Category Archives: The Healthy Child

Introducing Your Child To Vegetables


“After 24 months children become reluctant to try new things and start to reject foods.” – Prof Marion Hetherington, University of Leeds

As a mother*, I’m not sure if the above statement is completely true, however, I do believe that good eating habits are set early in life. A habit is after all formed by repetition and young children as supposed to be like sponges, right? When we give so much importance, to how our children should deal with what comes out of the body (potty training) so early, shouldn’t we start with what goes in, even earlier?

Eager to get your child on the right path but don’t know how**? No worries, here’s a quick guide to get you started:

  • Build on a baby’s love for colour and texture. Try a boiled and pureed carrot one day, and a steamed and mashed sweet potato the next.
  • Make small quantities initially and don’t try to substitute a tasting for a meal. This will prevent both the child and the parent from finding the experience stressful. Experiment during playtime, rather than mealtimes.
  • Note the child’s initial preferences and repeat rejected foods in a different form/combination after a gap.
  • Talk to your pediatrician and always be prepared for possible allergic reactions.
  • Make the experience comfortable by preparing, in advance, to deal with the potential food mess. Cloth the child in soft old clothes, cover the floor/table with disposable paper towels and stay away from walls/curtains that cannot be cleaned.
  • Avoid trying new foods in the evenings as resources (energy, medical help, etc.) maybe low, making it a lot more difficult to deal with emergencies.
  • Let the baby feel the food with his/her hands. it’s after all a first time experience for him/her.
  • Don’t add salt or sugar to the vegetable. Let the child discover the original taste before we alter it.
  • Don’t try anything new if the child is not feeling well.
  • Most importantly, enjoy the time with your baby.

Have we missed anything here? Is there an experience you would like to share with us?

*Always check with your pediatrician  before you try a new food or routine for your child. The author is not a childcare or medical expert and has only shared her opinion based on her personal experiences.

** There are a lot of books out there that will give you practical tips, as well as, detailed steps on this topic. Alternatively, you can speak to a doctor or nutritionist who specializes in children’s nutrition.

About the Author:

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

Photo Credit: Image 1Image 2

Copyright 2014 (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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15 Minute Workouts – The Pajama Workouts

Sleep late, get-up early, make and pack multiple meals, get to work, work 12 hours, meet friends/do homework with the kids, cook dinner, tidy-up the house, do the laundry and drop exhausted into bed.

Given that most of us have a routine close to this, where do we find the time and most importantly the energy to workout. We know it’s important, we make New Year resolutions, frequently start off on fitness plans, however, within four weeks most of us are back to square one.

Now, how would you like to spend just 15 minutes in your bedroom getting fit. It can even be, or should I say it must be, in your pajamas. Trust me, it is possible and it does give results. This week we’ll start with the all time favourite of children and sportsmen – skipping or jump rope exercises. Here’s what you do:

  • Set the jump rope and comfortable workout shoes, next to your bed, the previous night
  • Wake-up 10 minutes earlier than usual and slip on your footwear
  • Do 2 minutes of stretching exercises
  • Jump rope for about 10 minutes
  • Take a minute to cool down
  • Stretch again for 2 minutes
  • You are done! Now go take a shower

A few points to keep in mind, to make sure you really benefit from this effort:

  • 100 -120 counts a minute should be your target (apparently 10 minutes of this is equal to 30 minutes of mid-paced running)
  • Start with 5 minutes on the first day and build-up
  • Your heart rate should be up for 7 out of the 10 minutes, at a minimum
  • Most important, check with your doctor before starting any new fitness or diet routine

Follow this religiously (maybe even twice a day), along with a simple diet change, and see the results in 90 days. You will be amazed and addicted. The best part – no expensive equipment, clothes or gym membership required.

Our workout series aims to help you figure out the right fitness regime for your body and mind. As part of this series, we previously  covered: cyclingswimmingrowingrunning, a guide to picking the right shoe, a three-week campaign to get you out on the road and how to mentally condition yourself to get going.

About the Author:

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

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2014 (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.

Family Fitness – Balloon Volleyball Sundays

It’s a well-known fact that it’s easier to teach kids with examples rather than through preaching. The same applies to lifestyle changes. Sitting around munching on a bag of chips and watching our favourite t.v. serial, while telling our little ones to go out and play, isn’t a great idea. They’ll most probably hide themselves away with an electronic gadget till we call them to start their homework or eat their next meal.

