you are deprived of the whole wheat or whole grain options at most of the eateries.
So many whys? And the answers are simple for 60%. Prevention is always better than cure. When we first heard it may be in 6th grade, right. How many of us practice it in our daily life? And it is not that hard. Total $100 Billion plus is spent to fight the obesity and overweight prevalence in the US every year but the dietary guidelines which have potential to reduce the overweight prevalence, come once in 5 years. Why? Because so many jobs would be lost if 60% start #EatRight in 7 steps or even #EatHealthy as detailed in my earlier post. Does not it sound ironic or weird?
I remember signing a petition to stop the usage of computers in the offices, colleges when I was in college in India around 1990s. Like some people came and said this machine can do the work of 10-20 person alone and would take the jobs of our family members and the neighbors. Now when I think back, these computers created millions of jobs In India and all over the world. So when 50% of our population are not producing  output at their 100%, what happens to the economy or the community or the city? So effectively they become the consumers only, not the contributors and all of us lose out on the long term. Healthy people make a city, state or country, not the ventures, the parks or the big factories.
June 2016 would be another watershed month for our journey when we decided to shed our cloak of ‘political correctness’ and go whole hog to position Indian food as the best option for the prevention mode. How?
Starting with our second 75:25 rule for alkaline vs acidic food. See this link here ~ . Please go through these charts and you would say it makes sense to eat more alkaline food. Most of spices, tomato, onion, ginger, garlic, the core of Indian food, are alkaline. Mother’s curry, made of onion and spices, which we use in the majority of entrees, has PH of 6.4 as per recent lab report, low acidic as water is considered neutral at PH value of 7.  Beef and pork, the most acidic meats, are strict no-no in Indian cuisine.
But if the key is eating more plant proteins, more whole grain, more vegetables, start eating Indian food and you would find how easier it is. Like lentils, parboiled rice or whole wheat bread is so easy to cook at home which would make your lunch or dinner more affordable. Lentils with any whole grain is the complete protein. Why I talk about the lentils and the home cooking? Canada is the largest producer of lentils in the world. India is 2nd largest and the lentils are a staple food in Indian cuisine. Why not here as the lentils could be the cheapest source of protein as well as has 2nd highest protein per calorie after the soyabeans. It is also the richest source of the dietary fiber.
Another reason for the home cooking of Indian food is to avoid the Indian restaurants here. Reason, they don’t represent what we eat at home, authentic Indian food. We eat Roti, the whole wheat bread, at home daily but Naan white bread is cynosure of all eyes. Chicken Tikka Masala is the most popular dish here, a creamy entree whereas we don’t use dairy cream at all at home. Actually only North Indians eat creamy items but mostly the butter, to be fair to them. Though India is so diverse that every 100 miles our food changes with our language, no kidding.
Are you aware of ‘Seven countries study’ done in 1950’s which put the Mediterranean diet atop the perch of the healthy eating here in the US. Please read here - .
The seven countries in the study were US, Greece, Italy, Finland, Netherland, Serbia (formerly Yugoslavia) and Japan. Fast forward 2015, the overweight prevalence in 6 countries except Japan are over or close to 50%, Greece just behind the US with 63%. if you combine Japan’s overweight prevalence of 23% with the obesity rate among Asians in the US being only 12% last year, you can easily give the thumbs up to the Asian food and our eating style. But Indian food reduces your meat consumption considerably which we need to do eventually. India has 500 million vegetarians, 42% of its population as compared to 10% in the US and 5% in China. The credit for the vegetarian eating goes to the Curry as the spices in the curry dominate your taste buds not the chicken or the cauliflower. Below is the data for overweight prevalence.
Back to soda, we stopped serving soda drinks at Nirmal, replacing it with so many Indian drinks from lemon water to cumin drink to almond drink to yogurt drink to off course ubiquitous Indian tea with spices, last one served hot. Soda drinks are most acidic and lemon water is in most alkaline category so does the other drinks. But the soda drinks have 300% profit margin. Normally the other food items have 30-40% profit margin. Why don’t the cities or the county can give incentives to the restaurants to discard the soda drinks? Or Mr Bloomberg? My 2 cents. Given that majority here eat outside, that could make the huge impact, better than the soda tax, for sure.
Our task is cut-out. I can wish though the Columbus could have discovered America on his return journey after buying spices from India like other traders of his time. What keeps us going despite the Mount Everest of skepticism is this tribute to a G.O.A.T  from an Indian girl at his funeral services this month, so inspiring.
he stood tall in the face of pelting rain and shouted: 'I am the disturbance in the sea of your complacency and I will never stop shaking your waves'."

