Why Indians are Stressed and Unhealthy

By Aakar Patel

Manmohan Singh had his arteries bypassed on Saturday, a procedure that increasing numbers of Indians are having. Last year, medical journal Lancet reported a study of 20,000 Indian patients and found that 60 per cent of the world’s heart disease patients are in India, which has 15 per cent of the world’s population.

This number is surprising because reports of obesity and heart disease focus on fat Americans and their food. What could account for Indians being so susceptible — more even than burger-and-fries-eating Americans?

Four things: diet, culture, stress and lack of fitness.

There is no doctrinal prescription for vegetarianism in Hindu diet, and some texts explicitly sanction the eating of meat. But vegetarianism has become dogma.

Indian food is assumed to be strongly vegetarian, but it is actually lacking in vegetables. Our diet is centered round wheat, in the north, and rice, in the south. The second most important element is daal in its various forms. By weight, vegetables are not consumed much. You could have an entire South Indian vegetarian meal without encountering a vegetable. The most important vegetable is the starchy aloo. Greens are not cooked flash-fried in the healthy manner of the Chinese, but boiled or fried till much of the nutrient value is killed.

Gujaratis and Punjabis are the two Indian communities most susceptible to heart disease. Their vulnerability is recent. Both have a large peasant population — Patels and Jats — who in the last few decades have moved from an agrarian life to an urban one. They have retained their diet and if anything made it richer, but their bodies do not work as much. This transition from a physical life to a sedentary one has made them vulnerable.

Gujaratis lead the toll for diabetes as well, and the dietary aspect of this is really the fallout of the state’s economic success. Unlike most Indian states, Gujarat has a rich and developed urban culture because of the mercantile nature of its society. Gujaratis have been living in cities for centuries.

His prosperity has given the Gujarati surplus money and, importantly, surplus time. These in turn have led to snacky foods, some deep-fried, some steamed and some, uniquely in India, baked with yeast. Most Indians are familiar with the Gujarati family on holiday, pulling out vast quantities of snacks the moment the train pushes off.

Gujarati peasant food — bajra (millet) roti, a lightly cooked green, garlic and red chilli chutney, and buttermilk — is actually supremely healthy. But the peasant Patel has succumbed to the food of the ‘higher’ trader and now prefers the oily and the sweet.

Marathi peasant food is similar, but not as wholesome with a thick and pasty porridge called zunka replacing the green.

Bombay’s junk food was invented in the 19th century to service Gujarati traders leaving Fort’s business district late in the evening after a long day. Pao bhaji, mashed leftover vegetables in a tomato gravy, served with shallow-fried buns of bread, was one such invention.

The most popular snack in Bombay is vada pao, which has a batter-fried potato ball stuck in a bun. The bun — yeast bread — is not native to India and gets its name pao from the Portuguese who brought it in the 16th century. Bal Thackeray encouraged Bombay’s unemployed Marathi boys to set up vada pao stalls in the 60s, which they did and still do.

The traveling chef and TV star Anthony Bourdain called vada pao the best Indian thing he had ever eaten, but it is heart attack food.

Though Jains are a very small part (one per cent or thereabouts) of the Gujarati population, such is their cultural dominance through trade that many South Bombay restaurants have a ‘Jain’ option on the menu. This is food without garlic and ginger. Since they are both tubers (as also are potatoes), Jains do not eat them, because in uprooting them from the soil, living organisms may be killed (no religious restriction on butter and cheese, however!). The vast majority of Ahmedabad’s restaurants are vegetarian. Gujaratis have no tolerance for meat-eaters and one way of keeping Muslims out of their neighborhoods is to do it through banning ‘non-vegetarians’ from purchasing property in apartment buildings.

Even in Bombay, this intolerance prevails. Domino’s, the famous pizza chain, has a vegetarian-only pizza outlet on Malabar Hill (Jinnah’s neighborhood). Foreigners like Indian food, and it is very popular in England, but they find our sweets too sweet. This taste for excess sugar extends also to beverage: Maulana Azad called Indian tea ‘liquid halwa’. Only in the last decade have cafes begun offering sugar on the side, as diabetes has spread.

India’s culture encourages swift consumption. There is no conversation at mealtime, as there is in Europe. Because there are no courses, the eating is relentless. You can be seated, served and be finished eating at a Gujarati or Marathi or South Indian thali restaurant in 15 minutes. It is eating in the manner of animals: for pure nourishment.

We eat with fingers, as opposed to knives and forks, or chopsticks, resulting in the scooping up of bigger mouthfuls. Because the nature of the food does not allow for leisurely eating, Indians do not have a drink with their meals. We drink before and then stagger to the table.

As is the case in societies of scarcity, rich food is considered good — and ghee is a sacred word in all Indian languages. There is no escape from fat. In India, advertising for healthy eating also shows food deep-fried, but in lower-cholesterol oil.

The insistence by family – ‘thoda aur le lo’ — at the table is part of our culture of hospitality, as is the offering of tea and perhaps also a snack to visiting guests and strangers. Middle class Indians, even families that earn Rs10,000 a month, will have servants. Work that the European and American does, the Indian does not want to do: cooking, cleaning, washing up.

Painting the house, changing tyres, tinkering in the garage, moving things around, getting a cup of tea at the office, these are things the Indian gets someone else to do for him. There is no sense of private space and the constant presence of the servant is accepted.

Gandhi’s value to India was not on his political side, but through his religious and cultural reforms. What Gandhi attempted to drill into Indians through living a life of action was a change in our culture of lethargy and dependence. Gandhi stressed physical self-sufficiency, and even cleaned his toilet out himself.

But he wasn’t successful in making us change, and most Indians will not associate Gandhi with physical self-sufficiency though that was his principal message. Indian men do no work around the house. Middle class women do little, especially after childbirth. Many cook, but the cutting and cleaning is done by the servant. Slim in their teens, they turn thick-waisted in their 20s, within a few years of marriage.

Since we are dependent on other people, we have less control over events. The Indian is under stress and is anxious. This is bad for his health. He must be on constant guard against the world, which takes advantage of him: the servant’s perfidy, encroachment by his neighbors, cars cutting in front of him in traffic, the vendor’s rate that must be haggled down. Almost nothing is orderly and everything must be worried about.

In the Indian office, the payroll is a secret, and nobody is told what the other makes. Knowledge causes great stress, though the lack of information is also stressful, leading to spy games and office gossip.

Because there is no individualism in India, merit comes from seniority and the talented but young executive is stressed by the knowledge that he’s not holding the position he deserves. Indians are peerless detectors of social standing and the vertical hierarchy of the Indian office is sacrosanct.

Dennis Kux pointed out that Indian diplomats do not engage officially with an American of lower rank, even if the American was authorized to decide the matter. In the last decade, when Indians began owning companies abroad, the Wall Street Journal reported on cultural problems that arose. Their foreign employees learnt quickly that saying ‘no’ would cause their Indian bosses great offence, so they learnt to communicate with them as with children.

Indians shine in the west where their culture doesn’t hold them back. In India honor is high and the individual is alert to slights from those below him, which discomfort him greatly.

There is no culture of physical fitness, and because of this Indians don’t have an active old age. Past 60, they crumble. Within society they must step back and play their scripted role. Widows at that age, even younger, have no hope of remarriage because sacrifice is expected of them. Widowers at 60 must also reconcile to singlehood, and the family would be aghast if they showed interest in the opposite sex at that age, even though this would be normal in another culture.

Elders are cared for within the family, but are defanged when they pass on their wealth to their son in the joint family. They lose their self-esteem as they understand their irrelevance, and wither.

This article is reproduced from The News (January 25, 2009) with permission of the author. Read the article in French here.

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122 Responses to “Why Indians are Stressed and Unhealthy”

  1. Radhika Says:

    I don’t believe the indian diet is inherently worse than any other in the world. Being south indian, i can certainly testify as to the nutritional merits of south indian foods and demerits. the problem is of quantity and quality. the usual south indian thali has a vast quantity of rice and very small helpings of the rest. If you consider the price of vegetables and protein to the price of grain, the nutritional problem appears to have economic roots. within south indian food, the sources of vegetables-boiled, steamed and raw are numerous-chutneys and yogurt based dishes such as majiga pulusu, rasam, sambhar, tomato, ginger and berry chutney. How much oil and ghee one uses are more of a problem than the inherent qualities of the dish and here a reeducation is required. secondly south indian sweets are often made of lentils and molasses as opposed to the milk based sweets (high cholesterol) of the north. Karnataka actually has a terrific number of fresh and raw options including the delicious kosambir. bengali food is even better-boiled spinach with coconut, fish, channa dal (terrific food for diabetics because of low GI) and they cook in mustard oil that is very healthy. quantity as usual determines excess.

    the point about exercise holds true. but look at the difficulties involved. as a woman i know it is still difficult for me to take a run in a city park/beach without drawing an unwanted escort or attention. no point saying that we should be oblivious to it-some women will just not be able to take that stress and will prefer to stay in. as for men in india, the less said the better-they complain about doing their laundry themselves using a washing machine in the US, what can you expect of them in India?

    I do agree that the do-it-yourself culture does not exist in india-the common excuse is that by engaging servants we ensure their employment. the truth is that we are highly exploitative of domestics-we can’t even offer them a seat at our table when we speak with them-where is the question of any more thought? if we truly valued their work we would start doing some things ourselves. caste and the accident of class by birth still has a tremendous effect on our daily lives whether we accept it or not.

    I think the point about Indian bosses is unfortunately very, very true. I have never yet discovered how to work with them.

  2. Praetor Says:

    I couldn’t continue to read this after the author mentioned the word “oily”. This man clearly does not know about olive oil. To assume that anything oily is bad without first being specific about what kind of oil is being used is as irresponisible as promoting a general stereotype about people without getting to know them first….Then he speaks as if Indians struggle in ways I do not? We all have stress and anxiety and we all must learn to dispose of it properly. Exercise is absolutley key is dispelling bad stress from your life.

    To the woman who replied…you would throw your health to the wind to avoid being courted by a male caller? I hope you are kidding. When you get termiannly sick and the Doctor asks you, “Why did you not take better care of yourself?” You’ll reply..”Because I wanted to avoid men hitting on me?” I am sorry to say this but the reply you will receive is a hearty laugh and perhaps hearing the doctor calling you stupid.

    The Indian Diet, it is interesting…but w/ the lack of vegtables…can you truly expect to be a healthy people? Get those greens in your diet and cook them in olive oil! When you see a man or woman past their 60’s that still look like they are in their 30’s…you can attribute that to olive oil. Yes my friend, that “oily” fruit is the most sacred and healthiest of all fruit on this planet. The people of the mediterrainian do not crumble until we are well into our 80’s. We eat many vegtables, beans, fruit, multi-grain bread (Nothing w/ white flour), pasta (multi-grain carbs) w/ healthy tomato sauce. No cream, no sugar, no trans fat, no conola or corn oil. The carbs can be used in moderation if you’re trying to watch your carb intake. The misconception is that pasta is by far the most that we eat and that is utterly incorrect. Frankly, we eat less of pasta than any of the other things i mentioned. This was the food of the ancient Romans. Also would like to mention that the Chinese did not invent macoroni…I often hear that…The Chinese invented the long noodle or Lo Mein Noodle. Macoroni has been used by the natives of Italy long before the Chinese even figured out how to weave a long noodle. Lastly, consider that to build a great empire on the backs of great families…those families need to be built on the best diet possible. Try it, your body and soul will thank you. No shame in abandoning your traditional Indian diet if its not providing your body with the health it truly needs. Good luck to you both.

