February 28, 2015

Sugar - Eating the right kind and its importance

Sugar: A friend or a foe? 

We’re not going to sugarcoat this post for you since it’s too sweet already, so buckle up for a reality check. You have already heard of good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates, good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Well the same way sugar could be categorized into good sugar and bad sugar. Contrary to popular belief, sugar is not all that bad for our health in fact it is essential for a healthy lifestyle. 
We’re not encouraging you to finish those Diwali sweets in one night, or go all out on the soft drinks. Did you know, that one can of your favourite soft drink is as good as 7 teaspoons of sugar. Children that consume soft drinks are shown to have lesser quantities of milk, depriving them of essentials such as Calcium, Vitamin B12 etc.

Bad sugars or Added sugars including Sucrose are useless in terms of health since they don’t add any nutritional value to our food and pile up on those dreaded calories. Studies show that no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake should constitute of added sugars such as processed food, soft drinks and the desserts you overdose on. All you need is a little supervision and self-control as added sugar can be highly addictive. Junk food and other sugar rich foods release unnatural amounts of Dopamine in the body, that get you hooked on to this bad boy.

Good Sugars or Natural Sugars on the other hand are healthy and much better sources of essential fuel for the body in the form of milk, ripe fruits, honey, maple syrup, whole grains etc. They contain primarily either lactose or fructose which do not cause harm to the body. Along with these sources you get a lot of added benefits as well, such as when you consume sugar in a fruit, you get the water and fiber free! 
Quite a steal compared to what the jar of white sugar in your kitchen might have to offer. Speaking of white sugar, for all those of you who think that brown sugar or molasses are healthier than white sugar, I’m sorry to burst your bubble but they have the same useless health values and only differ in tastes.

Sugar is essential for a healthy lifestyle and is the fuel for our cells. Our cells use glucose for energy which is why you’re advised to have Gatorade during marathons. That’s why when our cells don’t get enough glucose they resort to Liposys (Fat Breakdown) for energy. This requires the release of Adrenaline and Cortisol which are the superhero hormones of fight or flight. This is why people consuming less sugar and carbs experience weight loss and rise in energy levels. 
However it is detrimental in the long run and has shown to hamper the metabolism, digestion and reproductive systems. Stay safe, eat everything but in the right amounts. Without sugar in your diet, you’’ll become a retard. No seriously, since the brain relies on glucose to function.

So become a sugar sleuth: checking the ingredient list before buying or eating can help you enjoy the good stuff without any guilt and you can avoid too much of what's not-so-good for your health or waistline.

 Go natural or go to the dentist!

