This winter, Glow with Gorgeous Skin!
December is here, and so is dry skin. Sometimes I suspect that I am turning into a snake, you know, because there’s no way I can wear shorts, or even those capris for the next couple of months. Winter is that time of year when the skin feels the effects of the weather the most.
It is all very well to talk about keeping your skin moisturized, what kind of moisturizer is great for which type of skin and all that – but if you’re the sort that is always on the go, or too plain lazy (like me) to “waste” time on pampering the self, then here are some great ways to trigger your body to do its job. And enjoy the process! Because it helps in the long term through overall health benefits, and not just to maintain sexy winter skin.
We’re talking about foods that help keep healthy, skin. Here we go!
Fruits, especially tropical fruits such as guava, pineapples, papaya, kiwi – all of which are easily available – have Vitamin C, the super ingredient that fights free radicals in the body. Vitamin C is also a great antioxidant that’s part of your skin, and consuming these fruits will ensure that the balance is maintained. Another way Vitamin C helps is by making your body produce a protein called collagen which maintains the elasticity and suppleness of your skin.
A cruciferous veg that fights cancer and is antioxidant rich, broccoli is also rich in vitamin C and E. these guard the skin from getting damaged by the winter sun.
A fabulous source of Vitamin E, almonds are great as snacks or in your cereal, salads and cakes. Particularly toasted. Almonds are also added to a variety of rice and side-dish recipes. By eating almonds, you benefit by getting your skin nourished the yummy way.
Whole wheat bread and pasta
Selenium is an essential mineral in whole wheat bread and pasta. It is an antioxidant that protects skin from weather damage, keeping it supple.
Carrots promote healthy skin with their beta carotene content. This is an antioxidant that converts to Vitamin A in your body when you eat carrots. It repairs your skin tissues. You can enjoy raw carrots (a la Karamchand), in salads, or cooked. Apparently cooked carrots are more beneficial than when eaten raw.
I just love these, aside from the fact that they have to be peeled. My mom would arrange them on the pressure cooker lid after switching it off, so it could dry up in the heat, making it easier to peel. They are rich in zinc, which is great for cell health and helps in skin renewal. You can eat pumpkin seeds as a snack, in ‘chivda’, in your cereal – or any other way you can think of enjoying them.
Okay… so this is not a food, but it is a super-essential skin care ingredient as it helps keep your body hydrated, flushes out toxins and carries necessary nutrients to all parts of the body. The result? Healthy skin. You know what to do to get enough water into your diet.
That wasn’t so hard, huh? Except that I feel quite hungry after writing this!
Okay, here I must say that individual genetics and lifestyle influence how healthy your skin is – and the foods listed here can combat acne, prevent wrinkles and generally make you look better!
Spinach – the nutrient powerhouse
Spinach (paalak) is among the top five healthy vegetables to include in your diet. Ask Popeye! This complete powerhouse packs in major nutritional value and helps us stay healthy. Aloo-paalak, paalak-paneer and just paalak cooked, mashed and seasoned with mustard and fried black gram are big favorites in my house. (Thank God!). Best of all, it is not an expensive thing to add to your shopping list and is easily available throughout the year. . I remember when my mom and I used to be heading towards “broke” at the end of the month, decades ago, we’d stick to greens. What can I say? Am grateful for healthy choices!
It is very reassuring to have healthy food as favorites – but let’s go a little deeper to see exactly what spinach has in store for us.
- Spinach has Vitamin A and C, fiber, folic acid, magnesium and other nutrients that fight colon, lung and breast cancer.
- The folate content in spinach prevents artery damage, and therefore protects against heart disease. Folate also prevents DNA damage and colon cell mutation. In fact, for pregnant women, folate helps in developing the fetus’s nervous system and lungs. It prevents accidental hemorrhage and abortion.
- You can protect your digestive system with spinach. It has betacarotene and vitamin C that guard the colon from free radicals.
- Menstruating women, growing children and pregnant women whose requirement of iron is more, benefit from the iron content in spinach. This reduces the risk of anemia.
- Spinach has flavonoids that protect from age-related memory loss and diseases
- Spinach has lutein, which protects from cataract and macular damage, thereby preventing vision loss in the elderly.
- Spinach is very low in calories and high in phytonutrients which help with weight loss.
- For diabetics, spinach stablizes blood sugar
- It is a great source of iron, protein, phosphorus, vitamin E, Zinc and copper. It also has selenium, niacin, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Spinach also has anti-inflammatory properties that help with osteoporosis, arthritis, severe headaches and asthma. It promotes bone health.
- Spinach is potassium rich – and low in sodium, helping reduce blood pressure. Spinach protects your skin with its vitamin B, and keeps your skin glowing.
