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Health facts of food

health and fitness Updated: May 21, 2012 12:13 IST
Dr Shikha Sharma
Dr Shikha Sharma
Hindustan Times
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It’s surprising, but even though there’s so much information about healthy eating, people are still confused. That’s because, often, people get caught in a welter of mixed perceptions and half-knowledge, and wind up jumping to conclusions.

So what exactly constitutes unhealthy food? Here are the answers.

1. Highly processed foods: Foods that have been refined to such a level that most of their nutritious qualities have been taken away. These include maida, refined sooji, white rice flour, white corn flour, white sugar, and so on. Some amount of processing is acceptable, but often, the refining leads to a de-vitalised product with very little nutrition value. For instance, unpolished rice is quite rich in iron and vitamin B complex. But the same rice, after polishing, loses most of its iron and B vitamins. Dalia is very healthy, but when it becomes maida, noodles, pastry and white bread, the same grain can harm the body if it’s eaten regularly.

Rice2. Overcooked foods: Foods that have been cooked to such a level that nutrition is compromised. For instance, almonds are very healthy, but when they are fried and salted, they turn unhealthy.

3. Foods that are eaten in very large quantities and in an unbalanced way. For example, butter is actually healthy. But if you eat a lot of butter, it goes out of your diet balance and therefore becomes unhealthy.

4.Foods that contain too many preservatives, stabilisers and other chemicals.

There are also a couple of myths that need to be busted.

Myth: Low-cal food is healthy, high-calorie food is unhealthy
Truth: Because of this myth, many people have given up healthy food for unhealthy food. A small bowl of non-fried almonds has almost the same calorie and fat content as a packet of chips. But the chips will lead to obesity, skin deterioration and a likelihood of raised cholesterol, whereas almonds will improve your health.

Myth: Diet food is health food
Truth: Most diet foods are sold as diet foods because they may have less or no sugar, or because the fat content has been decreased. But when foods have no sugar or less sugar, they have artificial sweeteners. These are chemicals and are not found in these foods in the natural state. Naturally, then, they are not healthy. In diet chocolate, the sugar is replaced with an artificial sweetener, but the fat remains. However, people tend to overeat diet chocolate because it’s ‘diet’.

Low fat foods may sound appealing, but removing natural fat from a grain or plant-based food requires processing. This may introduce chemicals into the body, which is undesirable for liver health and weight management.

From HT Brunch, March 13

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