Donal O’Neill is an independent documentary filmmaker, who has covered wide arrays of topics related to health and fitness from last six years in his documentaries. Coming from sports family background with no bad habits, bewildered him seeing his loved ones becoming victims of modern diseases. This made him dig deep in to the limitations of medical industry.
Donal’s debut feature length documentary ‘Cereal Killers’ focuses on unhealthy breakfast cereals, which has replaced traditional foods around the globe. Cornflakes were created by mistake, and the reasons to sell them have detrimental repercussions. He adds, “I look at food like ghee in India and sacred foods from other cultures, which have been unfortunately displaced by modern marketing techniques and artificial options like vegetable oil or sunflower oil. We are losing the touch of wisdom from our ancestors, who didn’t need doctors because they never got sick and lived long healthy lives.” Cereals contain high amount of sugar, which is way more than the recommended intake of five teaspoons by World Health Organization.
Nowadays, people prefer cereals in the morning, thinking it’s healthy and takes less time to prepare. But it’s not enough for the body, so they are hungry again in few hours. Instead, a good-fat based meal would solve the problem of overeating. Also, there is a myth to have huge quantities of protein to maintain a healthy diet, but too much can cause some serious damage to the body. Diseases like cancer, osteoporosis and obesity are one of the few issues that are partly caused by high doses of animal protein in certain cases. However, egg is the greatest source of proteins and amino acids. Breakfast is an important meal of the day, as it peps up the entire body to function for the next twelve hours. Two to three eggs or vegetables with coconut oil for breakfast are ideal. To understand processed food that claims to be healthy, one must read the ingredients of the product. And, if it has more than one ingredient, it’s an artificially contrived food like breakfast cereals. All these low fat products have sugars, sweeteners and artificial additives. Imagine having cornflakes, which is high in sugar added with processed low fat milk—a disaster.
Fats are important for the body, but the products all over the world have brainwashed health conscious eaters that fats are bad. According to Donal O’neill fats are good. Especially, fatty acids protect from heart diseases and high blood pressure. And fat doesn’t make you fat! For instance, half bowl of rice with more ghee is much tastier and healthier than full bowl of rice on its own. O’neill says, “People need to understand that fat is not only nourishing, but also much more satiating. Besides fats, protein is the next best option. Whereas, carbohydrates and sugars continually make you hungry, and that’s a big problem today.”
Donal O’neill worked closely with renowned UK’s cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra for his documentary ‘The Big Fat Fix’. Before Donal was on his way to India to embolden Stepathlon’s vision about staying healthy and fit, Dr Malhotra just wanted to share one simple message with India—”Move a bit more, move more often, and rest will follow.” During the research, they found out that people who were active, who moved throughout the day lived longer than others who had a sedentary lifestyle. Moreover, Stepathlon did a study on comparison of people then and now. They discovered that men and women who worked throughout the day had a very similar regime to exercises done today; the calorific reward was similar. O’neill adds, “Women use to clean the floors, men use to cut woods in the forest or build things, and they were healthier because it was constant. They didn’t know, they were not thinking about exercise, there were no gyms hundred years ago, people just moved as part of their everyday lives, they were busy doing stuff.”
Cut down rice, and increase vegetable intake. Have more ghee and coconut oil, as it’s filling. Also, coconut flesh is an excellent option. However, doctors and health institutes have scared-off by saying that cholesterol makes a person fat—it’s not true. O’neill adds, “Fat does not make you fat; sugar makes you fat.” Yes, fat does raise the cholesterol. 75 per cent of heart attack, cardiac arrest victims have regular, normal cholesterol levels. As Dr Malhotra says, “We have been looking at it the wrong way.” Coconut is the best component to raise your good cholesterol. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars trying to create a drug to do what a coconut does to cholesterol levels. No one can beat nature.
It is a common practice in India to drink tea or coffee with lots of sugar in it. Imagine the amount of sugar lurking inside the processed foods. Even, to create sugar, the whole process to crystallize it takes away all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fibre. In fact, sugary drinks increases hunger pangs and raise blood sugar levels. Not only sugar influences energy levels in the body, but also fizzles out quickly. It’s definitely not a long run option. O’neill asserts, “Coconut water will not do what sugar does to your body. Look over your shoulders for answers. Indian food is sacred.”
For O’neill India is a food paradise. He can’t believe that traditional options like ghee and coconut have been pushed away, and refined foods have taken the centre stage just like anywhere in the world today. It’s sad that India too is leading in to development of Type 2.
Movement is important; it should be part of the lifestyle. Getting up and moving around at least every 45 minutes is a better option than relying on exercises alone. Science has proven that people who move around constantly are healthier than people who exercise, but don’t move around at all. Follow simple activities like getting a glass of water or going to the bathroom.
Education is also depends on good health. A healthy child will perform better than an unhealthy child. O’neill suggests, “If we tell children to drink coconut water before soft drinks that will be tremendous step forward, but parents must lead by example. Concentration of children is very important, sugary and starchy products won’t help with that, but traditional foods absolutely will!” Natural fats like ghee, butter, coconut oil and olive oil, followed by protein—fish, meat and chicken are good sources of rich food. Vegetarians need not worry, as nuts will do the needful to maintain good health, apart from beans, pulses and chickpeas. One gram of protein per kilogram of the body weight is sufficient. Since protein supplements have artificial sweeteners, it’s not an ideal health drink.
O’neill concludes, “Rice and rotis are staple foods in India. Similarly, in Ireland, our staple food is potatoes, which never made someone ill hundred years ago. It is when you start adding processed foods like soft drinks, sugars or breads in to your diet, which adds up to marginal little things to a bad performance within the body. To turn that around you can take small steps to improve your health. Rice is not a nourishing food, but if you take a smaller portion of rice with vegetables cooked in coconut oil or ghee would do the trick.