Today we’ll be talking about some of the most poisonous foods lurking in your diet that you must resolve to avoid this year. We’ll also suggest a few healthier alternatives that you can include in your diet.

#1 Sugar: Empty Calories, No Nutrients

Historically, sugar was used in its unrefined, raw form, taken directly from sugarcane juice. Clarified juice was boiled to a crystalline solid, broken down into gravelly masses and consumed as sugar. Today, however, much of the commercially available sugar is chemically processed and refined. According to the United States National Institutes of Health, such refined sugar provides “empty calories” because the refining process removes almost all vitamins and minerals, drastically depleting the nutritional value of the sugar.

Natural Sugar vs Added Sugar

The American Heart Association differentiates between intrinsic or naturally occurring sugar, which refers to the sugar found naturally as an integral constituent of fruits, vegetables, and milk products, and extrinsic or added sugar, which refers to sucrose or other refined sugars added to soft drinks, food, and fruit drinks. Their report suggests that there may be evidence that high sugar consumption could worsen atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), diabetes control, and contribute to nutritional deficiencies.

Alternatives to Sugar

Jaggery

  • Jaggery is the unrefined, raw form of sugar that was used in ancient times. It is widely used in India and South Asia as a sweetener
  • It retains the minerals, nutrients and vitamins present in cane juice
  • It is used in Ayurveda – the ancient Indian medical system – to treat dry cough, improve digestion and to cure a host of other health issues

Note: Today, super-phosphate is added in some types of jaggery as well. White, neat-looking jaggery is super-phosphate jaggery. It should be avoided. Instead, go for the “ugly”, dark-looking jaggery.

Honey

  • Honey is a wonderful, natural substitute for sugar.
  • Daily consumption of honey can do a lot, especially for people with excess mucus problems and asthma.
  • Honey is very good for the heart and brain, and keeps the mind alert.
  • Honey has different impacts on the human system depending on how it has been consumed, whether raw, mixed with cold water, or mixed with tepid water.
  • When honey is mixed with tepid water and consumed every day, it raises the red blood cell (RBC) count in the circulatory system, enhances the blood’s hemoglobin levels, which takes care of anemic conditions.

Note: Honey should not be cooked. That makes it poisonous. Mix honey with tepid or warm water, not in boiling hot water. Honey should also not be given to children under the age of one.

#2 Milk: Indigestible for Most Adults

Only children below three have the necessary enzymes to digest milk completely. Except for a few regions in the globe, milk is mostly indigestible for a majority of adults worldwide. The undigested milk is mucous-forming and causes lethargy. Yes, milk has traditionally been believed to be a good source of calcium. But there are several other good sources as well.

Dairy Alternatives

Whole Grains (see below), lentils and nuts are an excellent alternative to milk, in order to get the daily dietary requirement of calcium. For example:

Peanuts

  • These are a complete diet by themselves.
  • In India, many yogis go on a 100% peanut diet because it is a complete food by itself, if it is eaten raw.

Note: Peanuts must be soaked for a minimum of six hours in water, which takes away certain aspects which in Ayurveda are called Pitta. If you eat peanuts without soaking them, it tends to cause rashes and nausea.

Horsegram

  • A good source of dietary iron and calcium and among the richest vegetarian sources of protein.
  • However, the calcium and iron are combined into certain chemical compounds, rendering them un-absorbable by the body.
  • Germination of the horsegram is a simple method of food processing that increases the availability of iron and calcium, resulting in increased nutritive value. Sprouted horsegram is also digested much more easily.

Note: Horsegram tends to increase the level of heat in the body, which can help tide over coughs and colds during cloudy and rainy weather. However, when the sun is up, if the horsegram is heating the body up, it must be balanced by eating sprouted green gram.

#3 Refined Grains: Stripped of Nutrients, Minerals and Fiber

A grain in its natural state is structurally composed of three components.

  • Endosperm: The seed’s food supply
  • Germ: This contains the plant embryo
  • Bran: The protective covering that surrounds the germ and the endosperm

The endosperm is high in starch

The primary component of the endosperm is starch, which serves as the major energy supply for the germinating seed. The endosperm however, is relatively scarce when it comes to vitamins, minerals, fibre, or phytochemicals.