February 27, 2015

India - the Land of Spices

Indian cuisine is colorful and flavorful and its Spices are synonymous with India. Since ancient times India has been known across the globe as a land rich in spices. Remember those history lessons, the silk route that was used for ancient trade? All that trouble just because the world wanted a taste of these very spices that continue to bless our motherland today. Having bottles of turmeric (haldi), asefoetida (heeng), cumin seeds (jeera) is a common sight in Indian Kitchen. You’ve definitely had these experiences in your houses, where your mother or grandmother has pulled out turmeric from the kitchen cabinet instead of a Crocin or an antiseptic. Those aren’t just random Indian beliefs or superstitions, these spices that are found all over the country not only add taste to your food but they possess immense health benefits. To start with, here is the list of easy-to-find spices. May these and other spices become a friend to your health — and the pride of your kitchen!
Turmeric for example, has been shown to have massive medicinal potential. It doesn’t just give your food yellow color, but is a great antiseptic and can be applied to cuts, burns and bruises. Besides that, it also purifies the blood and helps control diabetes. Turmeric can also substitute that expensive sunscreen or beauty cream on your dressing table. Its antiseptic properties help prevent pimples too. Probably the only component in the ancient woman’s beauty kit!
Black pepper or Kali Mirch have their most ancient roots in India.Known to be one of the most traded spices in the world and it is often paired with salt in most of the European dishes. Black pepper aids in congestion, digestion,an upset stomach.
Heeng or asefoetida has a strong taste with its pungent flavor. Add a pinch of heeng to your dal and see yourself the change in taste and aroma. Heeng is not just another flavoring agent, it has wonderful health benefits. Helps in digestion, treating respiratory disorders like cough, asthma and bronchitis. Asafoetida is useful in treating health problems concerning women such as unusually painful and excessive menstruation.
Clove or Laung, The little bud is used not only in Indian cuisines, but in Middle Eastern and African as well. In cosmetic industry, clove is found in soaps, toothpastes, and perfumes. Clove oil can also help with pain and stomach issues like diarrhea, nausea, gas and upset stomach.
 Jeera or Cumin seeds, is very popular in most Indian kitchens. Roasted jeera powder can add an amazing flavor to any dish.Cumin seeds gives the boost to your immune system and helps fight flu .Boil cumin seeds, basil leaves, ginger and honey in a cup of water to get a relief. It also helps control indigestion, stomach pain, diarrhea, morning sickness and nausea.
  Another spice that’s quite useful is cinnamon or Dalchini, especially if you have a sweet tooth. It’s ironical that cinnamon, although used to add flavor to desserts, helps control the blood sugar levels. This spicy – sweet spice lowers the blood sugar levels and keeps diabetes in check. Besides that, it has shown to prevent cancer, food poisoning and stomach ulcers.
Ginger is an Indian favorite, and has been for hundreds of years now. Our ancestors have often used ginger to ease nausea of all types, and the scientists of today have proven that ginger reduces the chances of nausea and its impact as well. Besides nausea, ginger has shown to prevent arthritis, asthma, cancer, heart attack and other stuff that you want to stay away from.
Cardamom, fondly known as Elaichi is often found in Indian gravies and desserts like kheer. But it isn’t just to give the strong flavor to your favorite food, cardamom has shown to cure people of acidity and generate appetite. It is also a more than able mouth freshener and has been shown to cure bad breath, so don’t panic if there’s no mint at home and you have guests coming over, just get some elaichi from the kitchen!
The list of these friendly spices is never ending, and each one has some super healing power that you probably aren’t aware of. So ask your grandmothers or mothers and start using these spices , because you’re missing out on some remedies that could probably make life much easier.

February 26, 2015

The Cold, Sweet Love Affair

Pillows, Puddings and Pies, if these are the three P’s that define your winter, then this one’s definitely for you guys. Winter often means getting into the rut of eating food loaded with sugar and staying home wrapped up in your blankets. During the Christmas season, gaining those few pounds is almost accepted as a universal truth and Santa is constantly pestered to swing by and take away the excess pounds that come along with the winters! While the sweets we consume during winters are packed with sentiment and tradition, they are also loaded with sugar. So why do we get these sugary cravings at this time of the year? Here’s the logic.

One theory is that because of a hormone in our body called Melatonine (which is triggered by darkness and makes us feel sleepy) we eat more. It affects the appetite and causes an increase in hunger, and an increase in weight since our willpower seems to go on a vacation in the winter months. Also During the cold wet winters, many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a mild form of depression and happens because our body gets lesser amounts of sunlight, warmth and lesser exercise. These guys eat more sugary carb-rich foods that lead to a spike in the blood sugar levels and result in more insulin in the blood.
Now even though they don’t know this, their bodies crave and consume these foods because the higher insulin levels result in the release of a certain hormone called Seratonin, that makes us happy. So if you see a guy smiling at everyone during winters, it’s probably safe to conclude that he’s overdosing on sugar-packed goodness. This self-medication may seem pretty effective (and tempting) you can’t do it all year round (Unless you want to become round yourself).

While most of us might not even attempt to taste any of the Indian sweets fearing the weight gain, here’s a good news – it’s actually good and advisable to eat such rich, heavy food in winter. These halwas, laddoos and barfis provides body the necessary heat and helps in balancing the temperature. Take Jaggery, for instance. It is an heating food; In winters, Jaggery serves as an excellent ingredient to combat cold but eating it in summer can lead to nose bleeds and other complications. Saffron has the same properties. Ghee, the word itself makes you feel fatty but in winters it keeps the skin lubricated. And it is easily digested in winters due to the excessive body heat.
Most people, specially the elders, advice to make it a point to eat a saunth laddoo or any other sweet once a day during the winter months. So, grab the chance and gorge on those winter sweets you have been longing for from ages. At the end of the day, if these sweets are too sweet for you then go for a big mug of spiced hot chocolate. Nothing works like it !

