Staying Healthy During Festivals

Hi friends, happy Friday!

I am sure everything is going alright and you are smashing the goals you set for yourself, for 2021…it’s almost the year-end! I know there still are two more months to go but the way the time flies by, is crazy and we will be there before we even know it.

But right now, the festive season is upon us and we get to be merry and give this year a grand farewell.

Today’s post was supposed to be the part 2 of the antioxidants post that I did last Friday. However, when many people asked for help with festive eating on DMs and Instagram, I had to put antioxidants aside for next week…and press the emergency button on festive eating. They needed help and I guess, many others do too. I am available on Instagram here, by the way:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

It is funny how we stick to a routine for the whole year and give in to the festive-grind a little too much…and start back where we were at New Year’s. Only with added guilt and stress. Not healthy. Neither is giving up completely nor the guilt.

Truth be told, I don’t understand it. What is the issue here? Why do we need to even worry about this festival season? Ideally, it’s just another part of the year where we still need to practice mindful eating and staying active. That’s a life-long habit…it is supposed to be! Just because I ate sweets a few times won’t make my abs disappear suddenly…or increase my sugar levels permanently. The keyword here is few times.

And mindful eating sails us through any sort of days- festival, travelling or illness, it doesn’t matter.

Mindful eating lets us enjoy whatever we want to enjoy and being mindful also lets us be flexible. Just like a good diet/health plan should be – flexible and sustainable.

I have two questions for anyone with the same fear/dilemma:

  • Isn’t your health plan sustainable? Any good diet-plan should be sustainable and enjoyable
  • Second, would you be partying, eating sweets/delicacies starting from breakfast and late into night? For many days?

If the answer to first question is yes and the answer to second is no, I don’t see a problem. A couple of sweets, some heavy meals and some late-night partying, would not ruin it for us (and for anyone) provided we stayed on track, the rest of the year.

Good health is not a 21 days challenge or transformation. It is all about eating clean and balanced, day after day…it is about staying active and also about having no nutritional deficiencies as well as normal health parameters, including normal digestion.

Yes, if you have a particular goal in mind then you need to still be following your goal-plan but do know that 1-2 days of late nights and a few of festive meals won’t change it much. It is all about what you do the rest of the year!

However, having said all this, here are a few tips which would help you stay in control and on track with your goals:

  • Keep the days as normal as possible. Do not skip meals just because you are going to have a lavish dinner in night. You would end up over-eating, for sure
  • Keep the normal meals of your day heavy on veggies and include probiotics in it, to avoid unnecessary bloating and acidity. curd, curd-rice, whole grains, whole foods are great for the purpose
  • Do not leave the house hungry, have something light before you leave
  • Keep drinking water when you are out. I am sure washroom would be accessible wherever you are. In fact, the extra trips to washroom might earn your extra NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis)
  • Skip mocktails and sugary beverages. This itself would help tremendously. Take a buttermilk if eating out at a restaurant. Water is always available everywhere any which ways
  • Moderate your food consumption, stick to small quantities and split your dessert with someone
  • Enjoy the food and chew slowly…feel the flavors
  • In fact, it would be a great idea to stick to only the festival-specific food and sweets. What is the point of gobbling up all the food in one go if it is available through the year easily e.g. bhakerwadi, chakli, cookies, chocolates etc
  • Pick up some salad by default. Make sure you fill 25-30% of your plate with fresh veggies. However, be careful with the dressings such as mayo etc
  • Most people serve dry fruits today, along with sweets. Swap some for sweets and cookies. Ditto with fresh fruits, if available

Let us remember that in festive times, what matters most is the festive vibe. Celebrating the festival with family and friends is such a fresh breath of air! Let it recharge us, take a much-needed pause, look around, enjoy the beauty and decorations everywhere… and stay surrounded with our loved ones and enjoy. Vibe high!

Also, let us not feel bad when someone tries to pressurize us into eating when we don’t want to and we say a firm NO…and when people try to make us feel guilty about picking up only half of that sweet. Let us not mock someone who is clearly trying to stay on-track. Let us not equate love to force-feeding and let us focus on the true traditions of the festival, the true sentiments behind it all.

Happy Deepawali in advance, my friends. Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace

The Power Of Antioxidants

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How was the week that went by? All good at my end too, thank you.

Today’s post is on antioxidants. Yes, the powerful antioxidants which are supposed to be a magical cure for everything, just like immunity these days. No, no, there is no sarcasm intended here, they both are truly magical and crucial to our survival.

And they are closely related, antioxidants and immunity. In fact, the whole human body is magical…so precise and self-sufficient. Hundreds of chemical reactions and synchronized movements makes it magical and I often find myself overwhelmed with the complexity of it all.

e.g. – Did you know that a human heart beats 1,00,000 times a day and the whole process of one beat and the blood pumping through our heart in itself involves an orchestral rhythm.  It involves 4 heart chambers, electric signaling in its nodes and multiple valves/blood vessels working in sync …and I have not even included lungs here!

