As the calendar rolls inevitably to Christmas and the mid-winter holiday feasting season, Dr. Arun K. Garg, the Program Medical Director of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Fraser Health, and the Medical Director of Fraser Health’s South Asian Health Institute took time to talk about his passion: stopping the virtual freefall of society into diabetes and its related crippling chronic diseases through smart, safe eating.
“The key message we need to communicate at this time of year is how to navigate the party and feast season and establish some new approaches to food,” said Dr. Garg. “a problem not just for the South Asian population, but across all populations.”
Although diet is the key to the problem, Dr. Garg feels it’s equally important to understand his view.
“There is nothing wrong with the present Indian diet,” said Garg. “It’s one of the better diets to have, especially the no-meat diet, but when the balance between the proteins, carbohydrates and fat is lost; when the balance between minerals, vitamins, nutrition and the awareness of it gets lost and we destroy those nutrients in the cooking process, the risk of chronic illnesses increases.
Basically, Dr. Garg says your diet should be a balance between the three basic ingredients of carbohydrates (sugar) fat and proteins, between fresh ingredients, fruits, vegetables greens, salads and your cooked meals in keeping with the five principles of dietary balance.
- How much you eat. This is the most important principle. We eat more and are less active: the amount you consume versus the amount you burn in calories. You need to be aware of how much you eat. “Culturally, we have more of a buffet approach to meal service, it lends itself to loss of portion control, so consciously put less on your plate to start with. If you just pay attention to that, you’re more than half way to success in weight control and everything that comes from that.”
- What you eat: “Keeping the need for balance in mind, the only big thing I’m concerned about is the hazard of sugar, which is actually addictive. The South Asian diet has so much sugar in it already, if people even just stopped adding sugar it would make a huge difference. If you look after these first two principles, you are 90% there.
- When you eat: The worst thing you can do is eat late and then go to sleep. All wisdom says eat smaller meals three times a day and the last meal should be at least two to three hours before you go to bed. At the banquet halls, they don’t eat until ten-thirty or eleven o’clock.
- How you eat: “Remember what your grandmother always said: take your time chewing your food and eat slowly. Your digestion begins with your saliva in the mouth. Give it time to work.” It takes twenty minutes for your brain to realize when you’re full.
- Why you eat: High stress makes you eat. “When I was facing exams I found I was eating without even realizing it. Find other ways to destress such as exercise or meditation.”
So enjoy the holiday season, the festivities and the food. Employ the five principles and practice the best exercise; pushing away from the table.
For more information on these programs and health in the South Asian community check out http://www.fraserhealth.ca/media/201606_South-Asian-Health-Report.pdf