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

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

Artificial Sweeteners

Hi friends, how is it going for you?

Thank you for the overwhelming response to my last Friday’s post Part 2: Hacks For Quitting Sugar. I hope it helped you in one way or the other, in your journey to good health. Just remember, health is more, way more than just weight loss – though weight loss is an important part of it too, no doubt.

A few of you also raised a query on one of the hacks that I gave. This was about artificial sweeteners and I wrote to stay away from artificial sweeteners while trying to quit/reduce sugar intake.

The truth is that many of us do consider switching to artificial sweeteners when we try to cut/quit sugar. That makes it tolerable and we can still enjoy our favorite desserts etc.

If we take out artificial sweeteners also from the equation, it becomes even harder to quit sugar, isn’t it?

What Are Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are basically either manufactured or derived from plants. Either way, they make the taste of anything that they are added to, sweet. In fact, most of them are way sweeter than the normal refined sugar. And that is why very little quantity of an artificial sweetener is needed to sweeten things up and hence, the resultant low calories (if not zero).

There are many artificial sweeteners available in the market today. Some are available easily to us, under various brand-names e.g. aspartame, sucralose, saccharine etc and many are used commercially e.g. sugar alcohols.

Artificial sweeteners are often found in many/most packaged products such as soft drinks, drink mixes, candy, chocolates, bakery goods, canned foods, jams, protein powders/bars, health drinks/bars, weight loss products, dairy products, low-sugar products, chewing gums etc

Of course, some industrial sweeteners (in packaged products) are better than others but that’s for some other day!

Artificial Sweeteners: Why?

The general consumption of artificial sweeteners is by people who are trying to lose weight and by people trying to manage diabetes. The benefits could be many:

  • Because they contain lesser calories and can disrupt our brain’s reward system for good (for more details on this, please refer to a previous post here), artificial sweeteners do work in weight loss to some extent
  • They also do not spike the blood-sugar levels in our body as much as sugar does. That sounds good especially for diabetics
  • Since artificial sweeteners don’t interact with the bacteria in our mouth like sugar does, they do not affect the dental health negatively

However, just replacing our normal food with the one containing artificial sweetener, might not be enough if we do not take care of a few other things. We would come to that shortly.

Artificial Sweeteners: Why Not?

On one hand, artificial sweeteners are authority-approved, considered safe for most people and easily available in market. They also help us in cutting sugar-calories out. Then why not use them?

  • The thing is that we are not told the entire story very often. And the entire story here might involve the decreased insulin sensitivity, increased risk of cancer as well as gut-imbalances, for many artificial sweeteners (though not all)
  • Also, just because it does not contain sugar and has zero/lower calories, it isn’t any healthier
  • There are many people who are allergic to some artificial sweeteners even if they don’t know it
  • Not to mention that with artificial sweeteners, we still are far away from making healthier choices. A fresh fruit in place of a diet soda or a no-sugar cake is a hard choice, isn’t it?
  • Artificial sweeteners have been found to increase our risk of metabolic syndrome by 36% and diabetes type 2 by  67%

Did You Know?

In 1970, an artificial sweetener called cyclamate which is 50 times sweeter than sugar, was banned in US after a study was published, linking it to bladder cancer in mice. Also, there is a growing concern over sucralose these days.

So, What’s The Verdict?

Before I give my opinion, let me ask you a question. Do you think replacing your regular soda with a diet version is a healthy choice? Just because it has no sugar, does it mean that we can guzzle down any amount of it and frequently?

If you know the answer then we can simply apply that to all artificial sweeteners. Just because they are low in sugar/calories, they don’t automatically become an obvious choice. There is more to health and nutrition than just calories and sugar!

So far, the cancer links have been ruled out but these researches are not done long-term and the effect of usage of such artificial sweeteners over a long period of time, is uncertain. However, there are other risk factors which makes the usage of artificial sweeteners over a long period of time, not a wise choice, in my opinion.

If I have to eat something, I will eat in moderation and consciously…even if it is refined sugar. For diabetics, it’s a little harder but then why make it worse by adding artificial sweeteners in the mix?

I think its best to reduce our intake of sugar mostly. If and when we want to indulge, we can go with jaggery, honey, maple syrup, stevia, monk fruit syrup, dates etc…even if many have similar caloric profile and affect the blood sugar levels just the same, they won’t harm our gut-friendly bacteria. Again, diabetics need to be more careful with consumption of these also. Do check with your nutritionist or doctor before you consume these alternatives.

Hope this post today, helped you in making another aware choice. Do read your labels carefully and know what you are consuming as well as how much. To join me on Instagram for more, here is the link:

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

Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace

Part 2: Hacks For Quitting Sugar

Hi friends, how are you all?

