Monthly Archives: September, 2012

Not Such a Big Deal After All

If you have followed this blog, the last article we published on trans fats, was aimed at demystifying cholesterol and the totally impossible tongue twisters that are a part of discussions on the subject. Those nasty LDLs (low-density lipoprotein), the triglycerides and the gentlemen HDLs (high-density lipoprotein). Demystification apart, at a very practical level, I’m sure that you’re asking yourself, “Fair enough, but what is the bottom line at the end of the day? How does one go about reducing total cholesterol and LDL levels; and increasing HDL?”

If you have an abnormal “lipid profile” as it is technically called, your first step is to visit a doctor and decide whether you need medication or not. Once you are in safe medical hands, make sure that you get yourself tested regularly. Next on the to do list are making specific lifestyle changes that will enable you to stop, or at least reduce, your medication levels over the long run.

So what are these lifestyle changes?

Well it has to start with your diet right? So here we go. With the advent of affluence, and restaurants vying for your loyalty, the concept of portion control has been totally messed up.  But wait a moment, what is portion control? Sounds like some form of educational syllabus! Well, portion control is not a big deal really, it’s just a way to define the quantity of a certain food that a person should eat. A healthy portion of anything is a handful of it. Say, a piece of meat or fish, the size of your palm, is a healthy measure. A cup of rice, again needs to be a handful of cooked rice, and so on. Once you control the quantities you are eating, you are well on your way to good health.

Next we need to work on your diet content. First on the list is fiber, a seriously good guy who needs to be as widely incorporated in your diet as possible. Sources of fiber are raw vegetables, fruit and whole grain cereal that is processed as little as possible. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. They play a huge role in appetite control; since they fill you up, ensuring that you are not hungry for the unhealthy stuff anymore. Fiber is also the broom of the body, ridding it of toxins. Fiber even binds with fat molecules and removes them from the system.

Next up is fish. Fatty fish, such as salmon, trout and sardines; are a great source of Omega 3 acids. Omega 3 acids are a way wonderful to lower LDL and increase HDL. Grilled fish twice a week is a great idea. If you are vegetarian, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and nuts are also great sources of Omega 3. On the other hand, please remember the handful rule here. These nuts are fairly calorie intensive, and like we already know, calories not used by the body get stored as fat in one of its forms, something that needs to be avoided at all costs!!

You already know that trans fats are right up there with Dracula on the bad guys list. Omega 3 fatty acids, and unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive, sunflower or canola oil are part of the hero team. They can actually help you in the struggle to achieve a normal lipid profile. The only caveat is that any form of fat contributes nine calories per gram, and so even a small quantity can increase your total calorie intake very quickly. Always make sure that you read the food label before you buy a product that has fat, even if it says it is a zero cholesterol product. If the ingredient list has saturated or trans fats, drop it like a hot brick!

Next we come to exercise. Aerobic activities like running, walking and dancing; as well as strength training, are vital to improve your lipid profile. The exercise will help you burn fat, sleep better and reduce stress. All of which will go a long way in normalizing your lipid profile. In fact exercise is the key factor for increasing HDL levels. One hour of daily exercise, will go a long way towards keeping the good H guys alive and kicking in your system. Here we go back to the caution factor. Please get yourself medically cleared for exercise before you start, and take it nice and slow to start with. A gentle walk is a great way to begin. Increase the pace and duration steadily. Aim for a minimum of one hour’s exercise every day, and stay with it consistently for the rest of your life.

In the end, it always comes back to the same things – a healthy diet, daily exercise and seven to eight sleep hours every day. It’s also important to make a conscious effort to control stress. Once you know what it takes, it’s not such a big deal after all.

About the Author:

Sunitha Srinivasan is a Lifestyle Consultant and Resistance Trainer. She has qualified with the National Association for Fitness Certification, Arizona, USA. She conducts workshops on wellness that she calls ‘A Celebration of Life’, counsels on the management of lifestyle diseases and writes for leading journals and magazines.

She can be contacted at sunitha@sans-souci.in

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2012 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

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5 Tips for a Healthy, Happy Weekend

At Beaming Health, we believe that good health has three dimensions – physical, emotional and mental. If all three are in sync and upbeat, you are all set for a healthy happy life. To this end we have come up with a brand new series to kick start your weekends. Explore, experiment and enjoy.

  1. If your little one’s love cake but you feel guilty letting them have it, here’s a colourful,  healthy option. Bonus: If can be made completely without sugar as well. (image)


  2. Create a cozy, well-lit reading corner and spend a lazy afternoon with your favourite books. No computer game or television serial will help your mind relax to this extent (image)


  3. Our feet uncomplainingly support us all the time, so it’s time to show them a little love. Try a quick foot reflexology treatment over the weekend, we guarantee you’ll feel the gratitude come Monday. You can even try it yourself at home. (image)


  4. Join a weekend Yoga, Pilates or meditation class. If you already know how to do any (or all) of these, but have fallen of the wagon, this is the best time to restart. It’s a great way to clear your mind of all that weekday stress and have a serene weekend. (image)


  5. Make a list of things to for the coming week and then put it out of your mind. A cluttered mind can never relax. Check out our tips to make your Mondays enjoyable. (image)

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to tell us which activities you chose to make your day a healthier happier one.

P.S. – Since we have a mid-week holiday coming up, you have even more time to try our ideas.

About the Author:

Niranjani is an entrepreneur and blogger who believes that good quality, affordable healthcare should be available to all. She occasional puffs and pants her way through a 10k race to feel fit, despite her chaotic life.

Copyright 2012 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

 

Eat Right When You Eat Out – Indian Chinese

It’s easy to hand out advice on living the right lifestyle but what about following up on it. With this in mind I convinced my husband to make a simple change, eating right while eating out. Given our sedentary and highly stressful lifestyles, most of us take a break by going out to eat, either on the weekends or as a mid-week break. In our family, we occasionally tend to do both. We also can’t afford to eat at the best restaurants on every outing, where the chef is willing to make food to suit our specific requirements.

So how do you eat right when you eat out?

That is the question we asked ourselves and started our own local project. This series will track our efforts to eat right, given the existing and easily available dining out options in our city. Every post will give you an idea of the dishes we ordered, as well as, an idea of how tasty, or not, our meal was. We are not experts on nutrition or dietitians by profession, so there will be no calorie counting or diet advice. Just a couple of stressed out workaholics trying to do the right thing, while having a good meal.

Most days of the week we get a salad, for lunch, from a popular international salad chain. Today, however, I had a mild sniffle and was craving something hot and that’s when we decided to have Indian-Chinese. I was most definitely not going to sacrifice my diet, while having a good ten kgs to lose, post my hormonal imbalance issue, and so the experiment started.

We walked in to a standard issue restaurant chain serving Indian-Chinese, and started skimming the menu.

I decided to go with the safe but tasty Vegetable Tom Yum soup, while my husband picked the Chicken Garlic Soup. Now both were clear soups, so they fit in with our diet. We added a Chinese Salad and Mushroom Pepper Salt as starters. For the main course my husband wanted chicken and the steward courteously agreed to replace the fried chicken in his dish with a steamed version. I settled on a Stir Fried Vegetable dry (no corn starchy gravy for me).

Generally when we order at Chinese restaurants we specify the following “No Ajinomoto (MSG), minimum oil and less salt”. The soup arrived, pretty quickly and it was piping hot, without an oily film on top, which was a relief. While, the Chicken Garlic soup had just the right bit of lemongrass flavour, the Vegetable Tom Yum was tasty but had a distinct curry flavour with the coriander and tumeric being pretty strong. The Stir Fried Vegetable was a pleasant surprise. It was tasty with absolutely no oily residue and pretty salad-like in look and feel. We had forgotten that the mushroom would be fried when we ordered it and to the chef’s credit he had used the minimum possible oil, and still managed to make it tasty with a lot of spicy freshly crushed pepper. The Chinese Salad was the last to arrive and it was basically Kimchi (which used to be complimentary at most Chinese restaurants) with a larger variety of vegetables. The only downside to the salad was, it had some crispy fried stuff sprinkled on top, which I ate quite a bit of.

Our Take:

First having a fairly healthy Indian Chinese meal is possible, though it requires a bit of effort to check what goes into the dishes. In the future, we need to check portions sizes before ordering. In this case, the portions were quite large and we should have stuck to a soup each and two dishes apart from that. To make the meal really healthy, we could have skipped the fried mushrooms, as well as the crispy fried additions to the Salad. Given this assessment, here’s how I rate the experience on a range of 1-5, (with 1 being extremely poor and 5 being excellent):

Taste : 4

Quality of Food/Ingredients: 3

Health Factor: 2 (Two fried dishes was not a good idea – the mushrooms and the salad topping)

Total: 5/10

Our tips for a healthy Indian-Chinese meal:

  • Be sure to lose the deep fried stuff
  • Remember to always specify “No Ajinomoto (MSG), minimum oil and less salt.”
  • Choose a clear soup

See you next month and be sure to recommend different cuisines or dishes for us to try. You can even write to us about your healthy eating experiences.

P.S. – I did have a fat-free (not sugar free) chocolate sorbet, after the meal, at a popular ice-cream parlour. But this is a health blog and I have to keep my secrets.

About the Author:

Niranjani is an entrepreneur and blogger who believes that good quality, affordable healthcare should be available to all. She occasional puffs and pants her way through a 10k race to feel fit, despite her chaotic life.

Photo Credit: Image 1 (Since I’m not a food blogger, I forgot to take pictures.)

Copyright 2012 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

And the award for the best Villain goes to…

In recent times, trans fats have earned the reputation of being THE VILLAINS of the piece, the really BAD guys, to be avoided at all costs.

What are trans fats, and what makes them so bad?

Trans fats are artificially created fats.  Basically, liquid vegetable oil (an otherwise healthy monounsaturated fat) is packed with hydrogen atoms and converted into a solid, which we call trans fat. This form of fat is ideal for the food and baking industry to use because of its long shelf life, high melting point and smooth, creamy texture. Trans fats are what make commercially prepared cakes, cookies and chips taste as nice as they do.

In India there has always been this long standing debate on the health benefits of vegetable oils, over saturated fats like butter or ghee and trans fats like vanaspati. In a choice between the three, vegetable fats definitely score over the other two, as the best form of fat intake. While, saturated fats have been found to elevate the total cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level; trans fats not only elevate LDL levels, but also those of triglycerides. Even worse they reduce the level of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), what is commonly referred to as ‘good cholesterol’, leaving a person extremely vulnerable to heart disease,

Right now, I can hear you saying, ‘whoa hang on a moment, what on earth do all these high sounding medical terms mean’? Maybe I should explain right?

Let’s start with Cholesterol?

This is quite simply, a fat that is made by the liver. Cholesterol is also present in several foods, such as, red meat and dairy. Cholesterol is required by almost all the cells of the body and is actually one of the good guys. It’s only when an excess of cholesterol is present in the body that it starts creating problems. Then we come to the lipoproteins. As the name suggests, these are a combination of fat and protein. Their function is to transport fats around the body in the blood. There are three types of lipoproteins:

Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL, part of the villain troupe, since it carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. If too much cholesterol is carried to the cells it cases a harmful build up, which results in the narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) ultimately leading to heart disease.

High Density Lipoproteins or HDL is the good guy. It transports Cholesterol from the cells to the liver, to be broken down and eliminated. Thus a high level of HDL in your blood indicates a low propensity for heart disease.

Triglycerides are the form in which most fat exists in food, as well as in the body. Calories ingested in a meal and not used immediately by tissues for energy, are converted to triglycerides and transported to fat cells to be stored. These are an excellent source of fuel for the body when there are food shortages. On the other hand, in these days of food excesses, the level of triglycerides in the blood can very easily go above healthy levels, again leading to an increased risk of heart disease or one of the other lifestyle diseases.

Defeating the Villain

Now that we have demystified those impossible tongue twisters, let’s get back to the original villain, trans fats.These baddies  have earned themselves such a bad reputation, that their recommended safe intake has been limited to less than 1 percent of the total calorie intake. In other words, avoid them completely. In the USA it is mandatory to mention the use of trans fats on the food label. In India we do not have such stringent regulations yet, and therefore you need to pay careful attention to the ingredient list on the food label. If the words ‘Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil’ or ‘Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil’ are anywhere near the top of the ingredient list, this is a food to be avoided at all costs.

Ultimately, it always boils down to the same things doesn’t’ it? Fast foods, confectionery and fried snacks are the enemy. Treat yourself with very small portions of them once in ten days or so. Everyday food needs to be home cooked and balanced meals, made of unprocessed or semi processed cereals and lentils, cooked in as little oil as possible.  Fresh fruit and raw vegetables make for perfect snacks (after thorough washing). Make sure that these good foods become a part of your daily life. After all when we don’t let the bad guys win in Bollywood, why should we let them win at home?

About the Author:

Sunitha Srinivasan is a Lifestyle Consultant and Resistance Trainer. She has qualified with the National Association for Fitness Certification, Arizona, USA. She conducts workshops on wellness that she calls ‘A Celebration of Life’, counsels on the management of lifestyle diseases and writes for leading journals and magazines.

She can be contacted at sunitha@sans-souci.in

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2012 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

Dietary Control – Our Food Laws

Food control in India is still in its nascent stage. Pre-independence legislation and other laws passed in the seventies and eighties focused on primary food. The legislative framework created multiple executive authorities that lacked coordinated efforts. With industrial growth paving the way for the Information Age – “The Third Wave” brought about changes in lifestyle. Processed food started taking center stage as a perpetual shortage of time became the norm, both at work and home. A legislation to control food quality and to ensure that regulations conformed to international standards, while working on a scientific basis, was the need of the hour in order to protect the health of the consumers.

Regulatory Background:

In 2005 the Government of India drafted the Food Safety Bill to consolidate the laws relating to food and to establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. This regulatory body would lay down science based standards for articles of food, while regulating their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import. It also aimed to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. The draft was given life in the form of “Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006”, however the officially came into force only on August 05, 2011. A few of the highlights of the Act are:

  • A definition of the general principles of food safety are given and require standards to be established using risk analysis and by undertaking risk assessment based on available scientific evidence.
  • Restrictions on the manufacture and distribution of genetically modified food and foods for special dietary uses.
  • The seller is made liable for sale of food in specific cases, such as when the manufacturer was unidentifiable.
  • The purchaser is empowered to have food analyzed by an authorized food analyst.

What is happening today?

“Watch out for what you eat. It could be killing you slowly and sweetly” – screamed the  headline of a report by the Centre for Science and Environment, in March 2012, warning us of trans-fat content in junk food.

The study revealed the following:

  • Most junk foods contain very high levels of trans fats, salts and sugar – which inevitably lead to severe ill health and diseases like obesity and diabetes
  • CSE lab tests 16 major brands of foods relished by people, particularly the young
  • Finds companies resort to large scale misbranding and misinformation; many say their products contain zero trans fats, but CSE finds heavy doses
  • Danger lurking: Younger generation hooked to junk food, vulnerable to heart diseases in the prime of their life

Trans fat is short for trans fatty acid. Industrial trans fats like those in vanaspati are formed during the addition of hydrogen atoms to products to increase their shelf-life. The fats are associated with serious health problems, ranging from diabetes to heart diseases to cancer. They have been banned in a few European countries, such as Denmark and Switzerland, and in some of the cities in the US. But not all trans fats are bad for health. At least not the natural ones found in ghee, butter and cheese.

Are we winning or losing the battle?

On 11th January, 2012 a division bench of the High Court of Judicature, New Delhi ordered the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to draft guidelines or rules to ban junk food in and around schools. The court passed the order on a public interest petition by Uday Foundation, a non-profit organization in Delhi, which alleges that junk food damages the health and mental growth of children. The petition was filed in 2010. The foundation works on child nutrition and health; it has sought a ban on sale of junk food in schools and within 500 meters of educational institutions. The next hearing was scheduled for 25th July, 2012. I am unable to mine a report on this and hence have reason to believe that the matter rests with the court and hence sub-judice.

Food businesses which have been affected by the new norms have filed writs. One of these writs was heard and issued on November 08, 2011 by the Madras High Court. Another case was heard by the same court and interim orders were issued by the learned judge restraining the Centre from enforcing some of the regulations in the Act against the affected parties. The Honorable Justice has directed a Central Government Standing Counsel to take notice returnable by June 05, 2012. As of now, I believe the matter is sub-judice.

On one hand, we seem to have made strides with path breaking legislation, while on the other we lack the teeth for execution. Ultimately, the fight for ‘dietary control’ has to be a personal one, where each of us arms ourselves with knowledge and takes responsibility for ourselves and our families. As the famous saying goes “Forewarned is forearmed”.

About the Author:

Naresh is a fitness enthusiast who enjoys running, rowing and a multitude of outdoor sports. He also works in the healthcare industry and, at close to sixty years, is trying to create awareness of the concept of health through fitness.

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2012 (c) Primex Scans and Labs. Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

 Sources:

1 Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006

2 The Hindu dated May 02, 2012

3 http://www.cseindia.org/content/watch-out-what-you-eat-it-could-be-killing-you-slowly-and-sweetly-says-new-cse-junk-food-and accessed on 01-Sep-2012

Demystifying health, healthcare and the secrets of a healthy lifestyle

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Demystifying health, healthcare and the secrets of a healthy lifestyle