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Indian Food has potential to change the health profile of US~ the key to fight Obesity

Is the situation alarming and needs out of the box solution? Please read below.

Obesity in the United States has been increasingly cited as a major health issue in recent decades. While many industrialized countries have experienced similar increases, obesity rates in the United States are among the highest in the world.[3]

Of all countries, the United States has the highest rate of obesity. From 13% obesity in 1962, estimates have steadily increased, reaching 19.4% in 1997, 24.5% in 2004,[4] 26.6% in 2007,[5] and 33.8% (adults) and 17% (children) in 2008.[6][7] In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported higher numbers once more, counting 35.7% of American adults as obese, and 17% of American children.[8]

According to a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), in 2008, the obesity rate among adult Americans was estimated at 32.2% for men and 35.5% for women; these rates were roughly confirmed by the CDC again for 2009-2010. Using different criteria, a Gallup survey found the rate was 26.1% for U.S. adults in 2011, up from 25.5% in 2008. Though the rate for women has held steady over the previous decade, the obesity rate for men continued to increase between 1999 and 2008, the JAMA study notes. Moreover, "The prevalence of obesity for adults aged 20 to 74 years increased by 7.9 percentage points for men and by 8.9 percentage points for women between 1976-1980 and 1988-1994, and subsequently by 7.1 percentage points for men and by 8.1 percentage points for women between 1988-1994 and 1999-2000."[9][10]

Obesity has been cited as a contributing factor to approximately 100,000-400,000 deaths in the United States per year[11] and has increased health care use and expenditures,[12][13][14][15] costing society an estimated $117 billion in direct (preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to weight) and indirect (absenteeism, loss of future earnings due to premature death) costs.[16] This exceeds health-care costs associated with smoking or problem drinking[15] and accounts for 6% to 12% of national health care expenditures in the United States.[17]

All references at the end of article.

Compare US scenario with the other countries in the world.

Fattest Countries in the World
More than 1.6 billion people in the world are either overweight or obese, according to a recent study by the World Health Organization. Here's a look at the countries with the highest percent of overweight adults (people age 15 and over). People are considered overweight if their body mass index (BMI) is 25 or higher and obese with a BMI or 30 or higher.

Rank Country % Overweight or obese
1 Nauru 94.5
2 Federated States of Micronesia 91.1
3 Cook Islands 90.9
4 Tonga 90.8
5 Niue 81.7
6 Samoa 80.4
7 Palau 78.4
8 Kuwait 74.2
9 United States 74.1
10 Kiribati 73.6
11 Dominica 71.0
12 Barbados 69.7
13 Argentina 69.4
14 Egypt 69.4
15 Malta 68.7
16 Greece 68.5
17 New Zealand 68.4
18 United Arab Emirates 68.3
19 Mexico 68.1
20 Trinidad and Tobago 67.9

China is at 148th rank and India at 176th out of 200 countries.

Read More:Fattest Countries in the World |

The obesity rate in India and China hovers around 5% and a lot of analysts don't accept this as a positive sign. They claim in India almost 30% of the population does not have access to nutritious or proper food, hence the lower rate. But one thing they miss altogether is that 90% of these obese people in India live in the metro cities, have access to the fast food or junk food like here in US as the multi-national food chains have mushroomed all over in these cities. So even 5% obesity or around 16% overweight prevalence in India could be attributed to this fast food culture inherited from the western countries.

We believe that the Indian food with plethora of beneficial spices and our eating style and habits are major contributor to such low rate of overweight or obesity in India.

Let us go through CDC take on this issue. In the 'Prevention' section, the role of food and beverage industry comes into the picture. As a responsible member of this group, our food has potential to change the health profile of US in the next 20 years almost a generation. Full write-up in appendix 1 & 2.

3 inherent qualities of Indian Food can bring down obesity rate in US:
1. less red meat and dairy products consumption,
2. more intake of whole grain and vegetables
3. healthy substitute for soda and alcohol

First and foremost Indian food is 'curry' based. Curry’ is a liquid formation (gravy) combining the base sauce (mostly onion, tomato, spinach etc) with plethora of spices. For example ‘Tikka Masala’ curry is a combination of onion sauce and tomato sauce along with the spices and the dairy cream as it is a curry with dairy. For ‘Coconut’ curry, we use coconut milk with the onion sauce. At ‘Nirmal’, we have 13 types of curries (8 without dairy) which you can mix with 8 items such as Soya chunks, Tofu or Paneer (Indian cheese) or Chicken or Goat meat or Shrimp. Please read 'why you should eat curry' at

Main items in Indian food are rice (white mostly) and bread (whole wheat Roti or Naan made from white flour), the entrees are side items. So in our meal we end up eating more whole grain in comparison to meat or other items. Recently at our restaurant we got rid of Butter naan and introduced 'vegan' olive naan sprayed with olive oil, a first at Indian cuisine scene in US. Read appendix 4 for more info.

