Health in an era of urbanisation |

In Good Health: Exercise is Key but Nutrition Plays a Vital Role


With the plethora of information out there with regard to exercise and diet, NOW! Jakarta spoke to nutritionist Geeta Seth, about diet fads and the importance of keeping ourselves in check.

Geeta Seth explains how nutrition plays vital role to our body. Photo/Personal Doc/NOW!JAKARTA

In recent years we have been hearing about diets like the keto diet, the gluten free diet that challenge the recommendations that have established for decades. What’s your view on this as a nutritionist? 

As a nutritionist, I come from a scientific background. It’s important to know how the body works. It needs carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins minerals and fats. So when you go on diets they all are not usually full diets. There is usually something missing. Some diets will say you need lots of fat and they will try to prove it. Some will say coconut oil has medium chain triglycerides, which it does and it’s good for you but but that doesn’t mean you should only use that in large quantities.

Everyday the body repairs itself based on physical activity and the internal functions, the body needs protein to repair muscles and amino acids which we get from meat, but people eat large quantities of one food, like foods that have a concentration of amino acids and that leads to problems. I have clients who have problems with uric acid because of high protein diets. Carbohydrates are the basic energy; there are two types: simple and complex. Simple gives you instant energy, the complex is more slow release, like brown rice and oats, which also provide fibre.

So if you eat a diet devoid of carbs where are you going to get the energy from? Likewise, fat is the insulation, so you can’t stay away from it. There are also vitamins and such that are helpful in repairing hair and skin. So you should not deprive the body of  vitamins, minerals, whole foods, vegetables, etc that are needed to sweep the intestines and make sure we don’t get sick. 

So we should follow Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) then?
Yes, RDAs are there for a reason and it is advisable that they be followed. For example if the RDA recommends a certain amount of calcium, that’s what you should have because often if you fall below the required amount the body will take it from the bones and perhaps weaken the bones. That will result in low bone density or weak hones and risk osteopenia [a condition before full blown osteoporosis]. So it’s important to have a balance of everything.

How can we as lay individuals understand the importance of nutrition especially with our busy lives? Also, are there specific guidelines Indonesians could follow for optimum health especially with regard to the cuisine here?
A general education is important. Indonesians are phone savvy, so they should follow the recommended allowance and can find out the information online. There are many books as well that detail the right amount of calories for them and their activity level. 

Eating junk food become one of urban lifestyle today.

What about exercise? What are the ideal exercises one can take to be healthy?
Ideally you must do a minimum of 30 minutes per day. It could be walking, cycling, yoga, anything that that involves physical activity. If it’s 45 minutes to an hour that’s even better. And if you combine it with proper diet then it would be ideal. 

So often we hear things like “I’m over 35, I’m busy with family and I’ve gained weight because of a slow metabolism”. Is there some truth to this? Can this be fixed?
Your metabolism stays with you. It doesn’t decline as you age if you keep exercising. If you eat in time, if you get enough rest, the right nutrition and exercise, then it won’t be a problem. Your metabolism will remain high. It’s a choice we make. You need to eat at the same time everyday and get enough rest to be able to lead a healthy life. 

You just mentioned something about eating a certain time every night. So what we hear about eating dinner early in the evening is true?
Yes, it helps. The earlier the dinner the better. If you eat a large dinner, the body will take a long time to digest it. It can’t distribute the energy. You’ll then end up being overloaded at night and down the road this could lead to weight gain and other complications such as diseases related to lifestyle.


This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine July 2018 issue “Health in a Era of Urbanisation”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.