Anyways, more on that some other day. Let’s come back to antioxidants for now.

First, let’s get familiar with free radicals and oxidative stress.

Free Radicals

Free radicals are molecules in our body with uneven no. of electrons. This uneven no. of electrons makes them unstable and they look for other molecule to attach themselves to. To create long-chain molecules. This process called oxidation, could be beneficial or it could be harmful.

Beneficial because our immunity depends on it. It fights the infections by attaching and de-activating the incoming infections just as well.

When there are too many free radicals in our body, it causes oxidative stress and high oxidative stress in our body, is not a good news. Like most things, there needs to be a balance.

Excess of free radicals or high oxidative stress in our body is linked to many diseases and even damage to our DNA structure. The other damages include:

  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular illnesses including atherosclerosis (hardening of blood vessels)
  • Cancer
  • Inflammation and related conditions
  • High BP
  • Neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Aging

We don’t want all this damage, right? We want to keep a balance between the free radicals and the antioxidants in our body. Now the question is how to keep a balance.

Let’s get to know the antioxidants now.

What Are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in our body and keep a balance. Our body knows this and has the whole system in place for us, already.

However, lot of factors manage to shake this balance. These factors could range from:

  • Pollution
  • Smoking, drugs and alcohol
  • Radiations
  • Poor diet choices
  • Stress
  • High blood pressure
  • Infections such as bacterial, fungal or viral
  • Excessive intake of minerals like copper, zinc, iron, magnesium as well as of Vitamins C and E
  • Exercising too much

Now we know that antioxidants are essential for our survival. We also know that our body has a system in place for generating oxidants. In fact, all plants and animals have such a system in place. How can we help this system or strengthen it, in our body?

Through diet. And better lifestyle choices, of course.

Too much of anything, even of good antioxidants is bad. High-dose supplements should be avoided unless your doctor prescribed them for a specific reason.

And that is why having food rich in antioxidants is generally considered safer. It is very rare to consume high-dosages through diet alone and a good diet brings about a whole cluster of other good nutrients, apart from antioxidants.

I feel this post is long enough for today. Now we do understand various terms like oxidation, oxidative stress, free radicals, antioxidants etc. better and how the whole process works.

I shall cover the rest in my next post, next Friday. It would tell us how we can improve our antioxidant intake through diet and by making better lifestyle choices.

If you want to join me on Instagram for regular updates on Health, Nutrition, Fitness and Motivation, I am here:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

A Must Read: Maltodextrin

Hi friends, happy Friday!

Happy Vijayadashami/Dussehra to you all!!

Anything exciting at your end this weekend? I for one, am pretty excited, about turning another chapter in this book called life. I have started the very renowned ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) certification for becoming a certified Fitness Trainer!

I already am an ACSM-certified nutritionist and with this new degree, I would finally be able to offer my clients a complete package of nutrition combined with fitness. For optimal health, they both need to go hand-in-hand, don’t they?

The next few months are going to be very hectic for me. It is a hard certification to complete and requires long hours of classes, associated certificates and self-study but despite all that, am looking forward to it 🙂

Coming back to today’s post, let me introduce you to maltodextrin today.  We need to be very careful when we consume packaged foods or even so-called ‘healthy foods’. Label reading is hard for most of us and dubious marketing claims don’t help either.  Most of the ‘healthy foods’ that I see around are still quite unhealthy especially if we consume them more, thinking that they are healthy.

The front side of the packaging tells us how healthy the product is and reading the back-side turns out to be a different story altogether.

e.g. just because the front of the packaging says sugar-free doesn’t mean that it is healthy by default. It could be high on fats (to make up for the lack of taste) or it could have unhealthy artificial sugars/sweeteners that could be even worse, in reality.

Maybe, with this post today, you would be a little more equipped to read labels and moderate your intake of maltodextrin. It is usually present in small, safe amounts in products and if we are careful, we can stay safe from its ill-effects.

What Is Maltodextrin?

In short, maltodextrin is a food additive. We can also call it an artificial sweetener even if it is less sweet than table sugar. It is a highly processed carbohydrate with no nutritional value and one that comes from mostly corn but also from rice, barley, wheat, tapioca or potato starch etc

The starch is put through hydrolysis process and further acids/enzymes etc are mixed into it to break it down and finally, the white, water-soluble powder is derived. This tasteless and odorless white powder is added to various foods (as an additive) to increase their shelf-life as well as improve their texture and taste.

In small quantities, its usage as a food additive is approved by govt. authorities worldwide.

Why Is It Even Made If It’s So Bad?

