Health Lessons from International Cuisines: India

134208898Unlike most of the other countries I’ve covered in this series, India is not renowned for any aspect of its health. Many Indians continue to suffer from malnutrition, and their rates of chronic disease (especially diabetes) are on the rise.

Unfortunately, there have been some key shifts in their diet over the past few decades that are likely contributing to their poor health. These include a shift towards rice and wheat as the predominant grains, an increase in added sugars, and a transition away from traditional fats towards industrialized fats and oils. (1)

Nonetheless, many traditional Indian foods remain (albeit to a lesser extent), and Indian cuisine has long added delicious variety to the global palate. As with any other country, there’s no one ‘Indian diet,’ and staples vary significantly depending on the region in question. But generally speaking, the traditional Indian diet is lacto-vegetarian and based on grains such as rice, millet, barley, and wheat, along with dried legumes (such as lentils), local vegetables and fruits, dairy (often in the form of butter or ghee), and of course, a huge variety of spices, which give Indian food its signature flavor. (2)

In this article, I’ll highlight some of my favorite components of the traditional (and to some extent, modern) Indian diet. As always, if you’ve ever lived in or visited India, I’d love to hear your input!

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Ghee

Ghee is one Indian food that has become increasingly popular in ancestral health circles. Ghee is made by heating and straining butter to remove the moisture and milk proteins, leaving only the pure butterfat. It contains all of the fat-soluble vitamins that make us love butter so much, and it’s an ideal cooking fat because there aren’t any milk proteins that can burn at higher temperatures. Additionally, it’s pure enough that even people with dairy sensitivities can often tolerate it.

In India, ghee is considered almost sacred, and is often treated more like medicine than food. According to Ayurvedic tradition, ghee promotes longevity, prevents disease, and increases digestion and assimilation. (3) Ghee is also a favored food for pregnant women. (4)

If you remember from my article on African cuisine, ghee is also highly prized in the African countries that consume dairy. It’s interesting to me that both cultures, which subsist on a primarily plant-based diet, have such a high regard for ghee, while cultures such as the French certainly enjoy their butter, but don’t necessarily value it so highly. I suspect these cultures knew inherently that the ghee could give them vital nutrients they couldn’t get elsewhere in their diet. Unfortunately, this wisdom is rapidly being lost.

Unsurprisingly, researchers have tried to blame ghee for cardiovascular disease in India. However, a recent study on rats found that a diet with 10% ghee actually improved blood lipids, even after the ghee had been heated further to attempt to oxidize the cholesterol. (5) This paper also discusses a study on psoriasis patients that showed improved blood lipids and reduced psoriasis symptoms with a ghee-supplemented diet.

In a refreshing display of common sense, the study authors also point out that ghee has been used in India for generations, while Indians maintained low rates of heart disease. On the other hand, the recent uptick in heart disease coincides suspiciously with the replacement of traditional ghee with ‘vegetable ghee.’ (6) This ‘vegetable ghee’ is made of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and the resulting product can contain up to 50% trans-fatty acids. (7) Vegetable ghee is now commonly used in home cooking, by street vendors, and by food manufacturers across India. With all we know about how harmful trans fats can be, it’s no wonder heart disease rates are increasing.

Fermented grains and beans

Like other cultures that have subsisted mainly on plant foods, Indians traditionally ferment many of their grain-based dishes. One of the most popular of these dishes is idli, a steamed bread-like breakfast food made from fermented ground rice and beans. Stephan Guyenet has an idli recipe here, if you want to check it out.

The fermentation process idli undergoes increases the content of vitamin C and the B vitamins, decreases phytates and enzyme inhibitors, increases the bioavailability of iron, and even increases the content of methionine, an essential amino acid that is abundant in muscle meat but limited in plant proteins. (8) This significantly increases the protein quality, helping to compensate for their vegetarian diet.

I came across a recent paper with some interesting research on the probiotic potential of yeast strains found in idli dough. The authors tested twenty different yeast strains for their viability as probiotics, and found seven that were able to survive in conditions resembling those of the human gut. These strains exhibited antimicrobial activity against common pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella, and could produce phytase, protease, lipase, and other enzymes that could improve digestion. It’s too early to tell if this research has any practical application, but I thought it was interesting!

