A coworker of mine came into my cube today after hearing that I didn't eat wheat. After explaining to him why he became very curious. He says that in Northern India (were he is from) the diet is primarily Wheat, Lentils, and Rice. He states that they have been eating that way for 1000's of years. He also stated that they have very low instances of disease in his region. He and I had a dialog about it, but really I couldn't answer his question adequately as I know very little about Indian diet or disease rates in India. I speculated to him that Indian food has a lot of herbs and spices that can be anti-inflammatory such as Turmeric. I speculated that maybe people weren't as sick in that region because some of the natural spices used in his ethnic dishes served as way to mask inflammation. He then asked me how he could adopt a Paleo diet using only traditional foods from India. He mentioned that they drink a lot of Goats Milk and eggs. Initial Dr. Google and Wiki turned up little in this area. What advise or answers do you have for my friend? Do you have any scientific evidence that could help me prove to my friend that his ethnic diet may be harmful or beneficial?
As an Indian, this is something I think about A LOT. Though I'm South Indian, and the carbs in our food are mostly derived from rice and less from wheat compared to North Indian food. Like you mentioned, spices could be the reason why the harmful effects of grains might be negated.
Historically, most people weren't able to afford the rice they cultivated. Usually the rice would be for the wealthy, and the poor ate millet or barley. This site has some information on what people used to eat in the rural areas of Andhra Pradesh. The popularization of rice only occurred within the last century, and now its the staple of every Indian cuisine. That's something that should be considered.
When you look at the health statistics of India today, you can see it has some of the highest rates of diabetes in the world. India's carbohydrate and sugar intake has vastly increased especially since most people can now afford it. Sweets and rice are no longer reserved for the wealthy. It used to be in India that diabetes was a 'rich man's disease' but that's slowly extending itself to other classes of people as the economy continues to evolve.
As an actual norther Indian (rocking Paleo & living in the UK), I feel the whole "we've always eaten wheat" thing is overblown!!
There is no evidence to suggest we had the capabilities or the modern wheat crop to sustain large manufacturing of wheat. Its the modern technological and GM modified crops that allow us to eat wheat in such large amounts.
In my opinion the classic northern Indian diet would have consisted largely of green veg (massive amounts of spinach) milk/ghee and lentils with some meat/eggs.
I'm not saying that we didn't eat it, we did but it was whole grain organic; It just wasn't in the current large amounts.
IMO Indian cuisine is the easiest to Paleo up on as we have so much verity in flavors and spice, as well as the ability to curry any vegetable. I just add a few spoons of Coconut milk to everything.... :)
This article might be a starting point. Written in 2008 it states "For reasons that doctors do not fully understand Indians seem to have an unnaturally high risk of contracting diabetes."
There are some healthy Indians .. BUT...
India has skyrocketing diabetes/metabolic, autoimmune diseases, cancer, etc.. Most of it is under-diagnosed just like gluten intolerance and celiac. Doctors will just blame IBS type syndrome on bad food, water, and/or parasites which is confusing because some symptoms are similar! If 90% celiacs aren't diagnosed in America what do you think that number is in India - 99.9%??!
Almost half Indians (50%) have poor lipid profiles - triglycerides, HDL, LDL. Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu have the worst (note 2 out of the 3, other then Tamil Nadu are heavy wheat eaters). 22 year medical student had heart attack.
Indian cardiologist says he's had 30-40% increase in heart patients aged below 40 in just the last few years! http://indianherald.com.au/featured/smoking-hastens-cardiac-problems/1680/
India has 1 billion people+ but look how few athletes they have produced per capita compared to other Asian (primarily omnivorous countries like China & Japan). The Indian Army is composed from 10-15% Sikh religion (Sikh officers are 20%) - a reform Protestant version of Hinduism but Sikh's are omnivorous and can eat any meat - including beef. Yet Sikhs are less than 2% of the entire Indian population! What percentage vegetarian or vegan warriors or people in defense are you going to find worldwide??!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikh
In Gujarat, most are vegetarian Hindu and they have among the poorest nutrition and fitness. The average height of many Gujarati woman approaches under 5 feet and tend to be emaciated looking or overweight/obese- suggesting nutrition deficiencies from grains blocking minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, etc. FYI I've known groups of strict lifelong vegetarians carrying the burden of modern disease - cancer, autoimmune, heart disease etc - almost everything on the symptoms of gluten intolerance below.
In some cultures food is so important they would rather die then change their diet - or they will change when they are in such excruciating pain that when offered the knowledge that contradicts their belief system they may change aspects (may not all) of their diet.