Spinach is a truly versatile vegetable as you can eat it raw through a salad. It is easy to cook and great as a soup or as an addition to other dishes. One cup of spinach a day will give you your daily intake of vitamin K.
So how can you get more spinach into your diet?
- Add chopped spinach to your soup
- Toss chopped spinach with garlic and baked potato
- Spinach dips are great as healthy accompaniments with breads and vegetables
- Spinach in your sandwich instead of lettuce
- Spinach in your omelet
- Aloo-paalak vegetable (potato and spinach)
- Spinach bread (available in most stores)
- Spinach with lentils (dal)
- Spinach in yogurt
- Add it to vada and dosa batter
- And so on.
Make sure you stick to organic spinach though. People with kidney/gall bladder problems must be careful about eating spinach, as it could interfere with the absorption of calcium. It can also interfere with thyroid gland function. Caution for people with gout, too. People on a renal diet are usually advised not to eat spinach.
How to feel better when you have a cold?
The common cold, made more common by the fact that you can just “catch” it from someone in the vicinity can make you feel really miserable once it decides to take residence in your body for at least the next seven days.
But that does not mean you have to suffer. It is possible to pamper yourself and feel much better, even though you can cure the cold. So let’s take a look at what works, what doesn’t work, and hmmm…what probably can’t hurt!
Everyone’s family has traditional cold remedies passed on through the generations. The “Kashayam”, a concoction made of herbs boiled in water and consumed with honey, the chicken soup (for the cold) that is believed to get rid of that congestion, etc. are all examples
So, what works?
Catching a cold usually means not feeling yourself for the next two weeks. Here’s how you can reduce the misery:
Consume water and lots of liquids
While it is tough to flush out that cold, you can certainly help yourself by drinking lots of fluids. These could be water, juice, warm lemon water with honey, clear broths and soups. These help relieve the congestion and keep you from getting dehydrated. Remember, fluids do not include booze and caffeinated soda, as they can dehydrate you. Although personally I can’t ever imagine sacrificing drinking coffee!
The salt water gargle
Dissolve a quarter/half teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and use it to gargle. This can make a sore throat feel better.
Nasal drops and sprays
You’ve probably heard of or used nasal sprays/drops such as Otrivin. These relieve nasal congestion –you know the awful moments when your nose seems hopelessly blocked and uncomfortable and you feel you’ll be breathing through your mouth forever. Doctors recommend it even for children.
For the cold. Research shows that chicken soup can relieve cold and flu symptoms. It is an anti-inflammatory and also helps rid the body of congestion.
Over the counter medication
Okay, so there’s actually no OTC drug that can prevent your cold or even reduce the number of days you suffer. Also, there are side-effects associated with all of them if you’re tempted to use them over a long period. Some of them actually make you feel worse. Paracetamol (Crocin) – which is believed to be “safe”, can cause liver damage if taken over a long period. So, make sure you read the label carefully to make sure you don’t overdose.
If you also develop a cough that does not go away even if your cold feels better, it is essential to see your doctor. Warm water with lemon and honey is good for a cold. (No honey for babies, though – they’re sweet enough!).
These are prescribed when you sneeze a lot and your eyes water and your nose runs. However these only give very temporary relief and you have to get the correct dosage. Examples are Cetrizine, Allegra. Hmm. Used to think that Benadryl was real yummy when I was a kid. Oh, and don’t think you can just go and buy a cough syrup and drink it when you want. J Danger zone there.
Colds are common in winter because the viruses are happier in dry conditions. The dry air also dehydrates the mucous layer, which are responsible for the stuffy nose and throat irritation. So, the moral of the story is to be in a moist environment. Some people have humidifiers in their homes. For those that don’t, the traditional steam inhalation works.
What does not work.
You have probably felt frustrated at trying various suggestions only to find that they do not work, or just make you feel worse. Here are remedies that won’t work. Really.
No doctor prescribes an antibiotic when you consult for a cold. (all that waiting, what a waste!) Antibiotics may kill bacteria, but not the cold virus. So just don’t pester your doctor for antibiotics when you really don’t need them. If you’re adamant, know that taking antibiotics you don’t need can help you achieve two things: grow antibiotic-resistant bacteria in your body, and cause awful side effects.
Cold and cough medications for children
No OTC cold and cough medications for children under age 4 unless absolutely necessary and prescribed by the physician. Recently, there was this gruesome mess in Chennai where parents of children mixed up Crocin drops with Crocin syrup. They mistook the drops version for syrup – two absolutely different concentrations – and figured that a double dose of one or other would do no harm. In the drops, there is 100 mg of drug in one ml while with the syrup, there is 125 mg in five ml. Sigh.
