Saturday, October 23, 2010


Nature's healing secrets

Nature has provided us with an abundance of food. Taking cues from mother nature’s rich harvest, we list a few super foods that should be part of your daily diet to promote health, to de-stress, fight diseases, soothe and revitalize your body to heal itself.

Vegetables and Fruits:
Don’t ever give up on fruits and vegetables. They are more nutrient dense than any other foods. About 75 to 80 percent of our food intake should comprise of alkaline vegetables and fruits. These foods help to balance and maintain the body’s ph at an ideal of 7.3. Many fruits and vegetables are rich in Beta Carotene, the substance that converts to vitamin A in the body. Go for foods that are deep orange, yellow and red as they have several times more Beta Carotene than white ones. A diet high in alkaline fruits and vegetables offer protection against many chronic and degenerative diseases. Fruits help to fill the void between meals and can be a satisfying substitute for people who crave desserts and they are excellent source of insoluble fiber.

Green Leafy Vegetables:
Green leafy vegetables include spinach, lettuce, mustard greens, methi leaves, raddish and turnip leaves, kale, collard greens, cabbage etc.
Greens are low in calories and fat content. They are cholesterol fighters, helps control diabetes and is great for weight loss. They have been touted as anti cancer vegetables due to their antioxidant properties. They are not only nutritious but also versatile and can be used in salads, soups, juices, as a stuffing for parathas and in lasagnas. Some greens like spinach have very high sodium content and should be used in moderation esp people on strict low sodium diets.

Beans are rich in health promoting properties. Examples are chick peas or channa, kidney beans or rajmah, lima beans, mung beans, soy beans etc. Calories per cup of boiled or cooked beans varies from 220 to 260 calories. Whatever the color of beans,( pink, brown, red or white ) they are a much talked about food for their benefits which include heart health, lowering of cholesterol and high fiber content. They are rich in proteins (a boon for strict vegetarians).They are high in potassium, iron, ‘B complex’ vitamins and low in sodium. They are delicious too and can be used in salads, soups, stews, casseroles, curries, dips and purees. Sprouted beans are nutrient dense and can be liberally used in salads.

Vegetable juices:
Vegetable juices are natural cleansers of your kidneys, blood and liver. They help to lower high serum cholesterol, promote digestive health and is ideal for treatment of obesity and diabetes as they are low in glycemic index. They are excellent sources of nutrients like beta carotene, potassium and other trace minerals, antioxidants like vitamin C, natural pigments and enzymes and therefore have anti cancer properties. Care must be taken to make sure that the juices are made fresh and consumed immediately. Wash the vegetables really well before juicing them. Avoid straining as the pulp is the storehouse of fiber. Addition of lemon juice and ginger juice helps in making them more tasty and also enhances iron absorption. Use the following vegetables for juicing (either in combination or as a whole) – cabbage, bottle gourd or dudhi, carrots, cucumber, celery, mint and coriander, spinach, wheat grass, beet and tomato.

Whole grains and millets:
Whole grains and millets are ideal foods to boost your intake of complex carbohydrates, fiber and vegetable proteins. They are far more superior in nutrient values than refined grains, they are richer in dietary fiber, B complex vitamins, minerals and vitamin E. Studies have shown that they reduce the incidence if colon cancer, digestive diseases, diabetes, heart diseases and obesity. These grains are rich in bran, germ and the endosperm. The carbohydrates in them are digested and released slowly into the blood stream.
Commonly used grains are whole wheat, brown rice, barley, oats, wheat flour and sprouted grain flour.
Millets too are rich in B vitamins especially Niacin, B6 and folic acid, iron calcium, potassium and zinc. Some of the commonly used millets are Bajra or pearl millet, Ragi or finger millet, Jowar or sorghum. Since millets do not contain gluten it is an ideal food for those who have wheat intolerance, allergies, and celiac diseases. They are also high in fiber and phyto-chemicals which are believed to lower serum cholesterol levels. They are mild in flavor, tasty and can be used as porridge, beverage, breads, soups, stews, salads, biscuits and muffins.

