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Panic mode

Eat, but pray what?

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QUITE A MOUTHFUL: Opinion is divided on milk. According to some studies, it leads to calcium loss

Eggs are healthy one day, harmful the next. White rice is full of empty calories but brown rice has arsenic in it. Tomatoes fight cancer but cause kidney stones. How is a health nut to survive food fads?

Pinky Mehra is in panic mode. December 21, 2012 is just a week away and she is yet to shop for health foods that she plans to take with her in the underground bunker her wealthy father, a real estate tycoon, has built in the basement of their palatial kothi in a posh Delhi enclave. All of 28, she is a health food junkie who can't afford to mess with her five-foot-fiveinch 58-kg frame. She can imagine her life postapocalypse without her Mini Cooper, the Sunday picnics at Lodhi Gardens and farmhouse parties in Chattarpur, but she cannot survive without the greens, the brown rice, the quinoa and other fad foods that got her into shape after years of struggle.

She finally reaches INA market to do her shopping. Right away, she walks over to the fruit corner. Fresh fruits are the key to good health. They are packed with a variety of cancer-fighting antioxidants and. Her day starts with a glass of fresh fruit juice. Earlier, she used to have a glass of lauki juice, as prescribed by the hirsute baba on television. But then that uncleji died after his morning dose of the juice and she switched to fruit juice. Clearly, little could go wrong with fruits. Just then her BBM pings. It's Rinki, her best friend forever.

She has forwarded her a news link from Tuesday's paper. "On a diet? Filling up on fruit and vegetables WON'T trick you into eating less. " With sweaty fingers Pinky scrolls down the page. "Being on a fruit- and vegetable-heavy diet for months made no long-term difference in the volunteers assessments of their own hunger and fullness, American researchers found. . . People ate about 400 more calories, on average, during the test day when they started lunch with juice, compared to when they started with solid fruit. . . "

Pinki feels like the world is slowly collapsing around her. If fruit does not help in weight loss, then what will? Confused and scared, she moves on. "Let me stock up on milk, instead. "

A cup of milk gives you 300 mg of calcium and the Indian woman needs 600 mg. "So, half the requirement is met with just one cup of milk a day. Yippey!" thinks Pinki. It was just the other day she had read that low fat dairy lowered the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women.

As Pinky moves her food trolley towards the dairy section, she crosses the newsstand. Wait. . . What is this? The cover of latest Healthy & Wealthy is screaming out a warning: milk leads to loss of calcium! Pinky can't believe her eyes. She's been drinking two glasses of milk every day since she was a kid. If this news is true then her bones must paper-thin by now, she realises with alarm.

Now, Pinky is sure that the world is headed for an end. Is there anything healthy left to eat? Already eggs, coffee and potatoes are caught in an eternal nutritional twilight zone where you can never tell if they are good for you or not from one day to the next.

She's mulling over her fruit-less, milk-less future when she sees the pasta counter. Surely, whole-wheat pasta still bears the "healthy" tag? Apparently not anymore. It's been pipped by glutenfree variety which, reportedly, is all the rage in Hollywood. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Victoria Beckham - with glowing cheeks and giraffelike thighs - have been gushing about gluten-free diets to tabloids. "If Victoria is saying this, then it must be true, " thinks Pinki and picks up a packet.

Tired and frustrated she decides to buy a bottle of red wine. She'll have it with gluten-free pasta. She needs to de-stress but healthily. An attendant hands her a bottle of cabernet. "But I want malbec, " says Pinki. "Oh, don't you know?" the attendant asks her with surprise. "Just any red wine will not do. To get maximum health benefits you need to drink varieties with a relatively dry profile because they are richer in concentration of resveratrol (the pigment which gives red wine its hearthealthy properties). " She has lost her zeal to eat healthy. Before it's too late she reaches out for several packets of 2-minute noodles on the fast food shelf.

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