Thursday, October 23, 2014

Is Ghee a friend or Enemy

Ghee the mouth watering food condiment filled with great aroma that gives great taste to the food needs no introduction for Indians. Ghee is a class of clarified butter originated in India and is commonly used in the sub-continental cuisine of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

I intentionally chose the occasion of Diwali to throw some light on Ghee through my blog as ghee is one of the widely used ingredients in Indian dishes and desserts during Diwali. Ever since my childhood I learned from my parents, grandparents and other elders within and outside the family that Ghee is good for health and gives immense strength and stamina. In fact my father often used to say, if you don’t eat ghee how will you gain strength? There is no doubt that he learned from his father and his father from his and so on. If I am not wrong many of you might have experienced this personally.

Moreover Ghee is used as one of the main ingredients in some of the Ayurvedic medicines in India and other indigenous medical traditions of Sri Lanka and Nepal. Ayurveda considers ghee as Satvik (pure) food. Cow ghee is used preferentially for the diseases caused by pitta dosha. Further it is considered as a food that promotes intellect and vitality. It is also used for constipation and ulcers.

Our elders, even today consider ghee as a health tonic. I grew up with this notion all these years till one day when I came across Dr. Mantena Satyanarayana Raju’s “rogalu rani ruchulu” (tastes that don’t invite diseases) program on TV. In that he named Ghee as one of the seven harmful tastes that lead to diseases and gave a call to stop consuming it completely. He clearly explained in detail how the consumption of ghee leads to some of the deadliest disease and disorders.

My first reaction to that was, “oh man! He is now exaggerating things.” When someone comes up with an idea against what you believe to be true; without thinking it for another moment you write off calling it a crap. I too reacted that way condemning Dr. Raju for what he said. It bounds to happen; because when you are conditioned to a certain point of view or a specific practice and someone says against it you cannot accept. One great thing happened to me after that. Though I believed Ghee is healthy but never tried to know what makes it healthy.

Now let me put briefly the point of view of Dr. Raju before analyzing it further. According to him, Ghee is more harmful than it is useful. It takes a longer time to digest ghee items. Your hunger reduces if you eat items made of ghee. So if you don’t work, what little hunger you have also is affected by eating sweets made of ghee. Pure ghee gives a good taste to the food items and it increases your desire for food, but that desire only leads to diseases.

The vitamin ‘E’ in ghee is also available in unpolished rice and sprouts. So you will not miss anything by foregoing ghee. In fact you are only giving up fat. You try to eat a salt less curry with ghee. It takes one hour longer to digest it. You also feel very thirsty. The food that doesn’t make you feel thirsty is good for health.

Today it is rare to find a very hale and healthy person. Everybody has some problem or the other. Doctors say excess consumption of ghee leads to obesity, cholesterol, hypertension, Liver and other Cardiac ailments. If you already suffer from one or more of these conditions, or have been told that you are at risk of developing any of them, then it will be advisable to completely abstain from Ghee. But Dr. Raju’s mantra is very simple. Why to apply medicine after burning the hand? Why not we preserve our hand from burning? Prevention is always better than cure. In the first place why to eat something that leads to disease and again take the treatment? Is it not better if we keep such things away? So the first step we can do is to give up all those that can cause harm to the body. So let’s give up ghee in our daily food.

Now the question arises. Is ghee really an enemy to our health? You can’t believe that as an enemy just because Dr. Raju has said. I will not do that at least. Being a yoga practitioner I would like to learn and experience from both ends before I develop a belief. It is easy to gather information from people and books but that is not going to help unless you put them in practice and experience yourself. I very well understand and know that Dr. Raju has personally practiced and experienced all the facts he mentioned about the harms associated with Ghee but I can’t even neglect the experiences of my parents, grandparents and all others who speak in favor of ghee. Before sharing my experiences and understanding I would like to list out the nutrition facts of Ghee.

Nutrition Analysis of Ghee:

Fats and Fatty Acids
Amounts per 100 gms of Ghee
Total Fat
99.50 gms (153% of DV)
Saturated Fat
61.90 gms (310% of DV)
Mono Unsaturated Fat
28.70 gms
Poly Unsaturated Fat
3.70 gms
Trans Fat
4 gms
Omega-3 fatty acids
1447 mg
Omega-6 fatty acids
2247 mg
Other Non-fat nutrients
Amounts per 100 gms of Ghee
256 mgs (85% of DV)
Vitamin A
3069 IU (61% of DV)
Vitamin B, C, D
Vitamin E
2.8 mgs (14% of DV)
Vitamin K
8.6 mcg (11% of DV)
Note: Fat percentages can vary.