Zinc is supposed to help fight cold but research studies are yet to show any real benefit. So, a lousy taste in the mouth and nausea are for sure – while it is not known how effective it really is. What to do? Avoid it.
Intranasal zinc can kill your sense of smell, too. So read that label, when you look at zinc-containing medication.
The feel-good stuff for cold
What about Vitamin C? It may not prevent a cold coming on, but apparently, taking enough vitamin C before the symptoms of cold show up can help get rid of the cold faster. Hmm. How do you figure that out? Simply by getting enough vitamins on a regular basis!
Vicks Vaporub is helpful too. On the chest and the back – you’ve seen those ads, right? It definitely helps. Rubbing it on the soles of the feet seems to relieve a cough too.
Then there’s Ginger Chai (tea) that feels good too.
In any case – take good care of yourself. Which means, no frozen or too-cold stuff, drink plenty of hot liquids, have fruits and vegetables for natural vitamins and minerals. A cold can be a terrible thing, but don’t be tempted to try every remedy you hear about. Rest well, and don’t forget to wash your hands often.
Here’s a knock, knock for you:
Eddy idea how I cad cure this cold
Do you get enough sleep?
Sleep heals. It is true. There are lots of health benefits associated with sleep – which is why – when we are deprived of the sleep we need, it can take major toll on your mind, body and overall health!
Research even shows that when you get enough sleep, it can actually protect you from illnesses. A lack of sleep is connected to ailments like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and even colds and flu. When you do not sleep enough it also affects your mental health.
When you sleep, your body’s cells repair themselves. Sleep affects your immune system and hormones – and you can imagine what will happen if your immune system does not behave itself!
You already know that when we sleep well, our mood stays balanced and our learning and memory are improved. We feel more energetic and alert.
Let us look at five of the major health issues that can be minimized or avoided altogether when you get your seven to eight hours of sleep every night!
Colds and flu
Have you felt absolutely worn out when you haven’t slept enough? It also opens you up to more infections, since immunity is lowered. It weakens your immune system and your body does not respond as it is supposed to when you don’t sleep enough. This attracts colds, ’flus and other infections. Our response to vaccines also slows down due to lack of sleep, because it takes longer to produce the antibodies that are required to fight disease.
Not getting enough sleep results in chronic inflammation which in turn puts you at risk for heart attacks, strokes or diabetes.
Technically, when a person suffers from type 2 diabetes, the problem is resistence to insulin – where the body does not use insulin properly. Sleep deprivation makes it worse, because our body behaves as though it is diabetic showing insulin resistance. So for people in their late 20s or early 30s who sleep less than 6 hours per night, their insulin sensitivity could resemble that of someone who is about 60 years old.
Some of us feel proud about going without sleep regularly. Fact is – the brain gets lethargic, we become more short tempered. Somewhere down the line, work efficiency gets affected. This is because lack of sleep affects our memory, even though we think we’re doing okay.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you put on weight. If you are on a weight loss program and are not seeing results as quickly as you want, it is probably because you are not sleeping enough.
So – without going into many more technical reasons why you should sleep – all I want to say is – get enough sleep! And your body will take care of itself!
Why you should drink water
When we are thirsty, we automatically reach for a glass of water. And while we know that drinking a certain amount of water every day is essential, most of us tend to drink much less. Yes, I asked at least fifty people who were surprised to realize they didn’t drink the mandatory eight glasses of water every day and that includes me. D’uh! Okay, so the other liquids one consumes, such as coffee, tea, soup, juices, sambar, rasam etc. add up. Still – the point is – one MUST drink sufficient quantities of water on a daily basis.
You already know that water is an essential ingredient required by our body cells. In fact, our body is composed of 60-70 per cent water. Water is the second most important thing we need to survive, the first being –you guessed it – oxygen.
Here is how much weight water carries in our body:
- Blood is 83% water
- Muscles are 75% water
- The brain is 85% water
- Bone is 22% water
Did you know that we can survive for several weeks without food – but only a few days without water?
So – you need to make sure that those levels are maintained. Let’s look at the most vital reasons for drinking water, first:
Water helps lose weight
Drinking water suppresses the appetite and accelerates our metabolism. When you begin your meal with a glass of water, you end up eating fewer calories.
Water helps your kidneys function better
If you don’t consume enough water, your kidneys suffer. (Ugh – that awful feeling when you want to urinate and can’t – because you didn’t drink enough water!) Fact is, water waters down the body’s salts and minerals, preventing them from forming kidney stones. When you don’t drink sufficient water, you are asking for kidney stones.
Water helps your brain
Considering that the brain is 85 per cent water, you have a solid case for drinking water. To function efficiently, your brain depends on the water circulating through the body. So the next time you feel all muddled, drink a glass of water and clear it up. Have a bottle of water handy to sip from at work.
