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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Food, Lifestyle

How to deal with Winter Woes?

During winter, we like to relax over the holidays, play in the snow and enjoy the chilly weather. All this is subject to us being fit andhealthy and not being down with the seasonal flu, or having a cough, high fever or the painful achy joints.

Winter is the time when the earth is dry, days are short and nights are long. Most people feel sluggish and depressed as we see the sun less.

How do we improve our immunity and keep our joints supple? What foods and lifestyle changes do we need to embrace to keep us healthy andhappy through the winter?

During winters, our digestion is at a peak and is perfect for digesting fats and heavy starches that will nourish us. Even though, doughnuts, french fries, ice creams etc are fatty and starchy, they don’t nourish us . Hence they are not suitable for any season even if they fit into our macros.

Let us look at a few tips and easy ways to improve our energy levels and to keep seasonal depression at bay during the winter:

  • Time for Tubers – Just like summers are for fruits, winters are for tubers.

Starches and carbs have got a bad reputation and most ‘Diets’ avoid carbs except for sweet potatoes. There are many different tubers that are native to India and other countries.

Traditionally we have used tubers in several dishes during the winter (like puzhukku that is made in Kerala, thaalaga kozhambu in certain parts of Tamilnadu and Undhiyo that’s made in Gujarat).

Tubers are excellent for hormonal balance

This is significant now as we have higher number of PCOS , fertility and reproductive issues than ever before. Tubers are excellent for hormonal balance.
Products like progesterone creams and bio identical hormone replacements for hormonal issues (like PCOS, PMS, endometriosis etc) contain compounds that are extracted from yams and other tubers.

 
  • Intensify your physical activity – Double the intensity of your Physical activity during winter whether it is running, hiking, biking,lifting weights, favourite sport or yoga. The reason for this is that in summer we get exhausted or tired soon and the same levels of exertion doesn’t exhaust us but will only energize us in autumn,winter and spring.
  • Include more seeds and nuts – Sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, chia and the liks are wonderful to keep our joints, skin, hair and nails healthy in winter. Unsalted nuts are also a rich source of essential fats and minerals like zinc, selenium, magnesium etc that are essential for immunity, blood sugar regulation and hormones.
  • Care for the citrus – Nature provides whatever is needed to protect ourselves during that season. When we ignore that and start eating other fancy foods (sometimes in the name of a diet), we weaken our immunity.

Winter is the time for citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, mandarins, gooseberries, guava and other sour fruits that are abundant in Vitamin C. 

  • Be sweet and spicy–  Jaggery is another winter hero as It warms andnourishes the body . It is unrefined, wholesome and also a good source of Iron, phosphorus , potassium and calcium .  Stevia extract, time to go back to shelf !!! ( it is still refined and ultra processedwith virtually zero nutrients)

With the falling temperatures, it is natural to yearn for spicy food. Listen to your body and be generous with the spices. Ginger, pepper, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, clove etc helps in improving the digestion and immunity.

  • Self indulgence – Give yourself a warm oil massage with sesame or mustard oil and a relaxing bath. Massages are great stressbusters and a nice way of increasing hormones like DHEA , Serotonin and other pleasure hormones which are crucial to keep ourselves stress-free and happy.

 It is also evident from the fact that we become gloomy when the sky is grey and cloudy. After all we are not peacocks .

Each season comes with its own pros and cons. Winter is the time to rejuvenate metabolism, mind , immunity and use the stillness and chillness to our advantage with the steps mentioned above , rather than be indoors , binge watch and booze.

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Interested in losing fat and balancing  hormones sustainably? Check out our programs