Units: ug = micro grams, mg = milligrams, IU=international units, DV= Daily Value.

I came across some interesting facts over internet on Ghee by Ms Pallavi Srivastava, Nutritionist at Evolve Medspa who explains the difference in the types of ghee. She breaks down the barriers around pure ghee and says "Cow's ghee is full of nutritive qualities. Pure ghee contains only those fatty acids or saturated fats that are primarily (89%) short chain fatty acids. It is the longer chain fatty acids that are associated with blood clotting and thrombosis."

She goes on to explain how pure ghee is healthier than vegetable ghee, "Short chains are not only easier to digest, but help hormone production and strengthen cell membranes. Ghee's short chain fatty acids are also metabolized very readily by the body. Lab studies have shown pure ghee to reduce cholesterol both in the serum and intestine. This is done by increasing the secretion of biliary lipids."

This happened to be the explanation of an expert citing the health benefits of ghee. Now let us try to assess the claims of our parents and ancestors who are either illiterate or less educated. To understand this you need to travel sometime back to the past. All the sub-continental nations named above are agriculture based nations with lack of resources, development and infrastructure. People then used to work really hard from dawn to dusk to earn their livelihood. They had no modern infrastructure and luxurious facilities as we have today.  A yogi from US once told me that he is really astonished to see how Indian and Nepalese people lead their life with their limited resources. And he told this two year ago. You can imagine how would be the situation of India and some of these sub-continental nations during the time of our parents and grandparents.

People in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka pay great regards and respect to the food. They pray annapoorna (the goddess of food) that you find in no other tradition. With this you can understand how hard it would be to earn food. Because when you get things easily and abundantly nobody cares to pray. Ghee was considered not only nutritious but also sacred because it works as a health tonic for their daily hard work. As ghee is rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids it keeps them strong and healthy. It not only keeps you strong and healthy but makes the food tasty. The aroma and flavor of ghee makes any food delicious. You can eat food with one tea spoon of ghee even in the absence of vegetable curries. Such is the specialty of ghee. The doctors during those days also considered ghee as a healthy food and would recommend ghee for children, pregnant ladies and old people to gain strength. Ghee always remained an expensive food condiment even in the past but it always been liked and purchased by all whether rich or poor. Gradually it gained popularity among all class of people and become a vital ingredient in festivals of India, Nepal and other countries. My father still loves to eat ghee and is very healthy without any lifestyle disorders like hypertension, diabetes etc which normally people own in their mid 70s. He has no regulations or restrictions with regards to his food. His energy levels still surprise me as he is most active than most of us (me and my brothers). I have been seeing him all my life. I had never seen him lazy and idle all his life; he keeps on doing something or the other even at this age. I guess it must be the same with many of your parents as well.

In that case, why people like Dr. Raju is so against that wonderful health tonic called ghee? For the last one year I had been doing some work on ghee. I have seen many fellow yogis consuming ghee for strength especially the cow ghee but I never tried before. Last year I decided to give it a try to know the facts. Within 6 months of its consumption I experienced astonishing changes in my body. It actually gave me an opportunity to learn both sides of ghee.

I began to consume 1 tbs of ghee along with a glass of cow milk a day in the form of breakfast. It took me no time to understand the increase in stamina and strength levels of my body. I was really happy with the result as I never felt that strong before. 3 Months later, I realized to gain some weight. I put on 3-4 kilos of weight during that time. Though I was little concerned about weight gain, I continued serving milk and ghee as usual because I was experiencing the rise in my stamina and strength. 6 months later I put on another 4-5 kilos of weight. Now fat began to garner around my belle and waist line. I might have gained around 10-14 kilos of weight during the period of six months. Then I gave a thought on my situation. Okay, I have gain strength and stamina but at what cost? If I continue this way for another year or so I would definitely become obese like before and might also lead to some other diseases associated with obesity. If you are following my blogs for some time now you would have known how I reduced my weight following Dr. Raju’s Natural way of Living in the past and I did not want to go back to that stage. Therefore I stopped consuming ghee then on. Believe me once you gain weight back, it is very difficult to lose. My case was no different. I tried to lose weight back following the same old path of Dr. Raju but I experienced certain difficulties in doing so. I did lose the weight but I began to feel weak and feeble. Since I have experienced what it means to be really strong I decided to maintain my weight around 84. Dr. Raju might consider these 8 kilos more than my BMI. And he may be true as well but there is a world of difference when I was 84 before and now. 