    • Varun Kumar Says:

      If you really have lived in India, the holy fruit with oil, OLIVE OIL, the one you are preaching about, do you have an idea how much is its price in India? None of the middle class households (forget poor) have the willingness to purchase Olive oil because it is so expensive. You are comparing Indian diet with Mediterranean, when did you even find that we could do that. Mediterranean diet is full of salads, accompanied by meat. Of course, they would be healthier. Coming to meat, how many non muslims eat Halal? Halal is a cleaner and a much healthier meat than the one usually non muslims in India eat. This is a fact, we Indians eat too fast! and we just eat in rush. Our diet is really not up to date and that is why we are getting into Obesity, High Blood Pressure and Cardiac diseases. Ever thought about how much salt we do consume? You beloved Olive oil is thing for rich and not the majority. The majority uses refined oils because that all they could afford. On top of that, synthetic milk, impure grains full with pesticides and growth hormones, all that takes a toll on our healths.

    • Sebhai Says:

      No.The chinese didn’t invented the macaroni.But noodles or pasta types of noodles definitely were found in ancient chinese tombs which are recorded as older than the roman civilization.However no recent evidences has been found that suggest macaroni are older than the long type noodles.Unless you have one.

  3. Radhika Says:

    Hmmm, i think Praetor has taken my response rather literally. I did not say that one would stop exercising because of men. BUT it would deter a lot of women. Actually I know it because of the experiences of several women friends and relatives and I think it is easy to dismiss people as stupid but it takes a society’s support for the health of even one individual. My point really was that a collective rethink is necessary in most situations. I believe the recent popularity of gyms in india amongst women is also addressing the privacy needs of women.

    Regarding oil, it is not really that simple. For example, it is now well recognized that olive oil is great when used au naturel in salads and yogurt but because it has a low smoke point, TRANS FAT is actually generated by cooking it. Coconut oil and Avocado oil are better bets despite the fear regarding their fat content. Also there is now some revaluation regarding the harm generated by saturated fat versus that caused by TRANS FAT. It is quite important to look at the entire context of food habits rather than extol the virtues of one ingredient over others.

    Indians, particularly urban Indians, generally do not eat raw vegetables and most prefer their vegetables to be well done for hygienic reasons as well as taste given India’s tropical climate. Generally I find a modified indian diet to be the best option. Daal/sambhar made the traditional way but fresh salads and vegetables more in the Mediterranean style.

  4. Peter Puccini PhD neuro science Says:

    I would like to send you my 20 year study on my Nutritional Therapy. I had heart attack and 5 by-passes, leukemia 12 months later. Given 5 months to live.
    Extensive research on countries with a very low life expectancy and India is one of them.

    I live in Sydney. I am retired.

    • Ganesh Says:

      Low life expectancy – a statistic, is more to do with a) India being poor. b) lack of hygiene in many places c) India being a tropical country with a lot of infectious diseases d) high number of accidents c) higher infant mortality.
      There is nothing wrong with the food we eat. I am sure a lot of Indians posting here would have their uncles/aunts/grandparents and parent who have lived well beyond the age of 80.
      Do not fall for the Olive oil propaganda. Nothing wrong with Olive oil but Sesame and coconut oils are equally good.
      The problem with any fat ( except Ghee) is they start breaking down when you heat them. So, as a policy avoid fried foods as much as possible.

  5. Murli Menon Says:

    You could have an entire South Indian vegetarian meal without encountering a vegetable???
    You must have eaten in a Millatry Hotel
    True vegetarians vegans (pronounced “we gun”)like me (who donot eat any animal products) will find
    vegetables in
    Ishtu (carrots/ cauliflower/beans)
    Sambhar (tomatoes/lady finger/drumsticks)
    Chira Iperi (fresh leaves of drumstick cooked with coconut)
    Avial (raw banana, yam)
    Olan (pumpkin)

    in every traditional Kerala meal, I have everyday

    • Sarath Chandran Says:

      Mr. Murli Menon, hi. Nice to know that there is another Malayali vegan in Kerala besides me. Watching some of the cookery programmes on TV, one would think that Malayalis use meat in all everything except in their tea or coffee. You are right that we do consume vegetables, but don’t we cook our greens too much?

  6. Dipesh Says:

    To the person above, you’re proving the point exactly. All of those vegetables are cooked so thoroughly the nutritional value has been killed, and none of them are what anyone would consider fresh green vegetables.

    “Middle class women do little, especially after childbirth. Many cook, but the cutting and cleaning is done by the servant. Slim in their teens, they turn thick-waisted in their 20s, within a few years of marriage.”

    This is an unfortunate truth, and why so many of my female peers have seemingly aged 10 years not long after marriage.

  7. Vikram Says:

    Can someone tell me what kind of cooking (especially Indian cooking of vegetables) destroys nutrition ?

    I eat sabzis (cooked vegetables) almost every night for dinner. Stuff like pata gobi, bhindi, baingan etc. I cook with a minimal amount of olive oil. Does simply cooking vegetables destroy the nutrition ?

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vikram: I will refer this question to an expert but in the meanwhile here are the tips I have picked up from casual discussions. If cooking destroys nutrition one would think that raw vegetables would be most nutritious. However, raw vegetable are more difficult to digest. So, some cooking is unavoidable. If the vegetables are overcooked, it would destroy the vitamins; if they are boiled and drained, a lot of nutrition would be lost in the draining. Cooking lightly and quickly in olive oil is said to be the best.

      In my view, one should care equally where the vegetables are coming from. If they have been grown with lot of fertilizer and pesticides and stored using preservatives who knows how much harmful stuff has percolated through the skin. I would opt for organic vegetables or get them from a farmers’ market.

      PS: Here is a link forwarded by Aakar Patel, the author of the post:

      More external input: We also cook sabzi in very little olive oil. However, one thing to keep in mind is not to overheat the oil – in other words, add oil and sabzi and heat simultaneously. Secondly, it is advisable not to overcook the vegetables — quick, stir-fry on medium-high heat is recommended. Third, in Indian vegetarian cuisine the use of tadkas, consisting of natural seeds and herbs such as mustard, whole jeera, kalonji, fenugreek, fennel, sesame, curry leaves, basil are beneficial. Fourth, I’m sure you also eat plenty of salads, which is your source of raw vegetables. Hope this is helps a little.

      And a slightly contrarian opinion: No, it seems according to research, that cooking actually enhances the nutritional value of vegetables. The anti-oxidents – stuff that protects against cancer and heart disease – such as lycopene in tomatoes, carotenoids and ferulic acid found in carrots, spinach, cabbage etc becomes available for absorption after the vegetable is cooked. Cooking breaks down the cell wall and helps uptake of nutrients that are bound to the cell wall. Cooking destroys the Vit C which is degraded by heat. Olive oil is healthy; it has monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidative substances.

      Some input here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=raw-veggies-are-healthier
      The British Journal of Nutrition gives good info if more is needed.

  8. Radhika Says:

    I use the following guidelines in my own cooking:

    1. Reduce transfat by using high smokepoint oils-coconut and avocado. Avocado is fantastic because no characteristic smell exists.

    2. Increase variety if one doesn’t like either coconut or avocado or does not have access to them – different flavors are enhanced with different cooking oils: sesame and peanut for Asian style veggies, mustard oil for Bengali dishes, olive for Mediterranean. A simple rule for me is to eat 15 different things everyday including cereals and oils – this rapidly increases variety and restrains consumption.

    3. Use olive oil for salads i.e. for any use that doesn’t require it to be cooked.

    4. Retain as much as possible of original colour and texture – this does not mean not cooking them but that vegetables should not lose all shape and colour particularly in the case of greens. Tomatoes, carrots, cabbage and spinach as correctly pointed out need to be lightly cooked. Personally I dislike the mushiness of most indian subzi preparations and prefer veggies cooked al dente as for example is the case with stir fry.

    5. Dry roast spices to get the most flavor – zeera responds fabulously to this. I have added dry roasted zeera to rice and found it is even more flavourful than sauteeing it in oil.

    6. Where sanitary and available eat raw veggies/boiled/steamed. Raitas and chutneys are one way to meet this requirement.

    7. Dried vegetables are sometimes a good option as in the case of Kasoori methi that works in sandwiches, fish, rice, eggs, vegetables, raitas, etc!

    Above all, I found that being adventurous with food and learning to enjoy all world cuisines except North American works really well- creating your own recipes is one step better! Take a pizza eaten northern italian style – paper thin with smoked bharta topping(melanzane by any other name!), shimla mirch, tomatoes and a tiny bit of paneer works great!

    • Vikram Says:

      Radhika, can you point me to a good source that indicates cooking in olive oil is unhealthy ?

      This article indicates the opposite, http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2007/jul/25/healthandwellbeing.foodanddrink

      • Sakuntala Narasimhan Says:

        I am submitting this comment on behalf of a student of mine who is a doctor:

        “As a long time consumer activist associated with test reports on food items, I discovered that many reports about the “best method” for cooking with oil, could be ‘doctored’ or based on ‘tests’ funded by MNCs interested in boosting international sales of particular brands/products. The theory, for example, that cooking with coconut oil (as in Kerala ) is harmful, has now been debunked by independent research that found that actually using coconut oil can be better than using refined groundnut or soya or sunflower oil, because the process of refining involves the use of chemicals that leave traces in the end product that could harm in the long run.” A report by the Consumer Guidance Society of India at Mumbai, published this some time last year.

        It is not so much which oil, but how it is processed, where it comes from, what it is packed in, how much is used, what it is used in combination with, etc. that are important. A cardiac specialist declares that sesame oil (til oil) used traditionally by south Indians (and also by Japanese) is the best but the days of processing sesame through manual pressses drawn by bullocks, as in my mother-in-law’s village, till 40 years ago, are gone, and what we get is a commercial product mixed with synthetic chemicals…. plus commercial interests that sometimes use not just advertising but also ‘doctored’ reports in professional journals, to push an agenda, claiming it to be a “scientific study”. It is the same in the pharma industry, where millions spent on research are to be ‘recovered’ through international sales, which depend on how far doctors can be persuaded to prescribe a particular drug or brand. I have enough inside information, to be a little skeptical about new “theories” on health and nutrition that go counter to traditional practices.

        • Vikram Says:

          So whats the point here, that I should just accept Radhika’s statement with absolutely no evidence because all such evidence has been doctored by MNCs to further their agenda ?

          All I asked for was a source so I could get a perspective. I know these questions cannot be answered in yes and no terms.

          Radhika and Sakunthala, I mean absolutely no offfence, just a bit bemused.

  9. Anil Kala Says:

    What is this fixation with healthy food? Do you want a joyless life? Food is celebration of life, indulge……..……

    Don’t take these alarmist scientists seriously. There are meteors the size Manhattan heading towards earth, GW will cause Himalayan glaciers to melt by 2037, rise in sea level will inundate Bangladesh, Solar winds will burn all the satellites, cell phones will not work. Apparently Ozone layer crisis has blown over like the Y2K bug………

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Anil: The one reassuring thing is that the melt-by date for the Himalayan glaciers in the IPCC report was a typo. It is not 2037 but 2307. I don’t know how it changes our attitude to food but I thought I should mention.

      • Anil Kala Says:

        It is not at all assuring. If we can’t predict weather accurately for ten days, don’t you think a short term prediction is much more credible than a 200 years from now Sheikh Chilli story?

        Imagine the audacity of author fixing a year deep in future! This Pachauri guy is truly gullible or dumb. Bizarre episode reminds me of Ramer Pillai of herbal fuel fame.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Anil: Just for the sake of argument, it is often the case that a short-term prediction is much less credible than a long-term one. For example, a short-term prediction of a big earthquake in California would have lot of uncertainty associated with it while a longer-term prediction would have much less. I feel computer models based on satellite data on the rate of glacier melt over the last few decades gives a reasonably good long-term prediction in this case. It might be off by 50 years, one way or the other, but the trend is undeniable. Of course, something major might intervene to change the trend but since that is a complete unknown, the world has no choice but to be prudent and act accordingly. The principle of insuring against very low probability hazards is well established.

