Recently while I was on an official tour to Delhi, I came across a book titled Ikigai - the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. The book, inter alia, deliberates upon the many facets of living a healthy and purposeful life including what world’s longest living people eat and drink.
It kind of brings joy in everything you do with a new reason to start each day. The author talks about one of the places in Japan called Okinawa where life expectancy is higher than the national average of Japan, Sweden and United States. What makes them best in terms of life expectancy is their miracle diet.
You will be astonished to know that what they consume is abundantly available around us, in our homes. We don’t need to spend extra pennies rather we need to limit consumption of certain items and increase intake of others.
The Okinawians eat wide variety of vegetables which is in contrast to our high-on-spices diet and fast-food culture. They eat fruits in abundance and on daily basis. They rarely eat sugar, if they do, it’s cane sugar. They eat more fish and less meat. They also eat less salt and consume less calories.
“Eating healthy is a form of self respect”. This anonymous quote emphasizes the importance of taking care of oneself through proper nutrition. Eating healthy is not only beneficial for physical health but it can also improve mental and emotional well-being. When we make healthy food choices, we are showing ourselves that we value and respect our bodies and we are investing in our long term health and happiness. Conversely, unhealthy eating habits can lead to negative consequences such as weight gain, chronic diseases and low self-esteem. By choosing to eat healthy, we are prioritising ourselves the respect we deserve.
There are several Ahadith (sayings) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on the importance of eating less. “Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: One-third for his food, one-third for his liquids and one-third for his breath.”(Ibn Majah). There is another Hadith regarding the same. “The food of two people is enough for three, and the food of three people is enough for four” (Sahih Bukhari). The significance of these Ahadith lies in the fact that eating should be done in moderation and overeating should be avoided at all costs. It turns out that there is much wisdom and the same is in sync with what science and research has to say about consuming large meals. Whenever we eat, glucose enters our blood stream and insulin rises to move it to cells. Our cells are more receptive to it in the morning than evening. As day progresses, our pancreas starts getting slow and produces less insulin which means our blood sugar tends to be higher after meals taken later in the day. It is compounded when we take larger meals which means large meals are never optimal for our metabolic health.
In context to Kashmir and many other regions across India, the changes in lifestyle and with the availability of fast foods and processed foods, eating habits have taken a drastic turn. The excessive intake of fried and fatty foods have resulted in weight gain and obesity, increase in blood cholesterol levels thereby increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other digestive problems. Skipping meals especially breakfast is also worrisome. A loaf of bread and a cup of Kashmiri Nun Chai which is our tradition and age old habit is never sufficient and healthy in the breakfast. There goes a saying, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” This lack of proper breakfast can lead to overeating during the day causing weight gain and other health issues. The unchecked and rampant consumption of sugary drinks is also an unhealthy trend which is exacerbating the problem.
It is therefore imperative to avoid large meals and processed foods. What is recommended is smaller meals, more exercise/movement; more vegetables, less meat; less salt/sugar, more fluids. We should focus on nutrient-dense foods that provide sustained energy and nourishment. An increased awareness about importance of balanced diet, reducing the intake of fried and fatty foods, encouraging the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables can help us combat the negative effects of bad eating habits in the region. The takeaways from the healthy eating habits of people of Okinawa (Japan) can save a generation which has fallen prey to this unhealthy trend.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.