Tag Archives: HDL

A Cup a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

A cup of green tea a day keeps cancer and wrinkles away.

Actually it’s 3-5 cups a day and you can add tooth decay to that line above. It’s not called a cup of magic for nothing.

Now, here’s a little story for you. A long time ago (around 2737 B.C.) Emperor Shen Nung was relaxing under a shady tree with a drink of freshly boiled water, when a leaf floated down and softly landed in his cup. A gentle aroma soon rose from the water and when the emperor took a sip he was rewarded with the delightful flavour of the world’s first cup of green tea. I’m not sure how much of this story is fact or fiction, given that tea leaves do not grow on trees, however, over the next 2000 years or so the delights and benefits of this gentle brew spread from China to Japan, and other parts of Asia.

Today, while the whole world is drinking this bittersweet brew, because it’s ‘the thing to do’, most of us are not fully aware of the benefits we’ll be reaping. Here are a few pointers you may want to share with the last few non-green tea-drinkers on planet earth.

Oxidative stress plays a crucial part in a number of human diseases, including the much dreaded cancer . One way to protect our bodies from anti-oxidant stress is to maintain an optimum level of anti-oxidants in our system While, Vitamin E and C are well-known anti-oxidants, green tea is supposed to be 24 times more effective than the former and 100 times more effective than the latter! Specifically, it is thought to reduce the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.

In an extension of the previous point, anti-oxidants reduce and even prevent cell damage, thereby acting as both a deterrent to heart disease and helping with recovery after a coronary attack. Green tea has the ability to accelerate glucose and lipid metabolism, which can help with diabetes, cholesterol and obesity. So both a diabetic grandparent and a teenager fighting puppy fat can benefit from a few cups a day. Talking of older people, the anti-inflammatory benefits of green tea can even help with rheumatoid arthritis and other common joint complaints. Matter of fact, in controlled human trials, green tea as shown to increase fat oxidation by 17% and energy expenditure by 4%.

In Asia, particularly India and China, green tea has been used for centuries as an astringent, stimulant, diuretic, as well as, to deal with flatulence, to regulate body temperature, to control the levels of blood sugar, and as an aid to digestion. It even kills bacteria which affect our teeth, thereby improving our dental health and reducing the risk of infections.

You want that make-up-advertisement-like glow? Get it the natural way, with no make-up. Sip a cup of green tea while reading your glossy magazine! The best part, that little bit of tummy bloat from too much weekend indulgence will come down and you can cut down on your dental bills at the same time.

So now we know it helps our bodies, inside and out, but what about our minds? Well, here’s something all of us know, green tea contains caffeine. Scientific studies have shown that, cafffeine can improve our moods, increase vigilance, reduce reaction time and sharpen the memory. The problem is the ‘jitteriness’ it causes our bodies to undergo. Green tea has cracked that problem. How?, you may ask. On one hand green tea contains close to the ideal amount of caffeine that the human body needs to stay alert. On the other it holds an amino acid called L-theanine, which can cross the blood-brain barrier and which research has shown to have an anti-anxiety effect on our brain! Ultimately, what you have is a slower, more stable release of energy, with increased productivity.

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.

 

Advertisements

Treasures in the Kitchen

From the beginning of time, Indian cuisine has always been associated with the word “spicy”. The word itself rolls of the tongue in a variety of ways – spicy, as in mouth watering and delicious, or else spicy with a tinge of guilt, rather like a forbidden delight, or best of all just as a matter of fact – spicy is how Indian food is. We have eaten it this way for centuries, and it certainly has not harmed any of us, so maybe it’s not so bad? Perhaps it’s even quite good for us! Now this is where the conversation gets interesting.

In actual fact, most of the common spices found in the kitchen are among the best sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants being, of course, our greatest allies in the war against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. They can even slow the aging process (let’s see anyone say ‘no’ to that).

Unfortunately, as pizzas and burgers become easier and hipper to eat, the average Indian is consuming large amounts of refined carbohydrates and fat, cooked with very little spice; rather than the traditional Indian fare that includes a lot of vegetables, having large doses of fiber, cooked with hand ground spices. Preventive medicine has clearly established that almost all spices contain chemical compositions that have profound health benefits, which help to protect the body from numerous illnesses and, in many cases, act as effective treatments for established diseases. In addition, some spices also have chemicals that induce a “feel good” factor, with pepper being a great example.

In terms of their preventive health benefits, there are a few spices you don’t want to miss. Cinnamon, clove, ginger and garlic are great antioxidants, while mustard, turmeric and black pepper ward off the big ‘C’, cancer. Fenugreek and coriander are a great help if your cholesterol or triglyceride levels are high, while cloves and cinnamon are a boon to diabetics.

The only time when spices begin to harm you are when they are cooked with too much oil to make a rich curry or biryani. Obviously, the culprit here is the excessive use of oil, not the spices.

The best part about using spices as preventive medicine is that there are absolutely no side effects, and they are not really “medicines”. So when someone invites you over for a spicy meal, please accept. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favour.

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 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.

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.

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

WebMD Health

Demystifying health, healthcare and the secrets of a healthy lifestyle