There are lots of additives, preservatives and fillers used in food industry and maltodextrin is one of those. It is a thickener or an additive. It is used to:

  • to increase the shelf life of the products
  • as a thickener to improve the texture of various puddings, sauces, salad dressings and gelatins
  • combine with other sweeteners to sweeten canned fruits, desserts and drinks
  • provide a quick boost of energy to athletes, by adding to sports drinks and other performance-snacks meant for them
  • provide a lot of calories pre/post/during-workout, to bodybuilders/athletes who are trying to gain quick body-weight without getting dehydrated in return
  • help people suffering with low sugar levels (hypoglycemia) as it provides quick boost in sugar-levels
  • in preventing colorectal cancer. Long story short, it prevents the tumor growth without any toxic after-effects
  • used as a thickener in various personal-care products such as lotions, shampoos etc

Then What Exactly Is The Problem Here?

  • The problem lies in it having a high GI (glycemic index)

Compared to regular sugar (GI 65), maltodextrin has a GI of 95-136. This could be good thing when we want a quick boost of energy or calories. For athletes etc, this might a good way to consume more calories and quick energy etc.

However, for diabetics especially, high GI index of maltodextrin and products containing it, doesn’t exactly sound like a good news. It spikes up the blood-sugar levels very quickly.

So, if one is diabetic, prediabetic or insulin-resistant, the maltodextrin consumption should be kept low and the daily carbohydrate count should be made to include maltodextrin into it.

  • Another reason to limit its consumption is its negative effect on our gut bacteria

This can easily compromise our immune system by causing a disbalance in our gut and the friendly bacteria residing there. Also, if one is at high risk for auto-immune or digestive disorders, one should keep maltodextrin consumption low.

  • Though after so much processing, maltodextrin becomes gluten-free. However, people with celiac disease or IBS, are advised to avoid it as the source might be wheat-starch
  • Many a times, people sensitive to MSG- Monosodium Glutamate (E621) are also sensitive to maltodextrin as the body processes both in the same way

How To Find It On Labels?

Now, this is an important question. We might know all about maltodextrin and might want to be aware about its consumption but how to ensure? Lot of packaged foods around us have it already and we might be consuming a lot of it, unknowingly.

Maltodextrin is a common ingredient in packaged foods, such as

  • beer, soft drinks and energy/sports drinks
  • meal replacement shakes
  • work-out supplements
  • low-fat and low calories food alternatives/substitutes
  • culinary additives by chef/restaurants
  • infant formula
  • meat substitutes
  • salad dressings
  • spices, sauces and ketchups
  • soups
  • yogurt, milk shakes
  • cereals
  • Instant meals/frozen meals
  • candies, sweets, desserts and baked goods
  • hair-care products, lotions etc

Here is how we can know that the product has maltodextrin. It can be made from any starchy food e.g. corn, potato, wheat, tapioca, or rice. If the label says – dextrin, maltodextrin, corn/wheat/potato starch, modified starch, starch solids etc, E1400…it means it has maltodextrin.

You see, it’s almost impossible to avoid maltodextrin in today’s time. It is also given a ‘safe’ status by various govt authorities however high consumption can lead to various ill-effects. The best solution is to:

  • consume less of junk and processed foods. We need to focus more on whole foods and home-cooked meals
  • stay aware of the ingredients in any case
  • one can find small brands using simple/clean/fresh ingredients for various food requirements as it is not possible for us to make/do everything at home, after all. Even then, keep an eye on ingredients
  • keep a food record whenever we find any allergies or recurring issues
  • to know that just because  a product is plant-based, vegan or gluten-free, it is not necessarily healthy

In the end, let’s keep the processed food consumption to minimum, adopt an active lifestyle free of stress and trust our bodies to handle whatever comes our way.

Rather than stressing over what is inevitable, let’s focus on how to minimize it by finding alternatives and keeping our bodies healthy, inside out.

Do join me on Instagram for more updates on Health, Nutrition, Fitness and Motivation here:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

The Truth Of Green Potatoes

Hi friends, happy Friday!

Am happy to be back this Friday and a big thank you everyone, for your good wishes last week.

Today’s post is about potatoes…not ordinary potatoes though but the green ones!

We were cooking some gravy one day last week and I found a potato with a green part/stain. I promptly threw the whole potato in the trash. My Other Half thought we could have used it and that it was just a bit raw. I told him it was poisonous and he started laughing till he realized I was serious.

I WAS serious and that made me realize that many of us don’t realize that green stained potatoes are poisonous indeed. Hence the topic today.

The green part and a bitter taste both, indicate the presence of toxic substances found in improperly-stored/damaged potatoes, called solanine and chaconine.

When the potatoes are directly exposed to sunlight or are kept in open for too long, they start producing chlorophyll which turns potatoes green. This chlorophyll in itself is not harmful but it can indicate the presence of two glycoalkaloids which are natural toxins: solanine and chaconine.