The bran and germ contain the nutrients

The bran and germ in contrast, are rich in a majority of these nutrients including B vitamins, amino acids, phytochemicals, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and iron.

Processing grains removes nutritional value

However, before grains are commercially sold, they are often refined to improve texture and shelf life. Known as refined grains, these grains go through a process where the bran and the germ are separated and discarded, leaving only the starchy endosperm. The result is a grain from which most of the nutrients, minerals and dietary fibre have been lost.

A majority of the grains sold commercially today, go through some process of refining. Common examples include white rice and white flour.

Whole Grain Alternatives

Whole grain products such as brown rice and whole wheat are increasingly available these days. Whole grains are rich in many components that have been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. Most of these components are found in the germ and bran, which are more or less totally removed during the processing of refining.

It is important to ensure that our diet includes more than just one or two cereals. A variety of highly nutritious, yet oft-neglected cereals are available, which can be important components of our diets.

Finger millet

  • Also known as ragi in Hindi, this millet is considered among the most nutritious of cereals.
  • Finger millet’s protein content has high biological value, so it is easily incorporated into the body.
  • Several amino acids crucial to human health are found in the grain. Some of these amino acids are deficient in most other cereals.
  • Dietary minerals are also found in abundance, especially Calcium which is available in concentrations five to thirty times greater than other cereals.
  • Phosphorus and iron content is also high.

Note: Finger millet can be made into rotis, dosas, porridge, cookies and even tasty laddus.

Pearl millet

  • Also known as bajra in Hindi, and kambu in Tamil, this millet has high levels of vitamins B, and dietary minerals potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc copper and manganese.
  • It is gluten-free and is ideal for those with wheat allergies.
  • Pearl millet has been found to be nutritionally superior to rice and wheat.
  • A study based on research in India showed that pearl millet and pulses are somewhat better at promoting human growth than a wheat diet.

#4 Tea/Coffee: Destroys Stamina in the Long Run

Tea and coffee are nervous stimulants. Nervous stimulants create a sense of energy for a short while, after which the body’s energy levels drop. Consuming too much of nervous stimulants destroys stamina in the long run, and affects the body’s ability to store energy.

Alternative Energy Drinks

Ashgourd

  • Drinking a glass of Ashgroud (wintermelon) juice in the morning would make you very energetic and also keep the nerves very calm.
  • Daily consumption of ashgourd greatly enhances one’s intellectual capabilities.

Lemon-Ginger Tea Recipe

This Lemon-Ginger Tea recipe could also leave you feeling fresh and invigorated, without the side effects of caffeine:

  • Boil 4.5 cups of water in a saucepan.
  • As the water boils, crush a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger with about 25 to 30 Tulasi (Holy Basil) leaves.
  • Add the paste to the boiling water along with 2 Tsp of dried coriander seeds (optional).
  • Continue to boil for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Strain the tea into cups and add a Tsp of lime juice and jaggery to taste. Serve hot!

The Joy of Eating

As important as it is to make sure you get a good balance of nutrition in your daily meals, you need to remember not to get paranoid about the food you eat.

Don’t become a food freak – “I will not eat this, I will not eat that. I have to eat like this, I have to eat like that.” No, eating joyously is more important than eating properly. Food has influences on you but it is not the deciding factor. The true joy of eating is that you are conscious of some other life willing to become a part of you, to merge and mingle with your own life and become you. This is the greatest pleasure that a human being knows, that in some way, something that is not him has become willing to become a part of him.” – Sadhguru

So focus on the foods that leave you filled with energy and try to avoid the foods that make you lethargic. We wish you a happy and healthy year ahead!

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The book is available on a “name your price” basis. Pay as you wish or click “Claim for Free”. Food Body looks at the kind of foods the body is most comfortable with and explores the most appropriate ways of consuming such foods. The 33-page booklet is a first step to tune into your body and figure out what suits it best.