Monday, July 11, 2011

"Food thy medicine" and slowing down too ........

This was one of my drafts but the trigger for posting this was yesterday’s Tamil debate show ‘Neeya Naana', This is a beautiful talk show ably presented by journalist turned anchor Gopinath. The topics he chooses for his debate show are very simple but useful. I generally miss this show since the timings do not suit me.( the program starts at 9 and stretches till 10.30 and I have to rise early at 5). Yesterday was an exception since Ravi mama(my uncle) participated in it.

The participants were divided on two sides, one side were the fat people who had tried many slimming programs and never lost weight and the other side were the medium built and thin people many of whom were conductors and endorsers of ‘thinning’ programs and products. There were informative and heated exchanges between the teams.

There was this 40 year fat lady who was a doctor by profession and said she never tried any slimming programs or low cal diet and she was fit and happy with no lifestyle or obesity related diseases. On the other hand, there was a man who jumped and ran like a teenager and said he was 61 and he hardly looked that age again he had no lifestyle disease.

I could’nt agree with either the 40 year or 60 year old because in my world I know a 6 year old takes insulin shots, 16 year old having diabetes and newspaper reporting that 25 year old dies of heart attack and in my world there are 70+ and 80 year olds who have no signs of diabetes, Blood pressure or any lifestyle related problems. Similarly, I know people

who eat less but are fat ,
who eat more but are thin
who are fat but fit
who are thin but unhealthy

So then what exactly are the triggers of lifestyle diseases?

My sister (a nutritionist & dietician who worked as a food technologist,she is not practicing any more) says “It is not the food itself that makes people fat but the thoughts and way of eating food that along with stress induces the lifestyle diseases”.

Her tips for healthy eating:

1)The aim of eating and drinking should be to produce enough blood, produce sufficient heat and energy in the body and satisfy the taste.

2) Our balanced diet should include 6 tastes, sweet, salt, spice(hot like chilli),sour, bitter and astringent. Today most of us include the first two and avoid the last two tastes.
Avoiding bitterness and astringent upsets the digestive system and balance in our blood, there by leading to a number of diseases. These tastes nullify the bad effects of sweets and purify the blood.

2) Don’t eat food with anti-thoughts like in guilt, frown, anger. Every cell in the body will reject and moreover when you count calories, you deprive your body of essential fats.

3)’ Food thy medicine’ said Hippocrates. So include herbal vegetables like sundakkai(turkey berry),Narthangai( a bitter citron), bittergourd, manathakkali(black night shade), banana stem, neem flowers lots of herbal greens like agatthi keerai(humming bird tree), murungakeerai(drumstick leaves) etc., once in a while and restrict celebratory foods like sweets, greasy foods to festivals. Avoid canned foods too. When things are less, we eat with joy and happiness.

4) Take time to eat. Don’t gobble or rush your food. See, sense, smell and taste your food. Chew them well, even liquid and soft food like sweets and icecream at least 12-15 times. Not chewing the food is the root cause of lifestyle diabetes. Not chewing the food means extra work for stomach and over-exertion of stomach invites many diseases and even fat.

Seeing the healthy orthodox 60+ and 70+ elders in my world, I feel it is not just the food but also they way they cook, worship and celebrate food that has kept them healthy. All those so called orthodox practices are relevant to lifestyle and health. They eat bitter foods like sundakkai, manathakkali, vazhaithandu, nellikai, agatthi keerai atleast once in 15 days when they practice those special days like ekadesi, dwadasi. etc., They have their bath before cooking so that our tropical climate does not spread the germs, They believe in chanting shloka while cooking, whose vibrations have effect on the food while it is cooked on slow fire in metal vessels like iron(irumbu vanali), brass, tin(iya chombu) and stone(kal chatti). These vessels impart the trace elements, aroma and flavor rendering the food tasty. The cooked food is then worshipped and offered to god.

They ate hot and fresh food which were not refridgerated, squatting on floor they ate slowly by chewing food. Refined and oily fried foods were on ocassions. Cooking and eating food was a worship and celebration in olden days, no wonder they ate healthy, felt healthy in body and mind.

Today where is the time for many to practice the above? I myself had no time. I used to rush through cooking, gobble or skip breakfast and rush to the classes in peak hour traffic inhaling the dust and fumes of my city. All these triggered sinusitis and other respiratory problems( I never had them before Dr. assigns it to pollution) Moreover I came back home tired though it was in the afternoon. I could not attend to my children’s and family needs. I was never at peace. I realized the job was not worth it though it gave me satisfaction not at the cost of my health. Though I am a restless person, I know I can occupy myself and keep myself busy from home. I’ve slowed down.

And the beautiful thoughts of Chetan Bhagat at his symbiosis speech which I got as a mail forward, further made me realize that I was not the only one who felt this way. Now he is not an author whose books I like with exception to” marriage of two states”, that too I like it because it was connected to my birth town and he shares the same wedding venue as my parents (Sri karpagambal kapaleeswarar thirumana mandapam in chennai’s suburb mylapore) (some connection this).

Many of you would have got this as an email forward.....for those who hav'nt click on it for better read.


  1. My mother in law lived up to 93 and she had so much discipline regarding what she ate and how she ate. Discipline in whatever we do counts a lot.

  2. :) thank you for the tips .. I am i guess one who eats nothing and am fat :(


  3. I saw the show as well .. I go with eating all kind of food with a limit .. :)

    Have few tips in mind to follow like drinking a lot of water.

    Nice words by Chetan Bhagat .. can't agree more to it !

  4. @ chitra - you used the right word 'Discipline'. the discipline , will power and mental strength of old gen along with their native wisdom amazes me.

    @ Bikram - :)

    @shalini - yes, olden days people drank water in copper containers and silver glasses. These ionised water is also supposed to be beneficial.
    Thanks for the tip:)

  5. Interesting topic.Even I have known people who are really fat have no cholesterol, whereas very thin people have high cholesterol, and people who eat anything and everything are thin and people who don't eat too much are fat.
    In fact I am going through this funny stage, where I work really hard and eat really healthy food, but I am over weight by about 7 kilos. And the weight seems to be mainly around the waist. But i know that nothing is wrong with me, it is normal for people like me to go through this at my age.
    However I feel good, because, at least i am working out regularly, and have some amount of discipline as far as food is concerned, in that way I am better off than a person who is not active and not bothered about diet.
    And I also drink lots of water, eat lots of vegetables and everything else brown.
    So it is up to us to maintain and look after our health. We love manthakalikai, neem flowers, and everything else you have mentioned.

  6. found dear friend rama's comment interesting..good post ya..

  7. Though we eat whatever we get nowadays, physical exercises should be compulsory and they should be part of our everyday life. Then only, we can rescue ourselves from future health problems. Naturopathy clears describes these concepts only. But, in this modern wealth, people don't have enough time also to breath the air. They are that much hurry..
    People should learn art of living