In case, calorie intake still scares you, try loading yourself with more water and less of sweet foods during winters. In this way you can successfully manage sugar cravings with almost no weight gain. Too much of a good thing is bad, unless its water. Your kidneys will thank you if you have about 5-6 litres of water daily, which you can even consume in the form of warm herbal teas or just warm honey water. It’s a good idea for your skin too, since the dry winter air lacks much needed moisture.

Besides this, our advice would be to keep a food diary so that you can keep track of how much you eat and keep your guard up against the tempting sugar mermaids that will call out to you from the plates!

The Magic Food, Coffee

We all love coffee, and no we’re not even going to go into that. It’s come to be somewhat of a universally accepted fact. Coffee is the most consumed drink across the globe and the second most sold commodity after oil! But what is it about this simple brownish liquid that makes it so awesome, compared to your normal beverages? Is it the fact that some of us can’t get out of bed without a strong cup of coffee to kick start the day, or the fact that without coffee and coffee shops half the couples would not really know what to do or where to go? Let’s first go back into history.

Coffee was not served as beverage in the beginning of its discovery, African tribes used to crush the ripe cherries from wild coffee trees, mix it with animal fat, and rolled them into round balls, called as "coffee balls" . These were served to the warriors to provide nourishment and stimulate warrior abilities. Just like Popeye who eats cans of spinach to become mighty and strong to battle with Pluto for the quest of Olives love !Coffee was also served as a wine that was made from fermented juice of the ripe cherries mixed with cold water. Only after 1000 A.D, the Arabs learned to boil coffee and that’s when it became a hot beverage as we know it now.

From coffee’s first discovery it became mystery for everyone, and thought to have magical properties and today it has become one of the healthiest beverages on the planet, containing more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables combined! Coffee to the human body is what Gangajal is to Indians. Drinking and smoking too much? Want pure blood? Coffee may be able to help you with that! Besides that, coffee has been scientifically proven to give you superpowers. We aren’t joking; coffee gives you an assortment of superpowers borrowed from Wolverine, Flash and Megamind! It has been proven to show regenerative properties in humans and prevents cancer cells from spreading; it makes you quicker, smarter and improves reflexes and alertness; and it improves mental abilities and increases blood flow to the brain. All this within limits though, don’t think you can gulp a liter of coffee and go rob a bank!

On a more serious note, coffee has shown to enhance physical performance as well. How often have you seen a hunk walk in to the gym sipping on black coffee? Well, it’s a logical thing to do since black coffee works as a great pre-workout drink. It improves physical performance by nearly 10% and has shown to increase metabolism by nearly 20-25%. Feel sorry looking into the mirror, feel fat? A cup of coffee might help. Coffee also increases adrenaline in the body, which burns down the dreaded fat cells making them available for fuel. So in simple words, you get energy and get to lose the fat. Not bad eh?

New Yorkers consume about 7 times the amount of coffee consumed by other states in the U.S.A. No wonder it’s called the city that never sleeps! India isn’t too far behind either and the trend seems to be shifting from tea toward coffee. On a completely unrelated note, coffee was first discovered by an Ethiopian shepherd who found that his goats started dancing when they ate the super coffee berries.

So basically, coffee is good for your liver, good for your brain, bad for your fat, and for tea sellers, so drink coffee.

February 20, 2015

Fighting Cancer - If Yuvi Can, You we can!

In a country where cricket is considered a religion, Yuvraj Singh was worshiped in almost every household throughout the country after he helped the team lift the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup. Yuvi was adjudged the Man of the Tournament and had established himself as a national hero, having scripted a magical tale that would be told in India for generations to come. However, there was a twist in the tale for this stylish left-handed batsman when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 after the World Cup. Yuvi had a malignant tumor between his lungs and had been complaining of nausea, breathing problems and vomiting blood during India’s historic World Cup campaign. His doctors claimed that it was a rare case of seminoma and there were 95% chances that he’d be perfectly healthy after chemotherapy since it was stage 1.

