“Driving under the influence of Paneer” never killed anyone. Having said that, I thought it best that I clarify some truths about “Paneer ki sabzi”.
The truth is that there is no truth! Paneer is not a sabzi!
Soon after I warned you about the lies that they tell you about alcohol I was pleasantly surprised when many readers gave up alcohol for good. So, today, I thought I would tell you about the lies they feed you about paneer and her cousins!
If you find it useful, please share this with your family and friends who could benefit from it.
I have split today’s message into 2 sections. A “must-read” section and an “additional reading” section.
Paneer vs Cheese
The Paneer Problem for Longevity
More about Spurious Paneer
Sourcing Good Quality Paneer
The Danger in Milky Lies
Calcium Crap Trap
Doing Your Own Research
Should You Give up Paneer?
What about Ghee?
Giving up Paneer
Milk, Cheese and Paneer Alternatives
I Love Paneer but… [top]
Like most others, I love the wonderful texture of paneer. And because of the way it can absorb flavours it is increasingly popular in many parts of the world. Having said that, I try my best to avoid it for various reasons!
Mindful Eating [top]
Although it’s great if you can enter a deep meditative state within seconds like a monk, mindfulness in your daily life in your simplest daily activities is what will provide you the best returns to your claim of practicing mindfulness. If you can meditate for 30 minutes a day but are not mindful of what you are eating, ask yourself what the point of that 30 minutes is, beyond a statement to impress others!
What is a Sabzi? [top]
‘Sabzi’ translates to ‘vegetable’ much like ‘choi’ in Cantonese or ‘verduras’ in Spanish. It is also used to indicate a ‘vegetable dish’ e.g. palak sabzi or palak ki sabzi [palak = spinach].
Nature & Religion [top]
Some people have religious attachments to cows – and that’s great if they treat them humanely, just like we should treat all animals. I will not delve into the religious angle of consuming dairy at all!
There is nothing natural about drinking milk other than if it is from your mother and if you are a baby. If you are drinking the milk of another animal please be aware that it is likely to cause you a lot more harm than those with financial or political interests in dairy would have you believe.
The Oxymoronic Truth [top]
We know that ‘sabzi’ means ‘vegetable’. We also know that neither a cow nor buffalo is a plant. The milk these animals produce for their calves is not the liquid from a plant.
Let us also be mindful that the general term ‘vegetarian’ is about as vague as ‘food’. If someone says they’re vegetarian, it really means nothing other than “I eat plants, but it does not mean that I don’t eat eggs or drink milk”.
Milk is an animal product and so paneer is not a sabzi (vegetable). Be aware that the best quality paneer is sourced from the glands inside the udders of a buffalo.
Eggs don’t come from trees either – unless you climb up a tree and steal it from a bird’s nest!
If you want to consume dairy, that’s really up to you, but please don’t be ignorant or willfully blind to the many facts associated with it. Drink the milk, eat the cheese, if you must, but please do tell yourself (repeatedly!) that you are eating an animal product. You are eating or drinking something taken out from the inside of an animal.
Paneer ki Sabzi is an Oxymoron. Don’t be a moron!
Holier than Thou [top]
Please do not be under the slightest impression that I am holier than thou. I would love to be a complete avoider of animal produce. My guestimate is that about 2% of my current caloric intake is non-plants. Perhaps it will be consistently 0% one day soon. However, when I say “yes” to a slice of cake, I am fully aware of the mindless sacrifices animals have been through for me to consume that.
Vegetarian Definitions [top]
You can read more about vegetarianism and how broad it is here. If you eat eggs as a vegetarian then you are an ovo-vegetarian, if you consume dairy then you are a lacto-vegetarian. If you consume both eggs and dairy, you are an ovo-lacto-vegetarian. Let us be clear though, in all 3 of these cases, you are consuming something that was taken out from the inside of an animal. You are not eating something from a plant, you are eating an animal product.
It is not about what I say. It is not about what you call it. It is what it is. I am just a messenger here!
Paneer vs Cheese [top]
Although there are some differences between Paneer and Cheese in terms of how they are produced (acidification vs curdling), their fat and calorie contents (cheese is higher), and durability (paneer has a much shorter life) the lies about paneer apply equally to cheese.
Jain Pizza [top]
The Jains I mentor around the world will confirm to you that I am a huge admirer of Jain principles of daily life. Some of my closest Jain friends will refuse to eat food unless it was prepared in a kitchen they know well. So, they will rarely eat out. I understand why and it makes a lot of sense to me.
