Tag Archives: Rice

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.

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Harvesting Good Health

We are almost halfway through January and the first sticks of sugarcane are appearing at street corners. Homes are getting a good spring clean and the excitement of the New Year spills over to the harvest festival of Pongal.

Fortunately Pongal remains one of the Indian festivals that is still celebrated in the traditional manner, which means that the goodies associated with it, are simple and wholesome. Shakara Pongal or the Sweet Pongal for instance, is a combination of unpolished rice, jaggery or gud, milk, a wee bit of ghee, dried fruits, nuts and spices. What could be healthier? In fact you could adapt this recipe to make a really tasty, healthy porridge for the family every day. Substitute the rice with broken whole wheat (rava not Sooji), or oats for variety, and cut out the ghee (that’s for festivals only), and there you are. Protein from the milk, carbohydrates from the rice, wheat or oats, and vitamins and minerals from the dried fruits and nuts. It doesn’t get more wholesome than this.  Though jaggery is a healthier version of white sugar, the ultimate goal needs to be avoiding sugar altogether. The dried fruit should provide enough sweetness, and if not, chop in a fresh banana or apple.

The savory Pongal is also a great everyday food. The combination of rice and dhal is a perfect balance of protein and carbohydrates. Throw in a healthy dose of chopped vegetables, and lots of spices, and there you go, a great lunch or dinner. The only things to bear in mind are to omit the ghee, and use lots of vegetables in the mix.

What would Pongal be without sugarcane?  There’s probably no greater joy than tearing off those strips of purple skin with your teeth, and then chewing the white stalks; allowing the sweet nectar to fill your senses with delight. Chewing Sugarcane is a wonderful way to give your jaws and teeth a workout. The juice itself is a great source of vitamins and minerals. Only, make sure that you do it the hard way. Actually chew the cane and access the juice. Don’t just buy a glass of it. Finally, make sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly after the sugarcane indulgence, or your dentist won’t be too happy with you.

Every year, as we celebrate Pongal in all its simplicity, the message that gets driven home so clearly, is that, festivities don’t have to be associated with rich dining and calorie overloads. It is probably far more satisfying to celebrate a festival in the traditional, simple and healthy way.

Have a wonderful, happy and healthy Pongal.

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.

“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.

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Demystifying health, healthcare and the secrets of a healthy lifestyle