Global Diet and Lifestyles with Nutritionist Deepa
This week we brought on Deepa Deshmukh to talk about her experience as a plant-based nutritionist. Deepa has a unique background that includes training in food science and nutrition. She is one of only a handful of dietitians nationwide, who are Board Certified in Advanced Diabetes Management (BC-ADM). She is also a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDCES) and holds a certificate in Adult Weight Management. In 2020, Deepa was recognized as a Top 10 Dietitian in the country by Today’s Dietitian Publication for her innovative approach to health and wellness. Deepa has been practicing Functional and Integrative Nutrition since 2006. Many of Deepa’s recommendations are based on the principles of the ancient ‘Ayurvedic System of Medicine’ where the focus is on healing and nourishing the body and mind by eating natural and wholesome foods. Her passion for wholesome food is evident in her ability to create recipes using in-season and natural ethnic ingredients that fit into one’s daily lifestyle. Her clinical protocol uses a plant-based approach to achieve gut health which, in turn, helps improve clinical outcomes. In addition to working in private practice, she has been working as a public health dietitian serving the under-served population in Aurora, IL, and helping them manage their chronic conditions using a Food As Medicine approach. She has been actively working with schools to improve the quality of meals and promote nutrition education. While she is trained and qualified to help you with a wide variety of concerns, her specialties include Diabetes Management, Cardiovascular Disease, Adult and Pediatric Weight Management, Celiac Disease, Digestive Health, and Food Allergies.
How did you eat growing up?
So, I grew up in the western part of India – closer to Mumbai or Bombay – in the state called Maharashtra and a town called Pune. I grew up in a joint family with my grandparents, four to five uncles, and my parents and cousins. If you think about a joint family unit, it’s like a mini restaurant. At any given time, there are 15 to 20 people eating and everything was made from scratch. At that time, my task used to be to take all the whole grains to the closest grinding facility; The grain grinding mill they call it. We would get the freshly ground flour every four days. So that’s how fresh the food was. Now growing up, I had a very interesting set of grandparents. My father’s mom was a type of cook or a chef, you can call it. She would cook with minimum ingredients, without much oil, and not too many fancy ingredients. My other grandmother, my mom’s mother, was more of a gourmet cook. She had access to more luxurious ingredients for that time; she had cocoa powder, she had access to espresso coffee, and beautiful china – all that stuff. So one household with very small quantities and a little bit of scarcity, and another household with everything in plenty. My mother herself always paid attention to our nutrition; she was making kombucha, fermented vegetables, and sprouts. She was even mixing soy flour with regular flour when we grew up.
How Does Child Nutrition Compare in the US vs in India?
In India, there is traditional ayurvedic medicine. There are food traditions, what we call the kind of food that they expect a pregnant woman to eat even before they get pregnant. So let’s say you get married, and you go through the normal cycle. They expect you to eat certain kinds of foods before getting pregnant and during pregnancy. Even in the first two trimesters there are specific, nutrient-dense foods women are supposed to eat. Also, at least 20 days are spent before the arrival of the baby preparing certain kinds of foods for the mom to eat postpartum and during breastfeeding. So it’s a completely different protocol for nutrition and wellness. It’s not only food; there’s a massage therapist who comes after a baby is delivered and, for three months, the mom and baby get a massage every day. The mom typically goes to her mother’s house and gets time to rest. That’s how they recover from the pregnancy and delivery. India has a pretty low maternal mortality rate, as a result. The sad thing is the United States is number four when it comes to maternal mortality. So there’s definitely something that has to happen here. It’s so ingrained in my brain that nutrition at every stage of a woman’s life is so important. That concept of specific foods for maternal health doesn’t exist in the United States.
How Should Americans Approach Their Nutrition?
When I had a chance to talk to patients one-on-one and go through their symptoms, pretty much everybody at the end of everything would say, ‘oh, I’m very tired’ regardless of the diagnosis. Whether I was seeing them for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, weight issues, or hypertension, some common symptoms were fatigue, low energy, and pain. In India, because it’s a developing country, the nutrition curriculum is about treating deficiencies. We see very malnourished people, so looking at the patient and identifying the deficiencies was the only screening tool that was taught to us. You look at them and you see if they have scurvy or based on the presentation of their hands and feet and so on. When I started observing my patients in the US and listening, I heard that they are tired, have pain, and often constipation was a big deal. I started seeing the same symptoms of nutritional deficiencies that I had seen growing up with the malnourished population. I realized there’s so much food in the US. India is a developing country, so not much access to food. Here, there is so much access to food, but still the same symptoms of nutritional deficiencies
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