Wednesday, November 16, 2005















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probing eyes
Of budgets and diets
Mahmudur Rahman

          Now that Ramadan, never the happiest time for the eatery business is behind us and all bonuses have been paid out and done with it can only be a matter of time before the exploding prices of essentials starts to have an impact on them. The timing couldn't be worse given the bad buffeting they have undergone by the drive against adulterated food.
Maybe so, maybe not.
Already known as one of the most expensive in the region in terms of the average purchasing power it will be interesting to see whether they soak up the impact (meaning they had the extra padding) or jack up their prices (meaning they still want to hold on to their high profit margins). It is also ironic that the bulk of the food business during the month is essentially concentrated on street-side sales and purchases meaning thereby that the quality and ingredients used are even more questionable.
It was interesting to watch a half hour or so of sales in one the fast food joints in Dhaka. During that period this scribe saw burgers and such worth Tk 1000 being sold, that too on a holiday when educational institutions and offices were closed for the holidays!
In such a situation it does make an amusing diversion to take another look at dietary habits, especially in wake of some of the recent findings by science. Some of these may be surprising but actually aren't given that we are used to science telling us one thing and then, due to research of course, telling us that what had been said before wasn't actually so. If it sounds confusing -- it is but then so is the way of the world.
Red meat, a veritable no-no for all kinds of reason has found its way back to favour when indulged in, provided it is occasional. Why? Because it's also a good source of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12 -- nutrients most women don't get enough of. The trick is in finding lean beef. It's the iron that makes the meat dark! And thank heavens that the bulk of the population in neighbouring India doesn't consume beef. We would have had a real beef with prices had that been so!
We normally eat our chicken without skin, except maybe at times with fast food. Just as well because the skin is where most of the fat frolics in poultry! Let there be sound a note of warning to our ladies who love to serve chicken skin with the liver and such of our feathered friends.
One of the exciting new theories is that shrimp is not the cholesterol-oozing bad guy it's made out to be. It is high in protein and low in fat. Its dietary cholesterol has been classified OK because this is not the same -- or usually as bad -- as that scary blood cholesterol. According to research a three-ounce serving of shrimp is crammed with 18 grams of protein, but only has one gram of fat!
When it comes to bread, machine made or hand rolled the verdict is quite clear. We are asked to stick with whole grain (read Lal Atta and Lal rice) to enjoy the benefits of a tasty high-fiber fat burner. Experts suggest that the complex carbohydrates that accompany whole-grain bread are a great source of energy.
When it comes to cheese we all know, many cheeses are filled with fat and calories, but they're also great sources of calcium. In addition, cheese contains a good fat (conjugated linoleic acid) that is purported to possibly reducing risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The beauty is that the hard-to-pronounce substance may also help lose weight by blocking the storage of fat in the body!
Coffee drinkers will be buoyed by the news that new studies dispute the claims that caffeine causes heart disease, fibrocystic breasts and high blood pressure. On the flip side, caffeine relieves allergy symptoms, makes you more alert and improves your concentration. Even so we are warned not to overdo it. The suggestion is to limit intake to no more than three cups a day and to go easy on the cream or sugar.
Eggs are high in cholesterol. But many researchers now say its saturated fat -- not cholesterol -- that's most important when it comes to heart health. The incredible edible egg is low in fat (less than five grams per egg), and they contain the eye-strengthening nutrient lutein. But obviously we are likewise advised to stay away from cheesy scrambled eggs or fried eggs and concentrate more on poached, hard-boiled or soft-boiled eggs.
There's little argument that milk is a great source of calcium that prevents or retards the onset of the bone disease -- osteoporosis. High blood pressure patients are advised to drink low fat milk. Some studies show milk just might lower your BP and your weight!
One of the radical findings relates to nuts, previously though to be full of fat. Well scientists now agree that nuts are high in fat but it's the "good" monounsaturated fat that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Due to their fat content nuts help one feel full longer. Again the advice is to limit indulgence to perhaps a small handful of nuts daily.
We now come to the much aligned potato. We are now told that potatoes aren't loaded with fat-depositing carbohydrates. Its non-fat energy source, fiber and antioxidants are actually good for you as long as the serving is essentially in baked form. Fries, fried and roasted potatoes are still no nos. Our famous Alu Bharta is fine provided it is not consumed on its own as combining a carbohydrate with a protein (as in meat or fish) prevents the jump in blood sugar. Also, the fiber from the potato jacket (we always skin our potatoes, don't we?) helps slow the blood-sugar rise.
And finally to salt, the much maligned seasoning. New research indicates the link between salt and high blood pressure and heart disease may not be as solid as once thought. The American Heart Association now recommends a consumption of no more than six grams of salt a day. Wonders will never cease. (The writer is a free lance journalist, a veteran television newscaster and a corporate executive)


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