Naini Setalvad gives tips on how to quell the fire raging in your belly
Ah! don’t you all just love the monsoon? With the pleasant pitter-patter of the rain caressing the ears, the eyes getting revitalised looking at the bright green foliage, the smell of wet earth invigorating the body and mind, and the brush of cool wind making one joyous and lively. And how can you forget the delicious fritters and masala tea, our beloved pakoda and chai? I do agree that their flavours get elevated in this weather, but what about the burning acidity that follows?
Hyperacidity is a common ailment suffered by many and can’t be pinned down to only one kind of food or weather. It is caused by an imbalance in elements, and most importantly, an imbalance in the pH. Our bodies are sophisticatedly monitored by strict pH levels that ensure we are functioning at our best.
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. Seven is neutral. Below 7 indicates acidity, above 7, alkalinity. The digestive system has an affinity for a certain pH. Think of the digestive process as a raging fire, where the ash left behind depends on the type of wood used. Similarly, the type of food you eat leaves behind either an acidic by-product or an alkaline one. The acidic waste increases the acidity of the blood. So, how does this acidity affect us? Well, the modern diet is acidic in nature and reduces the alkalinity of the blood.
“But Naini, my diet is very healthy, without any junk,” is what most people tell me, and you probably believe the same. Newsflash! Not all ‘healthy foods’ account for the acid-alkaline balance. Take a look at the points below to know how to pile your plate next.
Fresh fruits: Lemon is my go-to alkaliser. I squeeze it over all my meals as it is acidic to the tongue but alkaline to the body. Add on seasonal fruits like papaya to give yourself the alkaline dose. These immunity-boosting foods are perfect for the weather.
Vegetables: Vegetables like fresh, red tomatoes and greens like ladies’ fingers and runner beans are alkalising in nature. French beans, onions, cucumber, pumpkin, and the entire gourd family are all alkalising in nature.
Grains and millets: Amaranth (rajgirah), pearl millet (jowar), finger millet (nachni), and unpolished rice are alkalising. Other grain flours like wheat, when soaked, sprouted, and ground, reduce their acidic nature. No wonder they were, at one time, used in hospital feeds.
Root Vegetables: This monsoon weather is perfect for an elephant-foot yam bake or chaat (savoury). Not only are these delicious, but they are also full of anti-inflammatory vitamins and alkalising properties.
Nuts and seeds: I love adding freshly grated coconut to my sabzis (veggies) and munching on flaxseeds after meals. I get my dose of good fats and a little alkali as well.
Pulses: Owing to their high protein content, pulses are considered acidic, but soaking them for over 12 hours makes them digestion-friendly. A generous squeeze of lemon on your pulses will further alkalise them.
Spices and Herbs: My mornings do not start without ginger tea. Ginger neutralises the metabolic acid. Cumin, which is part of most of our traditional preparations, is an alkaliser.
Fun fact: Green chillies are more alkaline than red chillies.
Eating seasonal and local: Another important factor to keep in mind is to eat local and seasonal. This limits the chances of there being additives, pesticides, and fertilisers in the produce, further ensuring that their alkalinity is maintained.
Foods to Avoid: Highly acidic foods include animal products like red meat, fish, poultry, and eggs; dairy products like milk and cheese; processed white flour products; refined sugar; alcohol; fruit juices; aerated drinks; and excess caffeine. Condiments like soy sauce, chilli sauce, vinegar, and jams are acidic in nature as well.
Keeping a watch on it: Do you know what is more important than eating well? How you eat. Eating as per the body’s in-built biological clock can help stabilise digestion and improve acidity. Maintaining two-hour gaps between meals and maintaining a two-hour gap between your last meal and bedtime has proven to be beneficial to many.
Frequency of meals: As mentioned above, it is very important how you eat your meals. Many people tend to eat tiny meals all through the day, at any time. My advice is to stick to three balanced meals, i.e., breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and an additional evening snack if required. This allows the food to get properly digested and also gives some respite to your digestive tract.
Hyperacidity can be a lifelong battle if one doesn’t address it. Pay heed to these simple changes and live life to your fullest!
Alkalising All-Purpose Coriander Spread
1 bunch coriander leaves
6–7 sprigs of mint
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp black salt
1-inch grated ginger
½ tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
Take all the above ingredients and blend them into a smooth paste.
Use as a spread or dip, toss into your chaat or curries, or serve as a condiment.
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