Holistic Recipes - Health on a Platter
by Dr Anjali Mukerjee
When thousands of people die in the US due to terrorist attack, it is rightly considered to be a tragedy with global implications. But when thousands of deaths occur each day due to unnecessary disease, nobody even thinks about it! Disease that could have been prevented by implementing the right diet with minor changes in lifestyle to bring about years of vibrant health.
The primary cause of disease is improper nutrition and lack of exercise, coupled with increasing environmental pollution. All this triggers a host of terrorist or free radical activity within the body, which slowly disintegrates our immune system. Once your immunity begins to fail, your body becomes open to any disease include atherosclerosis, cancer, chronic liver disease or cirrhosis, respiratory tract infection, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, osteoporosis, stroke, obesity, etc.
Diet and Lifestyle
What you choose to put into your mouth right from the cradle to the coffin, determines your future health to a large extent. The human body is a truly incomparable machine. If you feed it with the right fuel, it functions smoothly. The more toxins we injest, the faster we precipitate disease and age. Our fast-paced lives are moving us away from nature. We eat devitalized foods from fast food joints. Canning and processing of foods has made life easy for us but the body has to work harder to eliminate the chemicals and additives injested.
These lifestyle diseases precipitate due to an urban lifestyle, little or no exercise, eating refined foods, poor stress managemen, excessive drinking, etc.
When we eat a lot of dessert, white breads, pasta, white rice, maida biscuits, pizzas, burgers, pastries, naans, rumali rotis, noodles and other highly processed starches and restaurant foods, our ability to utilize insulin gets hampered and we become prediabetic. At this stage, one can develop high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, obesity, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and Type II diabetes. A high triglyceride reading coupled with a low HDL reading implies prediabetic conditions known as insulin resistance. This condition leads to premature and unnecessary aging, affecting your heart, your arteries (giving rise to blood pressure), your liver, eyes, extremities, your appearance, your moods, your emotional state, almost everything. As your body gets chemicalized by eating depleted food, imbalances are created in the body, resulting in lifestyle diseases.
What would happen if your body reacts to junk food, just the way your hand reacts when it touches something hot? Among the advantages, you would be assured of remaining free of diabetes.
Type II diabetes, which most people suffer from, is a lifestyle disease. While juvenile diabetes, the kind that affects children and adolescents, happens if you wrongly chose your ancestors. It may even happen due to a viral infection early in life. But most of the time no one knows how or why this happens in some children and not others. Diet and diabetes have always been intimately connected. Type II diabetes does not happen over night. Wrong choices of foods begin the degenerative process in those who are vulnerable to diabetes.
Most Type II diabetics are overweight. They don’t have a shortage of insulin, but their cells are resistant to its effects. When they lose weight, the cells become more responsive. When this happens, their blood sugar drops and the need for additional insulin reduce, as the insulin that their body is producing may prove to be adequate. Therefore, an overweight diabetic should try and achieve ideal body weight in order to get control of his blood sugar and wean off oral antidiabetic drugs according to requirement.
• Avoid refined foods like white rice, maida, dessert, soft drinks, chocolates, sugar and foods rich in fat.
• Increase fibre in your diet. You can do this easily by eating whole grains, whole pulses, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. You can also take one tablespoon of isabgol daily to increase fibre intake.
• Eat some sprouts every day as they are rich in protein, calcium and nutrients that help increase immunity and balance blood sugar.
• Antioxidants like vitamin A, C, E and minerals like selenium, zinc, chromium, selenium and magnesium help to control blood sugar imbalances
• Karneem made from karela and syrup made from jamun known as jambuasav are a few herbs which help to control blood sugar.
Heart disease would include any of the several abnormalities that affect the heart muscle or the blood vessels of the heart. Heart disease and other forms of cardiovascular disease can lead to congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot pump sufficient blood to meet the demands of the body. The various forms of heart disease may also cause disturbances in normal heartbeat, called arrhythmia.
Stroke is a condition which happens due to the lack of oxygen to the brain that may lead to reversible or irreversible paralysis. Stroke is linked to advanced age, high blood pressure, previous attacks of poor circulation, cigarette smoking, heart disorders, embolism, diabetes mellitus, weight gain, high cholesterol – all of which are in some way related to our eating patterns.
Correct food intake can help keep the arteries clean, elastic and free of hazardous clots. Food does this by preventing cholesterol build-up (if it is already high, it can lower it), and by keeping the blood thin and clot free.
