Links – All about gluten and health fads

If you are like me and you follow a lot of alternative health blogs, you would definitely notice a trend of gluten free recipes and food. Gluten seems to have become the new enemy, no wait,  is that sugar? Fat as the enemy is so last decade. Sugar and gluten are the new enemies. Anyways, I really liked this very long article because it not only addresses gluten but also health fad trends which can be very misleading.

Here are some excerpts which really resonated with me – 

“Until about a decade ago, the other ninety-nine per cent of Americans rarely seemed to give gluten much thought.But, led by people like William Davis, a cardiologist whose book “Wheat Belly” created an empire founded on the conviction that gluten is a poison, the protein has become a culinary villain.”

“Nearly twenty million people contend that they regularly experience distress after eating products that contain gluten, and a third of American adults say that they are trying to eliminate it from their diets.”

“For many people, avoiding gluten has become a cultural as well as a dietary choice, and the exposition offered an entry ramp to a new kind of life.”

“The most obvious question is also the most difficult to answer: How could gluten, present in a staple food that has sustained humanity for thousands of years, have suddenly become so threatening? There are many theories but no clear, scientifically satisfying answers.”

“But something strange is clearly going on. For reasons that remain largely unexplained, the incidence of celiac disease has increased more than fourfold in the past sixty years.”

“Jones said. He and Bethany Econopouly, one of his doctoral students, recently published an essay in the Huffington Post in which they argue that the legal definition of the word “bread” has become meaningless and ought to be changed: “FDA regulations state that for bread to be labeled as ‘bread,’ it must be made of flour, yeast, and a moistening ingredient, usually water. When bleached flour is used, chemicals like acetone peroxide, chlorine, and benzoyl peroxide (yes, the one used to treat acne) can be included in the recipe and are masked under the term ‘bleached.’ Optional ingredients are also permissible in products called bread: shortening, sweeteners, ground dehulled soybeans, coloring, potassium bromate . . . and other dough strengtheners (such as bleaching agents and vital gluten).”

“Fad dieting is nothing new in America; it’s what we do instead of eating balanced, nutritiously wholesome meals. Scarsdale, Atkins, South Beach, Zone, flexitarian, pescatarian, and paleo have all been awarded their fifteen minutes of fame and then shoved aside for the next great diet. They are rarely effective for long. Some nutrition specialists say that the current preoccupation with gluten-free products reminds them of the national obsession with removing fats from foods in the late nineteen-eighties. “Low-fat” foods are often packed with sugar and calories to make up for the lack of fat. The same is true of many products that are advertised as “gluten-free.”

Our abject fear of eating fat has long been among the more egregious examples of the lack of connection between nutritional facts and the powerful myths that govern our eating habits. For decades, low-fat diets have been recommended for weight loss and to prevent heart disease. Food companies have altered thousands of products so that they can be labelled as low in fat, but replacing those fats with sugars, salt, and refined carbohydrates makes the food even less healthy. “Almost all of this has proved to be nonsense,’’ Myhrvold said. “Research shows that the total amount of fat in the diet isn’t really linked to weight or disease. What matters is the type of fat and the total calories you consume.” Bad fats increase the risk of death from heart disease and good fats lower it.

Margarine is a bad fat. Yet for decades doctors encouraged consumers to eat it, instead of butter, because butter is laden with saturated fat, which was considered even more dangerous than the fat in margarine. The assumption was not tested until the early nineteen-nineties, when researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health began to analyze data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which had followed the health of ninety thousand nurses for more than a decade. The study showed that women who ate four teaspoons of margarine a day had a fifty per cent greater risk of heart disease than those who rarely or never ate margarine. Yet again, the intuitive advice followed by so many people had been wrong.”

“The diet can also be unhealthy. “Often, gluten-free versions of traditional wheat-based foods are actually junk food,’’ Green said. That becomes clear after a cursory glance at the labels of many gluten-free products. Ingredients like rice starch, cornstarch, tapioca starch, and potato starch are often used as replacements for white flour. But they are highly refined carbohydrates, and release at least as much sugar into the bloodstream as the foods that people have forsaken.”

““I went into baking because I thought it was a wholesome form of expression,’ he said while kneading a loaf he would bake the next day. I kept hearing about this gluten thing all the time. How gluten was so dangerous, and it was really getting me down in my heart. I started to ask myself, Am I making people sick? Have I become this spear of death?’ He began to think about a different profession.”

Tea, coffee & no caffeine

I have always been a tea, actually chai, almost all my life.

saturday school - week 13(more about saturday school here)

I was into drinking black coffee (okay, I was drinking a share of what my mom was drinking) till I was 5 years old after which I was switched to Chai.  I needed my daily dose of tea every day around 4-6 PM. And tea has to have milk and sugar. And I like it in a steel tumbler coz that is how I had it at home. I even have a certain one which I need to drink from everyday ha ha.

My dad makes the best tea (at least for my taste), though funnily I like my mom’s tea on Sunday mornings because it is better than my dad. Don’t ask me why!

I remember drinking so many chais from my college canteens and then come home and have my dad make another cup of tea around 5PM. Especially on the days it rained, I liked to look at the rain and drink tea. The chai on raodside stalls and canteen tastes so good.

Then, when I moved to Singapore, I switched to Milo for a year (and got completely stopped drinking it now) coz I need something hot around tea time because frankly, the milk tea they have here is horrible and tastes kinda weirdly bitter. And they use condensed milk not fresh milk. 

To save time and effort on washing dishes, I switched to using Taj Mahal teabags for over a year by making it in a mug and microwaving it.

This is exactly what I had been drinking for over a year. Not bad.