          In the case of food I believe it is possible to insure against obvious problems without sacrificing taste or enjoyment. Most people do it anyway when it comes to choosing the diet of their children which is always a good test to separate rhetoric from reality.

  10. Arun Pillai Says:

    I would like to endorse Sakuntala Narasimhan’s reply and also recommend the books of Michael Pollan, a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley and an expert on food. His basic view is that nutrition science is still in its infancy so it is easy to be misled by “scientific” reports of various kinds, even those that are not being pushed by corporations. He recommends essentially eating food that is cooked in ways that are time-tested – traditional recipes, as Sakuntala also recommends.

    The organic food movement and local food movement are also important sources of insight into what to eat for both health and enjoyment and being ecologically correct and saving on energy consumption. Frances Moore Lappe’s “Diet for a Small Planet” is still a classic.

    I would also like to add that Peter Singer, an ethicist at Princeton, strongly endorses animal rights and argues for vegetarianism, especially in advanced countries where the processing of animals for food has reached astonishing levels of cruelty to animals.

  11. Sakuntala Says:

    If I may add to the above comments — the Worldwatch Institute of Washington DC has published a book, “Eat Here” which deals with food not just in terms of human health but also from a broader perspective of healthy environment, healthy lifestyles etc….

  12. Radhika Says:

    i endorse Arun’s point about using time tested techniques and foods. For example soya has been eaten as edamame, tofu and tempeh and in miso for years. Drinking soy milk on the other hand is new. This maybe purely anecdotal but a friend who passed away from cancer was convinced that soymilk was the cause of her recurring cancer (soy mimics estrogen that in excess may contribute to breast cancer).

    Similarly yogurt, kefir, lassi are more common in the south indian diet than drinking a cup of milk – as it turns out yogurt in particular is more nutritious – less sugar, more digestible protein. Also there is no need to get all of one’s calcium from dairy (this is marketing hoax by vested interests). Green leaves of amaranth, sorrel, kale and chard and nuts like the almond have a fair amount of calcium. Certainly how much is absorbed may vary.

    I am no doctor but I am managing pre-diabetes by diet and exercise alone and by experimentation have found what works for me.

    I remain convinved that variety is the key – watching the colours and textures on one’s plate. Let food be the medicine and let the medicine be food.

  13. Radhika Says:

    Vikram…i understand your bemusement. I suggested what worked for me and yes, the oil business is confusing. After reading various links on this page, i am confused too now about olive oil. I will hold to my position on variety because i find that takes care of excessive indulgence in any one food source!

  14. SouthAsian Says:

    I had been going along with Radhika’s advice on variety simply because it comes across as so sensible. But my memory was jogged by a book I read many years ago (I think it was The Zen of Food but I will double check) that suggests a wrinkle to the advice – variety is good but don’t consume all that variety at the same time.

    Some things just don’t go together and disrupt important chemical and physical processes of the body. Something as simple as oily food and iced water are not advised (Coke is a disaster) – recall that the Chinese have warm tea with their meals. On the other hand, some things go very well together (daal and chaawal, for example) and the book had much to say about that too.

    The bottom line advice was not to even have food and dessert at the same time but to separate them by a few hours. And not to simultaneously pile all the available food dishes on the plate but to taste them sequentially – Bengali or French style as courses. Now that I think of it this tradition of courses must have some logic behind it.

    • Anil Kala Says:

      “The bottom line advice was not to even have food and dessert at the same time but to separate them by a few hours.”

      I think this is bad advice on common sense because a few hours will be enough to allow you to over eat desert. My advice will be; don’t eat anything between meals. Eating just a small portion starts an irresistible frenzy to have some more until guilt stops you from eating.

      • SouthAsian Says:

        Anil: I think the opinion is split on this. Some recommend three big meals with nothing in between. Others recommend eating smaller portions more often. I don’t know the scientific debate and wonder if there is someone more up on this topic. Of course, if one is indisciplined one would over-eat in either case.

  15. Arun Pillai Says:

    I found Aakar Patel’s article very interesting. Amusingly and cleanly written, he does not mince words as many journalists do, which is very satisfying. I think it is also at least partly accurate, especially about the practices of certain urban classes.

    However, I found three omissions difficult to digest. One is that his style is purely descriptive and so it appears that these practices are entirely the fault of those involved rather than a matter of the way Indian society has evolved in its urban settings and the very real pressures to make a living that these classes are subject to. If he were to attempt a larger undertaking that would be an account of the evolution of these patterns of living, I think it would be hugely interesting.

    Second, I believe these patterns are changing very rapidly and Patel writes as if they are static. Of course, his article is a short one so it is difficult to do justice to such things perhaps.

    The third omission I am less sure about but it is my guess that much of Europe was very similar in the nineteenth century although modulated by a different set of cultural practices. So the question that arises is: is this kind of pattern largely a result of a lack of prosperity and does it disappear with rising wealth and leisure? If the answer is yes, then perhaps a different kind of tone is called for, one closer to sympathy than derision.

    A related point is that Indians in the US are also at the highest risk level as a group for cardiovascular disease. Perhaps the lifestyle patterns described persist in the US. How much of this risk is genetic and how much is environmental? I simply do not know.

  16. Parin Says:

    Comment to All Indian and Non-Indian…

    Anything over-consumed is problem. Wheather that is money, food, land or anything.(Follow Gandhi…)

    Indian has habit of eating fried food anytime.. But non-indian is also have same habit.

    watching/reading food advertise and receipe…will desire to eat that food. All human is on this path.

    The reason Indian on this article because we are wide spread ppl. on the earth.

    That’s all.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Parrin: The general point is valid that over-consumption of anything is a problem. Still, the fact remains that disease patterns in different societies vary widely and some of this variation is linked to the variations in diets and methods of cooking. So the article has something of value to contribute.

  17. prasad Says:

    When it comes to the Politicians having heart surgery, it is because of the ‘Blood of the poor which they suck’ for their survival.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Prasad: In the real world there seem to be no such one-to-one links between exploitative conduct and health outcomes.

      • vivid Says:

        Yes. But he is not talking about “Exploitative conduct”. He is talking about the blood that they drink. That is definitely related to health outcomes. In other words – “Jesus! That was a joke, man!”

  18. mani Says:

    Im very proud to be indian but lets face it the indian diet sucks!no wonder we look so bad..bad skin..no muscle tone…and the south inidan diet is the worst!mounds of rice,spicy,sour overcooked vegetables!

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Mani: I suppose the question should be: If the diet is so bad why hasn’t it improved over time? Diets do change – that of the Japanese did with development and was reflected in gain in the average height; it is also changing quite markedly in China. It has changed for the worse in the US leading to obesity.

  19. Vedprakash Singh Says:

    One should not forget it is only 64 yrs of independence. Britishers looted us and before that Moguls tried to influence upon us.

    Not every thing is wrong although INDIAN SOCIETY as a whole is still in the learning phase, although we have grown in many areas.

    We are becoming health conscious & are being constantly exposed on dietary solutions with regards to present food, through media. Afford-ability, in the society has gone up.

    Post independence, confusion & mis-handling of the Aryuvedic System of the land lost prominence for a temporary period, due to the meteoric rise of allopathy in the past few decades. Also there is a great dearth of medicinal plant taxonomist in our country.

    Ultimately, positive side is improving slowly & the negative side is taking its own time to understand the self generated problems, e.g. population, corruption etc., and, importantly our attitude towards life in general.

    World will have to wait till tomorrow, before we fully recover to again become a ‘son chiriya’ & this time no looting.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vedprakash: There is no doubt that there has been a lot of progress but a few things do need attention:

      1. India has the largest pool of malnutritioned children in the world and economic growth alone is not addressing it. A very recent study came to the following conclusion:

      In India, 25-50% of the deaths of children between 6 months and 5 years old are due to inadequate food intake. This slow, sustained starvation causes stunted growth and puts children at greater risk for infection and disease… The primary policy tool to combat chronic childhood undernutrition has been economic development, but despite two decades of booming growth, the average calorie intake in India has actually declined. Indeed, the authors found that there was no link between economic growth and childhood undernutrition; stagnant or thriving, the status of a state’s economy had no effect on its number of underweight children.


      Also, check out this very important article. It is not the quantity of food but its quality that matters: http://www.economist.com/node/18440801

      And, an example of the way forward:

      2. It struck me as odd that in the midst of the mega-corruption scandals you could write “this time no looting.” Is it possible that while you are watching out for the outsiders it might be the insiders who clean up the house?

      For the record, on this blog we do not have a black and white position on corruption. Our perspective is outlined here:


  20. Siggy Says:

    Its NOT just the way we eat , cook exercise and live. Genetics plays a VITAL part . Most Americans eating Hamburgers and Fries are descendants of Colonisers who are of predominenty Northern European Origin. Most people who settled COLDER climates in the early days of humanity , moved northwards over hundreds , if not thousands of years facing real pressures of eveolutionary selection , had to gradually cope with increasingly protein and FAT rich food found on northern grasslands ( before the dwaen of civilization and agriculture. Those genes selected out by those pressures have died out , while those that survived coped with the pressures. It provided an evolutionary advantage in those times, along with greater physical requirements on their body and muscles – Hunting , animal husbandry ( after civilizing a bit). Also body moved fats to peripheral areas where it would act as an effective insulator in cold weather. ( Never see n a lanky westerner in RURAL areas of white countries, they have a bit of skin fat) . By contrast , India’s climate did not select out anybody with these challenges, nor did its terrain , and no evolutionary selective pressures have weeded out incompatibel strains of genes. However Urbanization has reversed evolutionary gains of westerners ( less exercise) and more stres. Urbanization has affected tropical people even more – and is exposing problems at an even earlier age – India is a scary example. Though none of my parents or grandparents had high cholestrol or glucoseeven in their 60s and 70s , I have borderline high at 34 , LDL : 106 * , HDL 57 , with triglycerides just got back to normal ( it was high before) and glucose ( fasting) is 95 – not too far from borderline( 100-110) . My HbA1c levels are 6.1 – prediabetic – largely from stress induced hyperglycemia, YET I look THIN and almost ANOREXIC with decreased muscle tone – I feel very weak after Carbon Monoxide exposure due to badly ventilated apartment heater , luckily my CO detector warned use before damage was severe. . . I Think Indians in US are even less healthy than Indians in India – given lifestyles, adapting unhealthy aspects of living ( Ice creams and cheesecake anyone?) and reduced in exercise in colder winter months. But US has cleaner air and better quality ingredients for those who want to cook,

    • idiot849 Says:

      Hahahah Americans are 70% fat with cancer and osteopersosis plaguing them. I’m sure the average Indian who pulls people in rickshaws is much more leaner and stronger. Please do not put brahmins and banias with the rest of the Indian population. Every Indian knows they’re weak generally. The strong people of India are usually the robust tall Jatts and some labourers who are lean for working.

  21. Girly Says:

    Your article is exactly what i thought about it too. I totally agree with the Indian society and culture of having servant, etc.
    I have been living in Delhi for the past 7-8 yrs and also travel well within India. So it is definitely a servant culture. Every little thing from just getting a glass in the kitchen to serving your own baby is done by servant. If there is less movement there is a result that is of gaining fat etc. No wonder majority of the people i see in this country are a bit on the gain side, hardly i ever see a mid 40’s lady in slim and trim figure, same goes to the men.

    And also the diet in India is not healthy enough in my opinion.

    I totally agree and support your article..

  22. rajesh Says:

    Indians strictly lacks meat and fish in their diets. only Kerala stands different with 94% of the population fish and meat eaters. the beef eating is considered taboo in north Indian societies. no wonder..

