Blog -> Monthly Archives: April 2013
April 7, 2013

Today is World Health Day, and this year’s theme is High Blood Pressure.  High blood pressure also known as hypertension increases the risks of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.  However, hypertension is preventable and treatable.

On the occasion of this year’s World Health Day, The Times of India, Bangalore, carried my article yesterday (April 06, 2013) in their wellness section.  I’ve published the same article here for the blog readers –

Diet Helps Maintain Normal Blood Pressure

It’s a given that high blood pressure and diet are linked.  What and how much you eat can increase the risk of high blood pressure, and at the same time can also help to control your blood pressure.

Increased intake of sodium, calories, saturated fat and alcohol, along with other factors like heredity, smoking, stress and sedentary lifestyle accelerate your risk of high blood pressure.

Dietary changes to control your blood pressure

  • Reduce salt and sodium foods in the daily diet.  5 to 6 g of salt intake per day is adequate for an adult.  Ensure that you do not cross this limit.
  • When you buy processed foods, read labels.  Avoid / restrict anything that carries ‘sodium’ or ‘salt’ as an ingredient.  There’s plenty of hidden salt in ready-to-eat foods.  Restrict their use.
  • Eat more potassium rich foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce / avoid caffeinated beverages.
  • Drink coconut water regularly.
  • Avoid / restrict saturated fats.
  • Restrict the intake of sweets and fried foods, to keep your weight within the normal range.
  • Increase the intake of fiber-rich foods – vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains.
  • DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) developed in the US has proved that what you eat can help a great deal in controlling blood pressure.  DASH suggests a maximum intake of 2300 mg of sodium per day (akin to 6 g of salt per day), using monounsaturated fats, choosing whole grains over refined varieties, eating nuts daily, consuming fresh fruits and vegetables every day, among other things.

Steps to prevent or control blood pressure 

  1. Maintain your body weight within normal limits
  2. Restrict / reduce your daily sodium intake
  3. Limit alcohol consumption, if at all you drink
  4. Avoid / restrict intake of saturated fats
  5. Avoid active and passive smoking
  6. Learn to cope with stress
  7. Get adequate rest and relaxation
  8. Remain physically active, unless you’re ill
  9. Make time for sleep by limiting screen time in front of the television or computer
  10. Undergo a health check regularly, especially if you have a family history of high blood pressure
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April 5, 2013

A recent news item said that Samoa Air will charge the passengers according to their weight. It’s the first airline to do so.  Although, not many people across the globe fly this airline, perhaps there’s a message in this decision – you’re better off with less weight.

Talking about weight, when was the last time you weighed yourself on a weighing machine?  If you know your weight in kg and your height in meters, apply this formula to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) – weight (in kg) / height (in meters squared).  If your BMI falls within 23, your weight is normal.  If your BMI is above 23, you are overweight and need to reduce.  Excess weight increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, adult diabetes, some types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and many other health problems.

Check your weight at least once a month and maintain it within the normal range.

 

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April 3, 2013

Sometimes referred to as the trinity of flavor, 3 spices that we cannot do without are ginger, garlic and chillies.  And this I write from the chilli-land of India – Andhra Pradesh.  I wonder if any other state in India can beat the Andhraites in the intake of chillies!

What’s great about the spice trinity is that all of them are rich in antioxidants.  Garlic has cholesterol lowering properties as well as helps to remove excess phlegm from the body.  Ginger reduces nausea and also provides vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.  Chillies (dry red or fresh green) provide vitamin C, beta carotene and magnesium.

It makes sense to include these spices in your diet regularly, but in restricted quantities.  They can be added to salads, sauces, soups, masalas, chutneys and gravies.

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April 2, 2013

This article was written by me for The Times of India, Bangalore, and was  originally published on March 09, 2013.  Reproduced here for blog readers…

FOODS THAT KEEP WOMEN HEALTHY

Do women need to eat very differently from men?  Are their nutritional needs different from others?  Do their needs change with age?  These are the most common questions that we come across while talking about nutrition.

