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This article was first published 3 years ago  » Getahead » Ask Komal: Are vegetarian diets unhealthy?

Ask Komal: Are vegetarian diets unhealthy?

November 11, 2020 13:24 IST
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Plant foods are rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which provide many essential nutrients including fibre, says nutritionist Komal Jethmalani.


Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposesPhotograph: Kind courtesy Andrea Piacquadio/

Dear readers, are you worried about your health as we battle COVID-19?

Concerned about what you and your family are eating as you cope with staying indoors?

Struggling with weight gain?

Or are you facing other heath issues like diabetes, blood pressure, joint pain or heart problems?

Please mail your questions to Nutritionist Komal Jethmalani for her advice.

I am 173 cm in height and weigh around 100 kg. I intend to lose weight and get into the 80 -85 kg bracket by January 2021.
I have already lost 8 kg from September 15th till today 19th October.
I walk about 10,000 steps at an average per day. 
Kindly suggest diet plans and exercises.

It is good to know that you have already made a lot of effort towards losing weight.

But I hope the 8 kg loss has not occurred in a month! As you have not given the exact year, hopefully you have had a gradual weight loss.

A sudden loss of weight in a short period of time is unhealthy and is mainly achieved by starvation diets which results in loss of lean mass.

Aim at fat loss rather than weight loss.

The ideal way to lose fat percentage from your body is by having a balanced diet which should meet all the macro and micro nutrient requirements and include low fat, high protein, high fibre foods to increase your metabolism.

In addition to this, you must incorporate a fitness schedule which can include cardio activities, like the 10,000 steps which you are already accomplishing.

Along with this, strength training exercises will boost your metabolism and increase your muscle mass.

Start doing endurance exercises regularly and build up on them on a gradual basis.

Make sure your diet is in compliance with your exercises.


Hello Komal,
Nice insights, thank you so much. Could you please help me with my diet routine? 
History - I am a delivery driver overseas for food chains.
My HBA1C came out 12.7 and my body has been thoroughly abused I was drinking during this time for almost 10 months.
My LFT KFT Cholestrol are OK now.
For cholesterol, sugar, BP, I have been prescribed allopathy medicine which I have already cut down on by replacing it with homeopathy.
My sugar is well under control now. 
I want to detox on a periodic basis.
At times recently I experienced back pain/ chest pain in rib area which seems muscular goes away after applying Moov/oil massage (which could be hypoglycemia).
There was a radiating pain, again periodic, in my lower abdomen which I started having after getting injured by someone two years ago on the job. It’s minor and does not stop me from my day to day activities.
Please if you could help me come up with a diet routine -- for my liver, kidney, heart overall health. Thank you so much.

I am glad that you have brought your blood sugar levels under check and have controlled your drinking habits.

Diabetes management is a lifelong requirement.

As long as you understand the principles behind carbohydrate management, your blood levels will remain in a safe zone.

Keep all your blood parameters in the normal range by incorporating healthy lifestyle changes.

For overall health, follow a balanced diet which meets your daily requirements and is customised for your conditions.

Include an exercise schedule which will help you lower these blood parameters by burning excess calories in the diet and improving your resistance.

Avoid eating junk food, drink plenty of water, have good sleep hours and remain positive.

Add supplements in case of any nutrient deficiency.

Certain pains can be ignored, but keep a watch and get regular body checks done.

Hypoglycaemia would give symptoms of feeling shaky, hunger, sweating, irritability, fast heartbeat, etc. Make sure your pains are not due to any other cause.

Working in front of a computer

** Photograph: Kind courtesy Unsplash/

Dear Komal
I am working in front of the computer at home since office is not open.
I am 45 years old.
Now I am having knee and back and shoulder pain.
How to improve this?
Please help.

Unfortunately, with WFH due to the current scenario, physical activities are getting restricted.

Include an exercise pattern including endurance and strength training, during out of work hours, preferably in the morning. This will also keep you metabolically active and tone up your muscles.

This can be done at home with the help of live videos.

The stiffness in your knee, back and shoulder may be due to lack of physical exercise, which can cause pain.

Include a healthy diet which contains high calcium and protein foods.

Make sure your Vitamin D levels are maintained as, with less exposure in the sun, your Vitamin D requirements may not be met. You may have to include some additional supplements in your diet.