Soups are ideal for weight watchers. It is an excellent and healthy way to make dieting easier (not all soups can be recommended for this purpose ). Soups that are rich in cheese, cream and thickeners are not recommended for health or for weight loss. Opt for low calorie soups like clear vegetable soups and tomato based ones. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants and are lesser in calories than cream based soups. You can thicken them using bottle gourd, pumpkin or barley flour instead of corn flour/white flour. A large bowl of soup before ones meal helps to reduce hunger and makes one full.

Water - The Natural Wonder Drink

Everyone has read and heard about how much water you are supposed to drink per day. Yet, its only a few of us who actually reach for a glass of this natural elixir. Can you drink your way to good health? You sure can. It is important from a health standpoint. Regular water consumption can prevent one’s risk of developing health problems like obesity, urinary infections, urinary stone formation and dehydration. Unlike fruit juices and other sugary drinks, water has no calories. Let’s help you understanding the benefits of water to a healthier ‘you’.

Water for overall functioning of the body
90 per cent of the blood in our body is made up of water, which helps in transporting nutrients to the muscles. It also helps carry away the waste such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Our cells and our circulatory system which includes blood contain water. Therefore enough water helps in maintaining the blood volume, which in turn helps in the proper functioning of the body. Water is also used by our body to convert food into energy, regulate body temperature and in eliminating toxins.

Water as a digestive
Water plays a very important role in digestion and waste control. The water in saliva and gastric fluids helps the body to digest food. Without sufficient water, the colon will not be able to process fiber as well as it should. Fiber, without enough water, makes solid waste too bulky and concentrated to pass comfortably, which is the first cause of constipation. Remember, water is the only medium to flush toxins from the body.

Water as a refreshment
Thirst is one of the main reasons behind fatigue. Just by drinking water one can get instant energy. A glass of water is enough to rejuvenate one. If you allow yourself to get dehydrated, every part of your body suffers. Dehydration can lead to lethargy, tired feeling and lack of concentration. Other symptoms of dehydration include loss of appetite, headache, dry mouth, burning sensation of the eyes and flushed skin. Heat stroke is a more serious and life threatening condition and requires quick medical attention.
We drink too much coffee, tea, and sodas containing caffeine, which prompts the body to lose water. A dose of eight to 10 glasses of water per day keeps the body hydrated.

When water is needed in excess
One needs more during and after exercise especially athletes and for activities like basket ball, baseball, soccer etc. This is required to maintain blood volume, reduces heat injury and enhances performance. Regular consumption of fluids not only takes care of your body’s need for water but also aids in maintaining the electrolyte balance in our body. Of course, the actual amount of water to be consumed varies from person to person and on factors like activity level, weather conditions etc.

Water for skin and hair care
Water, being a hydrate, essentially helps in the prevention of shriveled, wrinkled skin. It also makes the skin glow, preventing acne and a patchy, wrinkled look. Less water in the body also leads to dry and brittle hair, causing split ends.

Sources to increase intake
  • You don’t need to sip from your water bottle all day to satisfy your fluid needs. Your diet, including the beverages you drink, can provide a large portion of the water your body needs. Fruits and vegetables, especially the water based ones besides being good sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, contain a lot of water. Orange, cucumber, watermelon, gourds etc are great substitutes. Drink fruit juices, veggie juices as well as infusions such as chamomile, peppermint, ginger, lemon, buttermilk, coconut water etc to increase water intake.
  • So raise your glass to water - it’s good for you, and available almost anywhere. Bottoms up!
A few strategies to get the right intake of water per day:
  1. Keep a large (600 ml) glass of water by your bed. Soon as you wake up, you can drink it. It helps in flushing the toxins out of the body.
  2. Carry a bottle of water around with you. This will make it easier for you to drink water if you are on the move. It’s also a constant reminder to keep drinking.
  3. Keep a bottle of water on your desk or near your work area and sip from it throughout the day.
  4. If you are a regular at the gym, carry a bottle of water along. This way, you will drink more water than you usually consume.

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