Women don’t need an entirely different diet from men.  The basic dietary guidelines remain the same for both genders.  However, a woman’s nutritional needs are different at different stages of her life – pregnancy, lactation and menopause.

The top 3 nutrients that come to mind when you think of women’s health are calcium, iron and folate; and the most common health concerns that bother women are weight, aging and menopause.  Let’s look at each of them briefly.

Calcium

All of us deposit calcium in our bones.  The balance between deposition and resorption changes with age.  As we move towards middle age, the rate of bone building decreases.  Menopause heightens the rate of bone loss and therefore calcium is a concern for women.  As long as there is adequate calcium intake thru foods and there’s no calcium deficiency, supplementation thru calcium tablets are not needed.  Calcium is found in whole pulses (soybean, horse gram, channa, etc), ragi, dairy foods, green leafy vegetables, fish, sesame seeds, cumin seeds, almonds, etc.

Iron

About two-thirds of iron is found in haemoglobin in the body.  Poor food habits and iron loss during menstruation are the main causes for iron deficiency in women.  It is vital that iron is replaced thru foods and healthy eating.  Some of the iron-rich foods are dark green leafy vegetables, dates, black currants, rice flakes (aka beaten rice, poha), bajra, meats, soybean, water melon.  The iron present in meats is easily absorbed by the body but the iron present in plant foods need the help of vitamin C for absorption.  So, vegetarians will require lime juice, fruits like guava, berries, citrus fruits, etc to help in absorbing iron into the body.  Tannins in tea and phytates in whole grains can decrease iron absorption.  Iron supplements are to be taken only when there’s a deficiency or when there’s an increased need for iron in the body.

Folate

Apart from its importance in pregnancy and other functions, folate also plays a role in heart health by keeping homocysteine levels under control.  Folate is one of the nutrients that helps to reduce the risk of heart disease.  This B vitamin can be obtained from spinach, cluster beans, lady’s finger, sesame seeds, methi seeds, egg, bajra, whole pulses, etc.

Body weight

Women are most concerned (sometimes obsessed) about their weight.  A well balanced eating pattern which provides all the nourishment, along with regular exercise helps to keep the weight in check.  Many women believe that post partum weight is difficult to lose, or that menopause brings in weight gain.  This is not true.  With a proper schedule for food and exercise, it is possible to knock-off the post partum weight as well as keep weight gain at bay after menopause.   Also keep your body fat under check.  Portion control becomes more relevant as we age.

Aging

If there were a single solution for anti-aging or age-reversal, I’m sure we would all go for it.  Aging is a part of life and as long as we age successfully and gracefully, it should not matter how old we are.   Women are generally concerned only about external appearances like skin and hair as they age.  The internal body parts and functions also need to be taken care of.  Healthy lifestyle always helps us to age well.  Adequate fluid intake is important as women age because it helps to maintain moisture in the skin as well as prevents urinary tract infection.  Nuts with their vitamin E and zinc content are beneficial for the skin too.  Fiber needs to be taken in adequate quantities for bowel health.  Vitamin D and B12 are a concern as women age.  So, do get your D and B12 levels checked after consulting your doctor.  Ensure an adequate intake of antioxidants thru foods.

Menopause

This is an unavoidable phase in every woman’s life cycle.  While some women sail thru this phase without any problem, others face a lot of ups and downs.  Eating healthy is vital during menopause.  Spicy foods, hot beverages and alcohol are known to increase hot flushes and night sweats.  Avoid these as much as possible.  Sugary foods cause a high followed by a low feeling which leads to tiredness.  Choose fresh fruits or dry fruits instead of desserts.  To calm your mood, take whole grains at mealtimes and warm milk at bedtime.  Do not skip meals, particularly breakfast because this helps to maintain your blood sugar levels better.  Restrict foods – sodium, fizzy drinks, alcohol, caffeine – that remove calcium from your bones.  Include soy and flaxseed in your diet.  Graze on food; do not gorge.  Do not forget to exercise because this preserves calcium in your bones.  If you are a smoker, quit!

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