Nature’s idea, in producing these toxic compounds in exposed potatoes is to save the potatoes from insects, fungi and other animals but for us humans, it doesn’t sound like a great idea.

The highest concentration is found in the skin and the sprouts.

What Are These Toxic Elements?

Solanine is normally always present in potatoes but in such low quantities that it has no adverse effects on us, even when we have lots of them. When the potatoes are exposed to sunlight, they produce more of it.

Chlorophyll stains are green in colour and in general indicate the presence of solanine and chaconine, though that’s not a thumb rule. They don’t come hand-in-hand. However, that’s a risk I am not willing to take. So, I just discard green-stained potatoes.

Solanine and chaconine are toxic phytochemical which can be:

  • damaging to our intestinal wall membrane
  • are also an enzyme-inhibitor that affects the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters

They can cause symptoms such as :

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea and other gastro-intestinal disturbances
  • Headache and stomach-ache
  • Fever
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Confusion

In extreme cases, solanine is toxic enough to cause paralysis and even death. In general, 1.25mg per kg of body weight is enough to cause symptoms. Sooner in children.

What Shall We do?

Taking care of these glycoalkaloids, thankfully is quite easy. Fortunately, poisoning from green potatoes is also not very common. As it is, one needs to ingest a lot of it to experience any adverse effects but still, just take care of these points and cut any risk whatsoever:

  • While buying – Keep an eye while buying potatoes and don’t buy the ones which have green spots/stains on them
  • Purchase small quantities in one go
  • Storing potatoes properly – At home, store potatoes away from direct sun-light and specifically in a deep, dark spot of kitchen/pantry. One can always store potatoes inside a cupboard too
  • Don’t consume very old potatoes especially if they were not stored properly
  • Peeling, boiling, cooking and baking does not remove these toxins from potatoes
  • Storing in refrigerator is also not ideal

Please remember that even if the green stain is removed after peeling the potato, it is best to still not consume that one. If any part tastes bitter, throw it away like it burned your hand!

Hope you found today’s post useful. Do share around so that people are aware of the truth of green potatoes. For more and regular updates on Health, Nutrition and Fitness, do join me on Instagram on this link:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Laxatives

Hi Friends, how are you all doing?

Am good too. Just a lot on my mind right now but I am excited too. Will share more details of it once I concretize the plans but right now, it is an absolute chaos, I swear. I am putting a lot of efforts into it, to use my experience and nutritional expertise, for a new something. Wish me luck!

Anyways, today I want to talk to you about laxatives. Why laxatives? Because if one has digestive troubles and 75% of my customers DO have them (before they start with me), laxatives seem to be their only option and an alternative to spending long hours on a toilet seat (which can result into piles for many, unfortunately).

So, here we are today discussing laxatives. Is it safe? Does it help? Let’s see now.

What Are Laxatives?

Simply put, laxatives are medicines that help treat or prevent constipation. Ideally, they should be used only if the lifestyle changes that we are supposed to be making before starting laxatives, do not help enough.

There are many OTC varieties available in medical shops ad even grocery stores today. Sometimes, even doctors prescribe a certain kind.

We can categorize laxatives into 4 main kinds:

  1. Bulk-forming laxatives – The most common kind. These work by increasing the bulk/weight of stool and pushes the bowel movement. e.g. ispaghula husk. These work slowly but are the safest of all
  2. Osmotic laxatives – These absorb more water from body and help soften stool and make the bowel movement easy
  3. Stimulant laxatives – These kinds stimulate our gut-muscles for better bowel movement. These are fast-workers.
  4. Softener laxatives – Making the stool soft and ease the bowel movement

These come in various forms such as powder, pills, syrups, suppositories etc. One needs to read the packaging carefully to understand the best way and time, to take any laxative.

There are even some natural laxatives such as aloe, prunes, castor oil etc however one should exercise caution even with these.

In general, drinking adequate water is also very important as laxatives can cause dehydration.

Are Laxatives Effective And Safe?

It depends from one person to the other (like everything else) as to which kind is your best bet but generally people start with bulk-forming ones because:

  • They don’t require prescription
  • Are considered safe in general
  • Are easily available

It is always a good thing to talk to a physician or a gastroenterologist before one moves from the bulk-forming laxatives to the other kinds. In heart-patients, it is critical.

In fact, it is important to make that visit before you start on any kind. Your nutritionist could help you too, as a diet change can help you tremendously.

Should One Take Laxatives?

If you deal with constipation and bloating on a daily basis, most likely it is because:

  • Your meals are not well-balanced
  • your fibre intake is low
  • you lead a sedentary life and do not have a regular physical activity included in your day
  • you are not drinking enough water
  • you are stressed out

If one seeks a permanent solution, without a dependence on laxatives (unless there is a medical reason for it), one needs to sort all these above-mentioned factors out.