Different people at home want different things to eat.
If I make bhajiyas for my children, my in-laws eat too which is not good.
My husband has gained weight.
I am fed up of planning menus.
How can I make healthy food for all and keep the family happy?

I honestly sympathise with you about catering to everyone’s palate.

It is a mundane task to prepare individual dishes for different family members.

But you are the focal point, the queen of the kitchen, who can best decide what your family eats.

Though indulgence occasionally is fine, be firm with all.

Make them aware of the long term consequences of eating unhealthy food.

Lure them by including healthy foods like fruits, nuts, curd, etc, during the mid-meals/snacks time rather than unhealthy savouries.

Use healthy fats while cooking like olive oil, mustard oil, coconut oil or canola oil which are heart-healthy.

Butter and ghee are rich in saturated fats which we should not consume in large portions. But they are rich sources of Vitamins A, D, E and K.

Thus, overall consumption of fat should be monitored.

Make a variety of dishes with these healthy fats, less sugar and minimal salt.

Overall health can be maintained by incorporating healthy lifestyle habits and a good fitness regimen.

Dear Komal
In our area, many people don’t wear masks so I am afraid to go out unnecessarily.
How do I maintain exercise and health at home?
I am 26 years old and slightly overweight.

In today’s scenario it is better to be safe than sorry. I appreciate your decision to be wise and curtailing your visits outdoors while people are moving around without masks.

Follow a healthy balanced diet, avoid processed, and packaged foods, unhealthy fries, high fat and sugar foods, savouries, etc.

Avoid binge eating, skipping meals, erratic eating patterns.

This, along with a daily exercise schedule which should include endurance and strengthening exercises, will go a long way to attain a fit body.

Follow live aerobic and exercise videos, keep yourself active during the day and remain positive.


** Photograph: Kind courtesy Polina Kovaleva/

Hi Komal
What tips do you have for vegetarians?
Also, since we don’t go out much, how does that affect our Vitamin D? And I also keep hearing about Vitamin B12?
Are there any other vitamins and tablets we should take?
My friend has started taking zinc.

Vegetarian diets are healthy if taken in the correct combinations and proportions.

Although the first quality protein is obtained from animal food, we can procure good quality proteins from plant foods as well.

Plant foods are rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which provide many essential nutrients including fibre.

Fibre is an antidote for many ailments -- mainly gut health. A balanced healthy diet must contain sufficient amount of fibre to be a metabolically active diet.

As the sources of B12 are mainly animal foods, most vegetarians do have its deficiency.

Lacto-vegetarians may not have this deficiency but strict vegans may require additional supplements.

Exposure to direct sunlight is the best way of gain Vitamin D. But if that is restricted, you may develop a deficiency.

To prevent the same, you can include sea food, mushrooms, eggs, etc, in your diet and additional Vitamin D supplements.

Our diet can provide all the macro and micro nutrients if it meets individual requirements.

Plant foods are also rich sources of phytonutrients, which are powerful antioxidants like zinc, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C, etc, that can help fight the damage caused to our bodies’ cells over time.

If these requirements are not fulfilled by diet alone, then supplements may be required to prevent deficiencies which can otherwise impact our health and immunity. 

Komal Jethamalani is a dietician with over 25 years of experience in food, nutrition and dietetics, with an MSc in food science and nutrition.

She is a certified diabetes educator and lifestyle coach, specialising in diabetic, cardiovascular, weight loss and various therapeutic diets.

And she will try and help you achieve your dietary and fitness goals through healthy lifestyle changes.

Do share your complete health details including age, weight, height and health issues if any.

Write to (Subject: Ask Komal), along with your name. You are most welcome to share your photograph as well.

This column is an advisory. Please do consult your doctor as well.

Disclaimer: All content and media herein is written and published online for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It should not be relied on as your only source for advice.

Please always seek the guidance of your doctor or a qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Do not ever disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read herein.

If you believe you may have a medical or mental health emergency, please call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital, or call emergency services or emergency helplines immediately. If you choose to rely on any information provided herein, you do so solely at your own risk.

Opinions expressed herein cannot necessarily provide advice to fit the exact specifics of the issues of the person requesting advice.

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