Plenty of veg and vegan options, Tofu and Soya chunks, a regular fixture in our daily menu, try our curry or Biryani with soya chunks, which we treat as a great meat substitute in India.

Paneer (Indian cheese) is a type of cottage cheese and perhaps only vegetarian cheese and has lot of benefits. Read appendix 5 for more info.

No beef or pork in Indian cuisine due to religious beliefs, chicken based dishes mostly white meat, goat with bones (the healthiest meat around), boneless goat, shrimp, and fish. Read appendix 6 for more info.

Chicken with bones curry is one of the most popular items at the campuses which we served, reduces meat consumption.

Tandoori chicken (with bones) or chicken kebabs (boneless white meat) are a perfect substitute to grilled or roasted beef or pork items. These are cooked in special clay oven called 'Tandoor.' If you want to have our spices without curry, 'tandoori' items are the best options

Goat with bones is our specialty, Goat is the healthiest meat even better than chicken and it is consumed by almost 75% of the world population.

Out of total meat consumption in the world, pork contributes 38%, poultry 30% and beef 25%. Indian cuisine has distinct advantage with respect to other Asian or Mediterranean cuisine on 3 counts ~ 1. no beef or pork 2. Curry based food, hence less meat and more vegetables, grain 3. Plentiful usage of beneficial spices, a history of 5000 years to back-up our claim

Avoid 'Buffet', it is an addiction, how? Most of the Indian buffets are priced around $9-10. And there are 10-12 items in the buffet. So you want to try most of the items which look good and to get the value for your money. So you end up taking 5-6 items for example. Now a normal person can or should eat 400 grams (1 pound is 454 grams) in one full meal. In buffet you can't take out the left-over food for home and you have this guilt for wasting the food on your plate. Eventually you end up over-eating most of the times.
Then as you eat 5-6 items in $10, you are never going to order one item for $10 in the dinner or take-out. As it would seem to you pricey and rightly so. So if again want to try Indian food, you would again come back for the buffet and end up over-eating. And you won't be able to come out of this vicious cycle. This observation is as per my experience during the last 3 years. Only 3% buffet eaters came for the dinner at our restaurant or got take-out. This defeats the whole purpose of eating Indian food where curry rules the roost. In buffet you are free to eat as much meat as you can.
We stopped serving buffet in Feb 2013. Incidentally in India only 2% of restaurants (most of them at high end) have buffet, not sure why 95% of Indian restaurants in the US doing buffet.
Just one suggestion if you are looking for fresh food, avoid the buffet altogether. We learnt hard way that doing buffet in right way is not commercially viable. Hence we substituted buffet with Food Box (5 items in $5) available throughout the day ~ for lunch (11.30am to 3.30pm) and for dinner (3.30pm to 7.30pm).
We do the 'daily' menu putting new items everyday and sharing these with our patrons through facebook, twitter (Nirmal Indian cuisine or @Nirmal Curry). Idea is to introduce our diverse cuisine in full to the people here, not some fixed items in the menu.

Not much cream or dairy at our place, most of the Indian restaurants here in US try to Americanize (adding cream, cheese etc) the Indian food, we don't. In India we do not eat as much cream or butter what you would find in the Indian dishes here.

Omelet without cheese, try our omelet curry, to introduce omelet sandwich or naan wrap with omelete.

Naan pizza without cheese, a novelty, with chicken tikka or paneer methi

Sandwich with white meat chicken or paneer or vegan without cheese.

Indian drinks (mango lassi, thandai, cumin drink etc) have no alcohol and have beneficial spices,

Our desserts are mostly dairy based, concerted effort to bring as many vegan options as possible, fruit chutney, vegan halwa to replace rice pudding eventually

The whole idea behind this write-up is to enable you to make an informed choice to opt for Indian food and that too at one go. We want Indian food to be the part of your regular meal not something which you indulge once a month eating cream, butter or whatever you find.

2 things during the last 3 years motivated us to go whole hog to pursue this mission for pitching Indian cuisine as a key to reduce obesity. First while serving at 8 corporate cafeterias for 6 months in 2012, we were not able to build our customer base as people (mostly in age group of 35-55) opted for beef or pork sandwich and kind of ignored our food even for once a week. We admit it is difficult to change your eating habits as an adult hence our focus on the kids in the schools and colleges. Second we were able to build a customer base and sustain it for the last 3 years at the college c ampuses we served. When we started serving in the University of Michigan campus at Ann Arbor in 2010, we were the first Indian food vendor in 30 plus cafeterias in the campus with almost 20% Asian students. So now Food box (5 items in $5) is our flagship item at Nirmal as it was at the campuses. It is available whole day (Mon-Sat ~11.30am to 7.30pm) along with ala-carte and take-out.

Honestly when we started our restaurant at Ypsilanti, MI in Oct 2009, we were just an Indian restaurant with a big goal - to make an Indian food chain in US.

Now we have a mission alongside a goal. Let us join hands together to fight this menace of obesity, we owe this to our kids and the future generations.

For more details, please see whyIndianfood_appendixes.pdf