Spices

The most prominent characteristic of Indian food is undoubtedly their liberal use of spices. One paper estimated that Indians consume 1.5g per person per day of turmeric alone, compared with less than 1g of total spices in other countries. (9) Another showed that for the average Indian, spices contribute up to 7.5% of their daily value for trace minerals such as manganese, zinc, iron, and chromium, although I question how bioavailable those minerals actually are. (10)

Common Indian spices such as coriander, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon have been studied pretty extensively for their health-promoting properties. One useful property is that they can reduce lipid oxidation, so using spices in cooking is a great way to protect delicate fats and cholesterol. (11)

They’ve also been tested for anti-diabetic, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties, and most of the research validates their use in traditional Ayurvedic practice. One paper, entitled “Curcumin: The Indian Solid Gold,” reviewed the medicinal properties of curcumin, which is a component of turmeric. Curcumin showed potential for fighting chronic illnesses such as diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.

Two other relatively recent reviews compiled a lot of the research on Indian spices. (12, 13)  Several studies have found that spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and coriander can inhibit cholesterol and lipid oxidation in rodents. Rodent models also demonstrated that saffron, ginger, and turmeric can inhibit cancer by protecting against DNA damage and increasing detoxifying enzymes.

Clinical evidence in humans is more limited, and slightly less promising than in vitro or animal research. However, one study gave smokers 1.5g of turmeric per day for 30 days and found that it reduced urinary mutagens, and another showed a reduction in precancerous lesions after smokers consumed 1g of turmeric per day for 9 months. (14)

There’s certainly no downside to adding these spices to your food, and there very well could be a benefit, so enjoy some Indian cuisine this week! There are plenty of recipes online that are Paleo-approved as well, such as my Lamb Korma recipe, PaleOMG’s Indian Chicken and “Rice”, or this primal Saag Paneer (contains dairy).

I hope you’ve enjoyed my series on international cuisines. If there’s a country I didn’t cover that you’d really like to see discussed, let me know in the comments and I might do an article on it in the future.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Mya says

    Thanks for your article on Indian cuisine. Turmeric is one of my favorites! If possible, I would love to read an article about Costa Rican foods and cuisine. I recently learned the people of the Nicoyan Peninsula in Costa Rica are some of the healthiest, longest living people in the world. I would love to know more about their diet. Cheers!

  2. Beth says

    I would add lassi to the list of traditional, health-supportive foods consumed on a regular basis in India. This fermented dairy beverage can be either sweet or savory. I enjoyed the lassi flavored with rosewater or saffron when I was in India. Turmeric lassi is very therapeutic.

    • MR PALEO says

      Beth, et al…

      Ahh yes…. India…. there are really two distinct Indian cuisines… Northern and Southern…

      And, a traditional lassi is one of my all-time favorite beverages, the problem being the added sugar, however, if you ever go to India, find someone who will make you a CHOCOLATE lassi !

  3. Anjuli says

    Rice, flour and beans/lentils are one of the staples in India and have been for many, many years. Every region/state has their own cuisine for lack of a better word. Foods/recipes/tastes vary a lot if you go from North to South or East to West. That is what Indian cuisine is :). What they offer here in US in the restaurants is predominantly a variation of Mughlai cuisine which is not an every day thing for any Indian household. Idli/Dosa is a southern Indian specialty. If you go extreme North, for example Kashmir, they are very meat heavy and the choice of meat is sheep/goat.

    Unfortunately, the influx of all the western influence – McDonalds, TGIF, and all the famous chain restaurants there have only added to the increasing health problems.

    • Jenny says

      As long as it’s not modern Filipino cuisine (which seems to involve cooking with industrial seed oils and excessive amounts of sugar!). The Filipinos have some interesting dishes that involve offal, though!

  4. David says

    When I added starches back to my seafood-based diet (basically an islander diet with butter added), I went with white rice. White rice is boring after spending years eating brown rice. But 1.5 tablespoons of turmeric in every pot of rice solved the problem.