After 3 long chemotherapy cycles, lots of video games and inspirational books to keep him distracted, and supervised physical activity, Yuvi made his comeback. Commentators and other sports pundits had written him off and said that his career was done, just the sort of challenge this Punjabi boy wouldn't let slip! He made his comeback with a superb 77 runs of 37 balls leading India to a comfortable win against Australia in a T20 in 2012.

Yuvraj’s chemotherapy and medication was done in Boston and Indianapolis and his condition was not lung cancer, which the media in the country was initially propagating. Lung cancer is quite common compared to seminoma and is the number one cause of deaths among cancer patients.

Speaking of lung cancer, one important fact that very few people know is that it is not just the smokers who are prone to this disease but also the innocent bystanders who breathe in all the smoke around them. Passive smoking is way more harmful, since you don’t blow any of that smoke out. So please stay away from the smoking zones, especially if you don’t smoke! Let's be honest - It’s no longer cool!

Awareness is the need of the hour in our nation, so if you feel that your voice has suddenly become hoarse, or you’ve been continuously coughing intensely, spitting or coughing blood, having breathing difficulties and short breaths or any such sudden, sustained problems,  please head to the doctor immediately.

Food for thought, Prevention is better than cure.

February 14, 2015

How to dine with the Valentine: Aphrodisiacs

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we’re going to shed light on a topic which is somewhat of a fan favorite among the masses, Aphrodisiacs.

Let’s ‘touch’ upon the topic and find out what foods fall under this category and clear a few myths while we’re at it. So the 14th of Feb is here, and everyone’s got plans (which include sitting alone at home like a loser in some cases, but don’t worry this applies for the years to come as well, which will be more fruitful hopefully!). What could be better than talking about a few foods to spice up the day for you -

  1. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite, Strawberries and Raspberries. They haven’t scientifically been proven to show any love enhancing properties, but they’re perfect for hand feeding your lover and make for great foreplay food. 
  2. Up next is Chocolate. Chocolate has been considered to be an aphrodisiac right from ancient times in the form of cocoa back in Latin America. Besides the sensual taste and sinful aroma, dark chocolate causes a rise in dopamine levels which induce feelings of pleasure. Melt a little and dip strawberries in them, you can thank us later. 
  3. Bananas are also considered an aphrodisiac because they have been proven to cause a spike in the testosterone levels of men upon consumption. They also represent the male strength in more than one way, symbolically speaking!
  4. Watermelon - for all you men out there this is what you want to be looking at. Rack up the fridge with watermelon, because this fruit has a Viagra like effect and has been shown to relax blood vessels and improve circulation. 
  5. Avocados are another one, considered an aphrodisiac for their shape more than anything, since they hang from trees in pairs and have been considered a symbol of male fertility since hundreds of years!
  6. And now comes the last but definitely not the least one, Oysters. These babies have been considered as one of the most mischievous aphrodisiacs and are great for love and fertility. They’re loaded with zinc which is why they got the reputation, since lack of zinc leads to infertility, something the girlfriends won’t be too pleased with! So it prevents infertility and is packed with amino acids that trigger sex hormones. 

If you notice, each of the fruits, by virtue of their shape and size, represent their benefits as well. So next time when you look at a fruit and feel guilty about being a pervert, think twice. You might actually be correct!

Hopefully this should help you with this week’s diet and the menu for Valentine’s Day. Make the day memorable and healthy, and don’t forget to pair it up with a bottle of wine, probably the best of the lot if you consume enough. Happy Valentine’s day folks!

February 13, 2015

Utterly Butterly Obnoxious - we are not A-mule!

Misleading advertising is nothing new, especially in a country like ours where the average consumer is not as aware as our first world counterparts! How often have we seen advertisements make bold outrageous claims and still have that one friend who goes and buys the product?

Misleading or incomplete advertising is the last thing in the era of #JaagograhakJaago, and we all need to stand upto it. Transparency and honesty in brands is no longer a ‘good to have’ quality – it is an imperative for each of them, if we are talking of placing Indian on the global map!