A simple way to make fitness a part of your lifestyle as a family and up the fun factor at the same time, is to introduce the concept of family fitness. There are multiple ways to do this and over the next few months we will introduce you to a few simple ideas to kick-start the process.

One game we enjoy as a family is balloon volleyball. I don’t know any children who don’t love balloons, even though many of them are terrified of the sound when one pops. I say balloons make dully dreary adults into children!

That being said, here’s our first activity for the family fitness program. Balloon Volleyball Sundays. Gather the family together, clear some space in a room, or make for the outdoors, and start playing.

Here’s what you’ll need (all available at most general stores):

A long piece of string or ribbon – for the net

Some tape – to secure the string

A pair of scissors – to cut the tape and string

A few balloons (obviously)

I have fond memories of my parents playing with my brother and me. Today it’s us with our little one. Fitness and a mental image of happiness, is as close to picture perfect as it gets.

So, this weekend ditch the afternoon movie and have fun being a child, with your children. Oh! and let us know if you have any family fitness ideas to share.

Our workout series aims to help you figure out the right fitness regime for your body and mind. Now we want you to get your whole family in on it. As part of this series, we previously covered: swimmingrowingrunning, a guide to picking the right shoe, a three-week campaign to get you out on the road and how to mentally condition yourself to get going.

About the Author:

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

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2013 (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.

Summer Recovery – Starting a Workout Routine

The summer’s over, the days are getting a bit cooler thanks to the rain and the mangoes are dwindling away from the markets. Everyone’s enjoyed a break, to some extent, from routine, especially when it comes to food and exercise. Initially, your activity levels may have been higher playing with the neighbourhood children on their summer break or travelling to a new or well-loved location, however, gradually the weight piles on, your skin gets dull and your hair looks lank. You obviously need to get back on track to be ready in time for the festival season. Well, don’t despair we have a simple and effective program to get your health back on track.

This week we start with fitness. Our five step Summer Recovery- Starting the Workout program will help you get started afresh or pick-up where you let off at the beginning of summer.

  • Pick a Realistic Time

The time you choose to workout should be comfortably available for you on a daily basis. Having competing commitments at the same time, will ensure that you drop the new routine within a few weeks or even few days because it’s just too much of a challenge in your already busy day.

  • Enlist a Reliable Friend

Rope in someone who will give you that wake-up call for a morning workout or call you on out on lazing in front of the television, instead of going for your evening run. Even better get a workout partner who you know will push you. When you know you have to report into someone on your effort or performance, you will be a lot more dedicated.

  • Choose an Activity You Enjoy

Your workout time is ‘me’ time, something that you are doing for your mental and physical health. Enjoying it ensures that you’ll look forward to it and want to do it every single day. A sure fire way to stick to your workout plan. Another option is to mix up the activities in your workout to keep it interesting. Enjoy the last bit of warm weather with a host of outdoor activities. Spend weekends going on picnics and playing some cricket or volleyball.

  • Make it a Priority

Your daily workout is as important as brushing your teeth every morning or having your main meal of the day. You need to tell yourself that’s a non-negotiable and essential activity. A good way to do this is to remind yourself about why you’ve chosen to start this regime. Make yourself stick to it for four weeks without a lapse and by the end of the month it’ll be a part of your regular routine.

  • Reward Yourself

While the obvious result of an effective and regular workout routine is a healthy body and mind in the long run, we all need some motivation to keep going. Choose a reward that does not affect your fitness and set it as a reward against the milestone of completing a month of regular workouts.

Use these smart but simple steps to get yourself back to your fittest and healthiest self and you’ll be ready to enjoy the rest of the year.

About the Author:

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

Photo Credit: Image 1Image 2

Copyright 2013 (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.

 

An Ode to the Tender Coconut

Did you know that the liquid from a sealed tender coconut is pure enough to be injected into the human blood stream? In fact tender coconut water has the same electrolyte balance as blood and therefore it can be used as an emergency substitute for Plasma. Many a soldier’s life has been saved thanks to the humble tender coconut.

However, what we are talking about here is a lot more mundane. It’s more about quenching thirst in the summer heat. Those dog days are upon us, and in the scorching heat of summer the tendency is always to reach out for an ice cold soft drink or an ice cream. You gulp it down, enjoying the cool feel of the bottle, and the liquid pouring down your throat, only to find yourself doubly hot and thirsty just moments after you have had your drink.

