Food

Do carbs make you happy or heavy?

Gave up carbs ; now feeling cranky?

Most nutritionists, doctors and food companies come up with their own diet making one nutrient popular and another nutrient the villain. Being desperate to lose weight, we try all possible fads and diets just to realise it doesn’t work in the long term.

We shunned good fats like coconut, ghee , butter for a few decades, and embraced fat-free foods and refined oils. This resulted in a generation of people with issues like Vitamin D deficiency, cardiovascular diseases, Diabetes, PCOS, Thyroid and many other chronic lifestyle diseases.

Now we know that good fats like coconut, ghee, butter, avocado etc are extremely important for health and doctors are recommending it too.

The current fad is shunning carbs. Will we become a generation that is cranky , depressed and devoid of peace?

No unprocessed food that we term as ‘Carbs’ are made up of only carbohydrates or starch. They also contain some amount of amino acids/protein. Carb sources also contain the amino acid Tryptophan which helps in the production of neurotransmitter Serotonin.

Serotonin is the hormone that regulates our appetite, mood, anxiety, happiness, mental well-being , sexual desire and sleep. Tryptophan is the amino acid that is a precursor to the feel-good hormone serotonin.

Most protein sources also have tryptophan though only when there is release  of insulin can this amino acid reach our brain. Wholesome carbs and nuts like cashews are the easiest way to get tryptophan and make serotonin.

In other words, Serotonin is the reason why we feel nice after a bowl of yogurt rice/pongal/pulao/idly or khichdi and in some worst cases a piece of cake or pastry.

Any South Indian who has tried losing weight or controlling blood sugar levels, would have tried giving up rice totally or switched to brown rice, only to realise that they are attached to rice more than they realised.

Most women who have PMS also have refined carb sources to make them feel good before and during their periods. Blame serotonin , as your brain knows the quickest way to feel good is to load with refined carbs. However, the serotonin secreted quickly this way  goes down quickly too.

Are carbohydrates bad?

Yes, if they are from ultra processed refined sources like bread, bagels, breakfast cereal,  burgers( even if its plant based ), noodles, pizza, biscuits , cookies, chips, soft drinks, bottles juices and fruit bars.

No, if they are from wholesome sources like wheat, rice , millets, fruits ,  yams, tubers,  and other vegetables.

What makes the wholesome carb sources different?

The wholesome carb sources contain resistant starch.  These resistant starches are fermented in our large intestine by gut bacteria and produce Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) like butyric acid. Short chain fatty acids are also known to boost intestinal and brain health.  By the way, butyric acid is one of the main ingredients in keto foods and fat burners.

Resistant starch in diets are known to reduce risk of Irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, lower triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity.

There are populations that live in the blue zones of the world, who have some of the longest lifespan on earth like Okinawans(Japan) whose diets are made up to 80%  by  rice  and tubers.

Prebiotocs/Resistant starch , Probiotics and Vitamin B12

Prebiotics, also known as resistant starch are the favourite food for our gut bacteria – probiotics.

Probiotics is the latest in the nutraceutical industry . Its marketed now in supplements, bottled juices, breakfast cereals, flavoured yogurts, fruits bars and the list goes on.

Good bacteria can survive in our intestine only if we feed them with their favourite food Resistant starch/prebiotics.  The wholesome carbs mentioned earlier are rich sources of prebiotics and they support varying species of probiotic bacteria.  

Prebiotics, probiotics and Vit b12

Probiotics are the good bacteria that our body needs to keep us healthy and help us produce vitamin B12.

Poor memory, dementia, depression, and neurological symptoms like numbness and tingling sensations can be symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.

How to improve Vitamin B12 levels in body?

If you have heard or read that you might be deficient in Vit B12 if you are a vegetarian, its not true. Most meat eaters are also equally deficient or even worse in B12 levels.  B12 can be produced in your own body by your gut bacteria if you have a healthy digestive system. What is needed to improve B12 is different species of gut bacteria and food to support them – Wholesome carb sources.

In other words, just by gobbling juices/drinks/supplements of probiotics, we cannot improve gut health or B12 levels in a long term.

If a food can make us happy, calm and feel nice along with improve the health of our gut and brain , assist in burning fat in addiion to optimizing other health parameters, how can it ever be called as a villain? Above all, why should we  avoid it?


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Food

Winter Grocery List and Food Guide with PDF


Most vegetables and fruits are now available throughout the year . Hence it is not so easy to know what grows and what to eat during winter. Winter Grocery list and seasonal eating guide and the downloadable PDF help you end that confusion , even if you live in India or outside.

Why should you eat according to season ?

The gut bacteria in our body varies as per the season. It will not be the same in the summer and the winter.

