Milking your money and health!

This starts pretty early in life.

Your grandma tells you – ghee is sacred, it is the gift of cows and food for Gods.

Then your ma tells you – want lustrous hair and skin? Chupchaap take some ghee!

Then your doctor tells you – for easy digestion make sure you get your share of dahi.

And then you will hear yourself thinking and saying things like – “I felt a little confused when some friends were saying such horrible things about having milk! Par kya hai na, I really go by my gut feeling about these things – I need dairy – milk and all products of milk – to be healthy”.

Whatever role we may be in – grandmother, teacher, vice president, CEO, teacher, mother, sister, banker, whatever – ability to think flawlessly is a great asset. We can all agree that it will come handy in every situation of life. This requires that we go meta, and that means thinking and examining the process of thinking itself.

I’ll share the most commonly seen blocks to sound thinking that I encounter in my line of work –  

a. accepting inaccurate information

b. making wrong inferences 

c. tailoring the information and inference to suit one’s bias 

d. Making unjustified assumptions

e. Not staying open to listening to reasons

d. Getting defensive and or resorting to indifference

And when it comes to this particular topic of dairy, it’s common to see ethnocentric type of mental blocks. For instance, we north Indians, or we south indians, we hindus and we brahmins so on.  


We protect and perpetuate our faulty thinking in many ways. Here are some common strategies we indulge in –

a. forming groups with others just like yourself – we the dairy lovers, we the coffee drinkers kinda thing. In a room full of alcoholics, the lone sober guy is the oddball after all!

b. staying passive and unquestioning in relationships – there are many payoffs to believing “my mother is my encyclopedia!” 

c. cut off or use excuses when critiqued – aloofness is one way of cutting off. ‘This is how  – I was raised /I am / it works for me – are some examples of excuses.

d. full blown acting out – having an emotional outburst disproportional to the context.

In clinical and hospital settings it is fairly common to see variations of these blocks and strategies unfold in real life situations. The intention of sharing it with you is to alert you to your own possible flaws of thinking that may come up in reading and processing the remainder of this post.   

There is absolutely NO pressure on you to change your behavior. It is entirely your choice IF and WHEN you want to address it. So, take a brief pause, relax and read further. Read slowly. Assimilate the meaning of each statement in your mind before you read the next one.


Let’s start.

The fat and protein content of mammalian milk varies greatly among the species.

It is inversely proportional to the the rate of growth at which the baby animal doubles in size. This is to say that, an animal that is fastest to double itself in size, has the highest content of protein in its milk. And it also has a comparatively shorter span of life.

Rat’s milk has 11.8 gm of protein per 100 ml – doubles it’s size in 4 1/2 days – has an average life span of 2 years

Cat’s milk has 9.5 gm of protein per 100 ml – doubles it’s size in 7 days – has an average lifespan of 2-16 years

Dog’s milk has 7.1 gm of protein per 100 ml – doubles it’s size in 8 days – has an average lifespan of 10-13 years

Goat’s milk has 4.1 gm of protein per 100 ml – doubles it’s size in 19 days – has an average lifespan of 15-18 years

Cow’s milk has 3.3 gm of protein per 100 ml – doubles it’s size in 47 days – has an average lifespan of 18- 22 years

Horse’s milk has 2.4 gm of protein per 100 ml – doubles it’s size in 60 days – has an average lifespan of 25-30 years

Human milk has 1.2 gm of protein per 100 ml – doubles it’s size in 180 days – has an average lifespan of 79 years

This is to say that, a human baby receives a low-protein content food, such a human breast milk – exclusively, that too – at the time of the greatest growth spurt in it’s lifetime.

While we’re on this topic of milk let me say this – you may have observed that fat content of human breast milk is same as that of cow milk. I only discussed proteins so far. But yes, it is same or similar percentage of fat content, in the region of  3.7%.

And you may be thinking to yourself – ” dekha! main na kehti thi ..! ” Wait, am not finished yet.

The cow’s milk is dominantly saturated fat, whereas human breast milk is not.

So having similar numbers don’t mean anything because they are of different composition altogether. This is to say, you can successfully make paneer, junnu and basundhi out of cow’s milk. But nobody can make ever make paneer, junnu or basundhi out of human breast milk for this reason. Eewww!