  5. Vin says

    Hi Chris – as an Indian and a long-term health nut, I’ve got some insights. There are some genetic factors at play here – Indians are particularly prone to truncal obesity and insulin resistance. Many are also extremely carb-sensitive. However, the preferred high-grain vegetarian diet combined with ghee and coconut oil avoidance has been a disaster. You’ll see a lot of skinny people with pot bellies – they often drop dead in their 40s and 50s. The urban educated avoid ghee and coconut oil for health reasons and the rural poor prefer seed oils because it’s cheaper (subsidized.) I’ve convinced some of my relatives to embrace coconut oil again (‘It has no cholesterol!’) but ghee has been a hard sell. Urban Indians also have one of the highest Omega-6 to 3 ratios: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18408140

    • says

      I saw a programme in the UK about super sized kids in India, what struck me is that India is not learning anything from the dietary mistakes of the west.

      The big western chains are paying loads in advertising and tax revenues which the govt is lapping up, before they have a massive diabetes burden they have to pay for.

      Gavin

      • pam says

        i love Indian food except desserts (too sugary)
        there is also an exorbitant amount of sugar to sweeten chai or coffee (with milk, hopefully real).

        most of Indians adults (> 40) i know (colleagues, friends, neighbors) are diabetic or pre-diabetic (well, my suspicion cause they have to eat every 2 hours).

        interesting that Yin thinks Indians have genetic propensity to IR.

        American Indians & Inuits & some others show more civilized diseases fast after switching to Western diet; the reasoning is their traditional culture is not agriculture. but you’d think (Asian) Indians should be more adapt to grains?

        regards,

    • Kelly says

      Yet the “high-grain vegetarian diet combined with ghee and coconut oil avoidance” is EXACTLY what the doctors prescribe for diabetes patients! When I saw a colleague who was diagnosed with Type 2 at age 33, I looked over his diet plan his doctor had give him and was shocked and outraged. I promptly made him a new one, which he was clearly very skeptical of for a long time, as it went against CW and it took me many conversations to get him to try it out. In the end he claims he did and he did drop a lot of weight and had his diagnosis reversed, but at first, it was as if I was telling him to sacrifice cows and drink their blood.

    • Dr. Shabnam Das Kar says

      I am a medical practitioner from India. I have searched for the answer for the epidemic in T2DM & CVD in India. Younger & younger patients are affected by them, as you rightly pointed out. Somewhere we are missing the boat. Though its true that Indians have moved out of their traditional diets, our use of packaged & processed food is definitely less than in North America, but we are not healthier than them! Diabetes & heart disease are rampant even in rural areas, where diet is still more traditional. I would love comments in this regard.
      Dietitians still recommend a” low fat diet” & patients in major hospitals are served with white bread sandwich just after an angioplasty!!!

  6. Gary M. Ogden says

    Traditional Filipino cuisine is wonderful, seafood-based (though they’ve adopted industrial food and longevity is actually decreasing). Would love to see a post on it. Thanks! By the way, long before the arrival of the rice mill they pounded the rice to remove the bran.

  7. Kelly says

    Great post Chris, I enjoyed it and shared on my FB page for my Indian friends/former colleagues. I lived in India for 1.5 years as the Director of Fitness for a tennis academy and was in charge of setting a menu for a group of around 250-300 people daily which consisted of 3 meals and 2 snacks. BOY did I have my work cut out for me. I did everything I could to make the most changes without causing too much of an uproar. I immediately created new healthier versions of old recipes and cut back on sweet dishes, deep fried foods and soy-based processed frankenfoods. The first change I made was the cooking oil, from industrial to ghee, but with ghee being literally twice the cost of the cheaper oils, I would often find people were cutting corners in efforts to cut costs, using pomace olive oil (“You said olive oil was good”, me: “I said EVOO is good, and not for cooking”) or putting cheap oil in ghee containers. As we were far north in Punjab, they were pretty adamantly against coconut oil, as that is “only found in the south” and “nobody will like it”. A tough task trying to please 200 kids in a rural area, many of whom came from wealthy affluent families and frequented McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC regularly. I remember one time, a young boy calling me, “Mamn! Mamn!” and when I looked over, he proudly showed me his KFC takeout bag and his can of Coke. Sigh. The Western influence is everywhere and sadly, a sign of prestige amongst the kids.I did regular presentations on nutrition and the like and I even told the school to forward all concerns and complaints directly to me (when a child’s parents called the school complaining because their child wasn’t getting Bournvita seven days a week anymore, only five and plain milk two days, to cut down on sugar). In the end, I don’t feel like I made much of a different at all, but I did try.