It rained so often here but I did not have tea to drink/time and watch the rain, though I did it on a quite a lot of weekends. I rarely drank coffee and once when I did at a seminar, I could not sleep till 5 AM that time and my friend claims I was acting high and then I rarely drank coffee after that.

Then, I go to India for a holiday. I come back and realise I can no longer live with having tea made from a tea bag. So I started making tea daily like at home.

Then to save more effort, I started brewing the tea and storing it in a bottle. So, every time I needed tea, I took out my decoction, added milk and sugar and heated it and my tea was ready to drink every day.

After coming under bad western influence, I started drinking coffee daily. Coffee is great when you do research.

See: link

Kopi – coffee with condensed milk. Quite nice

I usually get a headache when I do not have coffee or tea, though I like to live in denial that I am addicted to my caffeine.

When I started working, I realise I cannot get by a day without if I do not have coffee around 2-4 PM and sometimes in the morning, if I was tired. I can even feel sleepy after a cup of coffee. I tried switching to herbal tea but I still needed my coffee.

Then, an Indian guy near my office started selling Indian tea 2 months ago and I switched to tea again.

Actually I was looking to stop drinking tea or coffee as I wanted to get off caffeine (as a result of my skin not liking milk, not wanting to be addicted to caffeine and reading 2 books on women’s health and hormones back to back) anyway.

Then, 3 weeks ago, I cut coffee and tea straight and stuck to drinking herbal infusions.

Everyone tells you how awesome they feel after cutting out caffeine but nobody tells you how awful you feel on the first 2 days. I could barely manage with a big headache by 6PM on Day 1 but I persevered. Day 2 was better with a mild headache. Day 3 was good. No headaches. I have been off coffee and tea and I am okay totally. Of course, I am drinking many herbal infusions to make up for it.

I still have the occasional tea and coffee here and there when I go out or on weekends but I am quite okay without it.

Sometimes, I think I love/miss the rituals and memories associated with tea and coffee, more than the drinks themselves as I associate tea and coffee with conversations and friends. Okay, I like tea and coffee but I don’t need it like I did before and that is good.

A caffeine free body – goal completed.

Lack of Sanitation for women

An estimated 638 million Indians lack access to a toilet and are forced to use roadsides and fields.


Another article in regard to this by Kalpana Chawla –

Every time I use a public toilet here, I am grateful for the constant water supply and the toilet paper. I may not know the statistics but I definitely know how poor sanitation is, in India. People in developed countries cannot even imagine the depth of the problem and its consequences.

I have lived most of my life in a city and can tell you the main problems regarding sanitation I have observed.

  1. Lack of abundance of clean public toilets
  2. If it is there, it is usually for men rather than females. Thanks to urbanization and springing up of malls, there are a few toilets in there.
  3. Even if there is a public toilet for men, they prefer peeing on the road sides for free leading to smelly smelly roads.
  4. If a toilet is available, it usually is stinky, lacks water supply and has not been cleaned for ages
  5. You are charged for using them which is lame. What the hell is the Government doing? Where are every citizen’s basic rights?
  6. I have seen toilets in a few local train stations but they are always locked. Duh, then why build them? Some toilets may be locked when the person in charge is away, which is mostly the case.
  7. Lot of workplaces do not have female toilets, for example police stations and a lot of government offices.
  8. Construction workers and labourers – Where do they have access to toilets? I believe the company should provide a portable toilet for such people.
  9. I shudder to think of what the poor people do. Pee and poo on the roadside?
  10. Women can pee and shit only when it is dark to escape lecherous men which in turn leads to acute discomfort ( try holding your pee for an entire day), decreased water intake and many Urinary tract infections.
  11. At least the middle class and the rich can afford toilets but you have to store water as you never get continuous water supply. What if your locality has poor water supply? Shall everyone pee less?

Apart from all these problems I can think of offhand, there are a couple of anecdotes which have greatly angered me. The Indian government should be ashamed of itself along with a lot of other people.

SJ told me that around 30 years ago, in Chennai where she went to meet her relatives, she was shocked at the lack of a proper toilet in her relative’s house. Everyone used to pee in the bathroom and used to poo in the backyard along the drain. Every morning a cleaning lady used to come to collect the shit. Not only is the entire process inhuman for cleaning lady, I thought all this used to happen only 60 years ago and the only account of such a thing I have read is in the novel “untouchables by Mulk Raj Anand”). Also it seems so unhygienic and so inconvenient.

RD told me that in her house in the village, they had no toilet as well. There used to be a pump in the only room in her house and they had to shower and pee there. There was no separate bathroom and they all used to sleep in the same room. If you needed to shower or pee, you had to wait till all the men left the house as it is ‘too impolite’ to ask them to vacate the room for you to pee. It was worse during periods but then that is another post. All the women had to get up very early in the morning before sunrise and walk almost a kilometer to poo near the trees. You had to carry your own water. You could not defecate for the rest of the day nor during the night as it was not safe and no one would accompany you to the outskirts of the village for excretion in the night. They finally built a toilet on the upper storey in the house but then it has no water supply. You had to carry buckets of water yourself. Her dad never used to help them carry water even if she was unwell with the argument – “you want to use it, then why should I carry water for you”. He initially opposed even the construction of the toilet, his argument being, “I go out to work, I don’t need to use it”.

I don’t know why so many people oppose the construction of toilets in their houses. It is most inconvenient for women, so the men don’t seem to give a damn about it. Anyway, a woman’s life is meant for suffering.

The government which does not even bother about water supply to the villages. I was shocked by the condition of the villages when I visited them. I had assumed that the government supplied water to all places in India but apparently not.  Everyone digs their own well or gets a bore well pump if they can afford it. Life is not about filling your Swiss bank accounts. What is the point of 64 years of independence if  the most basic needs of the people are not met and our government just does not care *sigh*.