A deer that eats green leaves during spring summer will eat the barks of trees during winter. If it tries eating the bark during summer, it will end up with digestive issues.

Similarly, if we eat spring or summer foods during winter, we will also end up having digestive issues, blood sugar imbalances, hormonal problems, lowered immunity and other health issues. Winter by itself comes with its own woes . These woes can be reduced to a large extend by eating according to the season.

Here is a comprehensive list of vegetables, fruits, nuts +seeds, spices, grains and pulses to be included in winter.

Tastes to favour – Sweet, salt, Sour, dense( starchy), oily, moist and hot.

Things to avoid – Raw veggies, salads, smoothies, chips, caffeine, energy drinks, refined ultra processed food, breakfast cereals and cold food like ice cream, slushies, soda etc .

 M – If winter is mild for you or if you live in a tropical area, have these vegetables/fruits . If you have a harsh winter, save those for Spring.
* denotes the foods it is a winter superfood.

Fruits

Fruits should never be combined with the main meal, or be ground into juice or smoothies. Have fruit by itself as a snack.  
 

  • Banana
  • Tangerine *
  • Persimmon
  • Dates *
  • Figs
  • Tomato ( yes, tomato is a fruit)
  • Oranges *
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Pomegranate *
  • Berries (M)

    Avoid grapes, mango, water melon, cantaloupe, cherries, plums and peaches during winter.  
     

Cooking oils

  • Sesame oil *
  • Ghee *
  • Avocado oil *
  • Mustard oil *

    Coconut oil is suitable for mild winter and if you traditionally cook with it .
    Always avoid refined oils like sunflower oil, canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil/vegetable oil and rice bran oil .

Vegetables

Avoid bitter gourd, raw greens,  salads and cucumbers.
Go for the vegetables that grow near you and not around the globe. Visit a farmer’s market or a farm near you.

Tubers are meant for winter

Cook these vegetables into a stir fry or any local recipe of your region.

  • Avocado
  • Pumpkin *
  • Squash
  • Ash gourd/Winter melon *
  • Peas
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Okra/Ladies finger
  • Yucca/Tapioca
  • Potato ( Go for Organic variety)
  • Taro root/Chembu/Arbi *
  • Chinese potato/Koorka *
  • Arrow root/ Koova *
  • Purple yam/Kaavithu *
  • Elephant yam/Chena  *
  • Plantain
  • Turnip
  • Radish *
  • Sweet potato
  • Corn ( Over 93% of Corn in the US is Genetically modified. choose Organic , non gmo variety)
  • Mustard Greens *
  • Flat beans/ Avarakka
  • Methi/Fenugreek leaves
  • Spinach ( M)
  • Dill leaves ( M)
  • Cabbage ( M)
  • Cauliflower (M)
  • Bell Peppers (M)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger *

Grains

  • Rice
  • Wheat *
  • Amaranth *
  • Corn ( Choose only  organic non gmo variety)
  • Finger millet/Ragi ( cooked with ghee or milk )
  • Little millet / Samai/ Chama
  • Buckwheat *
  • Pearl millet/Bajra /Kambu *

    Avoid Jowar/Sorghum and Thinai/Foxtail millet during winter.


Pulses/Legumes

                Most pulses and legumes are good or winter as long as they are soaked and cooked well. Soak the pulse for 6-8 hours in water and discard the water. Cook it generously with spices and pair with rice/wheat/any grain listed above.

 If your tummy finds it difficult to tolerate pulses, go for the split and husked variety. ( for eg : yellow moong dal instead of green moong ).

Nuts + seeds

Nuts and seeds are rich , dense and perfect for winter.
  • Almonds
  • Flax seeds *
  • Brazil nuts
  • Sesame seeds *
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Cashew (Fall/early winter)
  • Garden cress seeds/Aserio/Aliv
  • Coconut
  • Pistachio
  • Walnuts
  • Pecan

Spices

Be generous with spices in your winter diet. It is important to temper spices over food . They regulate your digestive fire and keep your immunity higher. Small amounts of home-made pickles or preserves that does not contain Class ii preservatives or additives are good to be a part of winter diet.

Jaggery and honey are warming and good for winter. Honey should never be mixed with any food that is above 40C or 104F.

  • Pepper *
  • Ginger *
  • Nutmeg
  • Saffron
  • Cinnamon *
  • Cardamom
  • Fennel
  • Dill *
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric *
  • Mustard
  • Coriander
  • Clove

Raw/ Unpasteurized, Grass-fed Dairy

  • Butter
  • Ghee *
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk *
  • Cottage cheese/ Paneer
  • Cheese
  • Cream

Meat

Most meats are good for winter as long as they are under 20% of your weekly diet.