    • MR PALEO says

      Kelly,

      Like you, I also lived in India for a while… I commend you on your efforts, but don’t be too hard on yourself, you were facing an impossible task… I am sure that the only difference I made, was while I was there… cultures as old as India, China, etc., seem to have a propensity to change for the worse, nutritionally speaking… “Western” fast-food is all the rage… sad, really….

      arnold

  8. peril says

    Don’t underestimate the amount of meat, chicken and fish eaten by Indians. Buddhism and Hinduism promote vegetarianism, but not for all adherents. It is generally only the higher caste Hindus and the Buddhist monks and nuns that are strict vegetarian. Sikhs and Muslims eat meat. Sure they eat less per capita than in the West, but many are omnivores

    Also think you’ve missed a couple of important aspects of Indian cooking:

    * they combine ingredients to produce nutritionally replete meals
    * meats and poultry are often slow cooked with bone in to produce dishes rich in gelatin and minerals

    Have been to India several times and never tired of the wonderful food. So sad to see the pale imitations that are offered in the West

  9. says

    I’ve really enjoyed this series and it was a nice surprise to see indian cuisine covered here.
    In india right now the trend is going completely the other way when it comes to health and every single nutrition expert is recommending egg white only, cooking with vegetable oil, whole grains etc.
    like chriss mentioned the age old wisdom of using ghee is going totally out of fashion and even pregnant women and nursing mothers are shunning their grand mothers advise and trying to be ‘healthy’ by avoiding that stuff.
    India has a long long way to go before we discover health again. Vitamin d inspite of the abundance of sunlight is severely deficient in 80% of the population.

  10. Richard says

    Great article again. I’d like to see an article about my country, Slovakia. We have great products from milk, such as bryndza, žinčica, oštiepok, parenica and many others. Further, many products from meat, lots of grains and potatoes. Unfortunately, there are lots of foreign products of bad quality, at the market in SVK. And people have started buy these products, because of low cost. And health of our country is getting worse, i think…..

  11. GW says

    I don’t know if you’ve covered these countries, but I would be very interested in the Ukraine and South Korea. Ukraine is well known for its beautiful women and because beauty represents health, I would like to know what makes traditional Ukranian cuisine so healthy.

  12. Jan C says

    Interesting article, as always. One on Spain would be great. They eat a fair amount of dried meats as well as other meat and fish, cheese and eggs. Contrary to the dietary advice that the Mediterranean diet includes whole grains, I’ve never seen any when I’ve been to Spain, even in traditional restaurants. The food is lovely and tasty.

  13. Jenni says

    India is an interesting case. The modern diet is certainly very bad. Diabetes levels are extremely high here, even among people of healthy weight.

    The traditional diet is not too bad. Lots of vegetables is good, legumes when prepared traditionally can also be good. Dairy was originally full fat. Ghee and coconut oil are two traditional fats, but bear in mind that in other areas mustard oil and sesame oil are also very common and traditional. Rice and various millets were traditionally very common staples, wheat also but not all over the country. Sugar consumed in beverages would be reasonably common, but amounts would be smaller and sweets would be consumed less often. The reliance on grain as a staple is not good, but is somewhat mitigated if the grain is rice. Traditionally the variety of vegetables is large – many different kinds are available in a lot of places.

    Nowadays heavily processed vegetable oils are common – groundnut and soya being most common. Vegetable ghee is not actually that common, it is the oils. Sugar is consumed in large quantities by most households in tea and also in sweets which people are consuming more often. Wheat has mostly replaced millet as a staple, and wheat is also becoming a more prevalent staple in areas that previously consumed more rice. Many people here think that wheat is healthier for them than rice. Coconut oil and ghee are considered by the “health conscious” as very very bad for you, and full fat dairy is also avoided by such people. The middle class has grown rapidly and many people buy enormous amounts of junk foods, which are widely available. Street foods and restaurants are everywhere and the foods available at these places is very different from home cooked traditional food. As people get more money, they eat out more, especially if their workdays are long. Eating out is pretty cheap for the middle class, and many restaurants offer free home delivery.

