Fix it with food: Author and nutritionist Kavita Devgan tells us how superfoods are super healthy in her new book
A bowl of blueberries, a bunch of lychees, a clutch of jackfruit or a box of goji berries? Which is best for you?
Go by facts, says author and nutritionist Kavita Devgan who believes that people can eat their way to a longer, healthier life. All foods have something good going for them, but information is the key. Local foods are often better than imported ones but you need to know what you are looking for and what you need.
According to Kavita, the right foods can protect your body from a host of health issue. There are solutions for every ailment in food, right from fatigue to sleeping problems to weight issues.
In her new book, ‘Fix it with Food’, Kavita talks about wholesome, everyday foods that are a treasure trove of important nutrients for optimum mental and physical health. It provides plenty of information on 40 superfoods that are easily available and good for you. The book also offers practical tips and fantastic recipes to help make these foods a part of your daily diet.
Kavita, who is an acclaimed nutritionist with 20 years of experience as a weight loss and holistic health consultant, offers practical and customised programmes that deliver weight loss through modification of habits. A prolific speaker, Kavita has been giving lectures and conducting workshops about the right way of eating and new research-based health trends for a long time now. Her earlier books were Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People’ and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks.
Edited excerpts from an interview:
YSW: Your book is called 'Fix it with Food'. What exactly can we fix with the right foods and how?
KD: I am a firm believer in the power of prevention. And right foods I believe can help prevent all lifestyle diseases. We can literally fix our health by eating the right foods, and keep all diseases at bay, be in diabetes, hypertension, inflammatory disorders, obesity, or osteoporosis. All through my book I have mentioned 100 Fix-It solutions detailing how specific foods can solve specific problems.
Here are a few examples:
- Drinking water boiled (and cooled) with fennel seeds helps flush out excess fluids from the body, detoxes and purges out toxins.
- Litchi is loaded with the antioxidant vitamin C, which helps slow down the ageing process, and adds a glow to the skin.
- Apricot is an excellent food remedy for anemia because of its high iron content; plus, the small but essential amount of copper in the fruit makes iron available to the body.
- The seeds in grapes contain a substance called pycnogenols, which fight arthritis, stress and allergies.
YSW: If you want to eat your way to a better life, which foods should you avoid to get started?
KD: Processed foods laden with additives and preservatives. These put a strain on the digestive system and can lead to accumulation of toxins in the body. Avoid junk food loaded with calories and lacking in nutrients.
Don’t each too much sugar as it stresses the body and leads to weight gain and insulin imbalance.
YSW: Which superfoods can give you energy and not cause weight gain?
KD: I believe that all-natural foods - food as close to their natural form - and as whole as possible, and as least processed as possible will give you energy and nutrients, and not cause weight gain. For example, eating boiled potato instead of fries, eating the fruit instead of its juice.
YSW: Can you give us three tips on how to get started in leading a life that is healthier?
- Stick to mostly eating food that your grandma used to eat - meaning follow a traditional diet.
- Eat variety - try to include as many fruits and vegetables and grains and legumes as you can in your diet.
- Cut down the consumption of processed foods drastically from your diet.
YSW: What are some of the mistakes people make which has caused weight gain, despite making healthy choices?
KD: You must not consider weight loss a sprint and be in a hurry to get thin. Losing weight and getting healthier is a marathon that must be done right.
Many people focus only on calorie intake, instead of focusing on eating good nutritional food. They go on starvation regimes or following fad diets where major macros (protein, carbs or fats) are removed. This must be avoided.
YSW: Can you give us three everyday foods that should be a part of our diets?
KD: My book has information on 40 foods... but if I just have to pick up three of them. I would go for bitter gourd, banana and ghee.
YSW: What is your opinion on costly and exotic foods and ingredients?
KD: As I write in my book every food has something going for it and those which deliver lots of benefits categorise as superfoods. Superfoods can be inexpensive and everyday foods like bottle gourd as well as expensive and exotic like blueberries and kale.
There is a place for every kind of food in our diet, but just running after everything exotic and expensive is foolhardy. We must eat everything - like I said variety in the diet is important - but ignoring our local superfoods is downright silly.
YSW: How did you get the idea of this book and how has it worked for you?
KD: The idea behind this book was to make these everyday foods sound so enticing and interesting and such amazing good health sources that you can’t help but give them the respect they deserve. That is the reason I wrote this book.
YSW: What did people most appreciate most about your previous books?
KD: I have been told that the fact that I don't preach instead give them the right information in an easy to understand, conversational style that they are able to relate to easily, and apply in their daily life works for most readers.
YSW: In your book, you have mentioned that we should stop maligning potatoes. But potatoes are known to cause weight gain, how is it good for you?
KD: It is one of my absolute favourite foods and is actually a great choice. One medium potato (150 gm) clocks in just 116 calories and is a terrific way to stock up on fibre (3 gm), which delivers satisfaction (with taste).
They are high in vitamin C, potassium and Vitamin B6. 1 medium potato has approximately 25% of the vitamin C and 16% of the potassium and 21% of Vitamin B6 (essential for the formation of virtually all new cells in the body) our bodies need every day. It is good for our heart too and this will surprise you but potato has a high antioxidant count too.
YSW: Can you tell us about the ancient grains mentioned in your book and why they are good for you? Why are ancient grains back in the news now?
KD: I have written about the health benefits of amaranth, barley, buckwheat, finger millet and pearl millet in the book. I believe very strongly that it is important to rotate our grains and eat so that we can score benefits from all.
YSW: What are the best foods to beat the heat and stay healthy?
KD: My 5 favourite coolers are green moong sprout, kokum, coconut water, bitter gourd and bottle gourd.
YSW: Which are the best foods to prevent inflammation in the body?
KD: Fermented foods, green leafy vegetables, ginger and fruits, basically focusing on antioxidant-rich foods is the way to go.
YSW: What are the foods you must include in your diet during these times of coronavirus?
KD: All immunity boosting foods - high protein foods, antioxidant rich foods, and zinc and vitamin C rich foods. Some of the foods that help are: tulsi leaves, black pepper, garlic, onions, turmeric, carrots and lentils.
YSW: When did you get interested in the correlation between food and health? Any personal experiences? How do you stay healthy?
KD: As I write in all my books my inspiration for eating healthy began at home as I learnt from my mother. She intrinsically knew how to ensure good nutrition for the family. It started there and that's why I decided to study nutrition and then eventually began writing about it. I think I am hardwired to take care of my health - somehow healthy food makes my mouth water instead of unhealthy foods.
YSW: Among the foreign superfoods, which do you think are highly overrated?
KD: I wouldn't say these foods are overrated, as we must eat everything that is accessible and available and affordable. All foods have something good going for them - information is the key - so choose carefully. But yes, I agree obsessing over them or considering them better than local foods should be avoided definitely.
YSW: Can you give three tips on how to lose weight with the right foods?
- Fill half your plate with vegetables, and divide the other half, equally between carbs and proteins
- Do intermittent fasting every now and then
- Keep your portions in check - eat more of the good and less of the bad.