There are better ways to treat indigestion and constipation, trust me. Using laxatives on a daily basis can be harmful because:

  • the body gets used to it and stops making an effort on its own
  • your gut-health gets affected and gut-health means immunity too
  • laxatives can have side effects – such as too much gas, cramps and bloating etc
  • dehydration is a major concern if one is not careful
  • electrolyte-imbalance in body is always a risk

What Could Be Done Instead?

It is advisable to:

  • increase fibre consumption on a regular basis
  • drink plenty of water
  • exercise regularly
  • increase wholegrains and whole foods in diet
  • reduce consumption of junk food and refined flours

I have kept today’s post very simple and to-the-point. Hope you found it useful. Do share around if you wish and do join me on Instagram, for regular stories on Health, Nutrition and Fitness…and the motivation to keep at it. I feel social media is a great learning platform if we use it wisely.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Diabetes Reversal/Remission

Hi friends, how is it going? Hope all good.

In this part 3 of Diabetes Series, we have finally come to the question which is on a lot of people’s mind these days. Can diabetes be cured? Can one reverse it? Before we get into that or even along with today’s post, please read the part 1 on Glycemic Index (here) and part 2 on Prediabetes (here) of this series to understand diabetes better, in case you missed them.

The answer is yes, and no. The answer could also have been “that depends”. Depends on what?

As I always say, there are no thumb rules. Neither in nutrition nor when it comes to a human body’s capabilities. The answers always vary from one person to the other. Millets could be good for you or millets could be ‘not’ good for you. Wheat could be good for you or wheat can be ‘not’ good for you…and the list goes on.

Anyways, let’s come back to the topic today.

Remission Is A Better Word

In my opinion, remission is a better word applicable here…rather than cured or reversed. In medical terms, remission means the disease has diminished or disappeared to such a level that the body shows no signs and symptoms of the disease. Without medication.

That is good enough, no! It is like you have reversed the diabetes to such a level where you have no signs/symptoms of it in your body. No medication required anymore either!

However, if one is not careful, it can come back and this ‘coming back’ or the relapse chances remain higher than normal. One requires regular check-ups for diabetes and other associated risks, for life, just to make sure it stays that way.

  • Complete Remission term is applicable when 1 or more year of normal blood glucose levels is achieved, without any medication
  • Prolonged Remission term is applicable when 5 or more years of normal blood-glucose levels are achieved, without any medication

Can Remission Be Done?

First of all, whether it can go into remission or not, depends upon a few factors:

  • Early diagnosis
  • Weight management
  • Diet management
  • Active lifestyle
  • Genetics could play a part too

Many of us do manage to control diabetes adequately even if not reverse it. The medication/insulin dosage or frequency becomes quite low. That is a great achievement too!

How To Do It?             

Diabetes management requires a complete lifestyle evaluation and implementing changes wherever necessary. This includes:

  • Weight management – Being overweight and carrying excess fat especially around abdomen causes our cells to become resistant to hormone insulin hence, losing that extra weight/fat is super important
  • Eating foods low in simple carbohydrates and avoiding sugar. A must read post here on glycemic index
  • Mixing various food groups to create balanced meals/snacks options
  • Having smaller and more frequent meals might help us too
  • Exercise regularly – what form one chooses doesn’t matter as long as one moves and stays active. However, it would require a little more than a casual stroll
  • Move a little post-meals – a little walk post meal would be a great idea
  • Get tested regularly to keep a track of the variations in the sugar-levels as well as associated risks such as cardiac issues, irregular lipid profile, high BP etc

Last but not the least, listen to your doctor/diabetes-specialist and nutritionist. The problems I face when I work with my clients for prediabetes reversal or even blood-sugar level control/management, are only two:

  • “I can’t do this”
  • “I can’t eat this”

The goals that we have in mind need to be in sync with what we can eat and do. If one can’t eat this or do that, keeping the goal realistic is also important. If one is aiming for remission and looking to maintain it life-long, one needs to do whatever needs to be done and eat whatever needs to be eaten.

Hope this post today (and the last two in this series) helped you in some way or the other in understanding diabetes/prediabetes better. It is indeed possible to do a lot of things as our human body has a lot of potential. The question is “are we ready to do it? “.

I wish you best of luck in your journey towards health if you have decided to begin now or if you have already begun. Do join me on Instagram for more and regular updates on various Health, Nutrition, Fitness and Motivation, if you want. DM me on Instagram in case you wish for a personal consultation.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health and Peace

Diabetes 101: Prediabetes

Hi friends

Happy Friday and a very auspicious Shri Ganesh Chaturthi to you all!

Today is not the right day for this post or maybe, it is THE perfect day! The wisdom to make informed choices is indeed a boon! The festive season has started and not just in India but all over the world, festivals and celebrations are invariably linked to food especially sweets/desserts. We get/make sweets at home, we gorge on fabulous delicacies when we visit someone and we in turn, feed our guests the same.