    India should shred this pseudo religious thing when it comes to food. I know, it is changing.
    then, there are vegetarian terrorists- those who spread fear about non-veg food. another group is those who argue meat is bad for your body and similar. it is not so. most societies in the world are meat eaters. and it should be like that.

    good luck and have your beef fry. :)

    • vivid Says:

      countries that consume meat in a large quantity are not healthy. Eg- USA. And yes, I am one of those vegetarian terrorists that will spread awareness about the health concern of meat. And I am an atheist. My point is that it has been proven scientifically that, in few aspects meat is health, but it is seriously bad in long term. And we don’t need to argue on that. Because, it is not an opinion, but a fact. A fact that you can easily look over the internet. In fact, all of the dairy products also have some health disadvantages. Vegan is the most healthy diet. Some people even go completely raw. They are called Raw Vegans.
      I won’t even start the ethical reason for not eating meat (but that’s the biggest reason humans should stop consuming meat)…but I wont’ go there as the topic in discussion is diet and health.

  23. Satya Says:

    A very interesting read. It’s warming to see the responses being so sensible and mature; one doesn’t see that too often in online forums these days.

    I’m from Udupi, a small temple town in Karnataka known for it’s cuisine, and have been a life long vegetarian. My mother did an excellent job of reading up on the value of balanced diet and nutrition and incorporating that into our meals, so where I would like to differ slightly with the article is the lack of vegetables in Indian cooking part. My meals at home were so vegetable heavy that I missed them when I first moved out. Also, there are many ways to cook them without necessarily destroying their nutritional value. Couple of things my mother also insisted we do (1) Use rice as a medium to consume vegetables and side dishes, and not the other way around. So quantity wise, more vegetables – less rice (2) Never say no to any vegetable (unless you were allergic to it or something), so I grew up eating a dish prepared out of almost every vegetable available.

    However, I do realize that this is a matter of better awareness and education rather than the diet itself. I personally do not believe that the Indian diet is any worse than other diets in the world. North Indian diets, especially traditional Punjabi ones, use fresh ingredients and plenty of vegetables with roti/chapathis. They also always have raita or salad on the side. And I still gladly maintain that the meals I had at home were the healthiest by far.

    I do wholeheartedly agree with the quantity of eating we do, the frequency of eating (guests who arrive are always served coffee or tea with snacks irrespective of what time of the day it is), the dependency on domestic help, and the lack of exercise in the DNA of our society. It is also very disturbing when I constantly see people over the age of 70 buying new computers, e-readers, iPads, etc in the US, and I still have trouble convincing my 60+ parents to use email!

  24. Surendra Halgeri Says:

    The article talks about “Indians as a major group suffering due to heart disease” in the world. So there is certainly something wrong with Indian Diet. I have studied Naturopathy and water-fasting over last 15 years and follow it every day. My observations are as follows:
    1. A typical South Indian Meal will consist of a “pile” of “white” rice, skin-less Dal cooked in “refined” oil and “table salt”, Vegetables cooked to death in “refined oil” with “table salt” and “dry spices”, Pooris fried in ‘refined oil’, sweet dish made from “white rice or maida or heavily processed milk and Refined Sugar”. The idea of a meal is that it should be tasty and must fill the stomach. Not necessary for the meal to be healthy.

    –All the items in quotes are the potential killers.
    –The ratio of grains to vegetables is around 70:30, which is the main cause of high incidence of Diabetes and obesity, lack of nutrition and less enthusiasm to do workouts.
    –Excess use of ‘refined sugar’ contributes a lot to that.
    –This and the excess “table salt” leads to Hypertension.
    –Excess grains also causes Acidosis (acidity ignored over several years and decades results in acidosis) causes loss of calcium, Potassium and Magnesium in the bones (to keep the blood pH at 7.4, slightly alkaline) and this leads to Osteoposis and Arthritis, knee/hip joint problems, further cutting down the possibily of the person doing workout.
    — All these reasons lead to increased risk of Heart Disease and Heart attacks

    2. A typical North Indian meal would have roti instead of rice and may contain dal with skin (more fiber). If roti is white bread, nan, parota or roomali type, it is maida. As bad as white rice! Atta roti or chapati has some fiber but still wheat has gluten and it contributes to Hypertension. It is one of the ‘bad’ whole grains.

    So what is the solution to this problem??

    -Firstly drink clean filtered water (RO is better) at least 4-5 liters per day. Drink water on empty stomach 30 minutes before you eat or 150 minutes after meals. This way your thirst will be quenched without affecting digestion.
    -Do pranayam, yoga, walking, cycling, gym etc on daily basis
    -Expose skin to morning sun (without sunblock lotion!) at least 15 minutes daily (loger for darker skin) to get your quota of Vitamin D
    -Think positive and be optimistic. Have faith in God and your religion. That will calm your mind and reduce stress.
    – Eat as much of vegetables as you can get and afford. If vegetables form 70-80% of your meal, it is better. Fresh and clean vegetables like cucumber, carrot, cabbage, lettuce, methi, palak, capsicum, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, peas, sweet potato, pumpkin etc. eat raw or lightly steamed or lightly cooked in cold pressed olive oil or raw organic Coconut oil. This oil is expensive, so use little to fry your mustard, cumin and hing or whatever you like. Never use refined oil of any type. Refined oil is good looking and looks clean but contains poisons due to heating to 250 degrees centigrade with caustic soda.
    -Use unprocessed sea salt, sainda Namak or Kala Namak not table salt. Table salt is refined salt devoid all minerals and contains only Sodium Chloride and chemicals. Very harmful to the body.
    -Use jaggery or Stevia extract instead of refined sugar, Use minimum quantity required
    -Use Brown or red (unpolished) rice instead of white rice. Quantity only 20% of the meal. If not, make a Millet roti from a mix of jowar, bajra, ragi (nachani), buckwheat (kuttu), soyabean flour in whatever ratio you like or whatever available. Add black salt, ground chilly, onion, palak, cabbage to the dough to make it tasty. Use aluminium foil to pat the roti and then cook on hot plate or tawa. Use little olive oil if required. This is like thalipeeth. This roti is a very healthy roti. one or two per meal is enough. This is farmers food allowing you to be active and agile.
    -Use fresh chilly, ginger, garlic, coriander, curry leaf, cocunut (less) etc in your cooking instead of dried spice powders. The fresh spices are more tasty and healthy.
    -Avoid eating deep fried or barbequed foods altogether. These maximum damage foods loaded with free radicals. .
    -Avoid white bread, biscuits, cakes, cookies, sweets like jalebi, gulab jamun, halwa, fuzzy drinks and boxed juices etc. These are super-danger foods loaded with sugar and white carbs.

    Hope this helps.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Surendra: Many thanks for this very useful contribution. I substituted kala namak straight away.

      • Surendra Halgeri Says:

        You are most welcome, Sir! Natural sea salt or rock salt or black salt has more than 84 minerals in addition to Sodium Chloride. These minerals are essential to our body. Table Salt is a convenience food of the modern age. It is produced by refining the natural salt by chemical processes to make it look white, finely granular so that it looks nice and flows out salt shakers easily. In the process all the 84 minerals are lost and a host of health damaging chemicals are added to the ‘Table Salt’. Every grain of this good-looking table salt will contribute to future Hypertension!

        They add iodine based chemical to make it ‘iodized’. However, inorganic chemical based salts do not get absorbed in our body and are excreted by kidney in to urine. For people with iodine deficiency (like Thyroid problem) it is better to eat seaweed, kelp or kale for a good natural dose of iodine. If not available in your region, you can get capsules of kelp and dried seaweed from South East Asian sources. Eating fresh dulse, agar, summer squash, mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale, asparagus, turnips, spinach, and other vegetables high in iodine will help.

        I am a 61-yr old Hindu vegetarian based in Singapore. My comments will not cover any views about animal food. Since last 8 years I do ‘ekadashi’ water-fast i.e. I am only on water for 2 nights and the ekadashi day (once every fortnight). This has benefited me tremendously. I have gotten rid of my sinusitis and headaches, cold / cough / flu attacks. Since I realised that eating dairy products like milk, cheese, yoghurt etc. causes phlegm, I have ‘almost’ eliminated those in my diet (except social occasions). That has helped eliminate nasal / chest congestion.

        In my comments I have not mentioned about eating fruits and eating raw nuts/seeds. These are essential for everyone, particularly vegetarians. I eat 5 portions of different fruits as breakfast i.e. one each of apple, banana, guava, orange, pear, kiwi, persimmon, bunch of grapes…whatever available. Each fruit and vegetable offers us variety of natural nutrition. This is God’s gift to us. One important note is to eat the fruits before eating any cooked food. This will ensure that the fruit will get digested fast and will not rot in the food pipe, waiting for digestion of cooked food. I will elaborate more, if anyone is interested.

        Eating raw nuts like walnut, almonds and seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, flax helps us to get Omega 3/6 essential fatty acids critical for our health. These are important for good well-oiled body joints and several other benefits. These are expensive and middle class ‘saving’ mentality may prevent us from eating these regularly. But these are critical for vegetarians.

        Every morning I slowly drink 1.5 liter of warm-hot water with fresh lemon while reading news paper. This cleans my nasal passage, throat of any phlegm, cleans stomach, liver and the intestines of acidic residue. Any remaining bowels are also flushed out. Then after shower and prayers, I eat the fruit-breakfast. During late morning I munch some raw nuts & seeds. Eat home-made lunch of 70% salads, 30% cooked beans, spinach and sweet potato or pumpkin. No rice or chapati. Evening I drink karela & celery juice with 3 spoons of organic apple cider vinegar, eat some fresh aloe-vera gel. Eat dinner before 7 PM consisting of millet, dal, veggy and two stalks of celery. Do walking or cycling or gym between 9-10 PM, brush, shower and sleep. My normal working pulse rate is around 50 and cholesterol / sugar levels around half of the minimum.

        I will be pleased to share more information or answer queries from the weblog readers.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Surendra: Thanks for adding the details. This is an area where there is little systematic research so one has to go with one’s intuition. Anil Kala has disagreed with some of your recommendations but they appeal to my gut sense. I believe drinking more water is better and it also seems right not to drink it with the meal. In general, one should not mix food types. Fruit breakfast and the benefit of nuts both seem eminently sensible.

          Could you tell me how to make karela juice? Also, I had read somewhere quite some time back that watermelon juice was very good as a cleansing diet. Could one do the ekadashi fast with watermelon juice?

          • Surendra Halgeri Says:

            To SouthAsian

            I have answered Anil Kalaji’s comments in detail. If you need more substantiation, please let me know your objections and concern.

            The most effective fast is water fast. It is most effective because 100% of body’s energy is used for doing spring cleaning. It is like closing the office shutters and asking all employees to do spring cleaning of their desks and files, or even renovating your office or stopping all the traffic to repair the Highway . Refineries and chemical plants are shutdown once in 5 years for 15-30 days to clean all process units, pipes, catalysts and vessels spending millions of dollars. Our digestive system is some kind of a food refinery. Taking in fruits, vegetables, grains and beans and refining that in to Blood Plasma. The wonderful thing about our body’s design is that “Repair is automatic and free”!! Only condition is “not even a grain of food” is to be eaten during the water-fast. Then it is most effective. I have done maximum 14 days (and nights) water-fast (in 2009) so far. But I know many who have done 21 or 30 day water-fast to reduce their diabetic and BP medication. Jain gurus do this type of fasting frequently. More info on on fasting you can read: http://www.ourplaceinternational.com/Home.html

            Yes, drinking Watermelon juice while fasting is a part of Juice-fasting. It is half as effective but you will be able to fast longer and also work while you fast. Generally, longer water fasting requires taking leave.