Now, you may decide for yourself whether dairy consumption is right for you, or not right for you. And I sincerely hope your actions will be in alignment with what you think and feel to be right.




“G, should I do keto? Or Paleo??”

For most of women, this question is no different than asking ‘should I go for a bandhani saree or an ajrakh?’ 

For the slightly more seasoned ones it could be ‘keto-vegetarian or keto-pescetarian?’ ..! Or how about ‘gluten free paleo’? Just like saying, bandhani saree with ajrakh palla! This is like ultimate sophistication .. at least inside our heads. I promise you, there isn’t a hint of sarcasm as I said that. I’m just holding a mirror to the conversations I’ve personally participated in, many many many times.

My strong belief about clarity is that it comes from asking quality questions! That is truly the source of quality answers. And this means, examining those questions and upping the game around them becomes imperative. So what are some good questions you can ask around healthy eating as a topic? Giving you a peek into some insightful questions and answers to inform your own thinking.

Whether you decide to go keto or paleo or gluten free or some other combination, the greatest challenge is to be able to do it long term.  And another dampener to most regimes is that persistent preoccupation about food and eating. Frankly, it’s just plain and unmistakable physical feeling of hunger! How to get past that?

A great question in this context would be to ask, how do I diet or eat healthy as if it’s a way of life. This is indeed a wonderful question to go after and I get asked all the time.  Some variation of this would be how to eat a certain way like forever, like not even wanting to want those things that aren’t all that good for me?

Can you even diet .. and not feel hungry all the time? Is it possible to have diet and not hungry in the same sentence?

The answer is yes! It is indeed possible to diet and not feel miserably deprived and hungry. But for this, you must match your definition of diet and hunger to how your body thinks of diet and hunger.

Is there something like that, a human diet?? 

Of course!

Diet – by your body’s definition would mean, to eat in alignment with with natural history of human species.

So, what’s the diet that is natural to our species? Humans for the most part have survived by eating starchy tubers.

How do we know this? There are scientists that have taken an interdisciplinary approach to study paleontology, anthropology, genetics and evolutionary biology. And they have documented series of evidences that prove the human survival story to be essentially relying on starchy foods. The human body and its processes are also designed for precisely this feature.

Most women immediately say how the early humans were hunters and how it feels hard to reconcile with this idea that we may have survived eating mostly starchy tubers. Why would you accept everything you read or what you were handed down unquestioningly? My suggestion as always is, get curious. Sometimes a great question to ask in a situation would be about the view that you’re opposed to.

How do you support your argument that we humans have been starch eaters historically?

Human brain runs essentially on glucose, and glucose is a byproduct of eating predominantly starchy foods.

Human DNA, be it from the deep forests of Amazon or from the city dwellers of New Delhi, London or New York or any other place on earth – they all contain a gene called Amylase 1 – which is to say we’re genetically programmed to make amylase-rich saliva. The human saliva containing this enzyme called amylase, is key for breaking down the starch into glucose.

But you aren’t saying anything to point why we weren’t hunters, are you? 

Like how a lion is designed for predation a human is designed in exactly the opposite way, for foraging – to eat something that doesn’t need to be chased after.

This is also why the lions have an enviable stride length and run at 50 plus km/h speed while humans are designed to have heavy pillar like legs to that is meant for endurance activity like foraging that involved walking across a large area

For the same reason, a human did not necessarily need the forward-deployed feature like pointy claws – we have flat and blunt nails. Neither do we need canine type teeth that is shaped to bite, rip and tear. Ours is a jaw and teeth structure optimized for side-to-side chewing.

A lion for example, goes hunting at night because that’s when it has the best advantage of preying on a weak or sick or sleeping animal because it makes for an easier catch. And herbivores – their prey, do sleep at night. All carnivore animals have a super acute hearing, fantastic night vision that is oriented to perceiving movement more than anything else. Their sense of smell is extraordinary too. This is how they can sense from very great distances if their prey is diseased, infected or infirm in some way.

How else do you think we are different ?

Humans on the other hand are innately drawn to the most luscious, colorful and healthy looking leaf or fruit or other plant part as we recognize this to be nutritious. We would forage during the daytime only which is when we could assess the quality of food best. We are the kind that need to eat small quantities several times in a day and are not built to hoard huge amounts of food inside our body. And by the way, only 95% of the hunts are successful. That is why these carnivore creatures are sedentary and sleep for most part of the day which helps them conserve energy during the long gaps between meals.