And that’s the fun of it all, isn’t it? I do just the same. I mean, festivals without food don’t sound so good, do they? Did I tell you about the big sweet-tooth I have had since childhood? Now, the cravings are mostly gone (thanks to a well-balanced diet) and whatever is left, I have learnt to moderate.

And why go through all this trouble of eating better and learning new habits? Life should not be so complicated and limiting, right? YOLO, right? Live life king-size/queen-size, right?

Right. Now is when I start on today’s topic i.e. Prediabetes 😊

“A little disclaimer before we begin – when I say sugar from food, it doesn’t necessarily mean only ‘sugary/sweet’ foods, it can be your ketchup/sauce or the chips or even roti/rice. Almost every food has some sugar in it!”

What Is Prediabetes?

In short, a higher than normal blood sugar level…but not so high as to be termed as type 2 diabetes, is termed as prediabetes.

It also means that the long-term damage associated with diabetes such as arteries, heart, stroke, kidney etc. has already begun in the body. It also means that unless one makes necessary diet and lifestyle changes, it might turn into full-fledged diabetes soon. It also means that you have one last chance to reverse it.

Why one last chance? Because though it IS possible for SOME of us to maintain the level of consistent discipline that can reverse type 2 diabetes and hold it at bay even without medication BUT even that doesn’t mean it gets completely cured. I will come to that also, in my subsequent posts but let’s just say that if one is prediabetic, it is far easier to manage/reverse this stage than a full-fledged type 2 diabetic stage.

Causes Of Prediabetes

People with prediabetes are unable to process sugar properly and hence, the sugar from food gets accumulated in blood instead of providing energy to our cells (which is its true job and we do need sugar for it). Processing sugar from blood and taking it to cells require a hormone called insulin.

In prediabetes, this whole process (which is quite complicated in reality), doesn’t work perfectly. There might not be enough insulin made by pancreas or cells might not allow the sugar to enter in. This results in elevated blood-sugar levels and other signs, indicating prediabetes.

Some other risk factors (or associated conditions) are:

  • Being overweight
  • Having a large waist size
  • Fat deposits around abdomen or a paunch
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Family history and genetics
  • Ethnicity (that includes Indians)
  • Diabetes during pregnancy or Gestational diabetes
  • Smoking
  • PCOS
  • Irregular lipid profile
  • Elevated blood pressure levels

Signs Of Prediabetes

Unfortunately, prediabetes doesn’t have any symptoms and that is why many of us fail to notice it. A simple blood test is the only way to know for sure. However there could be some indications:

  • Darkened skin or dark spots on some parts of body such as neck, armpits, elbow, knuckles, knee etc
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Unexplained fatigue or easy exhaustion
  • Blurry vision

If we notice any of these symptoms, we need to run some bloodwork and get accurate readings from there.

Is It Reversible?

The first question that comes to our mind is, “can prediabetes be reversed?”. Well, it is majorly a lifestyle-related problem so making necessary changes (for life) can reverse it, yes.

But that’s the hard part, isn’t it? This would require huge commitment. If one is willing to work, one can do it. Here are a few pointers, to begin with:

  1. Eat better and healthier – Not advertising myself here but one does require nutritional guidance to reverse prediabetes. Do take the help of a nutritionally-informed doctor/nutritionist if you do not know how and where to start. One can start with reducing processed food consumption and by including more of suitable fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats
  2. Quit smoking if you do. This includes passive smoking
  3. Get a regular exercise plan in place even if it means 30 minutes of brisk walking every day
  4. Lose all that extra weight – losing just 5-7% of our excess weight can decrease the risk by a huge 60%, for most of us
  5. Work on the irregular lipid profile – the LDL, HDL and triglycerides etc.
  6. Get adequate sleep – easy said than done but not impossible, 7 hours would do the trick

A slightly long post today but I do hope it helped you somehow. Do share it around and join me on Instagram for any feedback/queries/DMs as well as regular stories on Health, Nutrition and Fitness.

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Diabetes 101: Glycemic Index

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How is it going with you these days? Hope all is good.

For my Friday posts, I generally try to pick simple topics or try to simplify complex ones. Topics that help us in staying aware and in making better decisions with our health, nutrition and fitness. If there is something that you want me to write on, do let me know on Instagram DM.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

A few days back, I have been asked to write more on diabetes and I think it’s a great idea for us to know more about diabetes, pre-diabetes and related terms. Why is it such a good idea?

Did you know that India, unfortunately is also called as ‘Diabetes Capital’ of the world!

Yes, India or Indians are on the top when it comes to diabetes! And the current exponential rise in these cases are mostly lifestyle related which includes our eating patterns. So, please let’s not blame it on our genes and rather look into re-evaluating our diet and lifestyle. Our parents probably did not pass it on to us but we can definitely pass it on to our next generation.