On the other hand, if you ever have a “Jain Pizza” from a roadside vendor or restaurant that has cheese on it, please be very aware that you are eating an animal product, it is not a vegetarian pizza. You may want to call it a vegetarian pizza, but that does not make it a vegetarian pizza!
Did you know that the cheese you eat is made using rennet – a complex set of enzymes from the stomachs of mammals? How do you think that rennet is obtained? Do you still think that cheese on your pizza is all about plants? Is your “Jain pizza” really brought to you in accordance with the principles of your faith? I even found a website called “Jain Foodie” that has a recipe for you to make pizzas and it casually mentions “1 Cup Cheese (Grated)”. I find that quite troubling because it is misleading. It would have been great if a Jain Pizza meant “no cheese”! Pizzas in Italy do not always have cheese on them!
Note, it is possible, in some parts of the world to source cheese that does not use gastric enzymes from other animals to produce the cheese. This is called “vegetarian cheese” but… hey… it still uses milk! Vegetarian cheese does not come from a plant! You could try vegan cheese instead.
The Paneer Problem for Longevity [top]
A heavily plant-based diet is what is common for those who typically live healthily to 100 and beyond. Any consumption of food that was obtained from killing animals or enslaving them for milk or eggs is typically low in such populations, perhaps 5% of their caloric intake.
As I have said before, even those who foolishly claim they do not want to live for many years, end up living a large part of their adult life in pain, discomfort, and with a number of restrictions on what they are able to ‘enjoy’. The truth is that the likelihood of that could be reduced significantly in exchange for a long healthy life, simply by giving up animal products in meals and snacks – including paneer. Read: Healthspan
(The people of the Greek island of Ikaria, one of the ‘Blue Zones’ do consume dairy, primarily derived from goats, but it makes up a very small percentage of their weekly calorie intake.)
Spurious Paneer [top]
Even if you are OK consuming animal products, and you live in India or Pakistan, please be aware that a large fraction of what you think is paneer when you buy it is likely to be ‘spurious paneer’. If you do not live in either of these 2 countries and are consuming paneer manufactured in your country, please be aware that you are still exposed to all the downsides of consuming dairy anyway, including harmful chemicals introduced into the bloodstream of cows and buffaloes on farms – through what they are made to eat, drink and injection of antibiotics. For a fascinating review of paneer production, you may enjoy this.
More about Spurious Paneer [top]
The best quality Paneer is made from grass-fed buffaloes.
Spurious Paneer originated because it is cheaper to make with refined flour [maida], palm oil, baking powder, old discarded skimmed milk, detergent, bicarbonate of soda, and sulphuric acid.
It continues to exist for 2 reasons: (i) because there is a demand for it e.g. in India and Pakistan the consumption of Paneer is significantly higher than what can be produced as ‘pure’ Paneer (ii) regulators and law enforcers do not do their job with pride.
Beware that what you think is Paneer when you order at a restaurant may well not be paneer!
Sourcing Good Quality Paneer [top]
If you have access to grass-fed buffaloes and are happy to steal their milk away from their calves, then make your paneer at home – do not buy it from a shop no matter how ‘high quality’ they claim to be. Having said that, I do think you and the planet are better off with you not consuming dairy.
The Danger in Milky Lies [top]
Although there is an association (i.e. correlation, not causation) between the consumption of dairy and some forms of cancer, milk is not yet classified as a carcinogen and is unlikely to be classified as either a Group 1 or Group 2 Carcinogen in the near future.
This conversation was not meant to be a literature review of the published research on dairy consumption and health or longevity. However, I will very briefly address the 2 most common arguments that those who do not eat meat typically give for why they consume dairy – (i) calcium for bones and teeth (ii) protein.
Calcium Crap Trap [top]
Most people fall for the Calcium Crap Trap. If you are savvy enough then you will know by now that it is only clever marketing by the dairy industry in the 20th century that brainwashed a few generations into believing that to have strong bones and teeth as a non-infant human being you need milk, and that too from another animal species! You get strong bones not by drinking milk but by eating plants rich in calcium along with strength training. In fact, some research shows the opposite i.e. greater risk of osteoporosis in populations consuming higher amounts of dairy.