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Freedom of Personal Choice?

It all started at Twitter, see some tweets here.

Does @BBCWorld really think children should never have a sweet drink, not even when out for a special dinner? Ever?

Do you think water can be more effective than the #sugartax to fight childhood #obesity and oral #health issues? 

nt abt ever? we know alkaline better 4 us, why nt lemon drink instead of

 It's not about which is best. It's about the freedom of personal choice. Or are you just a slave?

The issue was a BBC World article, link above, which mentioned how in Britain the restaurants were issued the advisory to provide free water to their patrons on top of the recent announcement of the ‘Sugar tax’ on the sugary drinks. Britain too have the obesity problem far less as compared to the US but these efforts are targeted specially at the childhood obesity.

Very relevant for the US if you think of 80% of the restaurants visits are to the fast food places and I don’t think they are designed to offer free water. If you ask for water, some places may offer a smaller cup but the water and cola come from the same fountain. Who would monitor? But the basic fact is offering water does not make business sense. Like cola costs 10 cents assuming 2 small cups (16 Oz) of consumption and even if you sell at $1, it is the highest profit margin for any item at a food joint. So when we discarded the sodas at Nirmal café eventually, we lost one major profit making item. Now our yogurt drink called Lassi and Lemon water are the best selling items. But yes our patrons can get free water from a separate source themselves.

Now back to our debate – Freedom of personal choice? No
thing wrong with that. My contention is simple. We need full disclosure. Think of it. Whether you go to a bank to get a $500 loan or get a credit card or go to your doctor or have faced the judges at the courts, everywhere first you are told all information including what you can do and can’t do, what is good, bad or ugly. It’s another matter that most of us don’t even read all info printed in the small letters which may need the binoculars. Do we get full disclosure of the food items? Like if you agree with 75:25 rule which I mention all the time, you may agree that our eating and drinking choices may decide what type of life we live both quality and quantity wise. Specially now we have two 75:25 rules, the latest addition being 75:25 ratio for alkaline:acidic food we consume. I would request you to go through these two links:

That brings us to the ‘Mind’ food – food with a thought. One disclaimer here, we are not related anyway with based in Australia though I love their info. But we go beyond #EatHealthy which takes care of you only to #EatRight which impacts you, the community, the country and the planet. How?

My favorite example is the goat meat for a purpose. First, I grew up eating goat meat and it used to be a staple meat in India, India still 2nd largest producer in the world. Second, the huge disconnect here. The goat cheese is wildly popular in the US rightly so as the goat milk and cheese are only alkaline dairy products whereas there is no taker for the goat meat. The male baby goats are killed within a week which has resulted in the Heritage Foods USA’s campaign for ‘No Goat Left Behind’ or ‘Eat Goat to Save Goat.’

But what we know about the goat? The goat meat is even healthier than Chicken, see our website blog. Or the goat meat could be far less acidic than beef or pork. Or one pound of goat meat needs 127 gallons of water to be market-ready as compared to 1800 gallons of water for beef and 700 for pork. Or for the same quantity of meat, the goat needs 1/3rd of grass for beef or 1/5th of grain for pork. Also the goat could be reared anywhere from the Himalayas to the sub-Saharan Africa.

Taste-wise goat is almost similar to the lamb, for me the best specially with Indian curry. The why the world meat consumption is pork 36%, poultry 31%, beef 25% and goat mere 6%. Trust me here the cola profit margin is not the issue, information is. Like I, eating goat meat for the last 30 years or so, came to know about all these info during the last 2 years when we failed to convince our patrons to make switch to goat instead of lamb. Eventually we discarded the lamb too at Nirmal. Food exclusion combined with info is the best way to challenge the status quo.