For today, it is about Glycemic Index or GI. Many of us probably have heard about this term. It is an important term when we are trying to manage diabetes or even prediabetes. Let’s understand it better today.

What is GI or Glycemic Index?

GI is basically a scale on which we can measure foods in terms of how fast they raise our blood-sugar levels. Or how fast our body can covert the carbs in food into glucose. An international GI database is maintained by Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Services in Sydney, Australia. 

Ideally, sudden and large spikes in blood sugar levels should be avoided. How? This tool called ”Glycemic Index” could help us in managing prediabetes or diabetes very easily.

If used properly, this tool can be of immense help while making better dietary choices. It can also:

  • Be used as a weight management tool
  • Be used to plan/have healthier meals
  • Be an important part of diabetes-management
  • Be used in Cholesterol management

However, if you are a diabetic, it is always a good idea to check with your diabetes-specialist doctor or nutritionist before you start making huge changes in your diet. With this disclaimer in place, let’s move on to the different categories of GI values:

  • 1-55: Low GI value – mostly foods that get absorbed slowly in our body e.g. green leafy veggies, lentils, chickpeas, beans, raw carrot etc
  • 56-69: Medium GI value e.g. sweet corn, bananas, multigrain bread etc
  • 70 and higher: High GI value – mostly foods that get absorbed in our body quickly e.g. white rice, white bead, potatoes etc

A more detailed GI value table is easily available on internet if we google it. We can search here also:

https://glycemicindex.com/gi-search/

Drawbacks of GI Table           

However, there is a slight catch;

  1. GI values do not tell us anything about nutritional values of a food and just because something is of low GI value, doesn’t automatically make it the healthier option for everyone
  2. It doesn’t take into account the portion sizes as well. And portion-size does matter…a lot!
  3. The GI value of a certain food can change due to a few factors such as
    • Method of cooking – how you cook, how long you cook etc
    • Food combinations
    • Ripeness e.g. bananas
    • Processing

As a nutritionist, I worry more about Nutritional Value (a regular ice-cream has a GI of 65 and watermelon 72, which do you think is a healthier choice? ) and at most, Glycemic Load of a particular food. This allows for more flexibility when it comes to eating a variety of foods, even those with high GI values. Glycemic Load takes into account the portion-size of the food as well and this is why we find that if the portion size is controlled or right combinations are made, foods with high GI values can be enjoyed too!

It is a great idea to make healthier food choices based on GI values especially for diabetes-management however let us not use the concept in isolation and completely restrict nutrition-dense foods. GI values are carbohydrates-derived but other nutritional factors such calories, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber are equally important. Well, not to say that carbs are not important because they certainly are.

I hope this post today made the Glycemic Index simpler for you and gave you the bigger picture. Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Ancient Grains

Hi friends, how are you all? All good at my end too, thank you.

If you read on health topics, you might have come across a relatively recent term “ancient grains”. As for me, anything with the word ‘ancient’ about it gets my attention fast.

Ancient history, ancient literature, ancient civilizations and their customs, ancient wisdom…you name it and I find it fascinating. Do you too? Not that I don’t find modern wonders equally enchanting. New discoveries, new science and modern approaches to many things are equally awe-inspiring. But the pull of ancient is too great, for me!

When I first came across the term ‘’ancient grains’’, I was stumped! I even imagined archeologists finding a huge storage of grains dating back to very, very old times and selling it now. When I explored further, I realized that ancient here means something different but equally wonderful. Why wonderful? Just imagine something witnessing and withstanding all the major events our Earth has gone through, and surviving still!

What Are Ancient Grains?

Technically, the ancient grains are grains (or grass or seeds) that have been planted and harvested for thousands of years on Earth, genetically undisturbed.

Not exactly what I originally thought (as a huge grain-store found buried somewhere). There is no official definition available anywhere for ancient grains. Also, many whole grains can be loosely termed as ancient grains!

This could be a fancy marketing word too, to entice people like me! I mean we already know of many of these grains or pseudo-cereals. These grains might have been a new concept for western world but for us Indians (and for those in China, Africa and Middle East etc), many of these grains have always been used a lot. To name a few:

  • Barley
  • Amaranth or Rajgira/Ramdana
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat (Kuttu)
  • Millets – such as Pearl millet (bajra), foxtail millet (kangni/kakum), sorghum (jowar), finger millet (ragi) etc
  • Tuff
  • Chia seeds
  • A few varieties of wheat e.g. kamut, spelt, farro, freekeh, einkorn etc
  • Some wild or heirloom varieties of rice, barley and corn etc

Benefits of Ancient Grains

Am not going in detail of each of these, today. Each warrants a post of its own and I might do it as a series some day. Do you want me to, or not needed?

