The Indo-American Wellness Conclave & Exhibition took place recently in Santa Clara, California, featuring experts speaking on topics such as ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, nutraceuticals and nutrition. One well-attended talk was that of Dr. Ronesh Sinha, author of the book ‘The South Asian Health Solution’, who issued a warning about the effects of insulin resistance on the health of South Asians.

Ronesh shared fascinating research showing that South Asians are more prone to heart disease, insulin resistance, and Type II diabetes. He advocated for a paradigm shift when it comes to nutrition, warning against fad diets and recommending a sensible diet that comprises healthy proteins, seasonal fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and, in general, foods which are low on the glycemic index.

What lifestyle factors increase the risk of disease for South Asians?

Dr. Sinha states that the following issues can make South Asians prone to disease:

  • Following a diet that is too high sugar, salt and starches;
  • Using trans fats in cooking and consuming these fats in foods such as crispy snacks and
  • Too much time indoors (which results in a lack of Vitamin D).

He additionally notes that fat distribution among South Asians is typically different as compared to other regions of the world. “Most South Asians are skinny-fat,” he says, meaning that they may have slim limbs, but they can accumulate fat in the abdominal area, resulting in a condition known as sarcopenic obesity. He adds: “In most South Asians, excess belly fat is fueled by excess carbohydrates, not dietary fat.”

You don’t need to starve to stave off disease

If you wish to rid yourself of belly fat and stave off disease, starving isn’t the solution. Rather, moderate caloric consumption is recommended by Dr. Sinha, who follows the line advocated by modern nutritionists. Instead of obsessing over calories and fat, he says, reduce the number of processed foods, breads, and other starches, and lower your consumption of grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds – these contain phytic acid, which binds to Vitamin D and iron, preventing the absorption of these and other crucial vitamins and minerals. Dr. Sinha also recommends foregoing oils such as sunflower oil for coconut oil and ghee; coconut oil can actually help lower LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) while ghee is packed with Vitamins A, D, E, and K.

The importance of regular exercise

Staying active is important; exercise helps lower levels of white fat (which is quite inactive) and boosts brown fat (which is calorie-burning fat). Exercise also helps battle stress, which is a major impediment for weight loss and a risk factor for everything from Type 2 diabetes to heart disease. Aerobic and strength exercises are key, but you should also consider holistic activities such as yoga and mindfulness meditation, found in numerous studies to lower stress hormone levels.

Try to avoid sitting down for various hours straight, embrace a low-glycemic index diet, and exercise regularly to boost your brown fat levels and battle stress. True health cannot be achieved through diet alone. There is an undeniable link between our physical, mental, and spiritual health so tap into this connection in the best way possible: by making the right lifestyle choices.

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