Your average “cool” drink is extremely high in calories. Most of them are close to 100 calories per large glass. It is in fact, pure sugar water, which is why it leaves you feeling thirsty. It has the added disadvantages of harming your teeth and creating gastric disturbances.

If you are thirsty after sport, or due to the heat, your best possible drink is plain water. Even if you are not thirsty, make sure you drink at least 8-10 glasses a day. When you are working out in the heat, I’m sure that you have been told that you need to replace the water, salt and sugar that your body loses. You have probably been told that you need to have one of the several sports drinks available in the market. They are a great idea if you are running a marathon in the heat and have been doing prolonged high impact exercise for more than 2 hours at a stretch.  Alternatively, if you are lucky to lay your hands on a tender coconut instead, go for it. Tender coconuts are rich in sugar, salt and potassium in the perfect balance that the body requires. Moreover, they are much lower in calories than any manufactured drink.

Before a work out, there is a widespread belief that you need a protein or carbohydrate drink that comes out of an expensive tin. How about trying a simple banana instead? Yet another food that will supply you with all the calories you need for your work out, as well as sugar, salt, potassium and some fibre. There has to be a reason why monkeys are so athletic right?

Canned fruit juices are a great idea if you are looking to them as a substitute for alcohol or a dessert, However they are not a great source of nutrition, since they are way too high in sugar and preservatives. In fact, they are largely empty calories. You would be doing your body a huge favour if you drank fresh homemade juice, without sugar, or even better ate the whole fruit, as that way you’ll get the fibre too.

In India we are lucky. Every street corner has a vendor selling fresh tender coconut water. It’s cheap, healthy and tastes delightful. Go for it. Treat yourself to one every day, and watch the improvement in your hair, skin and in fact your entire system.

About the author:

Sunitha Srinivasan has qualified with the National Association of Fitness Certification in the USA as a Lifestyle Consultant and Resistance Trainer. She focuses on helping people with their struggle to create a balanced and healthy lifestyle,  given the time constraints and stress present in today’s world.
She also conducts workshops on Wellness, Stress Management and Work-Life balance.
She can be reached at Sunitha@sans-souci.in

Photo Credit: Image 1

Copyright 2013 (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.

 

That Humble Bowl of Soup

As you’re reading this, if you chance to look out of your window, you will see the sun blazing outside, and the last thing that you can think of is the fact that winter will soon be upon us. After all, we are pretty much in the middle of November, right?

Winter brings with it the long chilly evenings, when you try to get home as early as you can, so that you can enjoy an evening to yourself with a warm cup of tea? Or even better some homemade soup. There’s something about soup, that’s so heart warming. That may be because of its sheer goodness. There are few things as healthy as a bowl of soup, made from scratch with lots of vegetables and perhaps a bit of chicken stock. For sure, the ‘healthy’ part is severely put to test when you load your soup with dollops of cream or sauté the veggies with a whole liter of oil.

Be smart here, and you will find that your humble bowl of soup is the perfect meal, full of nutrition and low on calories.  The great advantage of having a bowl of soup early in the evening is that it is extremely filling, which means you are not tempted into a heavy dinner. Therefore, as you treat your body, and your soul, to a bowl of soup early in the evening, you will have the double pleasure of watching the pounds roll off you.

This is extremely important during the Festive season, where overeating of calorie rich food is par for the course. This is a time when you need to keep your bowl of soup really close at hand. Make sure that you always have a nice, filling mug of soup before you go out to eat or party. This way you won’t be ravenously hungry and therefore you will be able to enjoy the treats laid before you with discretion, instead of gorging on the first plate of chips that you see.

Discretion is the key word here. It will ensure that you really enjoy the festive season, with all the accompanying goodies. Remember eat with caution, and step up your exercise, so that the extra calories are burnt easily. This will free you from the the typical post festivity depression that hits most of us around the first week of January.

Seasons greetings to all of you, as we leave you with a simple and easy soup recipe to start off. Here’s to a lovely, bright and colourful Diwali and festive season.