Now you might be wondering what I consider ghee now – a friend or enemy? My personal experience says that ghee is off course a friend but can turn into enemy if you pay no attention. Mark my words – if paid no attention; that means if you don’t consume it with total awareness, it might harm you. Let us try to understand why the health tonic for our ancestors is now proving venom. Why the modern doctors are now raising alarm over the usage of ghee while the same doctors recommended in the past. 

It is incorrect to put the whole blame on the ghee. It is the man who is making the mistake and blaming the food. Every food has its own characteristic and quality. One has to understand and use according to the requirement of the body. In olden days, people used to really exert their physical body as part of their work. Majority of people then were poor and were not in a position to buy ghee and consume everyday and therefore they used to consume occasionally during festivals or when they have problems like constipation etc. Basically ghee was used in sweets and special recipes only during festivals and special occasions but not every day as it requires lot of effort and time. Now things have changed. Standard of living of people increased, most people can afford to buy ghee now, the physical work is now replaced by machines, the number of festivals have increased (must be over 100 festivals) in India now. Moreover one doesn’t need to make or to wait till the festival comes to eat the sweets and desserts as hundreds of outlets are readily available in every nook and corner to deliver them at your doorsteps.

The problem is not ghee. It is us; you and me who are eating food without being aware. You try to learn everything that is going on in the world. Can’t you pay attention to what is going into your mouth and stomach? If you try to learn what is that you are eating before every gulp, you ever remain healthy. Are we really taking the nutrients that are required to the body or we are just dumping a junk into it? Think before you eat. 

According to Nutritionist, Pallavi Srivastava, “be it a ghee or oil, the quantity of fat consumption per day should be limited to 10-15 grams per person assuming that the person in not obese. 1 gm of oil or ghee provides 9 to 10 calories. When ghee is consumed at levels above 10% total calories, it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. At levels under 10% of total calories, however, ghee appears to help lower cardiovascular risks, especially when other fats consumed during the day are exclusively from plants. She further added that if you cook in ghee every day, you are allotting a large portion of your daily calorie intake to pure saturated fat. Even though this might be a 'healthy' saturated fat, it is still crossing your daily recommended allowance by being present in every meal or snack. Therefore, a good recourse would be to either limit it or limit other fats to meet the daily recommended intake, or simply switch to lighter calorie fats.

Ghee does have multiple benefits, but the catch is to consume it in moderation. Preferably one teaspoon of melted ghee, twice a day will do the job. People with high cholesterol levels are advised not to consume ghee of excess 10% of their total caloric intake."

It comes back to the question of portion control. However, the problem with ghee consumption is not one of health benefits or lack thereof; the problem is its presence in nearly everything consumed. From vegetables to curries, dals, snacks, etc, the use of ghee in such a rampant manner is not healthy. 

Within the previously mentioned guidelines of portion control, pure ghee may be beneficial to your health. Again, this comes with a condition: If you are diabetic, pre-diabetic, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or any other cardiovascular ailments, then you need to consult a medical professional before consuming any ghee at all.”

Taking the busy lifestyle and work schedule of people today into consideration, it is very difficult to think and maintain the calorie parameters mentioned by Dr. Pallavi. It is therefore Dr. Raju simply listed ghee in the list of seven harmful tastes. Instead of doing a friendship with a friend who is going to create trouble anytime, it is better to keep him away.

If you want to consume it do it consciously balancing the daily nutrients required for the body and if you think who cares to know what you are eating then you must ignore it. Moderate the consumption of ghee consciously if you want to lead a healthy life but remember, the moment you become unconscious; it is harmful to your health. By the time you realize you are already in the danger zone. Therefore making friendship with ghee is always like walking on the edge. You will be fine as long as you are totally focused and concentrated. The moment you lose your concentration, you will fall. There is no harm if you ignore and don’t consume ghee at all. You can supplement its nutrients from other foods that are less or not harmful at all. I know sweets are the weakness of many Indians and sweets without ghee is neither tasty nor healthy. Eat them but moderately. Diwali is the festival of light and sweets. Enjoy this Diwali moderating the consumption of sweets so that you can celebrate more Diwalis in future. My understanding is that one should not suppress their desires as it tends to bounce back. We have been used to these habits for a very long time and it is not easy to drop them suddenly. Therefore conscious eating reducing the quantity over a period of time will cease the desires and help your cause. So take this Diwali as your first action of conscious movement towards good health and healthy living.
I hope you like this update. Pass on your comments hereunder and keep watching the space for more updates.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why Dr. Mantena Satyanarayana Raju says no to Tamarind

