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October 11, 2019

‘Parathas’ are costing us in money and health’


October 11, 2019

Islamabad :‘Parathas’—a staple item in the Pakistani cuisine— are eaten for breakfast by 60% of the Pakistanis living in the urban areas and 37% living in the rural areas. Since they require a lot of oil to prepare, nutritionists recommend that ‘parathas’ be eaten in moderation due to their high fat content.

“Eating ‘parathas’ has its adverse effects, not only on the health of Pakistanis but also on the country’s economy, given that the oil used in their preparation costs Rs245 billion each year. Pakistan has a population of 220 million. Research reveals that 112 million people consume ‘parathas’ every day. Since an average of 30 grams (2 tablespoon) of oil or ghee are consumed per ‘paratha,’ this adds up to about 3,400,000 kilograms (3,400 tons) of oil used daily, and 1.2 million tons per year. The average price of oil is R200 per kilogram, depending on the types and brands, so within each year, a hefty sum of Rs245 billion is used for oil in ‘paratha’,” stated Dr. Rezzan Khan, consultant nutritionist and head of the Clinical Nutrition Department at Shifa International Hospital, while quoting latest research.

Dr. Rezzan was sharing her views in the context of World Obesity Day, which is globally observed on October 11 each year to promote practical solutions to end the obesity crises, raise awareness, support advocacy, and improve policymaking around the issue of treating and preventing obesity. She regretted how people in Pakistan are basically paying out of their pockets to ruin their health. Excess oil consumption has been linked to obesity and many health hazards.

“To lower your risk of Non-Communicable Diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, or to manage your existing diseases, certain tips can be adopting while preparing ‘parathas’,” she said. To this effect, the nutritionist suggested that the size of the ‘parathas’ be kept moderate; that they should be made from 6 tablespoons of whole wheat flour which is equal to 2 slices of bread; that one should prefer the use of small amounts of healthy fat and oil such as mustard oil, olive oil, sesame oil, or nuts oil. “These oils, due to their high monounsaturated fat content, could improve health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Also, they are rich in natural plant antioxidants, which protect the body against cell damage. All kinds of oils give the same amount of calories, and excess amount increase body fat (causing obesity). Since 80% of the cholesterol from oil is synthesized in the body, one needs to be careful with the amount of oil consumed. This can be broken down in the body and rebuilt as cholesterol or stored as fat,” Dr. Rezzan explained.

The nutritionist also recommended reducing the amount of ghee or oil that you put in the ‘paratha.’ Use any oil/ghee in small quantity (1-2 teaspoons per ‘paratha’) on slow heat to prevent damaging your health. “Try making small chapatti and spreading a small amount of uncooked healthy oil on it to satisfy the taste buds in a healthy way,” she added.

Dr. Rezzan, who is also in-charge of the Islamabad Chapter of Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society, believes it is easier to create awareness when laws are made by the government and enforced by various department and agencies. She expressed that President Arif Alvi, being from the medical field and understanding the gravity of the situation, should lead some initiative to help reduce the damage to health caused by excessive calorie intake in Pakistan.

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