Mixed Vegetable Soup

Serves: 2 bowls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped mixed vegetables (carrot, beans, cauliflower, green peas, sweet corn)
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 green chillies chopped
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Coriander leaves for garnishing
  • 6 cups water (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 tsp corn flour mixed into ½ a cup of milk
  • 1 tsp butter
  • Salt as per taste

Method

  • Heat a thick bottomed pan and add the butter.
  • Once the butter melts, add onion, ginger, green chilli and garlic, and stir fry for a minute on simmer.
  •  Once done add the rest of the vegetables and fry for a few minutes before adding the water or vegetable stock.
  • Once the vegetables are cooked, add salt and the corn flour mix and stir well. The soup will thicken a little.
  • Remove the pan of soup from the flame and add pepper powder.
  • Top with coriander before serving hot.

For more ideas on staying fit, while enjoying the festive season check out our ‘Eat Right When you Eat Out: The Food Court‘ article.

About the author:

Sunitha Srinivasan has qualified with the National Association of Fitness Certification in the USA as a Lifestyle Consultant and Resistance Trainer. She focuses on helping people with their struggle to create a balanced and healthy lifestyle,  given the time constraints and stress present in today’s world.
She also conducts workshops on Wellness, Stress Management and Work-Life balance.
She can be reached 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.

“No, I Don’t Eat Rice……..

.. Not I don’t that I don’t like it, I just don’t eat it. Why you ask? I believe that rice makes me fat, and so I never eat it, but nonetheless I haven’t lost a single kilo! If anything I’m gaining fat!” How often have you heard that refrain? It’s almost becoming a standard discussion every time a group of people get together. I’m sure you have heard it more times than you care to remember, and are now wondering how much sense the argument for and against rice makes.

If you are a South Indian, this should actually be a no-brainer. Our fore fathers ate rice as a staple part of their diet for hundreds of years and stayed healthy, so what makes this generation so different? Okay, I know what’s running through your minds. The previous generations had a different kind of lifestyle or the quality of rice they got in those days was different or worst of all, they didn’t know the virtues of a pure protein or pure fat diet.

Okay so let’s work this one through step by step. All of us know that our bodies require the four macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, fat and water – to perform optimally.  Carbohydrates, such as rice, chappattis, bread, pasta and fruit, all fuel the body. They are what give you the energy to move, to breathe, to think and carry on the process of metabolism. The bulk of your diet, that is, 45 to 65 percent of it, must consist of carbohydrates. Don’t ever forget that the primary function of food is to fuel the body. If you deny your body its basic share of carbohydrates, it will look for other sources for fuel. The first logical one is protein and more often than not this means muscle protein. Sure, your body will be fueled  but by an extremely inefficient, expensive source of fuel. Pretty much like burning a sandalwood log in the kitchen fire. We all know just how hard it is to build muscle. More importantly, protein will neglect its prime function of repair and maintenance of tissues, and helping to build fresh muscle. The result is that you will be left with aging skin, falling hair and damaged tissues.

So where is all this leading? Obviously it does not mean that you need to do a complete 360 degree turn around and gorge on every candy bar in sight? What you need to do is choose your carbohydrates carefully, and learn to read food labels. Skip the highly polished white rice and go for brown, black or red rice In this case, the more coloured it is the better it is. Look for the word unpolished on the label, which basically indicates that you are on to a good thing. Ensure that your chapattis are made with atta (unrefined wheat flour), not maida (polished and refined wheat flour) and have no oil in them. Check that the grains in your breakfast cereal are unprocessed and have no sugar. Ragi or oats porridge is always preferable to processed breakfast cereals.

Moving on to bread, the real biggie on the carbohydrate team. It’s so easy to read the label that says brown or whole wheat bread, and think that you are making the right choice. Stop for a moment and check the ingredient list. The ‘brown’ may be coming from caramelised sugar, and if in the list of ingredients whole wheat flour is listed after the salt, you know you are being conned. The quantity of salt in a loaf of bread is only a teaspoon, which makes the whole wheat even less.

Going back to our main character here, rice. It is the rich, oily gravy or the fried papaddum that you eat with the rice, rather than the rice itself that should be a source of concern. Every gram of fat in that gravy contributes nine calories, as opposed to the four calories contributed by a gram of carbohydrate in the rice. Basically, less than half your calories for that meal come from the rice.

So banish the oily and fried stuff from your life, and enjoy your complex carbohydrates. You can be certain that they will be your greatest allies on the road to fat loss and good health. So now, can we please bring on the rice?

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, Image 2

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.

