Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

Talk of desi food and mouth waters, nose hallucinates of exotic smell of desi food-of Qorma, Bihari Kebabs, Parathas or ears ring with sizzling melody of jalebis, samosas, bhaturas being fried.
And eyes vision the ultilmate combo of : jalebi samosa and chai :

Indeed, our cuisine is the crowning glory of our culture. Curry dishes have acquired the status of national dish in Great Britain. Mughlai is a globally coveted cuisine..
I have hardly met any non-desi , who on mention of South Asian food, does not express a liking for Biryani.

The awesomeness of South Asian Cuisine :

More than just the exotic flavours and tastes, the spices that go into the food have been proven as time tested home remedies ( Grand Ma’s home remedies). The haldi(turmeric), aniseed(saunf), dal chini( cinnamon), ajwain( asafoetida), lalmirch( chilli powder) etc the commonly used spices, also serve as anti oxidants, antuflu, anti inflammatory or antiseptics.

Turmeric, a kind of curcumin, is known to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and hence it’s low prevalence in the subcontinent. A study found that those who ate curry once a month or more scored better on cognitive tests than those who ate curry rarely or never.

The king of fruits Mango, contains phenols which has a high antioxidant, anticancer capabilities along with being a rich source of Vit A, E, Selenium and Iron. (The diabetics should avoid it due to high sugar content.)

However, South Asian Cuisine has it’s down side too.

  • The main culprits being that most of the delicacies are calorie dense, and are cooked high amount of saturated or trans fats.
  • Our method of cooking like deep frying, the additions of baghars, tarkas are faulty. We tend to overcook our meals , which along with reheating depletes it of its nutrients.
  • The savory snacks, like the namkeens, namakparas, samosas etc. are generally fried and laden with high salt content. While the sweets are rich, prepared from fat and thick sugar syrup. Eg Gulab Jamun, jalebis, Carrot Halwa etc.
  • Our meals are large in serving portions .
  • Our desi restaurants and take away meals are known for their liberal use of ghee and oil, not only in curries but also on naans (breads).
  • Many of our households have a high intake of meats, avoiding vegetables. This leads to deficiency in certain nutrients like Folic Acid and excess of Homogentisic Acid which is a cause of Heart Attacks. The lack of fibre in the meats increases the risk of colon cancer too.
  • A study claims most meat eaters in Pakistan take red meat (mutton and beef) 68% times and the rest white meat ( chicken and fish) .( Ref 2) Red meat is known to raise the risk of Cardiovascular diseases and cancer and the risk of dying in next 10 years is raised. ( 2. Ref below)
  • The research found that a single meal of Indian curry in Britain has more fat than the recommendation for the entire day.

Example: Imagine a typical feast: Raita, Poppadam for a starter, a Lamb Qorma and two Butter Naans for main course, and a Gajar Halwa for dessert – is a meal with over 1800 calories! When the average calorie for a day are about 2500 for a man and 2000 for women.

A BAD NEWS is that along with the faulty diet, we South Asians have been endowed with vulnerable genetic makeup which makes up 5-6 times more vulnerable to heart disease, and other chronic diseases like DM and HT as compared to other races.
(Please read the above ^^ sentence once again, and understand it).
As a result of the genetic and lifestyle, there is a epidemic of Diabetes, and Heart diseases in SouthAsians. Hence there is a dire need to make changes in our diet habits to prevent early heart and chronic diseases.

(The topics of CV Diseases and DM, HT shall be dealt in detail in the separate blogs).

AUDIO ( in Hindi/Urdu): 

We cant change our ethnicity or our genes, but the GOOD NEWS is that with slight modifications in the cooking methods and choice of ingredients, we can change the quality of our food without much change in the taste. .And hence can substantially reduce the risk of above diseases.
Let’s give it a try, for the sake of our healths.

What should we do ?

Step ONE: We need to know what is our calorie requirement: Our age and activity level determines our caloric requirement which can be calculated from the chart.
Place the cursor on the weight and your activity level to check ur calorific requirement.
If you are over weight then place the curser on your target weight ( the weight you wish to have or need to reduce to). Consider the calories that is required for the weight you desire.

Knowledge of the caloric requirement can give an idea whether we are falling short, meeting or exceeding the requirements.

Step TWO: We must know what the various food groups are and how much of their proportions need to be taken for a healthy diet:

To make it easier, the pyramid has been altered into a shopping pyramid, which hints at the amount of foods we need to buy from the different groups of food.