• Coenzyme Q10 is an absolute must to maintain a healthy heart. It strengthens the heart muscle which is major dependent on CoQ10 to meet its energy needs. It is especially beneficial for people suffering from mitral valve prolapsed, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy. It is a potent antioxidant that can protect our body from free radical damage.
• Vegetables are rich in soluble fiber and help lower blood cholesterol.
• Eat at least two or three fruits every day.
• Consume two tablespoons of alsi seeds powder as they are rich in Omega-3 fats, which are beneficial to the heart. They help increase HDL levels (good cholesterol) and thereby reduce the heart-risk ratio.
• Eat two cloves of chopped raw garlic as it is a vaso-dilator and helps lower blood pressure. Its antioxidants protect against cancer and it has blood thinning properties.
• If you are already suffering from heart disease, include raw onions, ginger, black mushrooms, garlic and green tea in your daily diet as these foods help to fight blood clots. The way your blood clots is the single greatest determinant of whether you precipitate a heart attack or not.
• In case you have Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), consume a bowlful of black channa or green channa, boiled and tossed with salad, and a teaspoon of olive oil as dressing, regularly. It contains soluble fiber which brings down cholesterol and folic acid, which reduces homocysteine levels. High levels of this are implicated in heart diseases.
• Above all, avoid fried foods, maida-based products and sugar-laden desserts, as these end up as blood fats.
We develop fattening metabolisms by consuming refined foods like white rice, white flour, refined sugar, cornstarch, sweets, etc. The food that you consume today may get stored as fat or utilized as energy, depending upon your body’s hormones, enzymes and fat-handling capacity.
• Fibre is an important element for weight as it provides bulk, a sense of fullness and prevents unnecessary hunger.
• Snack on fruits and high-fiber biscuits made from millet or whole wheat or soybean. This will take care of in-between hunger pangs.
• Zinc and chromium picolinate are important minerals as they sensitize the tissues to insulin and help to minimize sugar cravings.
• Some herbs and spices like saunf, methi powder and cloves help balance blood sugar and control hunger.
Osteoporosis is a condition where the body become fragile and porous – ‘osteo’ meaning bone and ‘paresis’ means porous. As we age, the body’s calcium reserves are depleted and this makes the bones fragile and weak.
Apart from the gender and age factor, food also plays an important role in shaping the calcium reserves. The body’s calcium needs must be continuously replenished through food and calcium supplements. Substances like caffeine, salt and tobacco are detrimental to building calcium deposits. Items like decaffeinated coffee, herbal teas and foods that are flavored with garlic, onions and lemon juice, help the body to accumulate calcium and thus diminish the possibility of osteoporosis.
Although there is no known cure for osteoporosis, precautions and proper nutrition can reduce the chances of affliction. The best way to stave off osteoporosis is to build up adequate calcium reserves and improve the calcium absorption and retention levels of the body.
are not inert as is generally believed. Composed of a protein framework, they have a calcium cover. In fact, 90 per cent of the body’s calcium reserves are concentrated in the bones and the teeth. The structure and content of the bones are constantly changed and remodeled according to the needs of the body. The flow of calcium and other biological substances are regulated through the blood supply. The body needs calcium not only to fortify the bones but also for other physiological activities like normal muscle contraction and the blood-clotting process. When we are young, greater amounts of calcium are deposited and supply is far higher than demand. But as the body ages and the various metabolisms slow down, the demand for calcium is far greater than its supply. To compensate, the calcium from the bones are used up, leaving them porous and fragile, leading to osteoporosis.
• A vegetarian diet of jowar, bajra, nachani, black channa, moth, rajma, masoor, whole mung, fruits and vegetables, is loaded with potassium, and low in sodium. With such a diet you will be able to keep calcium in your bones.
• Drinking milk makes sense if you don’t have mucous conditions like frequent cold, boils, asthma or lactose intolerance.
• Rich non-dairy sources of calcium are sesame seeds, flax seeds, soybean, spinach, etc, which should be included in our daily diet.
• A proper diet wins half the battle against osteoporosis. And the other half is through exercise. Opt for any weight bearing exercise. And if you find this difficult, then try going for a 40-minutes walk daily. But be sure to make exercises a part of your daily regimen, so that your bones don’t go snapping with the slightest stress.
