Kavita Devgan, Rupa Publications Rs.204 (218p) ISBN 978-93-5304-361-2
Oddly enough, even though I am more inclined towards design, art and fashion, I was gifted ‘Grandmother’s Hacks – 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You’ by Kavita Devgan at a time when I had acute acidity. Each summer, since the past few years, I’ve spent groggily nursing my migraines, disgustingly depending on allopathic medicines till the heat becomes bearable again. Having grown up in boarding schools since the 1st standard, a line in the book’s chapter “How to read the book” caught my attention.
“The idea is to recall the good old habits and slowly incorporate them back in our lives-reprogram our body and mind – and lifestlyes and make a conscious effort to begin making the traditional, time-proven choices again. This, I believe, is the route to gain a healthier, stronger and detoxed body, more nourished soul, a friendlier weight on the scale, and a more controlled and efficient mind.”
My persistent health issue at 40+ felt like an awakening call, coaxing me to believe in her words. Which meant getting in touch with this South Delhi based dietician, sharing this few months old book and excerpts of our email conversation.
MD: What were your reasons of becoming a nutritionist?
KD: Well, my dad was keen that I become a doctor. I took up sciences in Higher Senior Secondary, wherein I enjoyed Biology the most. But, by the time I finished schooling I had made up my mind not to study medicine. Wasn’t very clear about what I really wanted to pursue but was totally honest of not being able to see myself as a doctor. I studied Home Science (hons) with specialization in Nutrition from Delhi University, which I thought was far more interesting than Botony or Zoology. It has the potential of prevention, that got me hooked, since I am genetically a healthy eater (thanks to Mom!).
That was followed up with specialisation in Dietetics and Public Health Nutrition and an internship at Safdurjung Hospital. Now I am a Dietician with two books in my kitty.
MD: You’ve manage to combine both Indian lifestyle and eating habits in this book. Where do you think most of us lack?
KD: We are going wrong with both food and lifestyle, and it is horribly so for most of us. The worst news is that it begins in our childhood. These habits of eating processed foods etc. and lack of exercise gets ineradicable with time as we grow up – difficult to break free.
MD: Have our traditional lifestyles and food evolved?
KD: I feel we have left them far behind. Instead of evolving and modifying them to suit our present day needs we have systematically dumped them one by one, and are now left following an empty way of eating and living that is obviously not doing us any good. Its time to bring them back, and soon!!!
MD: Nowadays we’ve become aware of so many food intolerances. Is everybody or most intolerant to something or the other?
KD: These intolerances stem from a weak gut – a gut with an imbalance of good versus bad bacteria. Due to our wrong lifestyles – junk eating, pollution, stress, lack of exercise – the good bacteria dwindles and leads to food intolerances, malabsorption of nutrients (thus deficiencies) and gastric issues like IBS, constipation, GERD etc. The solution lies in getting the bacteria balance back. And that can happen by focusing on eating home cooked food, including fermented foods in our diet, eating two servings of raw foods – veggies and fruits and having half a raw onion every day.
MD: Last, but no the least what is your best advise to remain healthy and happy in this scorching Indian summer?
KD: To avoid being perpetually thirsty, dehydrated and fatigued, consciously go on a liquid overdrive. Drink up every now and then, both plain water and water infused with fresh lime and mint (to replenish electrolytes), cucumber (to rehydrate and cool from inside), chia seeds (adds more protein), and fennel seeds (to stay alert).
Your three best friends in these hot months are coconut water for an extra dose of potassium, buttermilk for calcium, and bael (woodapple) and kokum sherbets to keep the stomach sorted and summer ailments away.
Also eat a lot of intrinsically cooling foods, which cool from inside – the cooling grains – pearl barley (jau ka daliya), and finger millet (ragi), sattu, raw onions and gulkand.
You’re never too late to begin living a healthier lifestyle. Buy the book on Amazon. After it pick up Glow-Indian foods, recipes and rituals for beauty by Vasudha Rai.; funnily it reads like its sequel, as understood in Ayurveda.