However in order to make it more simple and visually more easy to understand what our proportions should be now a Portion Plate has been devised


Step THREE: You must spread your meals into 4-6 times per day. A good breakfast is a must. The lunch and Dinner should not be very heavy. In between the meals, take snacks like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts etc.
This spreading out of meals over the day leads to maintained blood sugar levels and prevents in weight gain.

Step FOUR: While eating or later try to assess the calories you have taken in your plate. For this refer to the chart below the article. ( Unfortunately,very few of our recipes come with their calories and nutrient details).
Better still would be to make a list of all the foods as you eat and check the list at the end of the day. You will be surprised to see how much you ate, when you thought otherwise.

Step FIVE: Once in a week after a healthy eating all week, treat yourself to comfort desi food too… Nihari, Rasgullas, Kulfi aah !!!

For more details on Food Guide check this link :

Audio in Hindi/Urdu


Tips on what healthy changes can you make in our foods:
1. Replace red meat with more frequent white meat like chicken and fish. While taking red meat, prefer lean meat and trim the visible fat.

2. For those who do not afford meat, Dal chawal is an excellent source of Protien and the two eaten together supplement each others missing Amino acids.

3. Egg is also an excellent and cheap source of good quality protein. The notion that it is high in cholesterol is proven wrong by research.

4. If a recipe needs some oil/butter/ghee, use canola or olive oil in small quantity. Make a habit of brushing or spraying the oil in the pan instead of pouring. First heat the utensil, then add (preferably spray) oil. A heated pan spreads the oil better.

(PS see about Canola Oil on internet and decide about it’s efficacy through evidence. If unsure prefer CORN OIL  ).

5. Substitute baking, barbecue or grill for frying, if possible.

6. Avoid too many reheating of the food as it destroys the nutritive value of foods.

7. Add more of green vegetables, as salads along with the meat.

8. Wash the vegetables with water containing potassium permanganate to remove infections, fertilisers and pesticides. Then rinse them with clean water.

9. Do not overcook the vegetables, leave them crunchy. Overcooked mushy vegetables lose taste and nutrients.

10. Onion should be cut and kept for at least 15 minutes before serving as oxidation helps quercetin, an important phytochemical and antioxidant to get activated.

11. Use skim or low fat varieties of all dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream)

12. Salads, sandwiches, fresh fruits are best fast foods, instead of the conventional ones.

13. When you go to a restaurant, give instructions to add only very small quantities of oils for cooking.

14. Make a habit to check the labels on the foods bought from the Supermarkets. Don’t be carried away by the words ‘No Cholesterol’ on labels. Majority of vegetable products are cholesterol free. It is the fat content of the item which matters.

15. Avoid eating while watching TV. You eat a lot and you don’t know while watching TV.

16. Never use pots and pans made of lead or aluminum. Lead can lead to severe digestive disorders. Aluminum vessels can cause high levels of aluminum in the brain tissue that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips for Vegetarians:

Vegetarians should know that they need to be very careful about their food being balanced in different groups of food. Vegetarian diet is found to be low in proteins, calcium, vitamin B12, iron and zinc.

Vegetarian diet may lack proteins. Hence it is important to include beans, dals, nuts and dairy products for proteins. Dairy products like milk, yogurt are a high calcium source.

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin whose deficiency can cause permanent nerve damage. It is found d only in animals source. So vegetarian are not able to get this in their food. Hence in order to get enough Vit B12, they need to either eat Vit B12 fortified food, or supplements of Vit B12.

Food for thought:

Last but not the least, we South Asians follow an age old tradition of preparing multiple varieties dishes especially in festivals, weddings or during the month of Ramadan.
However if we limit the number of dishes, we not just cut the cost, the labour but also reduce unnecessary intake of calories. The cost saved could instead be given to the less fortunate amongst us who cannot afford a complete two meals a day.
It is important to realise the hunger and malnourishment all around us. Our culture, our faiths and above all humanity demands that we are empathetic towards them.
We must ensure that we do not cook excess that goes into the garbage. There is nothing wrong being a food lover, but only if we imagine that those deprived desire and dream of decent meals too. And we can certainly share a meal or two with them too.
Just think…
And yes, happy healthy eating.

Audio in Hindi/Urdu

1. Researchers TP Ng, PC Chiam, T Lee, HC Chua, L Lim, EH Kua published an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006 entitled “Curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly.
3. conducted by “Which” magazine (Feb 2010) of Britain
4. In the study, a research team led by Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., from the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, looked at more than 500,000 people who were aged 50 to 71 when they enrolled in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health study).

