Blog -> Monthly Archives: October 2013
October 29, 2013

Last Saturday, Food Lovers magazine had invited me to speak on Nutrition & Health as a part of their Food Fiesta celebration at 1 MG Mall.  One of the questions raised by the audience was “Is salt necessary for the body?  What if we don’t take salt at all?”

Salt (rather, sodium) is needed for the body.  Sodium is required to maintain the fluid balance and to transmit nerve impulses.  Salt being the best source of dietary sodium, it is required in small amounts on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, the average daily intake of salt by an Indian far exceeds the limit set by nutrition experts.  Last year, WHO issued guidelines for sodium intake even for children.  This indicates that most people are eating more salt than necessary, and by reducing the intake of salt we can reduce the risk of cardiac related health problems.

Sodium is not only added to cooked foods in the form of salt at home but is also present in processed foods.  Here are a few tips to cut back on sodium / salt intake –

  • Include more fresh vegetables and fruits in your meal plan.
  • Reduce or remove salt from recipes wherever possible.  Eg – don’t add salt to rice while cooking it or to chapati while kneading the atta.
  • Restrict the use of sodium-laden foods foods like soy sauce, cheese, salted butter, pickles, salt biscuits, etc.
  • Replace some of the salt in the recipe with herbs and spices to flavor foods.
  • If you wish to use salt substitutes, check with your dietitian.
  • Read labels while shopping.  Mono sodium glutamate, baking soda, sodium citrate, sodium nitrite and so on, are all sources of sodium which can increase the total sodium intake.
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October 18, 2013

Many stories and anecdotes surround mono sodium glutamate which is commonly referred to as MSG.  Headache, sweating, burning, pain, weakness, nausea, etc have been associated with the intake of MSG although research has yet to prove the connection.  Commonly termed ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’ because people believe that the symptoms appear after they have eaten a Chinese meal, MSG is commonly used in many Chinese dishes.

MSG was first discovered in Japan more than a hundred years ago.  Today MSG is used in processed meats, canned vegetables, sauces, soups, apart from Chinese cooking.  The US FDA regards MSG as safe for consumption but mandates the ingredient to be listed on the food label.

People on a sodium-restricted diet will need to restrict or avoid the use of MSG because of its sodium content.  Also, if you have a reaction after eating food with MSG, it’s best to avoid MSG in your food.

As of today, MSG is not considered harmful, but we don’t know what research will tell us some years later.

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October 9, 2013

Yesterday, the popular television channel – News 9, aired a documentary on the rising problem of childhood obesity in India. This was followed by a panel discussion which had health experts and students participating.  I was one of the panelists in this interesting and lively 2-hour discussion.  Several viewers also called in with their comments and queries.

We all know that the major cause for obesity is a combination of poor food habits and lack of exercise.  Other influencing factors are stress, hormonal changes, maternal health, genetic predisposition, and so on.  Food intake itself has a lot of influencing factors particularly in children and teenagers.  Availability, accessibility, familial habits, convenience, time (or the lack of it), etc.  Additionally, advertisements in the media, celebrities promoting unhealthy foods, peers bringing junk to school / college, educational institutions providing only high fat / high salt / high sugar options in their canteens, parents not caring enough about health, have a great influence on a youngster’s food choices.

Can we blame a single person or give a single reason for the rise in the number of overweight / obese people in India?  No.  There are multiple reasons for this problem but there is a solution.  Take responsibility for your health and weight!  If each one of us takes care of our health and weight sincerely by making positive lifestyle choices, 75% of the battle is won!  The remaining 25% can be won with the help of qualified experts.  If you are overweight / obese, don’t lose hope.  There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

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October 4, 2013

I recently received an email which gave a link to a you tube video on benefits of squatting in the toilet.  Here’s the link –  http://www.youtube.com/embed/pYcv6odWfTM

Although the above video is also an advertisement for a toilet gadget, it made me wonder how many of us Indians continue to use the old-fashioned toilets versus the modern toilets.  Unfortunately, not many of us have access to the Indian toilets or even if we do, some people cannot use it because of joint pains or some other health problem.

Good old Indian toilets have health benefits –

  1. They are more hygienic because the skin contact to the toilet surface is minimal.
  2. The squat position puts better pressure for evacuation of bowels, and helps to reduce constipation.
  3. Squatting relaxes the muscles in the rectum helping in complete evacuation.
  4. This position can also help to keep the knee joints, ankles and legs more flexible.

A few doctors in the western countries have started to suggest using the squatting position for better bowel health.

Try to squat every now and then; it will help!

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