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.