Links for desi recipes:

P.S.: When writing any information, it is my utmost ‘responsibility ‘ to give only information which is scientifically researched and evidence-based through research. I do not give any personal opinions or grom my ‘gut’ feelings. Thanks. 🙂

P.S. Thanks in advance to Dr Babar Khan, Farhan Masoosd and Zawaf for the RTs.

Estimated approx. calories in desi foods:

Cucumber Raita , (1tbsp) 20
Tomato Sambal, (1tbsp) 20
Mango Chutney, (1tbsp) 60
Poppadom, (each) 65
Lime Pickle, (1tbsp) 70
Onion Bhaji, (each) 190
Potato Samosa, each) 260
Meat Samosa, e(ach 320

Main Dish: Calories
Vegetable Curry( 1plate) 280
Saag Aloo masala( 1plate)  334
Daal fry( 1plate)  350
Butter Chicken Masala ( 1plate) 450
Beef nihari( 1plate)  650
Lamb Rogan Josh ( 1plate) 589
Lamb Qeema ( 1plate) 562
Lamb Qorma Curry ( 1plate) 570
Naan Bread ( 1pc) 317
Chapatti ( 1pc) 80
Nan Butter ( 1pc) 325
Paratha (1pc)250
Puri (1pc)225
Rice plain boiled (1cup)80
White Bread (1slice)80

Barfi (single)230
Carrot Halwa (1 cup)570
Gulab Jamun ( 1 pc)250
Jalebi (1 average)459
Ras Mallai (1pc)250

Comments on: "Eating our way to good health" (12)

  1. There is a lot of standard medical information that has been found to be faulty when it comes to human diet. For example Canola might offer fewer calories but it also strikes you down with a host of diseases.
    A good initiative but suffers from a better understanding of our homeostasis as obtains from Ayurveda and Hikmat. Also the so-called scientific bent is frightening for this is how the multinationals market their poisons.
    One example is the falacy on calorie counts relating to oils. Desi Ghee is a great combination oil that guarantees greater health than any oil around and the fallacy of cholesterol fixation is now well understood. Of course, excess of any thing will have consequences but not all oils are bad e.g. Chahar Maghaz, Pista, Badam and Alsi!
    Also consider the fact that proteins are made up of 20 known Amino Acids which means the potential number and their implications for health are simply beyond our “scientific” capacity to learn and/or verify. It is, therefore, a great solace that we can rely upon tradition to know which foods have been known to be healthy for us.
    I am proud of the south Asian cuisine and in no way ashamed that it does not follow the “science” from France or elsewhere in cooking extra as we do. There is never one variable in ingredients and the greatest impact is that from the whole and not part and the studies that tell over cooking does and that have never been done for our cuisine and if there were any then that I might not have come across, I can safely guess the interactions of the various ingredients, especially the massalas, have seldom been looked into from a human health perspective.
    So I will encourage you to experiment but do respect the tradition and do not labor to change the cuisine following some nonsense science.
    Happy meals to all of you:-)

    Khalid Hussain

    • Thank You Khalid Hussain for taking time to write in detail. First of all I too respect our cuisine, and that is the basic reason I made an attempt along with a qualified dietitician , to come up with this blog. All the information I have uploaded is based on the evidence from research either on South Asians in UK or India.


      And I have no where attempted to change,our cuisine, emphasized on the value of spices, and just insisted on calories calculation.

      It remains a scientifically proven fact( by the McGill University) that South Asians are endowed with genes which make them vulnerable to Heart attacks at an early age, and now has been known that out of all, Pakistanis are the worst affected due to their more focus on meat and not vegetables, or plant proteins like beans or dal.

      Now that you have written so long, instead of giving a blanket statement, please point out where exactly have I attempted to change the desi cuisine.

      I do not want my readers to get confused and misdirected, so please give me the specific pointers so that I can reply with evidence.

      As for Canola, research and certain international food guide are where I base my claim on. The Palm Oil that is much advertised in Pakistan as Cholesterol free is one of the most dangerous of all oils for heart health.

      Link to the readers on different oils to decide for yourself :

      About Canola I would reqiest readers to do their own search and see this, and ecide on your own merit, plus ask “qualified” dieticians you know:

      Here my aim is to promote health of South Asians, not to score any point.

      Hikmat I cannot include, because I am not one, and it is not my field of knowledge.

      Hence I repeat, humbly, please give me specific pointers where was I wrong and why ( except for ur mentioned Canola).

  2. For all my readers to know about the SERIOUSNESS of the Health Riska of Heart Disease, Diabetes and Blood Pressure please check these links and also study / google search for yourself,

    Evidence fo rom mention by :
    Cambridge University:

    Wall Street Journal:


  3. Links about various oils and their advantages and disadvantages:

    Link to the readers on different oils to decide for yourself :

    About Canola I would reqiest readers to do their own search and see this, and ecide on your own merit, plus ask “qualified” dieticians you know:

  4. Eating our way to good health….good blog with lots of updates and information,some are new to me too.Its a great idea to explain it in Urdu/Hindi so that the basic idea of healthy eating reaches more people.

    And it is the right approach to use scientific evidence for giving out researched information, and not doctor’s personal opinions.

    Dr Syed Fasihuddin.

  5. According to all scales and caloric requirements I need to be eating more food. Better food throughout the day. I am never that hungry though. However I am tired a lot. These are excellent.

  6. Ilmana my metabolism is high, burns food up like nothing, Docs cannot explain it and many would think that were a good thing, not so, reverse, too easy to lose weight, also unhealthy. I were told in order to balance my metabolism I need to be eating 6 meals a day. Even small. That is impossible. I am never ever that hungry. Its a huge dilemma for me. If I become ill [cold flu etc] I need to worry about weight loss. My weight is fine it is just that metabolism burns everything right up.

  7. A great video by a South Asian dietitician advising on how to eat healthy in South Asian way: *DONT MISS*

    Not very different from what has been d said above. 🙂

    Healthy eating !!!!

  8. Excellent article, Dr. Fasih! it is elementary yet comprehensive and up-to-date review of food science.I appreciate your effort of pointing out what constitutes healthy eating. As I grow older my concerns and indeed understanding of what might constitute a healthy diet is rapidly changing. I have a lot of respect for our tradition- for example I know that garlic and apple cider vinegar works like charm when I get cold and clove does wonder when I have a toothache.

    But science of food is of course no nonsense. Appreciation for science, trust in science, and support of science vary a great deal across societies, cultures, ages, and levels of education.

    In Khalid Hussain’s comment above for example we find mistrust, lack of appreciation for science, and lack of awareness of the immense role science plays in our daily lives. There are many reasons for this distrust – some are valid and based on empirical data and others could be our innate bias against the unknown. I believe that one major contributing factor is the increasing disconnect between people and scientists.

    I encourage you to continue your discourse and make it accessible so that everyone understands it easily. It is your responsibility to educate me and Khalid Sahab that your science is better that my magic 🙂

  9. Thanks Ilmanaji for writing this, I am not an expert on this subject but someone who has observed the impact of the ingredients used in our kitchens. I don’t see anywhere in this article it criticizes our cuisine or shows the mistrust in our heritage of miraculous spices. Rather it just brings in notice the way sometimes over or incorrect use of the same may have an ill effect, quite like if even any medicine been taken either out of proportion or not suitable for certain type can have a reaction. Thus all things are good if taken in right proportion, as extreme of anything is bad (a natural phenomenon).

    For instance turmeric a simple ingredient which we use in a very small quantity in any dish as large portions would make the taste bitter…it is a great home remedy used for medical, beauty and urgent relief from pain etc. despite that if used in high or incorrect amounts can result in allergic reactions as well (I am speaking from my personal experience).

    We all love our Chola bhaturas, samosas, gol gappas, dal makhnis, malai koftas, sarson ka saag (with dollops of desi ghee) biryanis, keemas, naans, gajar halwas etc. etc. but the question is do we have it everyday and do we think its a great idea to include them in every meal? I think most of us would say a no to it. We also think the same for Pizzas, pastas, burgers, french fries, packaged foods, refined foods etc. as well.

    So I guess its not at all about the heritage, tradition or any cuisine in particular v/s science but the habits and lifestyle practices we follow.

    As with the growth of technology, luxury and comforts in our daily routine our natural workouts are diminishing.There is no harm in looking at the portions of the ingredients used and the way we use them relative to our physical output and eat sensibly to stay healthy.

    Hence I really appreciate your effort to put across the points and resources which generally have been ignored from generations to generations enabling such lifestyle habits resulting in the genetic predisposition of certain risks in our race and countries.

    Having said that would always love our traditional food…yummy yummy 🙂

  10. Thumbs up for you for the provision of such a healthy stuff

  11. Great Article Again!

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