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.

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Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Hybrid vs GMO Produce

Hi Friends, how are you all? How was the week that went by?

On my Instagram story yesterday, I posted about my current fruit-addiction ‘Thai Guava’. Well, it’s a fruit that I got introduced to very recently. It is a guava grown throughout Southeast Asia but now, produced locally even in Maharashtra.

I generally prefer local, seasonal fresh produce as that tends to be less in wax and other preservatives and is…well, fresher. When I tried Thai guava, I was apprehensive initially as I though it’s an import. Later, when I researched more, I came to know that it’s produced locally. Thank God because I love them!

I also prefer my food to be non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms). And food/produce which is made to look better and made to last more on our plates/shelves, doesn’t appeal to me…despite the enhanced beauty.

And apparently there are more like me because on my Instagram story, I got a few queries if Thai guava was a non-GMO. And that is how this post came into being.

The truth is that a lot of fruits and vegetables that we eat are not nature-made. In fact, most of what we eat today is man-made. Oh yes, the orange carrots we love to munch on, were purple in the beginning. The kale and broccoli…the cauliflower…the Honeycrunch apples….all man-made. You won’t be able to eat most of the original versions!

So what exactly is a hybrid and what is a GMO produce?

Hybrid

A hybrid produce is man-made for sure, created either on a farm/plantation or in a lab…by cross-breeding two different but compatible fruits or vegetables. This creates a new variety which could be very different from the parents or just a better version, more suitable for human palette.

Many a times this happens naturally (evolved over a period of time) and sometimes its man-induced. Grapefruits for example is a cross between pomelo and sweet orange. It was a done on a plantation way back in 18th century.

And the banana that is equally loved today all over the world by all the classes…is a hybrid and I bet, you won’t like the original banana at all! A hybrid of two wild species, both unpalatable…our nutritious and humble banana as we know it today, was a natural accident, capitalized upon by human agriculturists however it hasn’t changed genetically.

In case of bananas in India, the popular varieties or ‘cultivars’ are Robusta, Monthan, Poovan, Dwarf Cavendish, Nendran, Red banana, Basrai, Ardhapuri, Nyali, Safed Velchi Rasthali, Karpurvalli, Chinia and many others.

Hybrid fruits/veggies need a lot of care as they are sensitive to their environment. They also don’t reproduce easily on their own and might not stay true to their parents if reproduce at all. They might eventually stabilize and survive on their own.

The hybrids are particularly profitable to the farmers/producers as it produces a consistent, higher yield and is predictable in terms of quality. They are maximized for human-desired traits. This could also make bigger-sized fruits/vegetables with a better taste.

GMO

As per WHO, foods produced using GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) are called GM (Genetically Modified) foods.

This genetical engineering (genetic cloning, protein engineering and kinds) can be done through bacteria, viruses or other plants/animals. It is mostly done to ensure some sort of resistance or tolerance in the produce e.g. a resistance for pesticides that is used to kill the pesty weeds or making the crop resistant to insects. The saved harvest can be high on that pesticide or other ‘un-studied on humans’ chemicals…and this is why GMO is a controversial topic since ever.

For example, GMO corn has a pesticide Bt engineered into its genetic code and this insertion makes it resistant to the pests. Overuse of such corn with a pesticide built into its genes, over a period of time really raises a red flag! However, don’t worry, thatb corn is industrial and the whole sweet corn (including canned/frozen versions) that we eat is most likely not genetically modified. Almost all GM-corn is used as fuel (I am also not sure if ethanol really is environment-friendly to be honest but that’s for another day), livestock feed and processed foods.

Am waiting for the day when it would become compulsory for the producers to label the produce as GMO or otherwise. We deserve to know and make our informed choices on our own, don’t you think?

