To Keto or not to Keto, Anupama, India

“Large raw naked carrots are acceptable as food to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter” – Fran Lebowitz

And so is food dear to most of us. The only time we want it to hoodwink us is when a bad word called “diet” makes an entry onto our stage. “It’s lifestyle my boy”, change it, you’ve eaten enough, now get a taste of health too.

The earth has borne enough excess weight and will continue to do so and so will diets and their different strains continue to grow and be dissected for the roots they grow outside of them and the spine inside. What we discover will lead us to gravitate towards some and be vary of the others. Nothing is different with the Keto Diet. Hugely popular and scandalous to the core, it’s worth a peep into the anatomy of the Keto!

“Zero down grains, flours to a nil, restrict carbohydrates to 20 gms a day (essentially kicking even fruit in the butt), no sugar for life, instead consume a truckload of saturated fats, moderate proteins in the form of meats, et Voila! Shake hands with the resplendent Keto Diet!”

Born in the west, initially charted to treat epilepsy patients, the Keto diet has gained tremendous popularity amongst those who want to lose weight in an eye blink. The diet acquired new, very brightly colored wings following FDA’s  quote which debunks it’s previous take on dietary cholesterol. A take which had stood ground for decades. It now says that dietary cholesterol does not influence cholesterol build up in the body. FDA’s statement seems to have vocalized a stream of opinions riding on it’s release.

So let’s take a moment to review what the FDA really states today. It reinforces the build up of health research and theories over the past decade which has implicated sugar and polyunsaturated fats in the acceleration of lifestyle diseases. True. Omega 3 is highly beneficial. No surprise there. Refined flours are great to look at. It’s benefit screeches halt at that. But what has really created a paradox is that FDA has let dietary cholesterol off the hook and yet tightens the noose on the consumption of saturated fats. Health advocates on the other hand have no qualms advocating that the consumption of saturated fats has no cap. And no negative influence on your heart or your health.

Now thinking from a geographical perspective, the Keto was born in a country paying allegiance to refined flour. Bagels for breakfast, and breads for meals, pastries for treats and pizzas for bithdays. Their food ecology gains vibrance from the phenomenal varieties of meats they consume. So a Keto diet works perfectly with their body’s ability to digest and metabolize what their inherent systems are trained to. Eliminating refined flour or even it’s healthier counterpart called the whole wheat flour works perfectly with their plan for better health. The other grains like rice and millet haven’t found much favor in their culture, cuisine or choice.

India on the other hand has an extremely rich grain culture. From the steamed idlis of the south to the makkai ki roti of the north. Bakris, theplas, aapams, pongal, bissibelebath, the chillas and the dhoklas, the biryanis and the muthiyas, no palette can escape this music!

India does house a majority of non-vegetarians, but of a different breed. Their choices are largely restricted to chicken and fish. Infact chicken in India is considered a meat by most, in the west it may well have been the door keeper!

A significant point to consider here is also the frequency and quotient of non-veg consumed as compared to the west. while on an average a non-vegetarian  would consume meat/fish 2-4 times a week for a meal a day, an American would eat as much in a single day, even his breakfast rounding off with sausages and bacon.

Our bodies in most cases can digest and metabolize best the foods we have been used to eating as kids. Our stress levels are managed better when we connect with the food we eat, with food that gives us comfort. Our food has a strange equation with our psyche, not surprisingly though.

Besides the lone “ghee” which assumes the character of one of the key note speakers in the Keto Diet, most of the other participants pretty much find their audience in the west.

FDA is definitely friends with the saturated fats and the red meats today. And the Keto promises a perfect 10 on blood parameters and guarantees eternal health. But there are no longstanding studies to validate the claims of a Keto Diet. If these advantages were to be revoked 20 years from now, the Keto advocates just may have consumed half the world’s share of butter, ghee and 4 legged animals with no access to a U-turn board.

I have found excitement in my profession purely by invention. Creating new pathways to help people achieve their fat loss and health goals. I believe in experiment but also believe in caution.  Because clients entrust me with their health and their belief. I do use the Keto diet to break plateaus, I have dabbled with the Keto purely to validate it’s laurels, I have used the Keto in the thrill of a new ideology.

But I am more than convinced of it’s failure as a lifestyle partner in the Indian scenario. In a country where organic certifications are yet to make an entry, consuming injected meats and growth hormone infected conventional milk may not be the wisest decision of the day. I’m convinced that the Keto cannot find it’s home in a country that sports festivity in food, where eyes twinkle at the orange sweetness of the halwa, where the dawn of a parent is celebrated with a sweet in the mouth, where no household strikes out sugar from it’s grocery list. Where blessings are sought in dahi shakkar, where swollen phulkas symbolize the hunger on the dining table, where most cultures come together to share an array of foods so diverse that it cannot be restricted to 2 groups on the food pyramid.

A healthy lifestyle demands a balanced outlook to food, moderation in quantities, an appetite that doesn’t override the need for food, a peaceful night’s sleep at the end of each day, cooking and storing food in biodegradable seepage proof containers, exercise to keep our happy hormones flowing, not forgetting to laugh, making time for friends, stopping all else to eat at least one meal a day with family and above all else contentment.

I rest my case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “To Keto or not to Keto, Anupama, India

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