    B12 deficiency and anaemia are rampant here. People are aware of treating malnutrition by increasing calories, but they may not be aware of quality issues. They are very easily led by advertisements for things like malt drinks like horlics and bournvita – they believe it makes children taller.

    Just so you know, meat eating is common enough in India in all religions. But the less money people have, the more vegetarian food they tend to eat. Not all Hindus are vegetarian by the way. Vegetarianism is actually comparatively recent for India when you look at the country’s full history – it came about at the time when Jainism and Buddhism were becoming popular and Hinduism tried to get back followers by emphasising non-violence. There are almost no Buddhists in India nowadays (most are converts from low caste Hinduism and it is more a symbolic protest than anything), and in any case Buddhism does not actually prescribe vegetarianism. Jains are a small percentage but are very strict vegetarians. Many vegetarians in India avoid eggs, though they eat dairy.

    Sikhs can be vegetarian, but often aren’t. Muslims and Christians eat meat, basically as a rule. Parsis too, though their numbers are very small. Many Hindus also do. The middle class are able to eat more meat than poor people. Chicken is probably the most popular meat but I consider it to be very unhealthy as the chickens are raised in very poor conditions and grain fed. Goat is another popular meat and is much healthier and of high quality. I personally only eat goat meat here.

    People who do eat meat here often eat it very well, traditionally anyway. It is fresh and the whole animal is used. If you go to the butchers you will see the carcasses hanging up and can watch as the whole thing is cut up and sold. Traditionally meat is mostly cooked bone-in, and organ meats like liver, kidneys, brains, etc. are much loved. Feet are also popular. Muslims probably are most famous for their nutritious recipes with these ingredients.

    Lifestyle plays a big role. You will see that poor people often eat large quantities of high carbohydrate foods like rice and remain slim due to heavy activity. Also, their calories are somewhat limited by their income. As people get more money, they still eat lots of carbohydrates and in addition increase their fat and sugar intakes. But they do less and less. Middle class people here do not like to walk if they can manage it. It’s funny – they may do exercise, but they avoid walking a few streets to get something from the shops! This is very sad, as village people walk a lot and have active lifestyles. But city people get more money, and then they want to be microwaves and food processors and washing machines, etc. to make every single little task take less effort. They don’t do their own cleaning – maids and servants are very common.

    Overall India has a lot of issues. The wrong health advice is being given, but some people are turning back to traditional ways. I think it will take a long time and a lot of effort to get people to understand things. Not only that, but so many people are only just scraping by in terms of living, and they would rather have any calories than worry about how healthy something is.

    • div says

      I agree with Jenny.India is a Diverse country with diverse life styles and diverse food habits.Though basic home cooked food in any part of the country can generally be considered healthy (which is cooked using the staples available locally and in accordance with the local climatic conditions), changing life styles have taken their toll. India probably is the singularly most affected country, as far as influences from west are considered.The great Indian diaspora all over the globe has brought in some good and some negative influences.
      Looking at the large chunk of human population which lives in this country, solutions related to health and food need to be very region specific.

    • pam says

      interesting about vegetarianism being recent in India,

      few Indians i know are from provinces that no one eats meat (ok. maybe almost no one); they do eat dairy. i got the impression that their culture has been such for many many generations.

      • Jenni says

        I said comparatively recently! We are talking around the time Jainism was becoming popular so it is still very long ago.

        The point I am making is that India was not originally a vegetarian country. Hindu myths and legends including the Ramayana and the Mahabharata feature characters eating meat as part of normal life. Jainism was strongly into vegetarianism from the beginning (but it is more recent than Hinduism), but the roots and beginning phase of what we now call Hinduism was not. Animal sacrifices were common and meat eating was also. Such great sages as Agastya ate meat. Ayurvedic texts speak of the different qualities/effects of a variety of different meats. The Buddha also ate meat, and although he preached non violence towards living creatures he was aware that creatures eat each other to live and did not recommend that people become obsessive over what they did or did not eat. Indeed, this would be a kind of attachment and preoccupation with trivial life that he would not encourage. He was much more of an eat what you are given kind of guy! He did say it was good to not have animals specially killed just for you to eat though, as a kind of way of allowing people who were worried about it to get some peace.