There is considerable evidence to suggest that one-third of all cancers are linked to diet.What you eat may interfere with the development stages of cancer and may help stifle its growth. Certain foods rich in fiber and antioxidants can help build immunity and cleanse the body, thus preventing unnecessary damage to the cells (a prelude to cancer). Antioxidants can snuff out free radicals, which promote cancer. The right foods can provide a hostile environment for the growth of cancer cells. Even after you have developed cancer, the right foods may help prolong your life, although at a later stage diet is far less powerful, but it may influence the spread of cancer.
• Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Intake of fruits and vegetables cuts the risk of many types of cancers such as colon cancer, stomach cancer, lung cancer, to half, as compared to those who do not consume much fruits and vegetables.
• Consume two cloves of chopped raw garlic every morning and half a raw onion with both your meals every day. More than 30 different anticancer compounds have been identified in them.
• Learn to love soybeans, for it has anticancer potential.
• The monounsaturated fats found in flax seed, olives, walnuts, peanuts, mustard seeds, etc., are known to be heart friendly. The Omega-3 fats found in fish oils, are known to have anti-tumor properties and are also beneficial.
• Eat more sprouts. You could sprout any whole pulses and eat them daily. They are rich in photochemical and have anticancer properties.
• Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.
• Include wheat bran in your chapattis in a proportion of 1:1 as it helps hormone-related cancers.
Asthma and Respiratory Tract Infection
Asthma, the most troublesome of respiratory diseases, is characterized by recurrent attacks of wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. It involves chronic inflammation and thickening of the bronchial tubes and nasal passages, which ultimately lead to muscle spasms, constriction of air passages and breathing difficulties.
• A diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses and brown rice proves to be helpful.
• Garlic and onion contain quartering, which help reduce the inflammation and mucus.
• Ginger juice taken with honey in hot water also helps to reduce mucus formation and reduces frequency of attacks.
• Wheat grass juice helps the body to get rid of toxins and mucus.
• Avoid cold stuff like ice-creams, soft drinks and cold sherbets. The bronchial tubes may go into spasm.
• Milk has mucus-forming properties and should be avoided by asthmatics. Fasting for one day in a week on raw fruits and vegetables will also help the body to get rid of toxins and reduce mucus. Besides, raw fruits and vegetables are loaded with photochemical (plant chemicals), that work in mysterious ways to keep us healthy.
Mild depression, which has a shorter duration, can be triggered by stress, work tension, nutritional deficiencies in the diet, lack of exercise, excessive intake of junk food, low blood sugar and heredity. Severe depression can be caused by a traumatic event in a person’s life, or due to thyroid disorders or due to chemical imbalances in the brain. Depression, whether severe or mild, can have major effects on one’s health. It can lower immunity, affect performance at work, affect family life and destroy self-esteem.
What you choose to eat has a profound effect on the mental health of a person. If people haven’t been eating right most of their lives, then it can affect their health in their 40s or 50s. Whilst incorrect eating may not be the cause of depression, correcting a deficiency can prove to be beneficial.
Foods have a major influence on almost every part of the human body, including the brain. Constant snacking on nutrient-deprived food is a major cause of depression. If you are clinically diagnosed as suffering from depression, you need to see a physician. Along with that, you could try out the following recommendation:
• Avoid wheat and wheat products in your diet. The gluten in wheat is implicated in depression.
• If you are stressed, worked up or nervous, and wish to become more relaxed, then consume more complex carbohydrates like potatoes, brown rice, pasta, idlis, whole pulses, vegetables like sweet potato, yam, arbi, etc.
• Fish contains omega – 3 fats, which is beneficial for warding off depression and lifting your mood. Avoid alcohol, as it precipitates hypoglycemia and causes further depression.
• Avoid deep fried foods as they get digested slowly. They also prevent digestion of other foods and lead to sluggishness, and lack of alertness.
• Most people who are depressed develop a sweet tooth. Sugar gives you the instant mood lift but this is quickly followed by fatigue and depression.
• Eating foods rich in tryptophan like pumpkin or sunflower seeds, evening primrose oil, help control the ‘blues’.
• Above all, avoid the inflow of negative thoughts. These are the germs that cause psychological disease.
If you want relief from any ailment, it is important to treat and eliminate the root cause of the ailment. You have to remove the blockages in the body, nourish it, and rejuvenate it, so that the healing can happen a lot faster. Healthy diet, relaxation, stress management, sensible exercises, yoga, meditation and visualization, etc., are tools at our disposal to control the host of lifestyle diseases. Food can bestow health and vigor, protecting you from minor discomforts and killer diseases, or it can make you ill and miserable. Food is the prime player in health management. Correcting your diet well in time gives you unprecedented control over your health.
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