Why you think all financial documents have small prints? Because they want us not to read these, period. Same with the meat industry. They are big and powerful. Why to change the status quo even if it means bad news for the planet or the poverty and hunger all across the globe. 64% of the world agriculture land is used for producing the animals’ feed.

We are slaves of our own ignorance and get exploited. Here is the deal. We humans are the social animals, not the animals. Whatever personal choices we make in any aspect of our life, good or bad, impacts the whole family, the community and in turn the country and the planet. So nothing is personal as such if you care for others, the basic tenet of being the human.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

We need to boil the ocean

The first time I heard this phrase, I was dumb struck. I was meeting an expert at the entrepreneurship center of a big name university and his first question was ‘why you are trying to boil the ocean.’  Implicit in his question was you are asking for the business advice to build the first ever Indian food chain. So why your business plan looks like that of a non-profit or at most a social enterprise? I fumbled completely to explain how our mission is integral to our business and that meeting went haywire.
But I don’t blame him or anyone who slams us in the reviews. Like are we a restaurant or nutritionist’s office, why we are making such a big deal of saving energy saving planet or we don’t get it why we serve only whole wheat bread, parboiled rice or why we discarded sodas from our menu. One gentleman predicted our mission would boomerang on us. It did actually it bomb-ranged. Like we lost 60% of the sales in the last 2 years and we have barely survived. But we are still hanging on the hope that the people would come out of this ‘Ocean.’ Let me explain.
Everything is so oceanic peaceful. People are eating or drinking whatever they want and without thinking about their choices. The result is 70% population being overweight and the obesity rate being up now to 36% from 33%. But there are so many gyms, health clinics, weight loss surgeries, diet plans to take care of you, no worry. As being overweight is precursor to most of the health issues, the trips to the hospitals are ever increasing. But the doctors won’t tell you to check your BMI, the Body Mass Index or you being overweight because it would violate your privacy or be offending. So 60% of US adult population don’t know their BMI. The hospitals and the health insurance companies are the most profitable business here. The health care costs are going out of the roof, no worry. Because the politicians are there to take care. Like we all are seeing the fight over the Obamacare for the last 6 years.
Who suffers the most for this oceanic nonchalance? No prize for guessing. The low income populace who does not have money to buy diet plans or can afford weight-loss surgeries. The people who don’t have insurance despite of Obamacare. We are convinced that the health equality is the key to fight the income and educational inequality- 3 components of the social inequality.
Am I sounding like 99% vs 1%? But I am more in 10% vs 30% vs 60%. 10% are super rich here, if not billionaires, no need to waste any line here. 30% are the upper or high middle-income, they have insurance, they can afford the healthy food of all types from the Whole Foods to the soup-salad bars. 60% people live here from the paycheck to paycheck. They can’t afford the healthy food or some of them don’t have insurance. They lose their pay for their absence from work or can’t afford day-care if their kids become sick and miss their schools. And once they fall into this vicious health inequality, it become an uphill battle to overcome the income and the educational inequality.
Not a single day passes in the news cycle without the mention of Obamacare or the school of choice debate or the food stamp fight. How many times you hear about the healthy eating or the media coverage about the celebrities denouncing the excess meat consumption here or vouching for the plant protein like we do. May be everyone would agree that this could be the root cause of the overweight prevalence or the obesity menace. Like the government comes with the dietary guidelines once in 5 years. Is that enough if you think of more than $100 billion spent per year for this fight? Or the last sentence of this article in CNN - .

What chance does the United States have to stop the rise of obesity by 2025? Zero, the study says.

If I remember correctly we hear about ‘Prevention is better than cure’ may be in the 4th or 5th grade and it is true for all aspects of our life, not only for the health issues. But how many of us are in ‘Prevention’ mode or may be some of us can’t afford this mode when we talk about the healthy food options for 60% populace. ‘Prevention’ is always much cheaper than the ‘cure.’