            Ekadashi water fasting on water-melon juice is a good way to start fasting. It is indeed hundred times better than eating “fasting food like saboodana or Sago khichdi, sweet potato preparations, Avool or Poha etc. I do not call that ‘fasting’. It is like having a different meal.

            Making Karela juice is as simple as making carrot juice. Wash fresh karela and put it into juicer. The seeds, skin and white matter will be discarded in the pulp. In Singapore we get China karela which is bigger in size and called Bitter Melon and is good for juicing. Please read
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitter_melon http://www.naturalnews.com/028760_diabetes_fenugreek.html

            It is good for restoring alkaline pH to our digestive system, colon and delaying the on-set or progress of diabetes.

            Any other questions, concerns, doubts, objections…welcome. I will be happy to try my best to reply.

    • Anil Kala Says:

      Some of your assertions are myths, unsubstantiated claims.

      1. Drinking 4/5 liters of water is pointless. Drink only as much as you need. Some fellows need more some less.
      2. Table salt is not harmful or as harmful as other salts.
      3. There is no study to suggest that salt causes hypertension.
      4. Drinking water half an hour before meals is also pointless. Drink just before meal so that you eat that much less.

      Anything in moderation is OK. Life is not to be preserved, it is to be lived as well.

  25. Surendra Halgeri Says:

    Hi Anil Kalaji

    Many thanks for responding to my comments.

    1. “Drink only as much as you need. Some need more some need less”
    Do you know how much water you need to drink? Have you tried to estimate how much you end up drinking in a day? May be it will total up to 4 or 5 liters.
    We need to drink enough water so that we are adequately hydrated. The water we drink is shared by trillions of body cells in all parts of our body. Every cell must get adequate water to survive and perform it’s function. The modern day diet tends to be heavily acidic containing grains, dairy and meats all of which invoke acidic response from our digestive system. The resultant acidic blood plasma received by each body cell tilts it’s pH balance towards acidic side. To nutralise this acidic pH, each body cell is ‘hungry’ for water. When you drink water all body cells in upper part of your body will get water first. As they grab all the water that you drink, if you don’t drink enough, may be the lower organs like small and large intestine may not receive enough water. So the body cells forming the intestine may absorb water from the processed food or bowels which are waiting to be excreted. This dries up the bowels causing constipation. Also kidneys need enough water to wash off all the toxins and inorganic salts extracted by the kidneys from blood. This goes out as urine. If kidneys don’t get enough water, then these salts and toxin will dry up as stones causing serious renal problems like kidney stones, especially after 40s. Liver stones are gall bladder stones.

    I always ask people that you need a bucket (20 L) of water to wash your out side body, won’t you need at least 4-5 liters of water to clean your insides? How will you kidneys and liver wash all the toxins away without adequate water?

    So how do we know how much to drink? There are a few guidelines.

    i. If you can walk a distance of 2 Km say around 10 or 11 AM in full sunlight without getting tired or getting a headache, you are adequately hydrated. You should also get a shirt-full of sweat indicating that you skin pores are open and your muscles are well hydrated.

    ii. Your urine should look as clear as water. Yellow urine indicates need for drinking more water. Male adults should urinate every 2-3 hours, more if you are working inside air-conditioned offices.
    iii. You should move your bowels at least once a day, typically in the morning. Better if it is once in morning and once in the evening. If your bowel movements are slower than this (like once in two or three days) then you are surely not drinking enough water. It also indicates that you are not eating enough fruits, vegetables and fiber. Not moving bowels every morning is like not cleaning your house every day and not emptying your garbage bin every day. Would you tolerate if your maid servant forgets to empty the garbage bin one day? Flies, cockroaches will start swarming your house. If bowels are not moved everyday, they rot and spread more toxins in to the blood causing diseases in the long run. It is much better to drink enough water, eat fruits and vegetables to move your bowels every morning naturally without strain or tension?

    2. “Table salt is not harmful or as harmful as other salts.”
    Please read the following references:

    3. “There is no study to suggest that salt causes hypertension.”
    Please read unbiased report in Wikipedia:

    4. “Drinking water half an hour before meals is also pointless. Drink just before meal so that you eat that much less”
    Drinking water 15-30 minutes before meals gives enough time for the water to get absorbed from food pipe, stomach and intestines in to our muscles. This is best done when stomach is empty. This water does not remain in the stomach and it does not reduce your hunger in any way. It satisfies the thirst of your body cells so that while eating your meal you will not feel thirsty and tempted to drink water diluting your digestion process in the mouth (while chewing) and after the meal while digestion goes on in the stomach.

    5a. “Anything in moderation is OK.”
    Moderation mantra is very common. You have to draw your line as to what is in moderation and what is not. I would suggest this: 1. If you are keeping good health and do not fall sick frequently. 2. Your blood test, BP, BMI is in normal range and your pulse rate is between 55-75
    3. Your Parents and Grand Parents (both Mom & Dad side) have lived up to 80+ without any major lifestyle diseases like Diabetes, High BP, Osteoporosis, Arthritis.
    4. You have already created your progeny, i.e. finished your quota of children
    Then you can be generous with your “moderation” limits!!

    If the answer is NO to any of the 4 points above, then you need to read, study and carefully set your ‘Moderation” limits.

    5b. “Life is not to be preserved, it is to be lived as well.”
    Absolutely. Cannot agree with you more. If you set your definition of “living” as “must enjoy cigarettes and alcohol, must drink Cocacola and eat Mac Burger” then May God Help you.
    If you set your definition of “living” as eating “living food like variety of fruits and vegetables” then may God Bless You!!

    • Anil Kala Says:

      I am sorry Shri Surendra Halgeri ji your 1000 words reply is still not convincing.
      1. I asked my doctor and he said drink only as much as you need. 4-5 liters would be forcing water on my body. I hardly need 2/3 liter in summers and less than half liter in winter. Some water of course comes from meals and drinking tea. Of course we need water to be hydrated after all body is more than 70 % water. But body has built in mechanism to demand water when it needs. So there is no need to force water on body.

      Sure you will need more water if you walk 2 Km in sun at 10-11 AM. Body will demand it.

      2. The references are as ambiguous as your own assertion. Not at all trust worthy.
      3. Please read Wikipedia yourself. Before mentioning long term effect of salt it says the findings are controversial.
      4. I said that drinking water just before meals kills hunger, which to me is OK as we have a tendency to over eat. But I would prefer drinking water only when there is need to drink water. That’s how our body has evolved over millions of years.

      Rest of your response is too patronizing to be replied. Although I must mention that I missed a word in in my reply..

      Life is not ‘ONLY’ to be preserved, it is to be lived as well. I did not mean to say it is not to be preserved.


      • SouthAsian Says:

        Anil: As I said earlier, there is very little experimental evidence for these types of recommendations. People go with what appeals to their common sense. I do have one input though. In my experience, doctors are only trained to fix bodies that are broken in one way or another. They generally have no clue about how to keep healthy bodies stay healthy. For such advice, it might be better to turn to nutritionists although even there the track record of Western nutritionists is not good. Almost the entire FDA food pyramid of old has gone out of the window. I think the old Veds and Hakims had an advantage based on their greater stock of folk wisdom.

      • Surendra Halgeri Says:

        Anil Kalaji

        We are debating about the possible causes of “Why Indians are Stressed and Unhealthy” in this weblog. Drinking water has a lot to do with both stress and health. It is not you against me.

        Readers will read our contributions and decide what they wish to take or try.

        If you drink only half-liter of water in winter, either you are living in Iceland or you are an exception. Since I do not know about your location, profession, age, your health condition, your physical activity level, I cannot comment any further on why your water requirement is on lower side. Your sweat pores are probably not open, you may not be exercising and sweating much. This way your thirst may also be limited.

        A persons hydration level gets tested when you do long distance running like 10Km, Half or Full Marathon. I have seen many fit looking runners unable to run or even sit properly with locked muscles due to extreme dehydration.

        Also drinking clean water is important. Tap water will have sediments, pipe rust, chlorine and heavy metals (like Barium/Cadmium). These need to be filtered out to provide our body with adequate clean drinking water. I have been using RO filter for my family since last 18 years with practically no sickness for all family members. In India Kent RO Filter is a good product to buy. The least you should have is Aquaguard.

        “The references are as ambiguous as your own assertion” :
        I can only say this is your take. It is up to the readers to choose.

        About Hypertension and salt please ask your Doctor. Eating more salt (Sodium Chloride) makes the blood thinner, making the heart pump harder with higher pressure to circulate the blood to every nook & corner of our body. This makes heart & artery walls thicker & harder, causing early failure of heart muscle.

        Generally, benefits of Natural resources like fruits, vegetables, herbs and Ayurvedic medications are never ‘researched’ by any of the high-tech labs of the west due to lack of funding. Only western medications and treatments are researched and published (funded by pharma industry) since the industry is interested in patenting the drug and make money by selling it all over the world at exorbitant prices. FDA and WHO help them in pushing these drugs. For last thirty years they have been selling Cholesterol lowering drugs earning billions of dollars. Now the reality is emerging that these drugs in no way lowering the probability of future heart problems. This is a big money game involving politicians, senators and congressmen.

        My take would be that if one sticks to eating “what grows on plants” without much processing or cooking and avoiding man-made processed foods, there is no need to get caught in the dragnet of doctors, medicines and hospitals and ICUs. Take charge of your own health. I have.

      • Anil Kala Says:

        Shri Surendra Halgeriji

        If you will cut down on bards and jibes perhaps we can have some meaningful discussion. These devices are not proper arguments they are psychological means to rattle a fellow, clearly the intention is to win an argument by any means. See how you are making wild inferences….

        Life is also to be lived…. “must enjoy cigarettes and alcohol, must drink Cocacola and eat Mac Burger” then May God Help you. Beats me how one can draw such inference.

        “If you drink only half-liter of water in winter, either you are living in Iceland or you are an exception.” Seems like what doesn’t fit in your world view is fantasy. Why would anyone want to drink water in cold winter in Delhi when the body is working hard to keep itself warm? A glassful after meals is all I want to drink, the rest comes from a quarter liter of milk and 5-6 cups of tea through the day.

        Sure the readers can decide for themselves. Let us consider the question we are discussing “Why Indian’s are stressed and unhealthy?” This would suggest that non Indians are generally health and not stressed. I am curious what you think is the reason for their being healthy and not stressed?

  26. Surendra Halgeri Says:

    To SouthAsian

    Once I was in a 5-star hotel on company work. They were serving fresh watermelon juice for breakfast along with other things. I drank 6 glasses of that fresh watermelon juice. I had to rush back to my room and toilet to move bowels! The watermelon juice is so effective in cleaning your colon or large intestine. common misconception would be “Oh, I got affected by watermelon juice and had loose motions. it was probably infected!”. Since I had studied naturopathy, I knew that I had got ‘cleansed’ by the watermelon juice! I continued and had a good breakfast of fruits and salads.

  27. SouthAsian Says:

    I wasn’t looking for this story – just found it. The author claims:

    “Until then, I never fully grasped what divides East and West — that our belief systems, our default settings, are 180 degrees counter to each other.”

    Perhaps the explains some of the disconnects in our conversation.


  28. Surendra Halgeri Says:

    Please read the following “Lessons From Miracle Doctors” by Nutritionist Jon Barren, for general health guideline. You can also subscribe to their email newsletters…


    I have tried to copy a relevant extract about regular bowel movements (related to eating fiber and drinking water). Hope it appears in this weblog:

    Lessons from Jon Barron
    More on Digestive System Problems

    In this week’s excerpt from Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, Jon Barron explains how things have gone so wrong with our digestive system.

