Food for a healthy American diet

Roseville resident hosts program to promote a healthy-heart, low-calorie diet

By Sena Christian, The Press Tribune

A few days after moving to the United States in 1962, Gopal Kapur went to dinner at his college dormitory’s cafeteria.

Kapur, who grew up in India, couldn’t speak English well at the time, so he simply nodded his head when servers asked if he wanted an item. He ended up with a slice of white meat, white bread and gravy on his plate.


“In India, food is very colorful,” Kapur said. “This was all one gray color.”

He used to eat healthy and tasty dishes prepared by his mother, a religious vegetarian who could cook for 30 days and never repeat a meal. He wasn’t ready for the unhealthy, bland foods typical of the American diet.

“It was a surreal experience,” he said.

At that moment, Kapur decided to learn how to cook with the help of recipes sent by his mother back in India. What followed has been more than 40 years of cooking nutritious food as a hobby and, more importantly, a lifestyle.

The Roseville resident will share his knowledge during a “Stop Killing Yourself” discussion, which he designed to promote a healthy-heart, diabetes-appropriate and low-calorie diet. The program is part of FamilyGreenSurvival, Inc. an organization founded by Kapur and his wife. The Rotary of Roseville-sponsored event is free and open to the public.

The event comes at a critical time, as a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost three in every 10 adults — or 26.7 percent — are now statistically obese. That’s up from 25.6 percent in 2007. A recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated the American obesity rate to be 33.9 percent.

.The current generation of children may be the first in the nation’s history to live shorter lives than their parents.About 2.4 million more American adults have reported becoming obese since 2007, according to the report. African Americans and Hispanics are especially hard hit. Additionally, annual medical costs linked to obesity have skyrocketed to nearly $150 billion.

Kapur blames the obesity epidemic, in large part, on our eating habits. Americans increased their daily caloric consumption by 47 percent in the last three decades.

“We are (obese) from purely two reasons: added sugar and fast food,” Kapur said. “Why is it we are putting our children in that type of danger? Because we don’t want to cook and eat well?”

Basically, Kapur said, Americans eat junk food laden with tons of calories, sugar, sodium and free radicals, but about zero nutritional value. He said 21 percent of our daily calories come from added sugar and that a person consumes about 150 pounds of sugar a year, which equates to 6.6 ounces a day.

“It’s just a human killer — the amount of sugar we eat,” he said.

Americans also don’t scrimp on meat, he said, scarfing down 220 pounds per person a year, which is an increase of 76 pounds from 1950.

.“We eat meat as if it’s going out of style,” Kapur said.

“I thought the U.S. would be in the first 10, but it wasn’t there,” Kapur said. “I looked at the next 10 and it wasn’t there.”A poor diet compromises a person’s immune system and opens the body up to chronic illness and disease, he said. During his research, Kapur learned that an estimated 300,000 deaths in the United States a year are associated with poor nutrition, obesity and resulting high rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. He also happened upon the Central Intelligence Agency’s life-expectancy fact sheet.

The United States ranks 49th on the list of worldwide life-expectancy rates, below Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Puerto Rico and Jordan.

“I was wondering what the difference is,” Kapur said. “We have more education, more money, but we don’t have more nutrition. They have more nutrition.”

The Stop Killing Yourself program is designed to help change the nation’s food habits. Kapur developed breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipes based on high-quality, low-fat proteins, whole grains, healthy oils, immune system boosting herbs and spices, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

During his presentation, he will discuss topics centered on health awareness, nutritional knowledge and our obsession with super-sized fast food among other topics. He’ll offer 10 pieces of advice on how to eat better, which includes consuming more fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants and less processed foods.

“That’s my quest for people to become more nutritionally aware and question what they eat,” Kapur said. “If I educate people about nutrition, I will accomplish my goal.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.

Americans’ eating habits:
· 45 percent of our daily calories come from fat
· 21 percent of our daily calories come from added sugar
· A person consumes about 150 pounds of sugar a year (6.6 ounces a day)
· Almost one out of every two adults has high blood pressure
· 33 percent of children born in 2000 are likely to develop diabetes
· A person consumes 220 pounds of meat a year
· Fewer than one in 10 Americans meet their recommended fruit, vegetable and legume consumption
· Average daily trans fat intake is 5.8 grams a day (maximum recommended is 2 grams)
· Americans eat two to three times the daily-recommended salt intake

Source: Gopal Kapur, Stop Killing Yourself program

Recipe for Gopal Kapur’s Tilapia and Red Bell Pepper, Italian Style
(Serves 4)

1-pound tilapia fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dry Italian seasoning, no salt
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, adjust to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, adjust to taste
2 tablespoons fresh herbs of choice, minced
Cooking spray

Heat a skillet over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon oil and swirl the pan to coat evenly and then coat the pan surface lightly with cooking spray. Add bell pepper and stir-fry about 4 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil in the same pan over medium heat; add tilapia, Italian seasoning, salt, paprika, red pepper flakes and cook, turning gently, for 3 minutes. Add the cooked bell pepper to the pan, turn to mix and cook for 3 to 4 minutes depending on the desired doneness of tilapia. Drizzle balsamic vinegar to coat evenly, garnish with black pepper and minced herbs.