Tag Archives: eat right

Breakfast Cereals Are Healthy & A Good Way to Start the Day

Let’s look at this nutrition myth and set the record straight once and for all so that you can cross it off your list.

A hearty nutritious breakfast is the much-needed fuel to restart the engine of the car after a night’s halt-over hence the name ‘break-fast’. It kick-starts the body metabolism and refuels the body’s glucose stores. Studies have shown that breakfast improves kids’ attention span, concentration, and memory. It prevents irritability, fatigue, and restlessness.

Our fast-paced lifestyles constantly change in tandem with increasing spending power, time crunch, dependency on convenience, and so-called health and fitness consciousness. So most reach out for breakfast cereals. Besides, let’s not forget the influence of western lifestyle and eating trends!

What goes into the cereal box?

Commercial breakfast cereals simply translate to refined carbs with added sugar. Why? Because breakfast cereal is made from processed grain. The grain-flour is mixed with water, sugar and/or chocolate and this mixture is extruded. The cereals maybe puffed, flaked or shredded. To top it off, they are coated with chocolate or frosted with sugar before drying and packaging.

Do they deliver what they promise?

The main marketing strategy is undoubtedly the nutritional plank. There is a wide range of commercial cereals to suit the needs of different people be it kids, all-family segment, aging adults or weight watchers. Consumers need to cautious that these breakfast cereals are often marketed with dubious claims and labels which can be misinterpreted.

As a matter of fact, a research conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on children’s breakfast cereal highlights that “promotional labeling on cereal boxes is designed to distract consumers from focusing on the unhealthy sugar content by making claims that the product provides important nutrients, such as ‘Excellent Source of Vitamin D’ or ‘Good Source of Fiber’ and so on.”

While children are enticed with cartoons or superheroes, parents are convinced with claims. EWG research also found that children’s cereals with cartoon characters on the box are among the most highly sweetened of all.

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Another aspect is that the nutritional benefits claimed on the pack are often not due to the cereal alone but with the suggested ingredients to be added or eaten with. If pairing with milk meets a percentage of protein and calcium requirement or adding fruits gives the required fiber then why do we need the cereal in the first place?

Whip-up your own cereal

So now you know that breakfast cereals aren’t healthy as claimed. But if your child cannot do without breakfast cereals, make your own healthy cereal mix with unprocessed plain cereals. How about ragi flakes with yogurt or milk, a handful of fresh fruits and a sprinkle of dry fruits/nuts!

The Road to Good Heart Health Starts in Childhood

“Oh, high blood pressure? That’s only in old people”

“Heart problems only occur in adults or old people”

Aren’t these your thoughts too? Most of us think that problems related to high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart problems only occur in adults or older people.  In reality, it can affect people of all ages, including children.

Studies show a significant rise in the number of children affected by non-communicable diseases like hypertension and heart diseases. Commemorating World Heart Health Day, we would like to highlight that taking care of the heart needs to start in childhood.

Obesity; the main culprit

Although there are a number of factors that can adversely affect heart health in children, obesity remains the main culprit. Obesity also hastens the occurrence of other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and so on. High BP is an important risk factor for heart diseases.

A study that looked at the relationship of childhood obesity with blood pressure in Indian school children (5–16 years) reported that high blood pressure was more prevalent in obese children. So what? Here’s the catch – the problem of high blood pressure that begins in childhood persists through adolescence well into adulthood. In a nutshell, a hypertensive child is a hypertensive adult.

Experts also believe that childhood and adolescent obesity has a compelling impact on the structure and functioning of the heart; so it is very important to ensure that children fall in the healthy weight range.

What can you do to ensure good heart health in your child?

Prevention is always better than cure. Although factors such as family history or genetic predisposition cannot be changed or avoided, we can take control of other risk factors to deter or delay the disease.

  1. Children are what they eat: Healthy eating habits not only includes healthy, nutritious food but also regular meal times. Excess of anything is bad. A diet high in fat, carbs and/or sugar contribute to obesity and excess of sodium (in the form of salt, sauces, MSG) make way for high BP.
  1. Hustle the muscle: with the advent of technology in every phase of life, screen time (like TV, mobile-use, video games) has substantially increased. Activity and exercise have undoubtedly taken a back seat. Physical activity strengthens heart muscles, helps blood vessels branch out more, regulates blood pressure and also increases HDL (good) cholesterol.

      Children and adolescents must get at least 60 minutes of moderate to        vigorous aerobic activity every day. Examples include bike                                  riding, swimming, jogging, football, aerobics or dancing.