When a lion pounces on its prey, the front of the animal is protected – thick furry skin, shoulders are very heavily padded, the heart is deeply set inside the rib cage and the vulnerable body parts like the abdomen and gonads are way in the back. Gonads are another word to say sex organs. We humans have an exposed anatomy – abdomen which is not covered by bones is in the front, as are the gonads. We have relatively hairless skin laden with sweat glands so as to cool our big and heavy brain.

I’ve heard paleo and keto way of eating is very good for women, especially with regards to fertility, hormones and weight loss. What do you say? 

You think your women ancestors would be able survive chasing after a prey and  hunting for food? During pregnancy??

If you see the pregnant females of our species – which is again entirely front-focused, plus upper body strength is much lesser compared to carnivore females – predation is impractical. And nowhere in nature do you see the females of a species depending on the males of the species for food, for their survival.

The length of gestation is dramatically different for humans compared to carnivores. Carnivores have short gestation and very low birth weight babies – this means that a pregnant lion can go and absolutely would go hunting – with no fear of miscarrying or abortion or losing the baby in some way because of the physically stressful act of hunting.

A heavily pregnant human female is lot less mobile and she has long gestation period which is very typical of large herbivores, and give birth to a single baby – single births are the rule – and babies are born with eyes open at birth for herbivores and humans, alike. The eyes being open is a measure of the extent of brain development. Human embryology suggests that herbivore way of eating is a prerequisite for our brain development.

So, are we all plant eating herbivores then?
No, we are omnivores only. The scientific literature points out we do have a capacity for a wide range of foods, including meats. But this doesn’t mean we get to weave theories about our evolution and change historic facts to make us feel better about our choices. Neither should we be curating diet regimens to somehow include foods that we aren’t willing to let go and sell it as the best diet. This concludes Part 1 of this post – thanks to some courageous women that were willing to ask uncomfortable questions and listen.
I request you to carry on this spirit and help everyone of us learn better. After all, what you do for yourself, you’re doing for the entire humanity. Please tell us in the comments below, what was the most eye-opening part for you – how did this bring you clarity?


Are Thin People Required To Watch What They Eat?

Just like most Desi mothers, my visiting mother-in-law took over most of the cooking responsibility while she stayed here. My husband was delighted about getting to eat his mom’s cooking again! And I was pleased (touched, actually!)  for her readiness to eat completely plant-based, just like the two of us eat.

Now, that meant she had no  ZERO access to ghee, buttermilk and curd in our house – that stuff isn’t even shopped for! But she willingly came aboard. Fast forward six months, mom has gone back and here we are, savoring memories of her cooking and fun mealtimes we enjoyed together. Think baingan bharta and rotis, puliyogre with vegan thayir pachdi vegetable sevai with coconut chutney .. yummm!

And since I’ve gone back to being the Chef-In-Chief, old ways of eating are on again – baingan bharta is back to being oil-free, rotis are now zero-oil store bought tortillas, puliyogre has not been made at all yet, and vegetable salad – minus the curd – which is there e-v-e–r-y day, and vegetable sevai now doesn’t come with coconut chutney anymore! 🙂

My husband studiously looks at the food, takes a bite and wonders aloud, “we’re still well within the limits of ideal body weight, we don’t qualify as even being fat, why the hell are we watching what we eat??”

Hmm .. isn’t that a wonderful question. I bet you may have thought it too. I know a part of me still toys with this question when I see some of my favorite fried foods!

Here’s what the research says about it –

What we eat hugely determines how long we’re going to live (longevity)

It also determines whether or not we’re going to die of disease and disability (quality)

And this is true regardless of whether you are thin, heavy or well within the healthy range of weight for your height.

In our desperation to cling to the foods we like, we make very fundamental errors in understanding the basics of Nutrition. This happens not just with lay people, it’s unfortunately seen even in trained professionals. Sad but true.

Somehow, we’ve gotten to believe that only calories matter to our health – to the point of excluding everything else there is to Nutrition!

So, how does this belief or “understanding” play out?

Examples – “Reasoning”:

1. A low fat cheese or paneer sandwich made from brown bread and skimmed milk smoothie/coffee/tea – cheese or paneer is labelled low fat, brown bread is rich in fiber, and the beverage contains low fat skimmed milk – all well under 400-ish calories, therefore “healthy”.

