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Ayurvedic physicians and their fabled lengthy list of Do's and Don't s are well known. It makes me happy when the patients ask, what not to eat doctor? I deeply respect these individuals and appreciate their courage of listening to a NO for eating their favorite dish or food item.
One question, very frequently asked is about Rice.
Rice is the staple of a significant majority of the population across the globe and probably so from the inception of civilisation. Even according to ayurveda Rice is considered as the Prime food so much so that even the Sanskrit word ANNAM is used interchangeably for Food and Rice.
Then what has transpired in the past couple of decades that this divine food is now considered the culprit?
Why has it become the most blamed food item after sugar for having a high G.I. ( sudden sugar spike in blood), Worsening the state of Diabetes, Hyperlipidaemia (Cholesterol), Obesity, Hypothyroidism and PCOD?
Carbohydrates own a huge portion in one's balanced diet and is the most important macronutrient. Along with the majorly popular Rice and Wheat, our country, is blessed with a myriad of traditional crops produced in different geographical regions like, Bajra, Jowar, Ragi, Barley, etc.
Depending on the current food trends for choosing the right food for our selves, a few things should always be borne in mind.
What North Indians eat would again be very different from how the South Indians do.
A north Indian would shout out and say that the rice makes him drowsy, while a south indian would say that roti gives him heat.
While wheat is known for its cooling properties, no matter how much rice South Indians eat, some still continue to suffer from incurable insomnia!
And thus this polished rice has
No nutrients - Vitamin
High glycemic index
And yes the pretty white colour.
And what does brown rice do Apart from not making one drowsy?
Old rice, Purana Shali ( minimum 10 months old) is healthier with a very low G.I. compared to freshly harvested one.
Unpolished/minimally polished rice may not be very popular among us, the Mango people (aam junta). When I asked a patient to stop eating white rice and switch to brown/ hand pounded rice , he told me , 'celebrities' engage in such high handed fads. I wanted to tell him probably a century ago, eating white rice was fashionable, but I restrained, thinking I would make my self look like the one endorsing all the other celebrity quirks too!
Unpolished rice takes a long time to cook - thus digests slowly too. Which does not lead to a sudden spike of blood sugar (G.I.). Also, makes one feel full for a long time without making one feel hungry too soon.
Should be eaten Warm, without re-heating/microwaving, along with ghee, lemon and a little salt
( In Rajasthan, people prefer eating rotis made on tawa for the very reason. The folk-lore clearly says that rotis made on burner causes 'baadhi' which I discerned was a colloquial for Vayi - Vata and should not be thus eaten. Understandably, because the desert has so much vata to give them already. While people elsewhere make Phulkas on burner and never complain.)
Flour for Diabetics/ Hyperlipidaemics/ Obese
I think we , from the Indian subcontinent are very lucky to have such diverese topographical features. Each one with its own distinct flora & fauna and the myriad foods we can choose from . Thus, making most of our rich culture and traditional Ayurvedic cooking methods, one can make a choice of eating what one likes and desires, which part of the country/world he resides and also knowing one's prakriti and state of doshas. Because only a satiated palate that promotes health is blissfully happy to the soul.
Dr. Zeel Gandhi, B.A.M.S