Protein Problems [top]
Does Paneer contain protein? Yes, it is reasonably high in protein (and to qualify as ‘paneer’ it needs to be over 50% fat by dry weight). However, the annoying problem is that people who call themselves vegetarians feel they need to eat products made inside the bodies of cows and buffaloes in order to get sufficient protein into their bodies. I can understand it when hardcore meat eaters fall for the fallacy that you need to eat things stolen from live animals or produced by killing animals, but when those who are constrained by their family or other culture into believing that they aren’t getting sufficient protein because they are vegetarian, that’s plain stupidity.
I will say this again, it’s not what I call it or you call it – it is what it is!
Doing Your Own Research [top]
For more extensive reading on the research on a platform like PubMed please always look for the section on ‘conflicts of interest’ as often researchers are funded by the dairy industry and so their research should not be typically seen as unbiased.
For wonderfully shocking movies on the problems with dairy please do check out Forks over Knives, Cowspiracy, What the Health, Eating You Alive, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, Earthlings, Food Inc, Big Fat Lie, and, more recently, The Game Changers.
Should You Give up Paneer? [top]
Rather than my favourite two-word response “it depends”, my short answer is the same as when asked about alcohol and nicotine “yes, give it up”.
If you do not give it up make sure that everything else that you do ensures that you are robust. If you have even one niggling health problem just give up paneer and all other forms of dairy. Here are some simple warning signs that your body is giving you, and that you might be blind and deaf to, that you probably should not be consuming dairy – asthma, irritable skin or acne, falling hair, indigestion, coughs, colds, any number of digestion problems, irregular periods, low sperm count or low-quality sperm, poor quality sleep, long time recovering from workouts.
What about Ghee? [top]
Today was meant to be about Paneer. I told you that the issues are broadly similar for cheese. But what about ghee? There are compounds in ghee that we hear are good for health but should you consume it? I shall address that another day.
Giving up Paneer [top]
Giving up paneer is very easy. Unlike alcohol and nicotine, there are no known cases of paneer addiction. If you love paneer and accept that it makes sense to stop consuming it, then simply go through a transition period where:
- You don’t buy paneer from the shops
- Don’t make paneer at home
- Don’t order food in restaurants that contain ‘paneer’ in the menu listing or ingredients list
- If invited to a friend’s home, request them to not prepare paneer for you, or, simply choose other items from what is offered (see Inclusion and Exclusion)
Note, the above algorithm works for any food you want to give up! It’s not rocket science!
If you would like a more general algorithm for better eating decisions, read how this question can save your life.
Milk, Cheese, Paneer – Non-Dairy Alternatives [top]
If you are looking to avoid or minimize your consumption of dairy, it would be good if, in parallel, you could remove the words ‘milk’, ‘cheese’ and ‘Paneer’ from your vocabulary of food choices. By using words like ‘milk’ even when it comes from an almond (‘almond milk’) you are sending reminders to your brain that you require a ‘milk’ that you are replacing. Of course, you don’t need milk. Similarly, negative feelings of having to ‘give up’ or ‘sacrifice’ something are unnecessary. One simple trick could be the following. If it is a recipe that says “oats with almond milk”, you just call it “oats with almond juice” – after all, you squeezed the liquid out of an almond – the last time I checked, almonds did not have teats! I have not had a glass of milk or a bowl of cereal with milk for many years, so when I say ‘coconut milk’ it isn’t with a feeling of “oh, I wish it was OK to go back to guzzling milk from an animal”.
From plants, with minimum effort, it is possible to get replacements for dairy. My favourite replacement for milk in coffee is coconut milk – the same thick kind you would use in cooking a Thai dish. I love the tofu I eat when I live and eat with my Chinese families – you can use tofu in non-Chinese cooking too instead of using paneer. You may also want to look into vegan cheese.
Final Takeaway [top]
Your health and that of the planet would be better off if you eliminated dairy completely from your nutrition. Even if you could reduce it slightly by simply avoiding a few or all of cheese, Paneer, milkshakes, yoghurt, curd, buttermilk and so on, you would make a big difference. If you do consume dairy, please do remind yourself that you are consuming an animal product i.e. something that came directly from the inside of another animal. If you eat Paneer, for heaven’s sake, don’t think it’s a ‘sabzi’ – it’s an animal product.
Paneer ki Sabzi is an Oxymoron. Don’t be a moron!
If you have found this conversation useful, please share it with your family and friends who you think could benefit from it.
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.