  1. Let the children kick butt: be it electronic cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, they are all harmful. Most children may get on this track due to peer pressure or stress. On the other hand, passive smoking can also be the reason.

It’s best to form good habits early in life so we don’t have to break bad habits later.

So it is time to change our way of thinking and understand that good heart health starts from childhood.

Are Potatoes Bad?

The humble potato has earned a bad reputation in the recent years and very often it is banished from all diets. So is it true that potatoes are bad and should not form a part of our diet?

The answer is no…. In terms of its nutritional benefits, the potato has been vastly underrated and grossly misunderstood. It’s high time we peel back the truth about the nutrient treasure trove that lies in the little spud that is the potato.

Potato Nutrition 101

You may be surprised to know that potato offers a number of nutrients and benefits. Maybe not a good source of protein, but the little protein present in potatoes is completely available to the body (i.e., excellent biological value) like the egg.

Minerals like potassium, phosphorous and calcium are present in significant levels and each has their own respective roles in body functioning. Surprisingly, this spud contains a notable amount of fiber, especially the peel. This helps provide satiety, delay hunger pangs and help prevent constipation.

Skin-on potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber.

Last but not the least, vitamins – potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C. But what else? Let’s not forget B vitamins like folic acid, niacin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and thiamine are also present.

Potatoes have a plethora of phytonutrients that parade antioxidant activity. Carotenoids, flavonoids, caffeic acid, as well as unique tuber storage proteins, such as patatin, all flaunt powers of fighting harmful free radicals.

Talking of benefits, although potato is typically not considered a good source of dietary iron, iron uptake is enhanced by its high vitamin C content. Potatoes contain significant amounts of vitamins B9 and B6 which are crucial for optimal brain functioning.

However, the main advantage of potato is the starch content, the very thing for which it is damned. Puzzled? Carbohydrates provide the glucose required for the brain to function and to fuel the muscles during activities, games or exercise. So potatoes are the go-to fuel before kids head out for games and sports.

Why the bad name dame?

How did potato become the culprit to all the bad health effects? Where are we going wrong? It’s not difficult to see that, unfortunately, the popular Western form of preparation and preferred forms of potato are either fried or even if baked, it is typically loaded with cheese, butter, cream and/or other such fat-rich products. Least did we realize that barring the extra source of fat, potatoes can be exceptionally healthy.

On the other hand, our Indian potato-based dishes are used along with other vegetables and pulses and rarely witnessed as a deep fried form (even the aloo bondas have dal based coating). So keep those jackets on the potatoes, mix them up with veggies, and resort to baking, steaming, roasting or grilling and enjoy!

The Untold Tales of Millets

Ever come across the story of the murder of millets? Yes indeed, millets were a part of our country’s staple food. However, with the advent of polished rice, wheat, and their processed descendants, millets are no longer a part of the picture.

Sadly, this acclimatization has lead to a plethora of health disorders and diseases like diabetes, obesity, and blood pressure which seem to prevail in a widespread manner. It’s time to bid adieu and break the unhealthy trend, and who better than our children to start and set the right trend.

“Did you know that millets are much superior to rice and wheat when it comes to protein, fiber, and mineral content?”

Millets could be the best bet to keep children on high-energy mode since they are said to be high-energy nutritious food and an excellent source of B-vitamins. While the protein of baragu (Proso Millet) ensures optimal growth in children, the calcium content of ragi (Finger Millet) strengthens the children’s bones and teeth.

“Each one of the millets has more fibre than rice and wheat. Ragi (finger millet has thirty times more calcium than rice while every other millet has at least twice the amount of calcium compared to rice.”

Research shows that a jowar (Sorghum Millet) rich diet improves growth and positively affects the hemoglobin, folic acid, vitamin A, iron and calcium content in school going children. Those hunger pangs can be saved for later since the high fiber content of millets gives children a feeling of fullness and as a plus point prevents over-eating.

Millets are not only easy to digest but also offer healing action in cases of gastrointestinal inflammation and ulceration. This gluten-free grain is the mantra for children struggling with gluten related health issues like celiac disease. Additionally, consumption of millets notably cuts down the incidence of wheezing and asthma in children.

Loaded with phytochemicals, millets provide the antioxidants that keep the body’s immune system at its peak. Not only do fermented millet products act as natural probiotics but millets’ whole grain also shows pre-biotic activity, boosting the population of friendly bacteria that play a key role to promote digestion.

Although it would be nice to say that millets are synonymous to perfection, they do contain anti-nutrients. The proportions of these anti-nutrients can be cut down by simple food processing techniques like decortication, germination, malting, and fermentation.

Last but not the least, here’s another bonus – with the monsoon setting in, get set to include millets in your children’s diet because it is a warming grain that will help to heat the body in cold or rainy seasons and climates!

Resurgence of the Humble Coconut

Case # 101: Coconut Chaos

A couple of decades earlier, under Section 111 of the health & nutrition penal code, coconut was defamed and found to be guilty of contributing to ill health because of its high saturated fat content. The accused was thus sentenced to a lifetime banishment from plates across India.

Now, wait let’s crack open this case.

Is coconut really guilty of all the heinous crimes that it was convicted of? Definitely not! Let’s look at why the coconut is back with a bang.

Every part of the humble coconut; be it the coconut meat called copra, water (tender coconut water), milk or oil, has nourished Indians long long before the West became interested in it. However, all of a sudden the coconut was condemned as its oil was touted as an artery clogger due to its saturated fat content. Consequently, the coconut pretty much became extinct from Indian food plates.

It is not hard to see that the accused was framed for the crime of his evil twin – the hydrogenated coconut oil. This fellow creates health havocs with trans fat. The refined coconut oil too, which is extracted from chemically bleached and deodorized coconut meat, is equally bad.

On the other hand, unrefined, virgin coconut oil does contain saturated fat, but of the good kind. It mainly contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that boost metabolism and increases satiety. One of the main MCTs in coconut oil, Lauric acid, offers antimicrobial action and surprise, surprise coconut oil actually improves heart-related risk factors like cholesterol and triglycerides. Coconut oil also nourishes the hair and skin and is found beneficial for brain disorders and diabetes.

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But why just look at the oil. The tender coconut water is a natural thirst quencher that effectively replenishes fluids and electrolytes. In fact, it is comparable to sports beverages. Coconut water is also said to help with the battle against diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney stones. But again not the one from bottled or branded water with added sugar, sweeteners or flavors but the natural and fresh form. And last but not the least, coconut milk whose benefits parallel that of the oil.

Why leave the fresh coconut meat? Did you know that that the fresh coconut meat contains a huge amount of fiber? 100g of fresh coconut kernel contains nearly 11 g of fiber which is about half your daily requirement of fiber!

If coconut was as bad as it was portrayed then certain populations who survived purely on coconut should have been sick because of it. But that’s not the case, if you don’t believe our ancestors, especially the South Indians then turn the globe and have a look at the Tokelauans and the Kitavans. It’s just that we forgot the other elements that contributed to ill health.

So in a nutshell, the coconut was just a victim of scattered anecdotal evidence and hearsay and now thanks to sound scientific evidence, it has made an envious-worthy come back rising above all the damning accusations.

Case closed! 

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and/or diet.

Make Sure Your Budding Athlete Eats Like A Champion

Being on top of the game doesn’t just require the best gear and right training but it’s also about being prepared inside out. It is incorrect to think that nutrition aimed at enhancing performance on the athletic field is only the prerogative of professional athletes.  Whether your kids are competitive athletes or weekend warriors, athletic performance is at its best only with the right nutrition.

Successful sports training and stellar performance come with adequate calorie intake to support energy expenditure and maintain strength, endurance, muscle mass and overall health. Briefly, nutrients that are important for your little athlete are iron, calcium, potassium, high glycemic carbs, and protein.

Why is nutrition important?

The muscle needs food to exercise. So it first uses its own store of glucose (called glycogen) followed by the liver’s store. However, when the sport requires repeated bursts of energy or energy over an extended period of time, the glycogen stores run out. This results in muscle fatigue (commonly called “hitting the wall”) and the athletes either have to stop or drastically reduce the pace.

Therefore, a pre-exercise meal is of utmost importance as it helps prevent the young sportsman from going hungry during the exercise bout and also maintains the blood glucose levels for the muscle to keep recharging itself through the activity.

So, the key to stamina and endurance is to include carbohydrates which release glucose slowly and therefore last over the entire exercise period. So is a glass of milk, a banana or a fistful of dry fruits enough? Not really!

Food choices should be high in complex carbohydrate (high-glycemic), low in fat and moderate in protein. Make sure to fuel your child with a fiber rich mixed millet milk porridge sweetened with jaggery or date syrup or a couple of oat idlis with a glass of milk.

Even a boiled potato whole wheat sandwich with a glass of milk can do wonders for your child’s game. Make sure to avoid high-fat foods as they may cause stomach discomfort.

During exercise, hydration is the mantra. In the absence of thirst, experts recommend that kids drink water or other fluids before beginning their activity and every 15 to 20 minutes during physical activity.

Coconut water, diluted juices, lemon juice, watermelon juice are superb choices. Sugary drinks and carbonated drinks are a strict no-no.

Last but not the least – nutrition post-exercise. Experts recommend that you feed your child carbs within 30 minutes after intense activity and again 2 hours later. Refueling with ample carbohydrates and moderate protein means you’re on the right track. But most of us take the wrong step here. Carbohydrates don’t equate to glucose alone, so loading up on glucose tablets or reaching out for off the shelf juices post exercise can harm the pancreas in the long run. This is because it is overworked in producing loads of insulin to deal with the glucose glut.

Ideal food would be high-glycemic foods like millets, brown rice and lean meat, boiled chicken or whole pulses along with some fat like butter, ghee. It’s important that the post-activity meal be a balance of protein, carbs, and fat.

Understanding young athlete’s nutrition requirement is quite tricky. So keep these tit-bits in mind and do reach out for professional help in managing their nutrition as it is very important in determining the course of their health and the game!

Lifestyle hacks to ace that test!

Exam period! The phrase is synonymous with stress among both parents and children alike. With all this going on, it is important for us to not forget about certain key lifestyle based hacks that can help your children ace those exams.

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Eat breakfast daily

Breakfast, the first meal of the day is meant to provide fuel to the brain. Studies have shown that children did better on performance tests when they ate breakfast compared to those who didn’t eat or skipped it regularly.

Also, ensure that your kids eat breakfast made up of complex carbohydrates such as

idlys, stuffed vegetable paranthas and oats porridge, this helps in keeping focus and prevents decline in cognitive performance throughout the morning.

Don’t forget the Zzzzzz’s

Research suggests that adequate sleep on a daily basis is important for learning and memory. Lack of which is associated with negatively affecting the brain’s ability to assimilate information. Sleep is also important for maintaining mood, motivation, judgement and perception of events.

Keep the kids active

Being physically active has been linked with several positive health benefits. Besides reducing stress and anxiety, aerobic exercise particularly has been linked to be beneficial for brain building.

Also, when children are physically active they can help get past mental fatigue. Thus, by spending some time on play will definitely benefit their brain.

Inhale and exhale (relax and meditate)

Meditation provides soothing effects to the mind and body. A recent study has also found that regular practise of meditation increased the mental ability, focus and memory in school going children.

You can also have a routine to mediate along with your kids and let the positive energy flow.

Eat right to ace that test

Eating the right kind of food along with regular timely intervals has been linked with brain development and maintenance. You can read ‘Eat your way to a super functioning brain‘ to know more.

 

 


 

References:

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

http://njlm.net/articles/PDF/2015/4-%208281_CE(Ra)_F(Sh)_PF1(AGAK)_PFA(P).pdf

 


 

 

Eat your way to a super functioning brain!

 

As we brace ourselves for the exams and cram in that last bit of information, it is important not to ignore good nutrition. Food intake plays an important role in brain development and maintenance. Here are few tips for eating right during exam season for a super functioning brain:

 

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Make sure not to skip any meals

The brain uses nearly a whopping 20% of the energy that we require per day. In order to be able to pay attention without distraction, a steady supply of glucose (energy) in the form of complex carbohydrates is a must.

Therefore include a variety of dishes such as vegetable kichidi- raita, ragi roti- peanut chutney, rajma curry-roti in your diet and ensure to eat on time.

Eat right

Foods rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, iron, zinc, vitamin B6 and B12 have particularly shown to help in improving cognitive performance. Hence, dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, amaranth), pulses (kidney beans, chickpeas), nuts (almonds, walnuts), milk products (curd); root vegetables (sweet potatoes) and so on should be included in day to day diet.

Snack smartly

Candies, biscuits, colas, chips and sweets, are great for the tongue but are high in refined sugar which gives an instant sugar rush after eating but with time you mood slumps and get cranky.

Choose healthy snacks such as bhel puri with veggies & sprouts, khakra with pineapple salsa, trail mix (consisting of almonds, raisins, and pumpkin seeds), as they release energy slowly and help in sustained attention and memory.

Guzzle in H2O

Dehydration can make one feel lethargic and tired. Thus, ensure to keep yourself hydrated with water during studying; as research has shown that drinking adequate water helps boost memory, attention and improves cognitive performance.

You can also make it fun by sipping  in flavoured water (just add lime and/or fresh mint to water), tender coconut water or lemonade and tell “goodbye” to dehydration.


 

References:

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega6-fatty-acids

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00097/full