4 Common Foods You Should Avoid for a Healthy Life
Looking to get healthier? It's important to know what not to eat. Here are four foods to avoid on the road to good health. We’ll also suggest a few healthier alternatives that you can include in your diet.
#1. Sugar: Empty Calories, No Nutrition
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.
Alternatives to Sugar - Honey
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: Undigestible by 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.
Milk Alternatives - Groundnuts
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: Groundnuts.
Note: Groundnuts 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 groundnuts without soaking them, it tends to cause rashes and nausea.
Milk Alternatives - 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.
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.
Refined Grain Alternatives - Whole Grains
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.
Whole Grains - Finger millet
Note: Finger millet can be made into rotis, dosas, porridge, cookies and even tasty laddus.
Whole Grains - Pearl Millet
#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
Alternative Energy Drinks - Lemon-Ginger Tea Recipe
This Lemon-Ginger Tea recipe could also leave you feeling fresh and invigorated, without the side effects of caffeine:
The Joy of EatingSadhguru: 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.
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!