Water reduces your risk for heart disease
Studies show that drinking four to five extra glasses of water a day reduce the risk of heart disease by 41 per cent in women and by 54 per cent in men.
Water makes your skin glow
Well hydrated skin looks smooth and glowing – and you look younger. Water is the number one moisturizer and makes the skin elastic. It detoxes your skin, cleaning your blood so that you don’t end up developing acne, and other skin problems. When your skin is deprived of water, well – imagine the rest.
Water helps digestion
We need plenty of fiber and water to aid in digestion. If you drink enough water, the digestive track is happy and lets you have regular and easy bowel movements. When you don’t drink enough water, your system becomes dehydrated, the colon dries, since any water you consume is already absorbed by the rest of the body – and the result? **it does NOT happen. It hurts, resulting in heartburn, gastritis, ulcers….all of which can be avoided by simply drinking enough water.
Water eases muscle cramps
Enough water intake lubricates your muscles and joints. Not drinking enough results in muscle cramps. So if you are an active person drink plenty of water. If you exercise regularly – drink water before and after your workout to avoid muscle cramps.
Water is an energy booster
As the day progresses, we begin to feel fatigued. If we don’t drink enough water, it feels worse. We lose focus, can’t concentrate and develop headaches. When we drink enough water, it helps the blood carry oxygen to all parts of the body efficiently and improves our energy levels. Enough water also means that your heart need not pump harder to circulate the blood to all parts of the body.
Water controls body temperature
Water plays a big role in body temperature control. For instance, when you exercise, your temperature rises and you sweat profusely. The sweat then evaporates and cools you. Water is lost. When this is excessive, you suffer from heat exhaustion. If you are well hydrated – this does not happen, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of exercise.
Water is vital for pregnant women
Pregnant women are advised by their doctors to drink sufficient water to facilitate increased blood flow. Even after baby is born, breastfeeding mothers must drink more than the usual amount of water since breastfeeding makes them thirstier. Not drinking enough could result in dehydration.
So – how to get into the habit of drinking water, the wonderful zero calorie drink & natural cleanser?
- Ideally, drink at least two to three liters of water daily
- Begin by increasing your intake by one or two glasses daily
- Start your day with a glass of water. Keen on losing weight? Squeeze a lemon into the water
- After every meal – drink an extra glass of water
- If you enjoy your coffee or juices, cut down on one cup and opt for a glass of water instead
- Being thirsty means you are already dehydrated – this can be avoided when you drink water frequently
- Keep a bottle of water handy and sip often.
- When you feel tired, drink water
- When you have a headache, drink water
- When your stomach cramps, drink water
Long term health and fitness means proper hydration and adequate exercise. So stay healthy – start by drinking enough water. As easy as that.
Food + medicine = The Coconut
Often referred to as the Tree Of Life, the coconut is a great source of nutrition with its juice, milk, oil and kernel. It is the staple diet amongst many island populations. According to statistics, a third of the population depends on the coconut for its economy.
Respected and enjoyed, the Coconut is known for its fiber, vitamin and mineral content. Its health benefits extend way beyond its nutritional content, though. Coconut oil, in particular has a huge range of healing properties which far exceeds those of any other dietary oil. It is used in many Asian and Pacific countries in traditional medicine.
There was a time when coconut oil was believed to be not so healthy due to its high saturated fat content. But scientists have since researched and found that the fat in coconut oil is a unique and different from most all other fats for its healthy properties.
There seems no end to the health benefits of coconut oil, because it positively influences practically every disease and health problem. The direct health benefits include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. All this is thanks to the lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid present in coconut oil, which are responsible for the oil’s antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing properties.
You already know that Ayurveda uses coconut oil extensively in its medicine. Here’s a round up of its direct benefits:
The most obvious! Coconut oil is one of the best natural nutrition for hair helping it grow healthy. A good old “champy” massage makes sure that your scalp is free from dandruff, lice and lice eggs (ugh!) even if you happen to have dry hair. Coconut oil is also a great conditioner and mends damaged hair. It is the main ingredient in any hair care oil and conditioner.
Coconut oil has the ability to soothe and relieves stress. Gently massage your scalp with coconut oil to get rid of fatigue.
Coconut oil also does a great job on your skin. It moisturizes all types of skin and restores suppleness, just like mineral oil without any side effects. Coconut oil also slows down the appearance of wrinkles and sagging skin – which means you age slower! Skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and other skin infections can be treated with coconut oil. Chances are the soap, lotion or cream you use has coconut oil in it.
Slows the aging process
Thanks to its antioxidant properties, coconut oil prevents premature aging and degenerative diseases.
If you think coconut oil is bad for the heart, change your thinking, because coconut oil keeps your heart healthy. Its lauric acid content (50%) can prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Unlike other vegetable oils, coconut oil’s saturated fats are not harmful. It does not up your LDL levels. It is also found to strengthen your arteries and helps prevent atherosclerosis. Result? Healthy heart.
I was amazed by this. Apparently coconut oil also helps reduce weight, because it contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that dissolve excess weight. Coconut oil is easy to digest, accelerates the body’s metabolism and minimizes the stress on our pancreas. This makes us burn more energy. For obese and overweight people, this means weight loss.
Athletes use coconut oil for its low calorie content that easily converts into energy and prevents fat formation in the heart and arteries. It helps them perform better and builds stamina.
Some people use coconut oil in cooking. Coconut oil improves the digestion and prevents stomach and digestion related problems. It relieves IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). With its microbial properties, coconut oil kills bacteria, fungi, and parasites etc. that result in indigestion. It also helps improving the absorption of vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Coconut oil strengthens the immune system with its antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, etc. which possess antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. This means protection against diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV.
Apply coconut oil on an infection, and it creates a protective layer from dust, air, bacteria, fungi, etc. Got a bruise? Apply coconut oil. It speeds up the healing and repairs any tissue damage.
Which brings us to infections – the antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties of coconut oil protects from viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, herpes, SARS, etc. Coconut oil kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, etc. Coconut oil is also effective on fungi and yeast that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush, diaper rash, – the list is endless.
Coconut oil helps prevent liver disease and keeps it healthy by minimizing its workload and stops the accumulation of fat.
I once saw a poster that said “You can live if your brain’s dead. But not if your kidneys stop working”. Coconut oil helps in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases and dissolves kidney stones.
Coconut oil controls blood sugar, and improves the secretion of insulin. It also helps the body use blood glucose effectively, helping prevent and treat diabetes.
Stronger teeth and bones
As coconut oil helps better mineral absorption, it means healthier bones and prevention of osteoporosis. It also means stronger teeth and preventing tooth decay.
Hmm. So that’s a pretty long list. Enough reasons to enjoy coconut, coconut cookies, coconut milk in your dishes, a massage with coconut oil ..enjoy a pina colada…
I love banana chips – and am not very sure whether I’ll benefit in any way – but they sure taste great!!
The All-rounder Almond
The “badam” or almond is probably among the most nutrient-rich nuts around. It boasts of high protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. So much so – it is referred to as a super food. And here’s why.
Almonds make a great snack that is both healthy and filling. You can add it to your milkshake (badam milk). You can mix it with other fresh fruits or vegetables to add that detox effect to the dish.
A member of the stone fruit family the almond is actually the seed of the almond fruit. Other fruits that belong to this family are plums, peaches and nectarines. Almonds are supposed to have been first cultivated in Asia and North Africa. In Rome, the bride and groom were showered with almonds as a fertility blessing. Egyptians baked bread with almonds especially for the Pharaohs.
But why should we pay attention to the almond? Because of the following amazing benefits to our health:
The heart is a good place to start with. According to research, if you consume nuts five times a week, you reduce your risk for a heart attack by 50%. This is due to the large amount of Vitamin E, which behaves like an antioxidant, lowering the risk of heart disease. Almonds can also reduce CRP (C-Reactive Protein) which is responsible for inflammation in the arteries.
Almonds contain good fats (monosaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fats) that can help lower bad cholesterol (LDL – low-density lipoprotein). Target for one handful of almonds per day to bring down bad cholesterol by as much as 12%
Almonds are high-potassium, and low-sodium which is the ideal condition for balancing blood pressure. Almonds also contain magnesium which is good for our arteries and veins. It promotes the distribution of nutrients throughout the body. Almonds are also rich in iron which helps distribute oxygen to our body’s cells.
Almonds contain calcium which we need for bone health and preventing osteoporosis. It helps keep bones, teeth and muscles strong.
Yes, almonds are rich in fiber, protein and good fat which satisfies your hunger quickly – and helps you control weight.
Almonds have low Glycemic Index (GI). For diabetics, if they are consumed with high GI food, it helps them lower their sugar/insulin level which usually shoots up after a meal.
Almonds can help reduce the risk of cancer as they are rich in natural fiber and promote colon health and prevent colon cancer. Almonds are the ideal source of vitamin E, phyto-chemicals and flavonoids which help to control breast cancer cells. Its boron content can help lower the risk of prostate cancer.
If you eat five almonds a day, your risk of developing gallstones is reduced by at least 25%. Almond oil is used as a laxative to relieve constipation
Great for hair
Massaging your hair with almond oil and amla stops falling hair. It also slows down graying and thinning, and prevents dandruff.
Almonds are excellent for skin. Just look at all the cosmetics that boast of almonds in them! A face pack of almond paste can relieve dry skin, pimples and black heads. It works for acne too. Almonds improve complexion, nourishing the skin and making it soft and smooth, preventing premature aging.
Quick energy boost
Rich in protein, manganese, copper and riboflavin, almonds are a great way to get that instant energy boost. J Almond chocolates or almond energy bars work, too.
The almond’s nutrient content promotes brain development. Soak two-three almonds in water before you ‘zzz at night. In the morning, on an empty stomach, eat them. Some people prefer to peel the soaked badam. I don’t. Almond has phenylalanine which improves our cognitive abilities.
Rich in protein
All nuts have protein. Almonds also contain easy to absorb quality protein.
To some people, almonds might appear to be expensive at Rs.400-500/- per kilogram. But considering everything else that we tend to spend on, investing in 4-5 almonds per day really does not seem much. You work out how you can make this a healthy alternative that is tasty, filling and best of all, works!
Roasted almonds are tastier. Try caramelized almonds – they are fabulous. Most of the Mangalore stores in Bangalore sell them in packets. You can also grind 3-4 almonds and add them to gravy, adding health and taste.
When you have a choice between cashew nut and almonds, ALWAYS go for the almonds.
“Fruits are good for health” – is something we hear all the time. But when it comes to a question of almost universally preferred and also easily accessible, it is the banana. Most kids love it, and most adults love it. So let’s talk about what makes bananas a great fruit and worth including in your diet.
Firstly, bananas are the ideal fruit for overall health benefits. In fact, if you happen to be the sort who is watching your weight, the banana is the fruit to watch. Compared to other fruits, bananas carry more benefits thanks to their carbohydrate-Vitamin B combination, which gives you an instant energy boost.
A little banana “gyaan”
Said to have originated in Malaysia, the banana came to India in the 6th century. Today, of course, they are among the most common fruits we see just about everywhere. We get them in yellow, green and red. Bananas not only have health benefits, but also medicinal properties. In fact, every part of the banana plant is useful – its leaves, its fruit, its flowers and its stem.
Okay, let us look at the benefits already:
Gives you an energy boost
Most people are aware of this. Attention, all those who work late – an average banana will give you 100 calories and that shot of sucrose, fructose and glucose which convert into instant energy. Ever notice how athletes eat bananas often? Start your day with a banana sliced into your breakfast cereal – or eat it along with whatever breakfast you enjoy. (If you are the sort who skips breakfast, well – just wait until I post about the importance of breakfast and why you shouldn’t miss yours!)
Makes you more alert
Bananas have scientifically proven to make you more alert because they improve your brain activity. So that’s one more reason to start your day with a banana.
Remedy for dysentery
I have discovered this first hand. Mash a banana with a pinch of salt to relieve dysentery. You can use this for children also – just make sure you mash the ripe banana into a smoothie without lumps.
Heals intestinal problems
The ripe banana is perhaps the safest raw fruit one can take in case of intestinal or digestive problems because not only is it soft but also bland. It does not hurt ulcers. In fact, it soothes the stomach lining and relieves ulcerative colitis. The banana is easily digested and promotes healing.
Relieves the runs
Interestingly, bananas are good for both diarrhea and constipation. Talk about two-faced! The fact is – they help the large intestine restore normalcy to the way it works. They help the colon absorb water to make bowel movement easy. In constipation, they add bulk. They are rich in pectin. They also convert the intestine’s bad bacteria to – you guessed it – good bacteria! (Acidophilus bacilli).
BRAT Diet for children
Bananas are part of the BRAT diet, recommended by doctors for children suffering from gastro intestinal disorders, especially diarrhea. BRAT stands for: Bananas, Rice cereal, Applesauce, Toast. The foods have binding properties that make the stools harder.
Have a hangover? Have a banana!
Did you know that the “morning after” the night before – especially if you had one too many to drink, can be relieved with a banana milkshake and honey? The reason is – it soothes your tummy and restores your body’s blood sugar and potassium levels.
Kick the butt
Yes, banana helps you to chuck the smoking habit. This is because it promotes nicotine withdrawal with its magnesium, vitamin C, A1, B6 and B12 and potassium content.
Lowers your risk of stroke
Bananas contain potassium, which our body needs to balance its electrolytes and also control blood pressure. When this balance is reached, our risk of a heart attack or stroke is reduced. One medium banana contains 450 mg of potassium. Potassium is also good for bone health.
Enhances your mood
The banana contains an essential amino acid “tryptophan”, that helps produce serotonin, a hormone necessary to boost our mood and relieve stress.
Anemic? Here’s a natural solution
If you or someone you know is anemic, bananas are good for you because of their high iron content, which treats anemia. They trigger the production of hemoglobin in your blood.
Remedy for allergy
If you happen to be allergic to specific foods which result in skin rash, an onset of asthma or problems with digestion, consider the banana – which is the mildest of fruits.
Useful for those with kidney disorders
Being low in protein and salt and high in carbohydrates, bananas are proven to be useful in a toxic kidney condition called “uremia” which results in kidney dysfunction.
THAT time of the month no longer has to be painful. When you cook and eat banana flowers with curds, (LR – this is your cue to add a recipe!) it can relieve painful periods and excessive bleeding by raising the levels of progesterone.
Relieves urinary problems
The banana stem’s juice cures urinary problems by helping the kidney and liver function more efficiently. Basically, it helps the body’s excretory organs to do their job well. You’ve probably heard of the banana stem’s role in eliminating kidney stones, gall stones and prostate health. It is particularly effective when taken with ash gourd. (pooshanikkai, gummadikai – you know, the one they use for drishti)
Helps you lose weight
Go on a diet of bananas and skimmed milk and watch your weight decrease.
Rub the inside of the banana skin on the mosquito bite for relief from swelling and itchiness.
These are just some of the ways bananas are used. So – reach for a banana more often than you would normally do and enjoy its benefits. To me, they are the perfect no-need-to-cook snack on the go.
Is it easy to cut calories?
The answer is “yes!” This is a relevant question – what with the festival season under way. With Dussera followed by Diwali, it is like a happy food fest. Happy – for those who have their weight under control and maybe slightly worrisome for those who do not. If, like me, you love festivals, yet fret just a little after you’ve enjoyed a particularly good meal or untimely snack because you couldn’t resist it, here are some really easy tips to help you cut calories.
Losing weight can be an intimidating goal but you can do this easily with what I am about to tell you. And you need not compromise on your enjoyment.
Yes, your mother was right. Opt for fresh fruit rather than a fruit juice. I am saying this because fruit juices have a lot of sugar to make them sweet. For example – eating one orange will mean 60 calories but a cup of orange juice means 120 calories, which is twice that of the fruit. Also, fresh fruit has more benefits. Apart from the health benefit of natural fiber, fresh fruit is tastier and you feel more satisfied compared to drinking juice.
Go a little easy on the dessert. I am not saying avoid desserts – just eat a little less than you usually do.
Little step = big difference.
Opt for water, rather than a fizzy soft drink. This alone will help you cut hundreds of calories on a daily basis. Aerated soft drinks are sugar-rich. Try tender coconut water instead, which is high in natural minerals and vitamins and low in calories (and will keep you from getting dehydrated). Once in a while, splurge on a diet soft drink, if you must. But cut down on alcohol, fruit juices and dairy stuff.
Raise your protein intake. Apart from building your muscles, they make you feel full quickly and are also good for health.
Go easy on the cooking oil. Not fat-free mind you – but less oil than usual. If you use one tablespoon of oil, use three-fourths of a tablespoon instead. Go in for stir fried instead of deep fried. Make that layer of butter on your bread thinner. If you love ghee like I do, use half a spoon. If you can, choose healthy cooking oils like olive oil or oils with Omega-3 that give you less calories. Essentially, you’re trying to kill bad cholesterol – and that’s a good thing!
Freak out on fiber, which is good for digestion. It also makes you feel fuller faster. This means eating more carrots, whole grains, etc.
Small, not big
Did you know that eating 4-5 smaller meals a day instead of getting stuffed with three big meals can help you cut calories? But remember, smaller meals! If you usually eat three rotis, eat only two instead. Replace two cups of rice with one and a half cups. Just cut down a little. This helps your metabolism going all day, and helps you burn calories faster.
Yes, it does. This is one of my personal favorites – smaller plates. You can only put so much on a smaller plate! Makes it easier to resist being tempted and you end up eating less, consciously.
Cut down on starchy foods like potatoes and go in for legumes – peas, beans, moong, chana, kidney beans, lobia (black-eyed peas) – etc. The great thing here is that these are rich in fiber and vitamins. Potatoes per se are not fattening, but when you like them in the form of chips and fries, that’s when the problem comes in.
Brown, not white
Go for whole grain breads, wheat bread, wheat pasta, wheat noodles rather than white. Whole grains mean fewer calories and more fiber, iron and therefore, better nutrition.
Home sweet home
If you eat out often, you tend to end up eating more than you actually need. At home, you have a choice because you eat what you want, and can control the quantities. If you can’t avoid eating out, consciously order carefully. Opt for a healthy dish. Enjoy a salad, but without the dressing. If you love pizza, go for a thinner crust and more veggies.
It all boils down to slightly altering your food habits so that you take in fewer calories without feeling cheated. Losing excess weight need not be painful. Go slow. Go steady. Win that race J
A smelly and embarrassing issue?
Or – All that gas?
Too much of anything can be a problem – and excessive gas is no different. Not only is it embarrassing – but uncomfortable – ask anyone who suffers from it! As though the social awkwardness of belching, burping and farting weren’t enough, the excessive gas can be quite painful. This is a problem with your digestion that has to be dealt with.
The good news is – there are easy solutions for this common problem. Before you rush to the doctor, here are some tips that can help. But first, find out what could be causing it.
Major causes of um…excess gas
Foods difficult to digest
Some people really suffer from too much gas because of foods like dairy products, beans, and specific vegetables. Because these foods contain carbohydrates – fiber, sugar, starch – which are difficult to digest and absorb, these people experience excessive gas which breaks down in the large intestine.
Then, for some people, a combination of certain foods does not agree. For instance, fruits and proteins can cause excess gas in some people, while in some people, starches and proteins cause a problem. Obviously you need to observe and identify the culprits. One way to do this is to maintain a food journal and write down what makes you gassy. So – if you feel particularly gassy after a particular food, knock it off your diet and see if there’s a change.
How to minimize it?
The fact is – passing gas is a normal part of the digestion process, so don’t assume that even the normal amount is too much. Let me cut the fluff and share the tips that actually help you cut gas pain:
Drink before you eat
I didn’t mean liquor. Drinking liquids along with your food can cause your stomach acids to get lost. The job of these acids is to help break down the food to digest them. If you dilute them, they can’t do their job. Instead, if you have to, drink about half an hour before you eat. This will get your stomach ready to digest the food you eat.
Slowly does it
Eating or drinking too fast can make you swallow a lot of air – which can cause excessive gas. So what to do? Eat slowly so that you swallow the minimum air and avoid being gassy. Do you wear dentures or know someone who does? Then make sure they fit well to avoid gasping for air when you eat. Also – eat smaller meals and chew slowly.
Lower your intake of gassy foods
Easier said than done. While we all have our personal food enemies, there are certain common culprits that are likely to cause gas. Here is a list:
- Fruits like apples and pears
- Vegetables like broccoli, opinions
- While grains like bran
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, ice-cream
- Sorbitol, which is a natural sugar usually found in fruits – is also used as an artificial sweetener.
- Carbonated soft drinks and fruit drinks
Now if any of the above is making you gassy, get rid of them from your diet or consume in small quantities.
Try digestive aids
You can take over-the-counter digestive aids. This can make a difference. Just check with your doc what is suitable. Health food stores sell digestive enzymes that are safe to use. By the way, antacids don’t do much for too much gas.
Avoid smoking and chewing gum
Cigs and gum can fill your stomach with air, leading to gas. No need to add to the agony if you are already battling with excess air.
One of more of the above ought to help for excess gas – but if your problem continues, you really should see your doc. You don’t want to end up with a chronic digestive condition like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). My doc says that antacids do not do much for too much gas – it is just a placebo.
Home remedies that help
Here are some tested home remedies with zero side effects from your kitchen shelf to ease gas (and owch – that pain)
Or Cumin seeds – Roast a teaspoonful of jeera/cumin seeds until its almost red. Add two cups water and boil the water with the jeer until it reduces to one cup. Take this water once a day to ease flatulence.
Or carom seeds are a superb remedy for that gassy pain. You can prepare this just like roasting the jeera with water above. You can also roast ajwain and add buttermilk to it in the pan. Let the buttermilk heat up and turn off the fire. Drink this. Don’t miss the ajwain seeds – they taste great and feel good.
Or fenugreek seeds – my personal favorite. The hint of gassiness, and I just pop a couple of spoons of this into my mouth. I love the feel of biting these seeds and the bitter taste (yes, mad, I know). But highly effective. Best taken before you go to bed. If you don’t want to bite the seeds, that’s okay. Just swallow it with water or buttermilk. Feels great in the morning.
Or sukku – (or sunti?) Powder a small piece. Bring a glass of water to boil and add the sukku powder. Give it a couple of minutes. Drink this a few sips at a time. Relief is yours. Add some honey if you want.
How can we forget this great solution? Ginger juice + lemon + honey = remedy.
Munch a couple of spoons of coriander seeds to get rid of gas and gas pain. Ask any old-timer about “kothamalli vedai coffee”
Or Asafoetida. A couple of pinches of this powder in butter milk with a tiny pinch of salt. Feel good.
Don’t forget to drink at least eight glasses of water per day.
Ultimately, proper food habits, exercise and a healthy lifestyle is the solution to many health problems.