.. Not I don’t that I don’t like it, I just don’t eat it. Why you ask? I believe that rice makes me fat, and so I never eat it, but nonetheless I haven’t lost a single kilo! If anything I’m gaining fat!” How often have you heard that refrain? It’s almost becoming a standard discussion every time a group of people get together. I’m sure you have heard it more times than you care to remember, and are now wondering how much sense the argument for and against rice makes.
If you are a South Indian, this should actually be a no-brainer. Our fore fathers ate rice as a staple part of their diet for hundreds of years and stayed healthy, so what makes this generation so different? Okay, I know what’s running through your minds. The previous generations had a different kind of lifestyle or the quality of rice they got in those days was different or worst of all, they didn’t know the virtues of a pure protein or pure fat diet.
Okay so let’s work this one through step by step. All of us know that our bodies require the four macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, fat and water – to perform optimally. Carbohydrates, such as rice, chappattis, bread, pasta and fruit, all fuel the body. They are what give you the energy to move, to breathe, to think and carry on the process of metabolism. The bulk of your diet, that is, 45 to 65 percent of it, must consist of carbohydrates. Don’t ever forget that the primary function of food is to fuel the body. If you deny your body its basic share of carbohydrates, it will look for other sources for fuel. The first logical one is protein and more often than not this means muscle protein. Sure, your body will be fueled but by an extremely inefficient, expensive source of fuel. Pretty much like burning a sandalwood log in the kitchen fire. We all know just how hard it is to build muscle. More importantly, protein will neglect its prime function of repair and maintenance of tissues, and helping to build fresh muscle. The result is that you will be left with aging skin, falling hair and damaged tissues.
So where is all this leading? Obviously it does not mean that you need to do a complete 360 degree turn around and gorge on every candy bar in sight? What you need to do is choose your carbohydrates carefully, and learn to read food labels. Skip the highly polished white rice and go for brown, black or red rice In this case, the more coloured it is the better it is. Look for the word unpolished on the label, which basically indicates that you are on to a good thing. Ensure that your chapattis are made with atta (unrefined wheat flour), not maida (polished and refined wheat flour) and have no oil in them. Check that the grains in your breakfast cereal are unprocessed and have no sugar. Ragi or oats porridge is always preferable to processed breakfast cereals.
Moving on to bread, the real biggie on the carbohydrate team. It’s so easy to read the label that says brown or whole wheat bread, and think that you are making the right choice. Stop for a moment and check the ingredient list. The ‘brown’ may be coming from caramelised sugar, and if in the list of ingredients whole wheat flour is listed after the salt, you know you are being conned. The quantity of salt in a loaf of bread is only a teaspoon, which makes the whole wheat even less.
Going back to our main character here, rice. It is the rich, oily gravy or the fried papaddum that you eat with the rice, rather than the rice itself that should be a source of concern. Every gram of fat in that gravy contributes nine calories, as opposed to the four calories contributed by a gram of carbohydrate in the rice. Basically, less than half your calories for that meal come from the rice.
So banish the oily and fried stuff from your life, and enjoy your complex carbohydrates. You can be certain that they will be your greatest allies on the road to fat loss and good health. So now, can we please bring on the rice?
About the Author:
Sunitha Srinivasan is a Lifestyle Consultant and Resistance Trainer. She has qualified with the National Association for Fitness Certification, Arizona, USA. She conducts workshops on wellness that she calls ‘A Celebration of Life’, counsels on the management of lifestyle diseases and writes for leading journals and magazines.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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