Sweet and tangy, tamarind is one of the widely used spice condiments found in every Indian Kitchen, especially the South of India from times unknown. There won’t be an Indian who is not aware of a tamarind. The tamarind fruit is a hard brown shell that contains seeds and a pulp that becomes extremely sour when dried. The pulp of the fruit is the main portion of tamarind used in food production. When still slightly unripe, it has a very sharp, sour taste with a high level of acidity. Unripe tamarind is used in many candies and dishes throughout Asia and Latin America. The Indians prefer to use ripe tamarind though unripe tamarind and its leaves are also occasionally used in their Kitchen.

Tamarind fruit contains certain health benefits with essential volatile chemical compounds, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber.

Health benefits of Tamarind:

1. Prevents Constipation: Its sticky pulp is a rich source of non-starch polysaccharides or dietary fiber such as gums, hemicelluloses, mucilage, pectin and tannins. 100 gms of fruit pulp provides 5.1 or over 13% of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber in the food increases its bulk and augments bowel movements thereby help prevent constipation.

2. Protects the Colon: The fiber also binds to toxins in the food thereby help protect the colon mucus membrane from cancer causing chemicals. 

3. Reduces Bad Cholesterol or LDL: In addition, dietary fibers in the pulp bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in the colon; thereby help in expulsion of the bad cholesterol or LDL (Low density lipoprotein) levels from the body.

4. Fights free Radicals: While lemon composes of citric acid, tamarind is rich in tartaric acid. Tartaric acid gives sour taste to food besides it inherent activity as a powerful antioxidant. It thus, helps the human body to protect from harmful free radicals.

5. Controls heart rate and blood pressure: This prized fruit is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help control the heart rate and blood pressure. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.

6. Boost Metabolism:  In addition, it is also rich in many vital vitamins, including thiamin (36% of daily levels required), vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C. Much of these vitamins play the role of antioxidant as well as co-factor functions for enzyme metabolism within the body.

Why Dr. Mantena Satyanarayana Raju says no to Tamarind?

Like many of you, this question haunted me as well. It is understandable if someone tells you not to eat salt, sugar, ghee, oil, spices etc. as they have been proved harmful to the body by many scientists, doctors and researchers. Even if they contain any benefit, they are more harmful than beneficial. Whatever the information I had about tamarind was really positive. I was really surprised to see tamarind in the list of 7 harmful tastes by Dr. Raju. I therefore tried to find out the facts from both Dr. Raju’s point of view and others point of view.

Thankfully we have ‘Google’ to get all sorts of information to clarify the doubts. You type tamarind and hundreds of pages tumble upon describing the benefits of tamarind. I have listed out some of the benefits of tamarind gathered from various sources on internet. I also went through some of the books and articles of Dr. Raju to know his point of view. After reading them, I did not find his claims really valid and convincing. A few days later, I came across one of his video on you tube where he explained the side-effects or harms associated with tamarind. On keenly watching his talk, I understood some of these amazing facts which is quite contradictory to what is been written above.

Is tamarind really beneficial to health?

If you are someone who doesn’t belong to South Indian states especially Andhra Pradesh you simply write off his claims. You never agree that tamarind is harmful to health. You might call him crazy for making such non-sense statements. After a deep study I came to a conclusion that even Dr. Raju knows the benefits of tamarind as mentioned above and yet he claims it as a harmful taste. And he is truly so. Let me clarify this. He did a detailed study and research about South Indian cuisine. His whole claim revolves around South Indian food culture. If you understand south Indian food culture, he sounds valid and possibly right. Let us try to understand in detail why tamarind is harmful taste according to Dr. Raju:

1. First you must understand whether tamarind is a food or medicine. It is a gift of nature with certain medicinal values. There are two theories prevalent in India. According to Ayurveda, herbal plants and spices should always be there in your kitchen for health benefits and Naturopathy says you must keep the herbs and spices away from your kitchen for the very same reason. Well they sound contrary but if you understand the message it is the same. Ayurveda says to keep them in kitchen readily available so that you can use them at the time of need. But what are we doing? We are using them every day. Since you are not doing what it meant to be, Naturopathy says keep them away from kitchen so that you don’t consume every day. You can consume the food on regular basis but medicines should be consumed only when there is some problem to the body.