In The End

Not saying GMO is all bad. There is a reason why such a concept was even introduced and the resultant high-yield, disease free species help in maintaining food supplies all over the world. They are approved by top authorities as safe for human consumption before they reach us. So make sure, they are approved by authorities such as FDA, FSSAI etc

In the end, a few key-points are worth remembering:

  • Hybrids are not genetically modified. They are guided/traditional/controlled cross-pollination in fact
  • Hybrids can be both natural or man-made…in plantations or in labs
  • Hybrids do not have an altered DNA
  • Organic foods are only labeled organic if they do not in any way, use GM products so make sure you know how to identify truly organic products/produce
  • Read your labels carefully as almost 50% of imported packaged food today have either wheat or corn in them, one way or other and…are also found to be GM positive
  • India allows import of GM soyabean and canola oil however the only GM crop approved for cultivation in India is Bt Cotton (because of many crop failures in past in the cotton belt area, I believe)
  • Cultivation of unapproved GM crops in India, is a punishable offence. Yey!

We are lucky that India still manufactures most of its produce non-GMO and many attempts to introduce them to Indian consumers in past, have been not allowed yet e.g. BT brinjal, Protato (protein rich potato) and GM mustard etc

However, let’s stay aware of what we consume and make a habit of reading the labels well. Till the time we have a definite answer to the question whether GM produce/crops are safe or not, better stay wary…and aware.

Do join me on Instagram on the link below for much more like this…on health, fitness, nutrition and awareness, on a regular basis.

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Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Weight Management With Mindful Eating

Hi friends, hope all is good at your end! happy Friday!!

This is the second and last part of ‘Mindful Eating’ series. Mindful eating can also be called meditation with food, and rightly so. It’s not very complicated and far, far easier than actual meditation. And definitely, more delicious for one! Do read the part one here, in case you missed it.

I too have binge-eaten a lot in past. If I was eating a packet of cookies, I’ll finish most of the packet in one go. If I liked something, I ate multiple servings of it. It was for the taste and probably the addiction to sugar. I had a sweet-tooth and sweets, desserts, cookies, ice-cream, thandai, flavoured milks and other baked delicacies were my weakness.

It happened automatically to me but thankfully, I noticed the changes. With house in chaos always, with two little ones running and fighting and the Other Half fond of running TV debates on high volume, I eventually resorted to eating in my kitchen, for some quiet time ?

It helped – eating in peace, I mean. I paid attention to my food.

Mindful eating is definitely achievable and is way better than any fad-diets which are never sustainable, in longer run. What makes mindful eating even better is the fact that it coordinates mind and body, just like a good meditation session.

Mindful eating is eating with awareness so that we understand what our body is craving at a point of time and to eat accordingly. To understand when to stop eating and to realize what really satisfies us when it comes to food. And to truly enjoy each bite of our food.

How?

It Involves

  • Eating in quiet, peaceful surroundings, without external distractions
  • Eating slowly
  • Understanding body’s hunger cues – knowing when to eat and when to stop eating
  • To dissociate food with anxiety and moods
  • Thoroughly enjoying each bite and to feel various texture, smells and flovours
  • Knowing what we eat is how we feel
  • Being grateful for the food and the health it brings

Benefits

  • Once you start practicing mindful eating, you start understanding your body better and once you understand your body better, you start understanding the value of nutrition
  • You get a better control on your eating habits
  • And this in turn, not just provide assistance in weigh issues, eating disorders etc but also makes you feel better

It is not about a diet or even diet-control. This one is all about eating and the pleasure of it, in our bodies and mind! To see which foods make us happy and healthier, both! At times, we all overeat and then feel like crap, bloated and unhappy for a long while…wishing we never ate that junk or at least ate in control, don’t we?

To realize that itself, is one level achieved. To realize what we eat affects our feelings and our moods, is a lot of progress already.

What could be better than being able to manage weight issues and eating disorders, WITH eating? We just learn to listen to what our body is telling us and eat. The main thing here is to listen. Not easy but not hard either.

Did you like today’s post? Share with your family and friends. Do join me on Instagram for regular stories, nutritional tips and a healthy dose of motivation to keep you on track.

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Till next Friday

Namaste, Health and Peace