The foundation of ‘Prevention’ rests on the knowledge or sharing the knowledge. And I can say with confidence now that Twitter is the best or may be the fastest source for the relevant knowledge. Like you don’t have to tweet anything or you can always retweet whatever you like. Just have an account and follow the handles you need to. Our Twitter handle is @NirmalCurry. One caveat here never take any article or statement at the face value, always dug deeper. I always do and come across amazing info.

So when people say we are condescending because we share the nutrition charts or resorted to the food exclusion, hurt us most. I would share a personal example. I grew up in India eating goat meat, a kind of staple meat. I first ate chicken when I was 16. So we used to have both lamb and goat at Nirmal café and most of the patrons opted for the lamb. Very few Indian restaurants serve the goat meat because there are not enough customers. I was not ready to accept such fate because I and our chefs always felt that the goat curry is unique to Indian cuisine and far tastier than any lamb item.

One day I chanced upon the Michigan State University (MSU) article about the goat meat being healthier than even chicken, see our website blog. Much later I learnt that the goat is far more sustainable too than beef, pork or lamb. See link here from the National Geographic  -
Like one pound of goat needs just 127 gallons of water as compared to 1800 gallons for one pound of beef. We discarded lamb altogether from our menu and that started our food exclusion spree. We eventually discarded the Naan white bread and the Sodas. The last two exclusions took a year more.

This info was coming from one of the top agriculture universities in the world, worth sharing. So when I sent this article to my uncles and aunts in India, they were shocked. The goat is a red meat and majority of Indians quit eating goat in favor of fish and chicken mostly around the age of 50-55 as a prevention. If you think of recent WHO guidelines about the red meat, it centers around the grilled meat. We Indians eat everything in curry with boiled and cooked meat and only grilled items we eat are Tandoori chicken. But the Tandoor ovens are used in the Indian restaurants only. So I am not sure if my uncles and aunts would revert to the goat meat or not despite all logical back-ups.

What I want to emphasize that people know what they want to know. Like I have had no inkling about the goat being healthier though eating goat for last 30 years or so. What about my uncles and aunts? Are they stupid, NO? But some are stupid for sure. There is huge uproar over the ‘BeefBan’ in India last year when one person got killed having beef at home. The war of words continued for 3 months among all sides. Beef is banned in India on the religious grounds as the cow is revered by us Hindus and the Hindus form 85% of India’s population. I wished and tried to share the MSU article and National Geographic link with all and sundry. I personally don’t believe that any food item should be banned on any ground. But no one even acknowledged my tweets.

Each of us needs to take charge of this ‘Prevention’ mode. We are not saying what to eat or what not. But when I do see the beef item in the tweets of the Food network or BBC Good Food or as a part of a diet plan, I want people to know 3 things – the beef has 40% more saturated fat than goat, the beef is the most acidic meat along with the pork and the beef is not at all sustainable.

Talking of acidic-alkaline food items which I came across only last week at Twitter. And I dug deeper as is my wont. See this link  -
I found this article most comprehensive. Still some confusion persists with respect to the goat meat and the soya chunks, no info in this article. I am exploring further. But the key is to strike a balance and for this we need info.

One of my fellow Twitterer sent this tweet – I had a look at your blog. Go and read Tim Noakes, Gary Taubes, Jimmy Moore, Nina Teicholz + Weston A Price

They are big names no doubt but we are so different on many counts.

    1. We are in ‘Prevention’ mode, not in cure, no diet or meal plans, we keep it simple. Eat Indian food if you want to eat more plant protein, more whole grain, more vegetables, less meat, period
    2. We back-up our thoughts with the food at Nirmal café now. If we say that #DisruptiveEating revolves around the lentils and the goat, we aim to bring both these items in the mainstream of US food scene one day in the near future. Till then ‘Power of WE’ can do the needful.
    3. We talk of ‘EatRight’ in 7 steps just not ‘EatHealthy.’ We want to bring the water foot-prints of the food items, the food wastage, the energy saving, the home cooking at the center-stage of our discussion. Watch out for our Mobile App. #DisruptiveEating empowers each of us to make the world a better place.

We want ‘Tsunami’ in this ocean of status quo pervading for so long. What a better time to challenge the status quo as we wade through such tumultuous Presidential election season.