    “Our modern lifestyle has taken its toll on our digestive and elimination organs. Refined, processed, low-fiber foods, animal fats, a lack of exercise, and an ever increasing level of stress all contribute to our current gastrointestinal health crisis.

    Consider that a sluggish bowel can retain pounds of old toxic and poisonous fecal matter (2–3 pounds is common, 10–20 pounds is not as unusual as you might think, and up to 65 pounds has actually been reported in exceptional cases). Often, the real cause behind sickness and disease is this retention and reabsorption of built-up toxic waste. Now, doctors who perform colonoscopies dispute these numbers, saying that they never see any sign of this mythical accumulated fecal matter. But then it has to be remembered that they have their patients drink a purgative the day before a colonoscopy to “blow out” any trace of fecal matter, so that it doesn’t interfere with the colonoscopy. Duh!

    In the U.S., the average frequency of stool passage is just over three bowel movements per week. Individuals with colonic inertia (a condition of the colon when muscles do not work properly, causing constipation) often do not pass a stool for 7–10 days at a time. There has been a great misconception among the public and most medical professionals about how often a healthy person should move their bowels. For years, doctors have thought that anywhere between one bowel movement a day and one a week was normal. (Unfortunately, that’s probably the norm of the doctors who think it.) What we have learned is that it is normal, and necessary, to have one bowel movement a day for each major meal you ate the day before. If you eat three meals, you should have three bowel movements the next day.

    A sluggish bowel also has a major health impact on another body system: your lymph system. Think for a moment, if you will, of your colon as your body’s drain pipe—the drain that removes waste from your body. If the drain is clogged, not only will waste not be eliminated, but when you flush the toilet, the drain backs up and spills over. And that’s exactly the point which leads us to a discussion of waste removal from the body and the lymph system.

    The lymph vessels are a network of capillaries that filter blood impurities; they contain a clear, colorless fluid called lymph. Lymph passes from capillaries to lymph vessels and flows through lymph nodes that are located along the course of these vessels. Cells of the lymph nodes phagocytize, or ingest, impurities such as bacteria, old red blood cells, and toxic and cellular waste. Lymph fluid can also collect other impurities such as heavy metals, pesticides, and drug residues stored in bodily tissue. Once loaded with toxic waste, the compromised lymph must exit your body. What can’t be eliminated in your urine must pass out through your colon. What do you think happens to all this waste if the plumbing is plugged up or sluggish? It backs up into your bloodstream. Is it any wonder we get sick and keep on getting sicker? Is it any wonder that the incidence of lymph cancer is doubling every twenty years?”


    We hope you enjoyed this week’s excerpt from Lessons from the Miracle Doctors. Next week we will talk about why any program designed to improve health must begin with the intestinal tract. If you enjoyed this excerpt and would like to get a copy of the book for yourself, please visit one of the following resources.

  29. AB Says:

    Very well said and i believe it is very much true.. Indians need to chill out in many manner and i am cent percent Indian and trust me our food is WAYYY TO SWEET and SPICY and also OILY !!

  30. saravani Says:

    your writing on the life of south indians impressed me i wish to see a change as time passes.

  31. Arindam Says:

    The only Indians who know how to eat a well-balanced diet are the Bengalis. We don’t share the superstitious beliefs of our other countrymen when it comes to matters of food; vegetarianism in Bengal is restricted to widows and fasting periods during poojas. The omnipresence of fish and meats in the Bengali diet enables us to remain young, healthy and dynamic well past 40s and 50s. In fact, some of the most famous Bengalis got famous only in their 50s. If you visit Calcutta, you will see very few obese and out-of-shape people. The Bengalis you personally know may not be like that because they are living in your state, Gujarat, South or Delhi where they are surrounded by vegetarians. Since, Bengalis are a social people, they tend to eat much less meat and fish when surrounded by other vegetarian Indians.

    And yes, like the Gujju author of this article correctly pointed out, meals taken by other communities like Marathi, Gujarati or South Indians in their traditional restaurants get over in less than 15 minutes. I have often seen people go to a wedding, give present to bride and groom, eat their food and simply leave. Bengalis consider such behavior very disgusting. When you are invited to a meal by Bengalis, be prepared for PROLONGED and LENGTHY conversations on many topics. Bengalis can regale you for hours on the dining table because we know how to enjoy an intellectual conversation, anytime during the day. We don’t always like to talk “business” as they would say: there has to be a time for relaxation too.

    Bengalis are knowledgeable enough to realize that “vegetarianism” is not healthy for your body. Other veggie-obsessed countrymen should learn something from us. On average, Calcutta’s per capita income and middle-class level salaries may be lesser compared to say, Bangalore, Delhi or Bombay but we certainly know how to enjoy our lives better with little money. Quality of life is not just about how much you earn or how many material things you possess but also how much you can enjoy with your surrounding people.

    • Anil Kala Says:

      I remember a satire by Sharad Joshi. It was about a Bangali Movie. In those days Bengali movies were hot intellectual thing with Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Tapan Sinha etc ruling the scene. So this guy goes to watch a Bengali movie in the hope of coming back enlightened but knew absolutely no ‘Bangla’ (The Bengali language) He is surprised at apparently mundane narrative of the movie very similar to a regular Hindi movie. There is this heroine a hero and a villain who keeps telling the heroine ‘tum amaar sang BA korbe?’ Now the writer decodes that as this is ‘The Bangla Movie’ therefore it couldn’t be about mundane things and comes back enlightened ‘what a movie every one wanted to do BA with the girl’ absolutely unconventional subject and relates his experience to Bengali guy who laughs and tells him BA mean marry and the constant refrain of the movie meant will you marry me?

      Arindam writes with appalling smugness.

    • Shailaja Says:

      I am Bengali myself and I have to say that except for a few, Bengalis living in Kolkata have practically no knowledge of healthy eating. We HAVE to have sweets at the end of our dinner and all our food has lots n lots of potatoes in it. Dont even get me started on the quantity of rice that is consumed as it is our staple diet. Untill I left Kolkata I did not even have the concept of eating chapatis for meals. It was always rice or in special cases deep fried “luchis” made from refined flour. However on the point of consuming large amounts of protein in the form of fish, i will concede that it is one of our healthier habits

  32. MJ Says:

    I personally think one can eat everything (any culture) as long as you do not stuff yourself till you are actually burping. Cook your food the LIGHT way and not OIL Drowning way.

    Food in general is for tasting and not overstuffing

  33. not_a_yogi Says:

    I agree for the most part that indians do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, get way too much simple carbs and not enough protein and get no excercise what so ever.
    Now the only indian food i eat once a day is daal. Its mixed daal, I dont eat any roti, rice. I do get ~10 servings of fruits and vegetable.
    Eating this way has helped me a lot. I am in better shape since I ditched the indian lifestyle.
    I am 37, and I can outrun most Indians in their 20’s both in sprints and distance. I can not make this blanket statement about any other country.
    I chose to eat a lean diet, high in protein low in glycemic index, and i make sure that i cycle 100 miles a week or walk/run 30 miles a week and do atleast 2 forms of resistance training excercise daily.
    And sorry I do no yoga. If your goal is fitness, ditch yoga and be able to run 5km first, then add other forms of excercises.
    Pranayams health benefits are over hyped.
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption’s health benefit are less overhyped than Pranayam and nearly all of traditional yoga.I will even throw surya namaskar in that category, it is not intense enough to give the practitioner any health benefit unless they are over 60.

  34. Vishvaamitra Says:

    Eating vegetables alone, and above all in the way that Gujaratis cook and eat them, is I am sorry simply not a healthy way of living. Seeing is believing – I suggest you study a section of elderly Gujarati folk and compare them to similarly aged people from other communities with different cuisine. Frail, tired, ill and dying. The results will astound you.

  35. Pankaj Trivedi Says:

    I am a gujarati and live in Italy. I agree with every single word in this article. It has looked at every single social, traditional reason why we get fat, except the genetics part. If Manmohan Singh, being slim had to go through bypass surgery, it has to be due to genetics. Overall, I think the present indian food (home made and street food) are too heavy on carbs and fat. It is rare to find people over 40 and 50 who do not have a dominating waist line. It will be sufficient to use bicycles to go to work or lightly jog or walk for 30 minutes everyday.

  36. kunal Says:

    this is just a mindset and wrong thinking of many foriegner’s about indian food. everyone needs perfect education. india is still lacking in education. so most of indian women follow ancestral techniques. but my mother follows my instructions. she makes a mixed vegetable i.e all lentils,beans mixed(complete minerals,vitamins, protiens, super healthier than pork and beef!)

  37. Anuk Says:

    Most stupidest article ever read on internet. The fall in health is mainly due to qualitative degradation of the food we are consuming. Eg. Unhealthy oils, excessive usage of chemicals, exponential increase of soft drink consumption (instead of using to clean toilets), and many more…

  38. Why Indians are Stressed and Unhealthy | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page Says:

    […] but it tells us a bit about how things were 5 years ago from this guy's perspective. Why Indians are Stressed and Unhealthy | TheSouthAsianIdea Weblog I worked for a Gujarati man some years ago. The article reminded me of a comment he made once, […]

  39. Mantha V Sharma Says:

    I am Mantha V Sharma entering into 70 living in Chennai. My experience is wide from Agriculture to Zooplankton. I have seen all these years, most of the people complain but very few people try to find remedies. Without these snacks India is nothing. The snacks made are very good and tasty, every state and every caste has many odd special snacks which cannot be replicated by other state people. But because of reusing the oil many times, those snacks becomes toxic and dangerous, and is the main cause of most of simple ailments from sore throat to life threatening diseases. I found a new concept of filtering the fried oil with Natural Minerals and few other products made from Natural products so that every day fried oil is filtered through these filters made by me. I have made a first sample and it is working wonderful. The filtered oil is nearly new at the bottom. I am trying to develop a more qualitative one soon. People interested can contact me by my email – vsmantha@gmail.com

  40. Kritisundar Barman Says:

    Not satisfied about this artical need to imrove.

  41. Impactor Says:

    Why or where this hath fixation come to India to use oil in snacks, meals?
    I hardly understand.

    Why, why, why, when so much nutrition is lost in this frying and crying of vegetables?
    I hardly understand

    Can we not learn to live au natural, oh Desi(s)?

  42. Virat Says:

    One more quality of Indians is that they never listen what is being told to them…they have a millions of opinions and questions.the whole idea of AAKAR behind this post is that we need to look after our health and overcome our social and traditional laziness.

  43. bahadur Says:

    Who told you that consuming ghee is bad? Ghee(butter) and cocunut oil are the best kind of fat you can eat because it is saturated fat and saturated fat does not convert to trans fat when heated. It remains saturated. Even the most healthiest olive oil is bad when heated because it change from monosaturated to trans. Saturated and monosaturated fats are the most healthy. It increases testosterone and free testosterone in the body when is responsible for muscle mass, and thick bones. Grassfed organic butter is nothing but a piece of gold when it comes to bodybuilding and testosterone. Saturated fat does not cause heart disease. It was a myth, it has been proven false. The problem with Indian diet is that it is too much grains which blocks the absorption of minirals such as zinc, etc. Zinc is a king of minerals. Indian eat very less red meat, red meat is great source of zinc. Zinc is responsible for protien synthesis, this explains why Indian don’t have much muscle mass. Zinc deficiency and saturated fat deficiency can cause skinny-fat body which many Indian suffer from. Skinny body frame but no lean and have high body fat

    • G (@gargiu) Says:

      finally someone who knows what they are talking about, I agree ghee and coconut oil far superior than olive oil and too many grains in diet.

    • idiot849 Says:

      Actually its proven that Indians have the highest testosterone in the world. Go look it up on ethnic muse for plasma samples. However Indians are mostly lactose intolerant the Aryans of the north are an exception so they will need many other products to get taller which Sikhs and Jats do not need.