The Tiffin Dabba Saga

Do you go to sleep every Sunday night with this on loop in your head?  “Oh my God, it’s Monday tomorrow! The beginning of another mad week which means getting ready for work, trying to fit in some exercise, deadlines, schedules… and the biggest worry, trying to pack lunch for my fussy seven-year old.”

Most days, the dabba comes back untouched. The days he’s nibbled something, I count myself lucky. He hates vegetables and the school doesn’t encourage meaty lunches. He will eat a boiled egg but the teacher says he spills the shell all around the table…. Does all this sound familiar? I’ve even known a parent who used to pack deep-fried slices of bread, which had been dipped in sugar syrup, every day for her daughter’s lunch. Why? Because that was the ONLY thing the child would eat and the mother was so desperate that she would pack almost anything.

By the way, habits of fussy eating are picked up mostly from parents. If you want your child to eat healthy, then eat healthy yourself! The dictum of “do as I say, but not as I do” has never worked and never will.  Examine your reactions to food. Do you make a face at brinjal? Do you say “yuck” to garlic? Do you complain when the idlis are hard or the dosa is not crisp? Do you absolutely refuse to try any new food, saying “I know I won’t like it” before even putting a spoonful in your mouth? Guess what, ninety nine times out of a hundred, that ‘s exactly what your child will do too. The hundredth, will probably turn out to be a rebel and eat insects picked up off the ground or mud from the garden just to have the pleasure of hearing you go “eeeeeuuuuggghhh, how could you?”.

Now, hanging your head in shame is not going let you see the screen in front of you. To figure out what next, look up and read on. These simple steps will make you the envy of all the mothers at the school gate:

  • Be enthusiastic about new experiences, whether it’s new books, new friends, new places or new food.
  • Be energetic. I agree that it’s easier to pack a sandwich than make a stuffed paratha, however, if you want results, there are no short cuts! If you want to create a healthy lifestyle for you and your family, it involves work. My tip here, prepare as much as you can a day before.
  • Be creative. If you have a kid who asks why he should thank god for his food when his food it consists of only ‘yucky veggies”? Make green, red and orange paranthas or pooris by kneading flour with boiled, puréed spinach or peas, beetroot and carrots. The same trick can be used for idlis and dosas.
  • Make it “cool”. For example, dosas in his lunch box again? Stuff them with a mixture of sautéed spinach, corn and cheese or paneer.
  • Be inclusive. Involve your child in the cutting, pounding and kneading activities of food preparation.  The excitement of creating their own food can carry over into eating it and sharing it. The big bonus, they learn to appreciate the effort you put in everyday.
  • Create anticipation. Tell them what to expect in their lunch box and show it to them before they leave (if you’re not rushed off your feet). Trust me, they’ll look forward to lunch time.  To keep the momentum, don’t forget to plan an occasional surprise, which creates its own excitement and breaks the monotony of always knowing what’s in the box.
  • Learn about nutrition and share it with your family. These are skills not taught at school and there’s nothing like a practical lesson at home on what the humble curd rice is loaded with – probiotics and calcium – to make it a “hero”. Ditto for the reviled brinjal and the much hated bitter gourd. Don’t force these down their throats too often though, this will cause even a saint to rebel.
  • Cook with love, creativity will flow!  Even humble steamed carrot, peas and potatoes can be made “awesome” by adding a tad of butter and some herbs.
  • Keep it simple. Children tend to prefer simpler foods to more complex, adult foods. Steamed vegetables, sundal and rotis, or rice form a complete meal, while being easy to make and pack.
  • Keep them small. Finger foods, small wraps with rotis and vegetables in a salad dressing or mayo and some cheese, all look good, taste good and make kids happy.
  • Enjoy the process. Think of it as an outlet for your creativity. Approach food and cooking with anticipation and excitement and it will repay you hugely. Approach it as though it’s a chore to be done as quickly and with as little involvement as possible and it’s guaranteed to be a pain.
  • With all this, there are still days when your child will not eat what’s in the dabba. Well, if it’s just a one-off day, don’t sweat it. We all need an occasional break. If it’s too frequent an occurrence and then consider what further action is needed.

I, however, have to add a note of caution here on being ready for the unexpected. Why? Because I am a mother of two and know that kids are unpredictable. My four year-old daughter came back from school one day with her untouched box of pinwheel sandwiches. We had made these with great excitement and enthusiasm the previous night. Why did she not eat them? Well, she thought ‘they were too beautiful to eat’!