2. One boiled egg and water – plain boiled egg is a maximum of about 100 calories, no salt, no oil, not even pepper – very very “healthy”.

3. Only ONE gobi paratha and simla mirch tomato sabji – made with whole wheat flour, no starchy vegetables like potato or anything, sabji is made of simla mirch and tomato – again, watery vegetables, using only about 3 tbsp of virgin olive oil in all – completely vegan, therefore “healthy”.

4. Skipping a meal or multiple meals and going back to eating one of the example meals described above, in STRICTLY custom-tailored amounts.

Studies have shown how even when people with diabetes were fed enormous amounts of food, their diabetes was reversed! Some studies were designed such that participants were not allowed to lose any weight, and in the process some of ended up gaining weight, but still they experienced significant and lasting disease reversal. Gives you an idea of how beneficial this kinda eating must be to those without the disease burden, isn’t it!

Are you curious what type of food was used in the studies?
It was an unrestricted amount of green leafy vegetables, starchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruit. These just happen to be low in calories too, that’s all!

When you eat the right type of food, you never have to worry about starving yourself and skipping meals. You don’t have to count calories and restrict quantities. You can just eat till you’re comfortably full, meal after meal and day after day – yet lose weight!

When people mistakenly assume –

body weight (“I am underweight, I can afford to eat x, y or z”)

and calories ( so long as it’s not exceeding 1000 calories per day gimme anything! )

to dictate their food choices, they’re in essence assuming the tail of the elephant to be the elephant itself! It’s really no different than that.

Did you find this post useful? Are you feeling angry or sad upon reading it?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

What Nobody Ever Explained To You About Protein

Let me tell you a story of some guests we had, when I was growing up in India. The man and his wife were both medical doctors and they were visiting, with their two little children. And they lived abroad. Ours was a vegetarian household, by which I mean dairy was the only animal sourced food we made at home. If and when we wanted a treat, it was pastries and that sorta thing. And we (including my orthodox grandparents) pretended that cakes and ice creams did not contain anything more than just dairy 😉
Well, coming back to the story – this visiting family would hurriedly go shopping to buy a mid-sized box of protein powder to last their stay – to add to the milk the kids would drink religiously three times a day. Three big glassfuls. Those kids were such willing milk-drinkers. So strange! And their mom would talk endlessly about all she did to meet their protein needs. Breaking the family “rules” to cook eggs at home, buying the super expensive protein-biscuits for the snacks and whatnot. For the little girl in me, this got registered in my head as protein was a very precious part of food. And that we had to make effort to get plenty of it, if we cared for our health. And those that did not do it, were somehow less than! Either they were poor and or did not know enough.
How it hurts to admit even if it is to ourselves that we cannot afford something or that we may not be knowledgeable, no?! 
Then fast forward to about 15 years in time …
Now, I was a dietitian. I worked at a hospital. I belonged with a team of medical doctors. And I engaged with clients as part of work. And I was privy to literally thousands of people and their stories about food. It was just so insightful to me how, we – you, myself and all of us for that matter – come to place the value on different foods. 
It is not all about the science and/or nutrition. Often, it has very little to do with nutritive value. It is so much about what our food choices say about us, to the world. 
It spoke volumes when a client said, ‘we make our ganji with water .. and softly add, not milk’. Or when someone said, ‘ We eat egg-bhurji or paneer-bhurji with rotis, we need not make do – you know!’ One can never discuss foods in isolation with feelings tied to them. 
It sounds so good to say, you made a paneer-something to go with the rotis.
Or that, Maharaj served you some egg whites with brown bread.
Or how you bought your ailing elderly in-laws some protein powder to add to the milk.
We all do things that make us feel safe. That make us look good to others. And it is okay! But, only so long as you don’t attach a justification – especially the ones that don’t make sense. And go one step even further and believe it to be a fact! Nooo, don’t do that.
If you like paneer, eat it because you like it. And say so! It needs no further props.
DON’T say or believe that you need to add paneer or egg whites or a special protein powder to your regular food as if there’s a shortage of protein in what you eat.
Here’s what  nobody ever explained to you about protein:
Protein is the widely and abundantly found in nature. 
If you are eating enough to satiate your hunger, you are extremely likely meeting all your protein needs.