Brands can’t be preying on unaware uninformed consumers, especially household names like Amul, which is nothing short of an inspiration for every Indian! We all know about the story of how it was founded by Dr. Kurien and the White revolution in Gujarat, benefiting thousands of farmers. Which is why it’s even more disappointing that a well-known brand such as Amul, that is seen in every household has resorted to misleading and incomplete advertising.

The common man is not Afool, Amul. The packaging of the 500gm pack of Amul Butter shows a food pyramid with fruits, vegetables and cereals at the bottom, and Amul Butter at the top. That’s it, nothing more! They haven’t even bothered to explain to the people out there what a food pyramid actually is. A food pyramid basically shows the ideal amount of servings of different food groups with those with maximum servings at the bottom and it keeps reducing on its way up. The average Indian consumer is unaware of this concept (originally American) and misunderstands this. What the food pyramid actually portrays is that butter should be at the top because it needs to be eaten in smaller quantities.

At the first look of it, doesn’t it seem like something else? Is Amul trying to show that their butter is at the top because it is better than the fruits, cereals etc.? Wouldn’t the consumer think of a ‘positive imagery’ by placing butter right next to fruits and vegetables? Amul - Are you making a negative connotation into a positive inference through surrogates?

If the consumer thinks butter is better than fruits and vegetables she’s obviously not going to go easy on that toast or that dal makhani or that extra topping on the ‘pav bhaji’! People will consume more butter due to this misnomer and end up with heart conditions and arteries clogged like the roads of Mumbai. Studies have shown that excess of foods such as butter containing saturated fat increase the risks of heart disease considerably, not like the average Indian doesn’t have enough worries already, Amul plans to add to that. They didn’t even bother to put a warning which could maybe say ‘to be used in moderation’. Fruits, Vegetables and Cereal on the other hand are absolute essentials and provide vital nutrients, carbs, roughage etc. which we cannot do without.

Since the Stone Age man has survived on these commodities without the luxury of butter, but if it were the other way round Adam or Eve would have probably died of obesity or a heart attack! It remains to be seen what decision the Advertising Standard Counsel of India takes on the matter, but we’re pretty sure that the Amul loyalists in the market need to re-think their buying habits. Our tip to you is to stay informed, stay healthy and maintain a balanced nutritious diet. All we can say to the smart Marketing Amul team – what do you think guys, consumer is A mule?

February 04, 2015

Clearing the 'air' about Passing gas!

Farts may be really embarrassing for most of us, but it’ll make you feel slightly better knowing that it’s the most normal bodily function there is.

Here are a few fun facts, or should we say Fart Facts:

  • Did you know that the average person lets one rip at least 14 times a day! 
  • A Fart can also travel faster than Usain Bolt, at 10ft per second. 
  • Another fun fact about these hot airs is that they measure 98.6 degrees at the time of creation, and yes, they’re flammable!

They’re nothing but the trapped air inside our body that comes out in an awkward fashion more often than not. Some of it is the air that we swallow while chewing or drinking, and other is gas that is absorbed by our intestines from the blood.

Farts contain Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Methane in large amounts, but it is the Hydrogen Sulfide (about 1%) that actually gives it the stench that makes people run out the elevator as soon as the doors open.

So the more Sulfur rich your diet, the lesser friends you’ll have. Besides Sulfur rich foods such as soda and eggs, foods such as beans and cabbage also lead to foul smelling farts since they contain complex sugars that cannot be broken down by our body. So you better start giving a fart about what you eat if you want to remain socially acceptable!

Speaking of social acceptability, South America called the Yanomami fart as a greeting, and in China you can actually earn a few bucks by smelling farts and identifying them, professionally!

We can’t stop this natural phenomenon, but we can definitely assure you a healthier and more pleasant smelling lifestyle if you tweak your lifestyle in these small and simple ways –

  1. Don’t overeat - Indulge in smaller meals and increase their frequency.
  2. Slow down - The faster you gulp, the more air you take in with every bite.
  3. Keep Calm - Eating during stress can hamper digestion.
  4. Exercise - Besides reducing gas pain, this also leads to a healthier and more active lifestyle. 
So next time don't feel embarrassed or disgruntled when you hear some long roars around you. They are just trying to stay healthy!