        Modern Hinduism is very in to vegetarianism and some Hindu extremists would like you to think that meat eating is some kind of “gross” Muslim or Christian practice and that “good” and “spiritual” people do not eat meat. This is not consistent with actual ancient Hindu sources. Even brahmins were not previously overly concerned with avoiding meat. I think it is important for people to understand that there is NO human society that started off without eating meat. And also, people should be aware that the messages of extreme Hindus can distort even their own religion.

        Btw, a note about modern vegetarianism in India: For many, it is an issue of money. But yes, a lot of people are vegetarian and they may claim that no-one eats meat where they come from. The problem is that this is not necessarily true. Because there is a feeling that it is more spiritual to not eat meat (as I said – a comparatively recent part of Hinduism), many people aim towards vegetarianism and may claim it even if they do not follow perfectly. So a woman may tell you her family are vegetarian. But in reality her husband does eat meat outside of the house and drinks also. The children may or may not be strict vegetarians. As with many aspects of Hinduism, a lot of “maintaining traditions” seems to fall on the women of the house! Men are much more likely to eat meat at least occasionally.

        The reality is that meat is widely available in most places in India. There are towns were non-veg foods are banned (including alcohol and eggs) but these are less common than places where they are allowed. And it is incredibly common for there to be a restaurant nearby to towns like this were people flock because it serves alcohol and meat! I live in a very normal small-ish Indian town in the middle of North India. Butchers are common, and fish stalls too. Most sit down restaurants serve veg and non veg. The latter is very popular. Street stalls selling kebabs and biriyani are popular and always have crowds of young men eating at them. So the reality is that people do eat meat in India, it’s just something that people gloss over because they feel that vegetarianism is somehow better.

        Btw tribal people in India definitely eat meat. Interestingly enough, they are one of the few groups in India that consume pork (even meat eating Hindus are suspicious of pork, Christians eat it though)

        • pam says

          Hi, Jenni,

          thanks about elaborating Indian culture.

          i had long suspected the statements of my Indian colleagues about “no one eats meat” in their hometown is pretty suspicious. vegetarianism is considered as more enlightened spiritually (not causing pain).

          sorry none of Indians that i know who is also > 40 appear very healthy.
          (i dont’ mean thin or like a beauty pageant or 6 packs like Mark Sisson, Rob Wolfe)
          they are either skinny but look dried up, or overweight & sluggish & tired.

          the only Indian woman who looks healthy (beautiful skin, hair & good build) has to eat every 2 hours or else she just blacks out (she has a big sweet tooth)

          regards,

          • Jenni says

            Glad it was of interest to you, it is a topic that I enjoy discussing!

            Bear in mind that they are not really deliberately misleading you. They are explaining to you as has been explained to them – vegetarianism is the best, our people are vegetarian. Especially they like for foreigners to have a positive view of their culture and their country. But ideals and reality are different. Unfortunately also, as I mentioned, vegetarianism has become part of the arsenal of weaponry against Muslims and Westernisation that extremists use to stir up problems. It is disgusting behaviour if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong, on a daily basis most Indians live together with different religions side by side in harmony. But there are always trouble makers.

            It’s interesting what you say about appearance. Middle class Indians are very commonly overweight and have metabolic illness. They may be thin in their youth, often excessively so, but it catches up. Having said that nowadays I see many obese children. But it is easy to see why – these families are buying huge amounts of soda, sweets and snacks. They eat terribly because they can afford it.

            The truth is that there is too much misinformation about what is and what is not healthy. In addition, previously getting fat as you got older was associated with being successful and living a comfortable life. If you can afford soda and sweets and restaurants, if you can buy “Western” junk foods, then you have made it! With modern beauty standards becoming more important and more health awareness, people are changing but people still struggle to curb their desire to splurge just because they can.

            Poor people are often metabolically healthier but have nutritional deficiencies and are not otherwise healthily. They may eat many things that are not that healthy, but if they are preparing it traditionally it takes a lot more effort and energy (e.g. making sweets from scratch for a festival rather than buying). Therefore they eat more modest quantities and also have burned energy to make it, so they don’t necessarily become overweight.

            But there are healthy people in India. People who have enough money for food and awareness of health combined with a preference for the traditional (ghee, full fat dairy, properly prepared legumes, abundance of veg and moderate intake of all food) are often healthy. Genetically, Indians seem blessed with very nice hair (especially women!) and often have nice skin too. Their diet does not have to lead to ill health. But sadly, tradition is getting lost and people are getting confused.

            • MR PALEO says

              Jenni,

              Yes, to everything you have mentioned…. the middle-class young tend to “appear” to be healthy, but most women are overweight, and another note, chicken is quite common as a food source in India… but wealth in India tends to make one LESS healthy, as they tend to eat more like westerners…. you can usually tell the “wealthy” men by their bellies… lol…

              http://www.misterpaleo.blogspot.com

  14. Thomas says

    Hello,

    I think it would be pretty good if Hungarian cousine could be covered.There are many interesting and delicious dishes include wide range pepper and other flavors.I am interested about your thoughts.

  15. Dr. Shabnam Das Kar says

    Though traditional Indian food includes a lot of vegetables, most of our vegetables are cooked to an inch of their lives! I wonder how much nutrition is left in them. The benefits of diets rich in fruit & vegies comes from them being eaten raw or minimally cooked. I am not sure how much of the phytonutrients are left in the vegetable dishes cooked in most Indian homes.

  16. Marta Sousa says

    Thank you for writing this very interesting series on international cuisines. Haven’t missed a single one! A suggestion no-one has made yet: Portuguese cuisine. I think you will find food for thought there… Pun intended ;)

  17. Devyn says

    My fiance and I just moved from Seattle to Jerusalem for the next nine months, and so far I am not encountering the food culture that I expected (very fresh, local ingredients). I am a Nutritional Therapist and was so looking forward to eating lots of salads, lamb, and seasonal produce, but so far the markets have been disappointing and I do not trust that the food in restaurants is very high quality either. I may just need to shift my perspective a bit, but I have become pretty spoiled with all of the great markets in Seattle. I would love it if you could write an article on Israel’s food culture, as I am sort of overwhelmed as to where to begin my food studies here. Thanks and what a great series!

  18. Momma B says

    This is a fantastic series and I have a request; I don’t think I have seen it yet–but it would cover a lot of above requests too (Spain, Italy, Greece all mentioned)–the Mediterranean diet. So often we think of Mediterranean as the misguided media portrays it: low-fat, high-carb, grainy, low-fat meat, everything cooked in olive oil instead of meat or dairy fat. But in my experience (traditional Western Mediterranean) there is plenty of fat: delicious eggs (with bright orange yolks, from happy chickens), great cheeses (certainly not low-fat!) and meat topped with more fat (fried eggs served on cuts of meat) in addition to lots of fish (last time I checked, sardines were not low-fat), and like someone said regarding Spain–where are the whole grains? :) So I think a Mediterranean diet is great, but it is quite different from what conventional wisdom is touting as a true Mediterranean diet, wouldn’t you agree?

  19. Christina Arasmo Beymer says

    My husband lived in India for 14 years and I’ve been there 7 times. One of the main reasons there’s a significant problem with health in India is a mass exodus to indoors and pollution to the max. Their vitamin D levels are crap now. They have dark skin, they need more outside time but the pollution is covering the sky, and they don’t fortify food since most of it is prepared and not boxed. There’s also a lot of dumping of industrial fluoride… “fluoride increases the skeleton’s need for calcium (and vitamin D) by increasing the amount of unmineralized tissue (osteoid) in the bone.” — google for that string. Phytic acid, according to studies cited on Weston A. Price’s site: Other studies show that adding ascorbic acid can significantly counteract inhibition of iron assimilation by phytic acid.22 Adding ascorbic acid significantly counteracted phytate inhibition from phytic acid in wheat.23 One study showed that anti-iron phytate levels in rice were disabled by vitamin C in collard greens.24
    Research published in 2000 indicates that both vitamin A and beta-carotene form a complex with iron, keeping it soluble and preventing the inhibitory effect of phytates on iron absorption.25 Here we have another reason to consume phytate-rich foods in the context of a diet containing organ meat and animal fats rich in vitamin A, and fruits and vegetables rich in carotenes.

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