A great number of Bollywood actors/actresses and nearly all (perhaps all) of the beauty pageant (Miss Universe, Miss World) winners are omnivore (often Muslim/Christian) and are either from the Punjab area or Bengal, with some South Indians. Although you can look good on the outside and still be inflamed on the inside. Some people have delayed effects of a poor diet - in the 20's and 30's but then it catches up!
In some Indian villages they use sugar as a filler so you cannot taste the food - all you taste is sugar so 1 bowl of "tomato soup," tastes like sugar soup. They deep fry in vegetable oils and often there 3 meals consist of deep-fried wheat. They don't eat enough non-starchy vegetables - they tend to be very grain-based.
Those that have raw dairy (or low temperature pasteurized dairy), and eat less or no wheat, and eat eggs are better off. Vegetarians could gain some benefit from Lacto-Ovo-Paleo but the sicker they are the more they have to benefit from including eating grass-fed ruminants and wild caught fish in their diet and eliminating gut irritants.
The obesity of cities like Baroda (Vadodara) India approaches Texas and there are heart centers/clinics on every block like Starbucks. (Everything is big in Texas - the SUVs, houses, and the people ...) LOL!
The highest rates of celiac are found in the areas with the greatest wheat consumption - Gujarat and Punjab - and they are not healing because so many foods including spices can be cross-contaminated.
Am J Gastroenterol. 2001 Sep;96(9):2804-5. Increasing incidence of celiac disease in India. Sood A, Midha V, Sood N, Kaushal V, Puri H.
Gujarati and Punjabi Indians who settled in England get 3 times more celiac then Europeans!
http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune_statistics.php Total Autoimmune disease has outpaced CANCER and HEART DISEASE in the numbers in the US.
All the below conditions/symptoms related to gluten intolerance are skyrocketing in India. Some of these conditions change over time in the same individual!
Some of 300 symptoms associated with gluten intolerance and/or made worse by gluten- Sound familiar?
Nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorbtion e.g. low iron/anemia, Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc etc..
GI, IBS, bloating, pain, gas, constipation, diarrhea, GERD, acid reflex, fatty stool, nausea,vomiting, flatulence, celiac, Crohn's, Ulcerative Colitis, Lactose Intolerance
Joint pain, Osteoporosis/Osteopenia, Cramps, tingling and numbness
Depression, Headaches, Migraine, Fatigue, Schizophrenia, Mood Swings, Irritability, Brain fog, seizures, ataxia (clumsiness), MS
Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage, Slow infant and child growth
Eczema, Allergies, Hives (Urticaria), Psoriasis, Acne, Rosacea
Type 1 diabetes, Lupus, Alopecia (hair loss, balding)
Down, Turner, and Williams Syndrome
Decline in dental health, dental enamel irregularities
Thyroid disease (both hypo and hyper)
I could go on and on but I need to end before my cortisol gets any higher ...
went to seminar where instructor said in India, cancer is low due to the spices, but heart disease is high b/c of the rice/carb consumption. My guess is veggies were more prominent than the rice but that may have flip flopped in modern times. maybe rice was less processed back then, i bet the rice is GMO now too
If they thrive on a traditional diet than why would they even need to change it? This mindset that Paleo is THE ONLY WAY to eat is disheartening. SAD is BAD - and from everything I've read the modern developing Standard Indian Diet is just as bad (hence rising obesity and diabetes) HOWEVER, every single traditional diet is not evil - and many are quite healthy. What's next, force feeding Okinawans coconut oil and bone broth?
In the context of the many afflictions we battle in the US on a daily basis when it comes to exposure to toxins, nutritional guidelines, food supply and other things, it's more advantageous to be from a remote region or even what we consider today, a third world region. With globalization though, it usually means they are just behind us in demonstrating the signs. The current adult generation is the first to really show many of the alarming signs/trends of declining health. I don't doubt many of these regions are just a generation or two behind...
Having experienced three different "third world nations" myself in the last few years, I can assure your friend that everything I see that plagues our health here is completely entrenched in these places as well. If not fully, it's well on its way.
As he stated, Indians have been eating that way for 1,000s of years. Many other cultures have been eating a certain way for 1,000s of years (rice has been around for 10,000 yrs for example). The paleo diet takes into account millions of years. Yes the past 100 years have seen dramatic changes in diet and lifestyle, but the past 10,000 years is still 'just yesterday' when you think about how long humans have been around. Something to think about.
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