  44. santana Says:

    That’s very much true. Lots of foods are either fried or over boiled.
    The Medditerrean foods are very healthy and fresh

  45. Shailaja Says:

    Although I agree with most of the things you have written, what makes it difficult to read all the way to the end is the fact that you have written it with a persona agenda and with a grouse against Indian culture. While I am not saying that Indian culture is the best in the world and I too find many Indian practices outdated and unhealthy and just plain tiresome. Presenting your point of view in such an aggressive way without proper research (which family household do u know where the earnings are Rs. 10 k a month and they can still afford servants….honestly?!) brings down the level of your article.

  46. Vikram Says:

    Apparently, there is an identifiable reason why Indian food tastes different,
    “the more overlap two ingredients have in flavor, the less likely they are to appear in the same Indian dish.”


    For those knowledgeable about Hindustani and Carnatic classic music, does a similar principle apply there as well ?

  47. Soma Says:

    I cannot argue with most of what is in the article. I think it is a good article in that it does bring out a lot of points for us to ponder about. Having lived in the west for several years, I have begun to realize how little physical activity is part of our daily routine as Indians. Being a vegetarian I do agree that the proportion of vegetables to rice, our staple, is far from ideal.I hardly remember eating salad or raw vegetables as I grew up.

    Having said that, however, the writer does come off as a self-hating Indian. The points that brought out the bias are
    1. Indians employing servants- It is true that lot of Indians do have servants to do their chores. For the westerner, it is hardly a choice. It is just not affordable and the population base and economic prosperity just does not support such a proposition. To credit the westerner for that is ridiculous. Remember, if the westerners did not need servants, slaves would not have come from Africa.

    2. The comment about Indian girls becoming thick waisted is totally sexist. What about all the men, with pot-bellies? Bias against a particular group again.

    3. Indians not talking or drinking while eating. It is a classic case of a good thing being projected as bad. There are plenty of benefits for not talking while eating as you do not want air in your food pipe. Also drinking, even water, dilutes the digestive juices that are much needed for digestion.I am sure there will be a research done by some MIT scientists some day and the author would embrace it totally then. Also, in the west people eat meat, which means they need to eat slow and make sure they chew their food really well and go slow. Also, they would need knives and forks to cut through the meat the way their food is cooked.

    4. Most importantly, most of these changes in our diet have happened after industrialization. Every society goes through these phases as food becomes more easily available. Obesity is an epidemic across the globe. The writer has conveniently ignored that point and makes it sound like it is a problem of Indian culture. On the contrary, his other point of us abandoning our roots and age old food habits and embracing something alien is what has caused the whole issue.

    I have listed the points that I don’t agree with here because I do agree on almost everything else with the writer.Without such bias as discussed above, the writer could have triggered a more positive inner dialog among lots of people and could have driven his point more elegantly. Nevertheless, it is a much needed article to encourage people to look closely at their own mindless habits.

  48. Zorba Says:

    “It is eating in the manner of animals: for pure nourishment”.. This made me laugh like hell. Being done with eating in 10-15 min is not a good habit and is absolutely no where “eating for nourishment”. Rather, it’s eating for digestive disasters. I am an Indian. Also, I know how Europeans eat, since I have talked extensively with many of them. They take their time when eating. They don’t gobble up as if they have to catch a train in half an hour (m talking about an indoor eating at home scenario). We are supposed to chew food properly and not pride ourselves on being the first one to finish the food. Chew properly till food is liquid, then let it pass down your throat.

    Secondly, this article is spot on about the diet and lifestyle of Indians. The Indian diet is really one of the worst in the world. Add to it, out sedentary lifestyle and large scale aversion to anything more than picking up a chair. Lo behold, oyu have some of the unhealthiest people.

    I read comments here and some people are indignant and saying that this article is a joke… that their food has vegetables (sambhar and what not). REALLY??!! The amount of vegetables in our serving of food is laughable. It’s far from sufficient. it’s like a bunch of straws in a desert. Quantity and quality matter. And have you noticed the amount of daal (legumes and lentils) we use to feed the entire family. That daal has more water than daal. Do one thing – from all that daal you cooked in that cooker, filter out the water and now take a look at how much daal there is. Yes, that ridiculously low quantity (after water is removed) is what is then distributed among family members. Same goes for vegetables.

    Thirdly, our methods of cooking suck…big time. We cook everything to the point that its nutritional value is destroyed. THere already is less nutrition in vegetables these days and we destroy whatever is left, using our cooking methods.

    The right way is either eating them raw or steamed. As far as taste is concerned, if you have to sacrifice taste a little bit at the advantage of health, then what’s bad in it?!! And actually there are many ways you can keep it hwalthy and still get the taste.

    Also, there is ridiculously low amount of protein in our diet, as we eat it. Therefore many fellow Indians are weak and small, and with unbalanced body compositions.. We have to buckle up and eat better. We can experience life to the best only when we are physically healthy and robust. We can learn a lot from Ayurveda, our ancient system, too. THere is so much beneficial advice in there.

    Stop eating too many carbs, use good fats, and consume significantly higher amount of protein than you do. Oh yes, workout and lead a generally active, movement-dominant lifestyle.

    Love and Peace

  49. ate Says:

    I agree with the author. I see very little green . lunch and dinners are really not sufficient for an oriental like me. housewives get very little sleep. (here im talking about 80’/, of general indians housewives in a joint family). the wife is expected to serve in the middle of her food and get only about 4 hours sleep. im one such wife and I get all stressed out and hungry. my in laws and husband are very good people. we have a good income

  50. Paha Says:

    It is not necessarily what you eat or how much food you consume. It is all about being able to burn it off, through regular exercise. This should not com as a surprise to anyone.

  51. Pratik Says:

    I think the key here is moderation and I guess Indian food is misconceived as food we get in most restaurants. I am not sure if it is true. Yes we eat junk food but that is not our daily thing. And I can give an example of this from my own personal example. I had gained significant amount of weight about a year before my wedding. I was living as bachelor that time. Since then I got married, after one year of it I compared my pictures before and after marriage. I can see a huge difference in myself. I have lost my double chin, waist size, lean overall. Almost 10-15 lbs of difference easily. And I have not controlled anything. Eating regular home cooked food which has roti, rice, lentils, sprouts, veggies, milk and fruits. But I eat in moderation, 1-2 chapatis (oil only sometimes), one or half bowl of rice, lentils and regular veggies. If I eat things like paratha, pav bhaji, paneer recipe (once in few months), the next day I balance by having soup and fruits. I don’t like ghee and cheese (no form of cheese).I have butter and milk but butter only during pav bhaji. NO eggs, meat or maggi like things. regular oil and home cooking oil levels. Not too much not too less. And that helped me lose weight.

  52. hiwatscooking Says:

    very true. sometimes truth is very hard to accept especially is it is bound with our culture and values … if our food is sooo healthy as many claim here , why is the average lifespan in india too low and high diabetic population here

  53. Vishnu_Karthik Says:

    South Indian Food has no veggies? ARE YOU BLOODY HIGH!?

    Except for breakfast..our meal is literally incomplete without Kari.

    and its ridiculous but don’t lump ALL Indian food with the insane gujjus and their love for sweet! i can assure you except for certain special occasions MOST Indians don’t eat that much sweet.

    and Thirdly just cus our Kari is cooked doesn’t mean it loses its nutritional value! cooked veggies have their own pros&cons.. i’d suggest you eat BOTH raw&cooked veggies.

    “Middle class Indians, even families that earn Rs10,000 a month, will have servants. Work that the European and American does, the Indian does not want to do: cooking, cleaning, washing up”
    Actually that’s a very recent urban phenomena in India.. its very stupid but it exists because unskilled labourers and dirt cheap in India.. unlike in the west that and Indians are just lazy in general.

    and lastly NO Indian food isn’t inferior..at least traditional south Indian Food anyway! you can easily eat as much veggies&meat you want with your rice..

    “Indians shine in the west where their culture doesn’t hold them back”
    LOL wut? Indians shine in the west cus.. WEST IS A DEVELOPED you are such a self-hating Indian prick… first i thought this blog was just a naive jab at Indian diet but now the problem is India’s culture.. SPARE ME your droll!

    “There is no culture of physical fitness”
    Yeah in a country which has hosts a 3rd of world’s poor.. yeah physical fitness my FOOT!

    “Widows at that age, even younger, have no hope of remarriage because sacrifice is expected of them”
    Oh yeah right. are you talking about 1950’s? cus i can guarantee you i see more divorces&remarriages in Urban Indian than EVER..

    You ending words makes me picture a typical bitter,sad lonely fat Gujju eating a Jalebi LOL

  54. suresh kumar k s Says:

    Although most of the point are true, but the points about traditional food I am not satisfied. Because its the most scientific food culture you will ever see around the world. You might be not aware of the fact that ayurveda is totally about how to eat what to eat when to eat. I have observed this with the fact that my grandmother (96) and old people like her are physically strong than 50-60 people. So the change in lifestyle which came with population explosion and with it inflation in vegetables and other food items. So real reason is not the inherent nature but the adapted one which is more econimical..

  55. Arvind Kotte Says:

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  56. sameer Says:

    99 percent in India vegetables and fruits in chemical based and high pesticide which extremely harmful for health..so my question is to all what kind of healthy foods we are talking in India…other develop countries foods quaility..or is veg or is non veg is absolutely pure but India all vegetables and milk fruits are chemical and based..if anyone said on thise blog that we Indian is poor health so why we jealous?…that is bitter truth that we Indian are unhealthy in the world..

  57. lakshman Says:

    i am an indian from a normal village we farm most of all veggis at home and rice also we our self farm in our paddy feilds which is pure more valuable product and we have a very fresh meat and live sea food choices not like every thing kept for long time in cold storage.
    i seen many deveoped countries is more far worst in the context of price quality ratio. we wont use pesticides or any chemical solutions we use traditional old methods for farming, its not about the india its about the people that do the things around ,for some, it is business , lot of other countries making plastic rice and plastic eggs. why cant indian youth can study about agriculture, instadd of engg and medicine may be they wont earn money in those fields ,and problem we did not respect our farmers, there are lot of farmer leads to death every year due to loss in farming, i think one day we dont get any thing natural, we might need to take tablets instead of meal,

  58. sps Says:

    Author of this article does not seem to have knowledge on other than Indian food. I stopped reading this article after two paragraphs.

  59. Rhea Khan Says:

    Great article and BANG ON with the points raised.

    I want to speak on the typical Indian diet ratio – particularly the vegetarian carbs – pulses combination which is prevalent all over India.

    Pulses (lentils, beans, legumes etc.) as we know, have a med-high carbohydrate content and a med-low protein component (an incomplete protein however – it needs a carb like rice/wheat/corn to become a complete protein n order to be absorbed by the body)

    Pulses are healthy, sure. BUT Indian diets tend to pair pulses with carbs – especially due to vegetarian food traditions (but even amongst people who eat non veg who also eat a carb-pulses combination regularly) – in order to provide some form of protein intake. So far fine. PROBLEM is that in this vegetarian means of getting protein – the meal ratio of carb : protein becomes highly skewed – with a HUGE percentage of carbs and far too little protein.

    To get an idea, a nutritionally balanced meal to provide optimal health should (roughly) have 50 % calories from carbs, 25% – 30% calories from protein (and 15% calories from fat). This is achieveable if you pair a carb with a complete protein like eggs/poultry/meat/seafood. But when you try to eat completely vegetarian – by eating pulses with a carb – the ratio becomes 75%-80% calories from carbs!!! and maybe just 10% – 15% cal from protein.

    This skewed ratio has health repercussions. It explains the greater insulin sensitivity and higher rates of blood sugar related health problems amongst Indians – even though obesity is not so prevalent. This often leads to higher fatigue levels – classically the need to have an afternoon nap for example !
    (Not eating meat / organ meat / eggs also leads to a high incidence of anaemia amongst women especially as well which is another cause of chronic fatigue.)

    The basic nutritional deficiencies caused by this imbalance is prevalent amongst most Indians who follow diets through generations eating this combination of carbs and pulses – leading to smaller build/stature, leaner build, and particularly the prevalence of fatigue as mentioned just before leads to cravings for energy kicks – through sugary foods (indian sweets or the practice of adding molasses to all foods for example in Gujarati foods) or a craving for satiation kicks from fat usually in the form of deep fried foods eg. jain food (fried in refined oil – verry badd).

    These are part of the reason why Indians are some of the unhealthiest people in the world and suffer from health problems like blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol/heart problem and age relatively younger than people from other parts of the world. (The other reason is a chronic lack of exercise / fitness)

  60. Indian Says:

    OMG. This article is gold. Very well written. The bluff needs to be called and these kinds of real-world-information must be imparted in schools. I have been living abroad and been overwhelmed by how fit everyone around me seems to be as opposed to how everyone I see in India has the omnipresent belly fat. Seriously, you can see the ugly belly fat even in the sport-stars, not just those who lock themselves in rooms for the divine exams.

  61. MOKSHA Says:

    Amazingly honest, we Indians blindly believe that our dals and overcooked sabzi with roti or rice are very healthy. We refuse to learn healthy eating habits from other cultures because we innately feel superior. So we claim our food is vegetarian, but it’s actually grain based. We consider idli, dosa, upma poha to be healthy. When they are mostly rice or wheat based. We consume refined oil and believe that rice bran oil and pomace oil are good, when these are the most unhealthy oils. We deep fry everything till it tastes only of spices and salt. We need to wake up, our diet and cooking style is making us the diabetes capital. Facts speak louder than wishful thinking.

  62. tourbusoverthehill Says:

    I have to agree with this writer. I work with Indian groups coming directly from India such as the Thomas Cook groups. Nee do bus tours and I am the tourguide. I have definitely noticed that the Indians above forty or so are almost all on the heavy side and quite anfew of the younger ones too. I had thought it genetic actually. But then I join them for the occasional buffet lunch and see the Indian eating style in action. They really love to eat a lot. I love their food and eat too much of it too. Only once in a blue moon however.

  63. G (@gargiu) Says:

    ghee is healthy, its the vegetable oils, processed canola oils that indians are using which is unhealthy and not stable at high heat and clogs arteries.

  64. Bharath Says:

    South Indian Idly consisting of both Carbs and proteins and steam cooked is definitely a healthy food.Today Youngsters want Momos of maida,which is terrible.

  65. SouthAsian Says:

    This article will inject a broader perspective in this discussion:


  66. Sameer Says:

    Well, all mentioned above in article is very true. I am Indian staying in West. Here we are considered as most unattractive personalities in the world.

    I would like to mention some reasons based on each parameter

    1) Obese with belly coming out. Most of the Indians have misconception of word ‘Fitness’. A guy who does 50 Hindu Pushups and drinks milk and eats ghee is considered fit saying that he can digest such diet. In west, it is unhealthy habit.

    2) Some Indians are so thin that they look weak individuals. Smoking might be reason. Well, whole world smokes. But combining smoking with bad food habits make problems worse.

    3) As Student, I attended many cultural programs organized by international students from other countries. Almost all of my Indian friends didn’t like food at all these events which was much more nutritious. I noticed that their food is not that much tasty because we eat somewhat extreme tasty food (either too spicy or too sweet). It is considered as bad habit in most of other cultures (Chinese, Korean and most of east Asian cultures). They say that such extreme flavored food excites your emotions and can be reason for feeling stressed and restless.

    4) Apart from this, Western people here like to exercise on weekends. Their weekend activities are very different from Indians. They go for Rock climbing, Hiking, bicycle riding and many adventurous activities. I enjoyed these activities with my friends almost every weekend. Now Indians who work in same companies and have same work time have different activities for weekend. Watching movies, getting together and eating what we call delicious food (Again extremely flavored Indian food) or bullshit discussion are common Indian activities.


    1) Here very few Indians become friendly with other nationality people. So for foreigners it seems rude behavior. Here people nod their head when they pass other person while walking, jogging. Now, first of all you will rarely find Indian jogging and second they don’t nod at all.

    2) In any event, mostly Indians stay together in their group and don’t talk to anyone else apart from that specific Indian group. Now when you go somewhere thousand miles away from your country, it is normal to have more friendship with someone from your region. But I have noticed that Indians are not at all comfortable to talk to foreigners with friendly way the way they talk to us. When Indian speaks to foreigner it always look either defensive or offensive. On the other side, even though some nationalities have problem with English, their tone seems more polite and their smile looks pleasant.

    3) In almost every culture, it is accepted that we should it with spoons and forks. Most of Indians here just use them when some other nationalities are around. Many Indians, especially south Indians eat by their hands even at Indian restaurants. It feels so shameful even sitting near such person in Indian restaurant.

    So overall this is scene in Western part. Very few Indians look smart, charming and attractive physically or by behavior or manner wise to foreigners

  67. Ravi Chandran Says:

    the entire concept is delivering the wrong concept about Indian food. i think this concept is promoting some brands food products to india or he was never knew about healthy food.. coconut oil, ghee, til oil are more better then olive oil

  68. SouthAsian Says:

    Some tips for healthy eating:


  69. ajan Says:

    Worse is 99% indians will be defensive and wont ever change. Typical indian behaviour

  70. Ganesh Says:

    I am a South Indian. Have lived in the Western part of India and in the South. Have many South Indian friends. Have eaten in many South Indian homes. I find the following statement in the story completely untrue.
    ” Indian food is assumed to be strongly vegetarian, but it is actually lacking in vegetables. Our diet is centered round wheat, in the north, and rice, in the south. The second most important element is daal in its various forms. By weight, vegetables are not consumed much. You could have an entire South Indian vegetarian meal without encountering a vegetable. The most important vegetable is the starchy aloo. Greens are not cooked flash-fried in the healthy manner of the Chinese, but boiled or fried till much of the nutrient value is killed.”.
    Either the author has never eaten in a South Indian home OR has decided to prove a point and constructing this. Sad.

  71. Ganesh Says:

    Incredible. Statements like these from someone whose articles are published in newspapers.
    “We eat with fingers, as opposed to knives and forks, or chopsticks, resulting in the scooping up of bigger mouthfuls. Because the nature of the food does not allow for leisurely eating, Indians do not have a drink with their meals. We drink before and then stagger to the table.”
    As if in all Indian homes, people down a couple of pegs before getting down for lunch or dinner. Unbelievable

  72. Ganesh Says:

    You mention “In the Indian office, the payroll is a secret, and nobody is told what the other makes. Knowledge causes great stress, though the lack of information is also stressful, leading to spy games and office gossip.”
    Payroll is a secret everywhere. Why should it be public. Salary is based on competence.

  73. Ganesh Says:

    Why make it political.
    “The vast majority of Ahmedabad’s restaurants are vegetarian. Gujaratis have no tolerance for meat-eaters and one way of keeping Muslims out of their neighborhoods is to do it through banning ‘non-vegetarians’ from purchasing property in apartment buildings.”

  74. Ganesh Says:

    The assumptions made here is, Western practices are correct and Indians do not measure up. for eg: “Because there is no individualism in India,”.
    If you were to look back, the west had these same issues. Now that we are aping the west, we would get there too.
    Many take pride in comparing the Indians to the west as if the western way or the western KPI is the norm.

  75. idiot849 Says:

    Haryana is the medal winning capital of India in combat sports. Say it to a jats face and then talk. We aren’t fat we are well-built and tall males.

  76. saianshi Says:

    Our culture prohibits talking whilst eating for health and safety reasons, lest we choke as food enters the wind pipe, if we are eating too fast or talking and eating or both. We all have experienced this as children, haven’t we? That was safety. The other less known reason is that we are encouraged to engage all five senses as we eat, thereby increasing the nutritional benefits tenfold. Fingers to deploy your sense of touch. Smell to deploy your sense of smell. Taste, sound and sight, likewise. All this is possible only when one is completely present in the moment, when one is conscious, mindful, aware. Our heritage boasts of an advanced culture..you see that’s where this eating with fingers and not talking while eating comes from.
    Now what you eat is not half as important as when you eat. Like everything in nature , our bodies follow a rhythm. Our digestive system is attuned to the movement of the Sun. It’s the strongest when the sun is at its full strength in the sky.i e at noon. The birds stop eating after sunset, and we’d benefit vastly if we did too. I’d like to recommend a book by Diamond Harvey, Fit for Life, which explains the rhythms of our bodies and I think just knowing them will help us eat better, live better.
    Grains, have more nutrition than all vegetables put together. Grains deliver strength, which is vital for a healthy life. One will never feel full and satisfied by eating just greens. And feeling satisfied is very important.
    Feelings and thoughts play the most vital role toward our health. Any dis-ease first takes birth in our thoughts and feelings. Meditation helps live a life that is free of mental clutter and sufficient detachment that again takes care against being overrun feelings that drain our vital life force. People will consider you a source of strength and comfort. Moreover anything lacking in the body or any complications are resolved without medical interference.
    Anybody interested in investigating this further can read Louise Hay”s bestseller. Another book by Anita Moorjani,’Dying to be me’, will surely give you first hand evidence of the role of thoughts and feelings in the making or breaking of our health conditions.

    All the best!

  77. Arpit Patidar Says:

    We should not make perception about Indian food by looking only at restaurants. Food cooked at home is much healthy that restaurants. Restaurants use more quantity of oil to make food spicy. This is the way they differenciate from simple food of home and run their business.
    Indian is a farming society majorly and people at village do lots of physical work. So the quantity of ghee or sugar can be justified but urban Indian should definitely modify their diets.

  78. Halima Says:

    I enjoyed reading this article, and agree that most of the delicious food in India have few vegetables, and most are swimming in oils or fried. It is true that the diet is based on wheat in the North and rice in the South. What you say about Indians not talking at meals is correct and was told that by a person who I was eating dinner with. What I notice is that the majority of the men are very thin, while their wives are not. Also the very poor are all very thin in general, which suggests they are not getting enough calories. Thank you for your informative and honest article!

    • Ganesh Says:

      Most of the home-made foods do not swim in oil. This is my experience. Vegetable consumption among the middle class and the wealthy is quite high in India. Yes, the poor as is the case all over the world get what is cheap. In India it is just rice/roti. In the west it is fast food.
      BTW, there is nothing wrong with either Rice or with Wheat. In any diet, Carbs are essential.
      The only thing missing in urban areas today is, the overall fitness has gone down – primarily due to inactive lifestyles, This is what is resulting in heart ailment.
      So, enjoy your traditional food/cuisine whatever it is. Just make sure you have a active lifestyle.

  79. Rajiv dixit fan Says:

    Best food for a strong body or make a huge distance from disease remove wheat aata from your kitchen replace it from black chickpeas because chickpeas contain 24 gm protien in 100 gm value and wheat aata contains only 4 gm protien in 100 gm value.Next thing i talk to you is Indian cow milk(A2 milk) this is best thing for drink in the world.Add butter in your diet which made up from A2 milk it has good fat for body.Add Nuts,Beans,green leafy vegetables in your diet.So let’s talk about foods you do not eat burger is so bad for body because there is no fibre so it is so hard to digest and not have any nutrions.Don’t eat potatoes they contain so much carbs when excess of carbs in the body result obesity.Don’t eat meat or eggs go vegetarian because this is meth non veg is better than veg

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