Winter is a good time to increase physical activity and flexibility. This will help in reducing depression, joint pains and SAD(seasonal affective disorder) that usually comes with winter and its gloomy days.

When days are dark outside, its better to look inwards and find the light inside.

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Child Nutrition

How to improve your child’s immunity?

The first thing that comes to our mind when we talk about immunity is flu shots. However, the best way to build immunity is natural immunizations with the help of microorganisms / microbes . We have all heard of one such kind of microbe.  Probiotics which are the beneficial organisms that we get from food. They help us improve our digestive and gut health.

This microbiome reside in all parts of our body and are affected by our lifestyle, environment, food, sleep and medications. Microbes and their number, the species and balance of good and bad ones decide our immunity and health. For the microbiome to thrive, we need to maintain a ratio of good and bad bacteria in our body at 85:15.

How do we improve our child’s microbiome and thus their immunity, health and growth?

Via Birth

The vaginal secretions inoculate the baby with microbiome while they pass through the birth canal. This is also why babies born via vaginal delivery have better immunity than those via C section. Experts recommend smearing  vaginal secretions from the mother on the baby if it is a C – section. Mother’s microbiome also passes to the baby via breast milk which is crucial for the baby’s immunity, growth and health.

Via Food

Eating the Right Food

Eat according to season and consume different kinds of organic and local vegetables, fruits, tubers, pulses and grains. This will help repopulate all the different species of beneficial bacteria. When local, organic and seasonal whole foods are included in diet, the need for prebiotic and probiotic supplements doesn’t arise.

Parent tip : A teaspoon of chavanprash every morning and a fruit as a school snack is a very good start.

Child plucking berries from backyard

Raw honey

Honey is one of the most delicious medicine and a prebiotic. Eating honey from your local farm or beekeeper gives your child microexposure to the dirt and pollen from your area. This will strengthen their immune system and reduce flare up of allergies . The pasteurised store bought honey will not give the same effect.

Being Outdoors

Plenty of free play time

Most developed nations and the WHO insist on a minimum of 180 minutes of physical activity a day for children under 2 years of age.  It also recomends 120 minutes of free play time a day for pre-schoolers and atleast 60 minutes for children above 5. Outdoor activity is essential for: 

      1. Getting more Sunlight which helps them build their immunity and improve their sleep.
      2. Getting Vitamin D which is crucial for bone strength and their growth.
      3. Improving personality traits like creativity, imagination, emotional stability, socializing skills and attentiveness.

Child playing freely in beach

Researchers have evidence that spending time in green spaces provide protection against ADHD, depression, diabetes, obesity and reduces anxiety. There are about 21 ways through which being out in nature can improve health.

Child and mom spending time in green space

Studies and research also prove that children who spend more time in nature tend to be happier adults.

Get hands dirty –.

Children by nature love to play with dirt, mud and soil. It is fine as long as it is with good dirt like the soil in your garden or sand in the backyard, beaches or parks.

Soil based organisms (SBO) as they are called are the most important and easiest way of getting our probiotics. It is an important way humans got their probiotics and immunizations long before nutraceutical industry flourished. Our skin absorbs the necessary microbes when we are in contact with nature (walking barefoot, working on a farm or garden, playing in mud and soil). 

Research conducted in Ohio State University proves the kids who have early exposure to soil and dirt have less allergies and robust immune system.

Child playing in sand

Stop running behind children with sanitizers or anti bacterial soaps/wipes. Don’t prevent them from getting dirty  or keep them sterile and clean all the time. Regular soap with warm water is good enough to wash away the bad bacteria and to keep the good ones.

Gut Busters

While the above-mentioned points help us build the microbiome, one of the biggest disrupters are the use of OTC drugs and antibiotics. When a normally healthy adult has one round of antibiotics, it takes upto six months to get back the gut bacteria destroyed (by the antibiotics).

Poor diet with refined and processed foods, poor sleep , frequent travel, chronic stress, inactivity, smoking , alcohol and  certain medications(read most OTC medicines and antibiotics) destroy upto 40% of the good microbe species in as little as 10 days.

Organizations like WHO have been reminding medical and healthcare professionals to reduce the use of antibiotics.  Not only are we having too much of antibiotics in the form of medicines, we also have antibacterial chemicals added to personal care products. They are added to toothpaste, floor cleaners, deodorants, handwash and body soaps.  The personal care products also have endocrine disruptors that cause hormonal imbalance. Antibiotics  are also there in most of the food that we consume on a daily basis like dairy, eggs and meat and ( animals injected with antibiotics).

When we ensure that our kids have the right microbes in their body, they will automatically have a robust immune system .


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