Since these are generally non-processed or less-processed, ancient grains are relatively:

  • Denser in nutrition values such as vitamins, minerals, protein etc
  • Higher on antioxidants and flavonoids
  • Better source of fibre

And hence, these grains, when included in regular diet, can be linked to many health benefits such as better digestion, lower risks of heart diseases and cancer, better blood-sugar level management, reduced inflammation and many more.

Is it Worth It?

No doubt these are very healthy grains. Consumed whole and largely unprocessed still (at least till now), these grains are quite rich in fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Many of these grains are also gluten-free which is an added bonus, for people who are gluten-sensitive.

Healthy whole grains don’t have to be exotic. Most of the heirloom varieties are quite expensive too. The common varieties when made a part of well-balanced diet, are good enough for most of us.

Having said that, we can definitely add some of these ‘ancient grains’ to our regular diet. Not the exotic versions but the commonly available ones, for sure. They have always been around, actually!

However, before you do so, make sure the grain suits you. There isn’t a thumb rule. Each of these grains might do wonders or might make situation worse for certain medical conditions or specific goals. Do research the grain properly or consult your nutritionist for more details if you want to add these grains to your daily diet.

Hope you found today’s post useful and interesting. Do share it around if you want and do join me on Instagram for regular stories on Health, Nutrition and Fitness. DM me on Instagram if have a feedback or if you want to consult me on a one-on-one basis.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Cholesterol

Hi friends, how are you all? I am sure all good and if something needs work , you are already on it.

Tell me how would you feel if something that you believed to be true, for your entire life, turned out to be not-so-true, after all? It feels unbelievable, right? There are many such facts for me. Everyday brings new researches and new information to the fore!

Nutrition especially feels like an onion, you peel one layer and then you get another. So many contradictions and still, all so true! It is confusing for most of us and a lot of times, the general advice we get/hear are too generalized, to be of much use to one person, with a specific goal or health-concern.

Same with human physiology. Whenever I start exploring this particular subject, I get overwhelmed. What a miracle a human body is! Precise, self-sufficient and extremely smart…greatest gift to us and one we need to value as such!

Anyways, today’s topic is from nutrition and human physiology both. It is about cholesterol. And if we thought, we knew all about cholesterol, I can tell you straight away that we don’t. Why do I say that? Read on!

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a soft, odorless, waxy, fat-like substance which circulates in our blood and is found in all our cells. It is a fatty substance (lipid) but not fats.

Cholesterol is not bad in itself. In fact, it is critical for our body to have cholesterol to:

  • build cells
  • make vitamins
  • make hormones

The only problem with cholesterol is – when there is too much of it!

Cholesterol can be further classified in two main categories such as,

  • LDL– Low Density Lipoprotein – the bad kind ( ideally less than 100 mg/dl)
  • HDL – High Density Lipoprotein – the good kind (60 mg/dl and above is optimal)

Elevated Cholesterol Concerns

As the cholesterol levels increase in the blood, the health risks increase too. Elevated cholesterol levels in blood can increase the risks for cardiovascular diseases including heart attack, stroke and atherosclerosis (build-up of fatty deposits in arteries). Atherosclerosis, in itself can lead to various other problems such as erectile dysfunction etc

High cholesterol can affect anyone at any age. The narrowing of arteries can start happening in childhood and though the consequences are felt much later in life, it is a fact.

So, Where Does Cholesterol Come From?

Primarily from our own liver. Yes, the liver makes all the cholesterol that we need. The rest – the dietary cholesterol, comes from food but from animal sources only e.g. dairy, eggs, meat etc

These foods are often high in saturated and trans-fat also. So is junk-food. This kind of fat pushes our liver to make more of cholesterol and this additional cholesterol is what elevates our blood-cholesterol levels.

What Causes Cholesterol?

Our body produces all the cholesterol that we need and it’s OUR unhealthy choices that are to be blamed for elevated cholesterol levels. The main causes are:

  • Unhealthy, unbalanced diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) – a genetic condition

Symptoms of Elevated Cholesterol

Unfortunately, high cholesterol levels don’t have much symptoms and the effects start showing much later. And that is why an annual blood-work is a great idea.

For many people, a first heart attack is generally the first indication of elevated cholesterol levels and narrowed arteries.

In The End

It is definitely possible to lower the elevated cholesterol levels. Making necessary lifestyle and dietary changes is a great first step. It generally works beautifully. A few dietary supplements can help too, along with a well-balanced diet and a regular physical activity.

If that doesn’t work, consulting a physician, having a heart scan done and starting prescribed medication (statins) might reduce the health risks.

Just remember, small steps and small changes on a consistent basis, add up to great benefits in long term. Till we get on lifelong medication and fall in serious-risk category, it is always a good time to start. It is worth making these changes. Afterwards, it just becomes a necessity to stay alive. There is absolutely no need for us to come to that level, if we are ready to work for that goal.

Hope today’s post helped in understanding cholesterol better and to know that it is a critical part of our well-being till we overdo it.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace