Swati Bathwal
Expert dietitian and nutritionist Swati Bathwal

As a clinical dietitian and a credential diabetes educator, I come across various books on nutrition. It is like jumping into a plethora of information. Sadly, in one book I read about the benefits of a plant-based diet, where others emphasize the benefits of eating meat and how high fat and no-carb diet has been beneficial to them.

On this year's, National Nutrition week, I am going to bust some myths around nutrition and answer some of the most asked questions in Nutrition.

1. Is gluten-free good?

Gluten is a protein in wheat that makes it gluey and enables it to hold starch. It is the reason air produced by yeast gets trapped in holes that makes bread rise. Gluten is not a carb. Some people do have an intolerance to gluten which can be found through gluten intolerance test. Many people suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and they feel reduced symptoms of bloating once they remove wheat from their diet.

This is because they are reacting to the natural sugars - " fructans" present in wheat. When you remove wheat you also remove many food additives and preservatives from food. So, if you feel good after removing gluten from the diet, certainly look at swapping to healthy alternatives.

2. What are substitutes for gluten?

Amaranth, millets like jowar, bajra, ragi, rice or rice flour, corn, maize, oats, oats flour, sago, red rice, brown rice, quinoa, quinoa flour, lentils or lentils flours, soya, soya flour, chickpeas, chickpea flour, buckwheat to name a few.

3. Are sugars bad for us?

I wouldn't say that sugars are bad for us but there are consequences of consuming excess sugar. 1 teaspoon of sugar that is about 5 gm of sugar is enough for the day. Research has emerged that consuming sugars can reduce the activity of WBC in the body, that is it reduces the immune response.

We all know the excess amount of sugars can cause weight gain, PCOS, diabetes but did you know consuming excess sugar reduces collagen production in the body, which can further promote wrinkles ad hair fall or reduce hair growth. Sugars have various names around 45 as far as I remember, it has 45 different names as it is labelled. Among labels, high fructose corn syrup tops the list.

4. Which oil is best for cooking?

If we are considering preparing meals in Indian cuisine Cold pressed mustard oil, sesame oil, ghee, groundnut oil or peanut oil are healthy. Do not use vegetable oils as most of the vegetable oils are processed under high temperatures and their bonds are broken and they form trans fats. Trans fats are toxic to the body as they cause inflammation.

5. What is a sugar substitute for sugar?

As I mentioned above sugars must be consumed to a minimum. Some of the best substitutes for sugar are raw honey, jaggery, molasses. If you want to consume sugar-free, opt for natural plant versions of sweeteners like stevia, erythritol, xylitol and yacon syrup.

6. Is consuming milk bad for you?

Milk has got a bad name in the modern era. Depending on the geographical region milk of various animals like cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, camel, yak has been consumed through generations. I

f you have an allergy to milk, there is no qualitative difference between milk from grass-fed cows or grain-fed cow's milk because there is no qualitative difference between these two cow's kinds of milk. A2 versus A1 refers to one of the gene coding milk proteins, called Casein. Caseins represent about 30 per cent of the total proteins present in milk.

There is a chance or probability that A2 milk which is desi or Indian cow's milk reduces inflammatory response as compared to A1 which is a European breed of cow's milk like Brown Swiss, Jerseys etc. Consuming grass-fed cow's milk – A2 milk is not harmful at all. However, if you feel good stopping it, its probable good for you.

7. There are many people who are low on vitamin B12, what do you suggest?

Low levels of vitamin B12 is becoming more and more significant nowadays. Other than dietary reasons, low B12 is also due to lack of absorption through the intestinal wall. Most vitamin b12 rich sources are dairy, dairy products, eggs, chicken, lean meats. If you are a vegan nutritional yeast, seaweed, sesame seeds and some green leafy vegetables.

Low levels of vitamin b12 can cause weakness, pins and needles in arms and legs, lack of energy or in severe cases also lead to stroke. Low levels of serum B12 can cause Homocysteine levels to rise which can also lead to stroke. One can also start vitamin B12 supplements if they are unable to meet the dietary requirements.

8. How can we get Vitamin D?

Vitamin D cannot be synthesized in our body without UV rays. When these rays are absorbed into our skin, it converts it into a pre-vitamin d 3 ( an inactive form) which further in the liver and kidney is converted into the active form of vitamin D. A blood range between 60nmol/ l – 100nmol/l is considered adequate level.

According to WHO, a level below 50nmol/ l is considered insufficient. Foods which are rich sources of vitamin d are sea greens like seaweeds, algae, spirulina, cod liver oil, any oily fish, egg yolks and foods which are fortified with vitamin d like milk, cheese and ghee is a rich source of vitamin D. Due to change in lifestyle, irregular dietary patterns and an underlying health issue, Vitamin D absorption can be impaired. At lower serum concentration levels, vitamin D supplement is advised.

9. How much alcohol is enough?

Studies show that four standard drinks or more per day are associated with bad health outcomes. Women who drink any alcohol appear to have an increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who do not drink. Red wine is certainly a better option for a drink but the standard measurement size matters. I see many people have 60ml spirits, 150 ml for wine as a standard drink which is 45ml for spirits, 120 ml respectively.

10. What is the diet mantra in modern times?

Eat Fresh –" If food is not fresh on your kitchen bench, how can it be fresh on supermarket shelves". Just think what those preservatives and additives will be doing to your body.

About the author: This is a guest article by Swati Bathwal, an accredited practising Dietitian Nutritionist and Public Health Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, an accredited Anthropometrist and a registered Yoga Teacher.