Jan 20, 2021

How do we choose a food ingredient?



Do we select our spouse ONLY because he/she has a good smile?

Do we choose a job offer ONLY because it pays better?

Whenever we make an important decision, do we use a single parameter to compare the options? Not really, isn't it? We compare across multiple parameters and take a decision that makes sense to us.

But when it comes to our food, most of us rely on a single parameter that influences our choices.

A few observations:

(1) We choose artificial sweetener over sugar because sugar has higher calories and artificial sweetener has zero calories. We make our decision ONLY based on calorie comparison. Artificial sweeteners come with many side effects. Multiple research studies point out the negative effects of artificial sweeteners on our taste preferences, gut bacteria, and calorie consumption.

In my opinion, it is better to drink 1-2 cups of coffee/tea with a tsp of white sugar than drink 7-8 cups of coffee/tea with artificial sweetener pills.

If we ONLY use calories as a comparison parameter, a glass of milk has higher calories than a glass of Coco-cola. What would be our choice then?

(2) Many doctors/diabetologists ask diabetic patients to avoid "kanji" because kanji is high on the glycemic index. And they even prescribe a packaged "health drink" (containing maltodextrin and artificial sweetener) with a "low GI" printed on the label. The brand doesn't share any other details on what makes this drink low on the glycemic index. What does "low GI" imply here? Low as compared to what?

Yes, sathumaavu kanji might be high on GI but made with natural ingredients, high in protein and fiber. There are other traditional "kanji" preparations that are made with whole millets, lentils, greens, and vegetables. They provide satiety and are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Banning anything with the name "kanji" for diabetics sounds too superficial.

(3) There is a popular saying in Tamilnadu - "Elachavanukku ellu, kozhuthavanukku kollu" (Sesame seeds for weight gain, horse gram for weight loss). Because of this belief, people presume that those who are slim shouldn't consume horse gram whatsoever. Horsegram is an excellent source of protein (21.73mg per 100gm), calcium (269mg per 100gm), and iron (8.76mg per 100gm). It offers various health benefits and is used in the treatment of multiple ailments. This article talks about the benefits of horse gram in detail. 

Moreover, having a simple kollu rasam (2 tbsp of horse gram used to make rasam for 4 people) once in 15 days will have absolutely NO effect on weight, yet people are scared that this might trigger weight loss.

The quantity used per serving, the frequency of consumption, the preparation methods, food combinations, our body's digestion,  absorption capabilities and blood circulation all play a vital role in deciding the efficacy of an ingredient in our body.

Before we wholeheartedly embrace or dismiss an ingredient, let's take some time to understand our reasons. Ask your doctor/nutritionist/diabetologist why they say NO or YES to a particular ingredient/food/product.

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