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  • Rita Date

Guidelines or Grandmom

People take what they want from they read. Case in point — Every 5 years the US government comes out with Dietary Guidelines. These guidelines rarely work since the health of the US has deteriorated since the inception of the guidelines in 1980.

This year the restrictions on fat and cholesterol, which were prevalent in earlier dictates, have been eased and this is the exact news that is making headlines – not that the guidelines also said to eat more vegetables or consume less salt and sugar.

Rujuta Diwekar exclaims in her recent column that grandmothers knew best when they told us to eat ghee and the U-turn in the US guidelines prove this. Firstly the guidelines still point out that saturated fat(which ghee is) is still something that should be kept to a minimum. They say that unsaturated fats like olive oil is a better option.

Secondly some ghee may be good, but how much? The fact is that our diets today have changed and most people are not eating optimally. We are eating out more, we eat processed foods, we eat way more desserts than our grandmothers did and we move much less. With this in mind we cannot afford to include the same amount of ghee that our grandparents had in their diets.

This is an excerpt from my book, What’s for Lunch which explains the truth about ghee and butter…

“Ghee and makan, or white butter are much better than vanaspati but their use has to be limited. Punjab is the state most guilty of using ghee in homemade foods and its obesity numbers prove it. This state has the highest rate of obesity with 34% of the ENTIRE state population. This was a study in 2007 by National Family and Health and the numbers are most likely higher now. These numbers are also for the entire state, including the rural popula- tion. The national average is 15% so Punjab is more than double that. The average for urban obesity is 25%.

Ghee and makan have its place in our Indian cooking and Ayurveda teaches us of the medicinal uses of ghee. These are however, still saturated fats, and quite simply we cannot digest ghee any longer, at least not in the quantities we used to earlier. We aren’t moving as much as there are many other foods competing with our ghee ka khana. We don’t just eat ladoos and dal makhani, but eat cakes, biscuits, pizzas and burgers. This is how we have gotten fat. Use ghee and butter in the home sparingly and to mostly to top foods for flavour, use it for cooking on only very special occasions. When you cook or fry foods in ghee there is just too much saturated fat — all get- ting stored in various places and clogging your arteries.

There are many myths about ghee. Firstly eating ghee does not make you smarter or stronger, this is absurd. But if eating too much of it will make you fatter. Secondly Ayurveda does not preach that ghee is a wonder food. In Ayurveda food is eaten according to your dosha. It teaches that if you have a vata dosha then ghee is needed. These are the characteristics of the vata dosha type person:

Movement and change are characteristic of your nature. You will tend to always be on the go, with an energetic and creative mind. As long as Vata is in balance, you will be lively and enthusiastic, with a lean body.

The teachings go on to say that ghee is not right with those with the kapha dosha. Those with kapha dosha are:

Heavy, slow, steady, solid with an bigger build and bones.

So basically it says that you are thin you require ghee and if you are not thin then you do not. Also picking and choosing from Ayurveda is not the correct way to benefit from this holistic form of medicine. The primary and most important eating principle is to eat fresh, seasonal, local, freshly cooked whole meals. To benefit from this holistic form of medicine you have to follow it in a complete manner.”

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