About the Author:

AnuradhaVenkatesh is an entrepreneur with a passion for education. She loves food and everything to do with it (the making, the reading about, the eating, the dreaming), word games, kids, the monsoon and mangoes  – though not necessarily in that order.

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.

No Milk Today…

…..and any other day because…. “I don’t like it” or worse because “It makes me fat”, or worst of all, “I believe I don’t need it”. Are you among the vast majority who think that way? Has milk become a rarity in your diet? If so you need to do a fairly quick re-think.

Now if your first reaction was “Okay, I know I need calcium, but why milk? I can take a supplement”. The answer is completely straight forward. Milk is undoubtedly the best source of dietary calcium. In fact, it’s not just milk and calcium, it is best that you get all your vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet, rather than from supplements. This makes sense for several reasons.

First, a balanced diet ensures that you get the widest variety of required vitamins and minerals, in the correct proportion and in a form that is best absorbed by the body. When you take a supplement, unless it’s one that has been prescribed for medical reasons, you run the risk of imbibing too much of the vitamin or mineral, which can harm your body in the long run, or else you may be spending huge amounts of money on a supplement that the body does not absorb. This will undoubtedly result in huge damages to your wallet and no good to your body!

Modern nutrition science also recognises the fact that fruit and vegetables, besides providing essential vitamins and minerals, are a source of photochemicals and polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that protect the body from several illnesses including cancer. No supplement currently known to science can provide this.

So now we know that we need our fruit and veggies, and that there is no magic tablet on earth that can replace them. However, we started this story with milk…. and maybe we should get back to it. So, does your body really need milk? Do you stop needing it after a certain age? Is milk the only source of calcium that is good for you? What if you are lactose intolerant?

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies. About 90% of the body’s calcium is stored in our bones and teeth. The word stored is operative. The human skeleton is a store house for calcium and as long as you are getting enough calcium in your diet, the body’s hoard remains intact. On the other hand, the moment you start depriving your body of calcium, it will start drawing from its store house, because it needs to maintain a certain level of calcium in the blood, thereby weakening the bones and teeth. This is what results in low bone density, bone weakening and ultimately osteoporosis, the brittle bone syndrome that cripples so many senior citizens.

Do I really need calcium as I grow older? Can my body absorb it? For sure the highest calcium absorption is during childhood and young adulthood, when the body is working towards building its peak bone mass. This age lays the foundation for strong bones throughout life. Your mother was right, milk for a child is vital. After the age of 40, your bones will start to lose density regardless of the amount of calcium you take. Nonetheless, ensuring that you get enough calcium in your diet, along with regular bouts of physical activity (both aerobic exercise and strength training), will keep your bones as strong as they possibly can be, until you reach a ripe old age.

So, what constitutes sufficient calcium intake? About 3-4 cups of milk or curd a day is right. Of course, you need more if you are a child or teenager or pregnant and less as you age, but a reasonable average seems to be about 3 cups of skimmed milk or curd a day. If 3 cups a day seems like a lot to you, do remember that most of us have about a cup of milk everyday with our tea and coffee, and for an Indian a cup of curd a day is part of the daily diet. That just leaves one cup extra which can be had with your breakfast cereal, or as a snack just before you go to bed.

Is milk the only source of calcium? What if I am lactose intolerant? There are several other sources of calcium, such as, tinned fish with the bones for instance or meat stock made with bones, soy milk or curd or even almonds. All excellent sources of calcium, though we shouldn’t forget the caveats. For instance, a 1/3 cup of almonds supplies 100 mg of calcium against a daily requirement of 1000-1200 mg, but at a cost of 300 calories! And fish and meat stock are not an option if you are vegetarian. This still leaves you with the options of soy  lentils and green leafy vegetables.

Recent studies have indicated that the right intake of calcium in the form of skimmed milk or milk products can help with a weight loss programme. There goes the assumption that milk makes you fat. These studies are inconclusive, but nonetheless when you are thirsty and hot it makes far more sense to reach for a glass of skimmed milk than for a cola. So now can we change that song to more milk today?

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.

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.

Demystifying health, healthcare and the secrets of a healthy lifestyle

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Demystifying health, healthcare and the secrets of a healthy lifestyle