Prata with Planta? Ghee please

January 26, 2007

I just had trans fats for breakfast. Argh! Sometimes, I, too, get careless and forget.

I had ordered a roti prata and a dosai and was happily about to eat them when, for some reason, the prata man decided to chat with me and explain the different types of curry sauces that he had served.

Then I remembered and I asked whether he made the prata and dosai with ghee or margarine.

“Planta (margarine),” he proudly said.

“Margarine tak baik (no good), ghee lebeh baik (better)” I told him.

He was puzzled. “Ghee cholesterol lah,” he explained.

Alamak! I was thinking to myself, how do I explain to the prata man about trans fats? Then an idea came…

“Margarine New York ban! Denmark pun (also) ban,” I told him.

He looked stunned. “Apa pasal? (What’s the problem?)

“Heart disease, cancer, diabetes… banyak banyak pasal (many, many problems).”

He looked even more stunned. I asked if he read the newspapers, or if his children have Internet access. He told me he reads the Tamil Murasu.

Ah! I must write a Letter to the Editor of  Tamil Murasu then. If it gets published, I can then boast that my articles get translated into Tamil, ha ha!

But more seriously, I would encourage you to ask about ghee and margarine the next time you eat roti prata, dosai and other Indian foods.

For those who seek scientific evidence, here’s some from my website article about the causes of coronary heart disease:

In India, a 1968 study found North Indians, who ate more meat and used mainly ghee (clarified butter) for cooking, had 17 times more saturated fats in their diets than South Indians, who were more vegetarians. However, North Indians had seven times less heart disease than Indians in the South.

This was because, by the late 60s, South Indians had started the switch from coconut oil, which contains about 90 percent saturated fats, to margarine and other polyunsaturated vegetable oils.

More recent studies show that North Indians are finally begin to catch up with the South in heart disease rates – because North Indians have started to use less ghee and more margarine and vegetable oils.

Any Indian readers out there who can help me translate a short message about trans fats into Tamil – and other Indian languages?

Then we can distribute them to our favourite prata sellers.


  1. […] Quote from Richard Seah’s Health Promotion Blog […]

  2. […] Two days ago, I thought I would have to give up on eating roti prata because they all seem to be cooked with margarine – which means they contain deadly trans fats. Click here to read my earlier post about Prata with Planta.  […]

  3. […] a lot of prata is being cooked with Planta (margarine) […]

  4. Scientists at the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) have recently developed Herbal Ghee. The new products have the taste, flavor, color and consistency of traditional ghee. But, instead of being hazardous ghee, this form of ghee boosts the immune system and guards against cholesterol related problems and is beneficial for people suffering from cardio-vascular diseases and blood pressure. It also strengthens the arteries.

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  5. There is no such thing as “hazardous ghee” in the first place. Traditional ghee is healthy and had never caused heart disease etc in the past.

  6. Just a few points…

    About the “1968 study in India”, I don’t think South Indians really ever used coconut oil for cooking even before the 1960’s. They might have used palm oil, but not coconut oil. Also, in South India you won’t find margarine being used, mainly because… it isn’t available! What is commonly used in homes is sunflower oil.

    Most Indians know the harmful effects of darda, which is hydrogenated oil- and avoid it. There is no such thing as roti prata in India, so people aren’t eating them there. A paratha in India is made from wholemeal flour and oil or ghee.

    My in-laws in India have separate experiences. My father-in-law’s family cooked everything in ghee (even biryani), while my mother-in-law’s family cooked in oil. The only heart disease in either family is to be found with my father-in-law who used to be a smoker.

    Lastly, while I don’t know if the dough has trans-fats or not, I do know that the local prata shop here cooks in palm oil. It is called Royal Prata and is on South Buona Vista Road. I had my husband check about their pratas and dosas since I’ve seen other places using Planta.

    Other comments… I thought it wasn’t a matter of whether you eat a lot of fat or not, it is a matter of eating fat with high carbohydrates. One theory is that eating the two together (refined sugars and fats) causes blockages. So, while ghee might be healthy, eating Indian sweets that combine ghee and sugar would not be healthy.

    With regards to the other countries and their listings according to the types of food they eat, I think it is necessary to know more about their lifestyles instead of just comparing diet and artery blockage. Sure, the traditional Japanese diet might be healthy- but they are also smokers.

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