Tamarind is a natural laxative. It helps in free bowel movement. Tamarind when dried becomes a medicine. For instance tea leaves don’t enervate you when they are fresh. Once they are dried, enervating ingredient tean is produced that enervates your nerves on drinking tea. The same is the case with tobacco leaves. In early days, people used to consume raw tamarind juice early in the morning in empty stomach as an anti-dote for constipation. When you use tamarind every day the body becomes conducive and it will not serve the purpose effectively.

2. But when the same tamarind is consumed with rice and other food, it cannot function effectively in moving the bowels. The action of the food in digestion works against the very functioning of the tamarind. Though it irritates the bowel but food that is in digestion does not let free bowel movements to happen. That leads to acidity and other gas trouble. If you visit a doctor complaining gas trouble why the doctors ask you to stop consuming tamarind?

3. One of the main reasons for Dr. Raju being so harsh on tamarind is the south Indian cuisine. In North and other parts of India and may be other parts of the World, people use tamarind very occasionally but tamarind in southern part of India especially Andhra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu is used excessively in the kitchen. You visit any south Indian restaurant and order any south Indian food you find tamarind in it. The hotels in south India offer unlimited meals for just 100 rupees with unlimited sambar and rasam. What are they going to lose? Only the water boiled with handful of pulses, salt, tamarind juice and spices. The food in households is no different from this. They cook 2 to 3 varieties of curries in small quantity and unlimited charu, pulusu, sambar and rasam etc. Off course it came as custom from our ancestors but the situation was different then. People used to live in joint families with large numbers, their standard of living and earnings were less, many of the families could not have afford to eat proper meals, many wouldn’t have got the seasonal vegetables and fruits due to poor marketing and transportation facility etc. Now the world has opened up. The standard of living and earnings have improved, marketing and transportation facilities have improved, and people are no longer living in joint families. Everything has changed but the old habits of eating have not changed. Many people feel their meal is incomplete if they don’t have sambar and rasam in their meals. Now let us try to understand how this bad habit of eating charu, pulusu, sambar and rasam gives rise to other health problems.

4. Excess consumption of tamarind in charu, pulusu, sambar and rasam etc., leads to obesity. Sambar, rasam is nothing but a kind of soup made up of water and handful of pulses, spices and tamarind juice. You can’t eat phulkas, chapattis and other likely food with sambar and rasam. Therefore you eat rice with it. It prompts you to consume more white rice which in turn leads to obesity. If you have noticed people eating food in hotels, messes and tiffin centers put on excess bellies.

5. Excess use of tamarind leads to high blood pressure and other heart ailments. The sourness of the tamarind leads to excess consumption of salt. If you are eating something like sambar and rasam it needs more salt. Firstly due to sourness of the tamarind and secondly due to the amount of water added in it. I have already explained in my previous blog how salt leads to hypertension and heart related ailments.

6. Tamarind leads to gas trouble and indigestion. On eating certain vegetables like Egg plants, potatoes, elephant foot yam etc. you complain gas trouble, indigestion and body aches. But the culprit is not the vegetable. The culprit is the sourness of the tamarind in addition to excess salt, oil, and other spices. You unnecessarily blame the vegetable.

7. Excess use of tamarind if consumed along with spicy, oily and salted food hampers digestion producing excess gas causing damage to the sticky layer of the stomach and also kills some of the free radicals helping the immunity system.

8. Dr. Raju recommends unripe tamarind for sourness as the harmful substances do not develop at this stage. Even the tamarind leaves when they are freshly budding can be used in various recipes.


If you have read this carefully, you would have now clearly understood how deeply he studied the south Indian cuisine and problems related with it. It really amazed me how all the benefits of tamarind turned into harm.

Now tell me; is the tamarind really harmful? I would say no. My yogic mind does not blame the tamarind at all. It has all ingredients that are going to help the mankind. It is the man who forgot how to use this wonderful fruit in a right manner. What do you say? Please pass on your valuable comments and suggestions here under.


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