Before I begin, let me say a big ‘THANK YOU’ to all those of you who often share their life-stories and feedback with me, after reading my posts. It is always an honored feeling when I go through your messages and your appreciation. In fact, I derive a major chunk of my motivation from that!

Last Friday’s post was about sugar addiction and how we develop it. Our brain gets addicted to sugar easily and we even have withdrawal symptoms when we try to quit. Do read the post here, if you missed it somehow.

The first step is to accept that we have a sugar-addiction or that our sugar-consumption is much higher than it should be. Check. Now what? How do I change it?

First of all, know that it’s a great decision, one that would bring better health soon enough. Not only would you feel better but look better too. It won’t be easy but trust me, it would be all worth it!

High sugar consumption has been linked to various illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, inflammation, faster aging, heart diseases and many other chronic conditions.

As I said, quitting sugar is not easy. Quitting any addiction is not easy, is it? The more you want to quit, the more cravings you would have. After all, the brain is involved and it wants sugar, one way or the other!

Withdrawal Symptoms

It is a slow journey and the severity of symptoms depends upon how much sugar you were consuming before you decided to quit.

The symptoms could last for a couple of weeks and could be quite uncomfortable/unpleasant. Apart from high cravings, let’s see what we might be dealing with once we start reducing the sugar-consumption. It could be any or many of the below:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and depressive thoughts
  • Sleep troubles
  • Feeling tired and low energy
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Nausea

Ok, got it! I still want to quit because a few weeks’ unpleasantness is preferable to a lifetime of diabetes and other chronic disease. Can something help me to cope better while I give it my best shot?

What Can Help?

Cut all at once or cut out half first! For some, it is easier to just get up one fine morning and decide no sugar for them. For some, it is easier to cut slowly and gradually. Whatever works for you, works for you.

I, personally went slowly about it. I reduced my sugar consumption to half one day and after a while when I got comfortable with the ‘half’, I reduced it to further half. I had a sweet tooth but once I decided to cut down on sugar, I stuck to it.

I consider it a lifelong choice and if someday, I consume more sugar for whatever reason, I do not feel guilty about it. I just try to indulge in moderation and I get back to life the next day.

I think it is all about getting our priorities right and the motivation follows automatically.

Some Hacks That Would Help

Here are some tips for you, experience-based and research-based, should you decide to go slow:

  • Have a glass of water when you feel a craving. The hunger cues and thirst cues are same for our body
  • Analyze your cravings when they arise. Ask yourself if you really are hungry or just your brain playing tricks or because you feel tired/stressed at the moment
  • Have a healthy, balanced diet overall. Focus on whole foods and vegetables which can keep you full for long
  • Add fruits in your diet, as snacks
  • Best way to reduce drastically is to – start with sweetened beverages. Cut out cold-drinks/sodas, mocktails, energy drinks and fruit-juices from your diet and replace these with water, flavored-water and smoothies etc
  • Replace breakfast cereals with oats, eggs and use tons of veggies in whatever you cook
  • Read labels before you pick up a food from the shelf. Especially if they are fat-free versions
  • Try using cinnamon for a tinge of healthier sweetness to your dessert/drink
  • Maybe make a trail mix with nuts and seeds and add some munnakka/large raisin in it and have that mix (as a snack) whenever you get a craving…way healthier than anything sugary for sure!
  • How about tricking the brain a bit by giving it just a tiny bit of a healthier alternative e.g. a date for an ice-cream, a calcium chewie for a dessert (guilty of this one ?) or even saunf/fennel!
  • And while trying to quit, stay away from artificial sweeteners as they can send wrong signals to your body and that could create more issues later
  • Engage in regular exercise in whichever form you like. Not only would it keep your cravings in control but keep you mentally relaxed

Last but not the least, make sure you avoid your sugar-triggers…think about the time and situations that make you crave sugar more, notice a pattern and work on the stress that talks you into finding solace in sugary company.

Also, follow a few health bloggers on social media. They keep sharing tips of healthy eating habits and hacks to it. They also provide the much-needed motivation.

In the end, do know that it is something you need to do in order to have a healthier version of yourself and keep many chronic diseases at bay. You always have a choice till it is taken away from you.

Hope this post today and the tips in it would help you in making some necessary lifestyle changes. Do join me on Instagram for more regular stuff like this – on health, fitness and nutrition.

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

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Part 1: Are You Addicted To Sugar?

Hi friends, how are you doing?

This pandemic, almost everyone is complaining of either putting on weight or of feeling down or of being anxious for lost opportunities. I don’t even want to think about people who are daily wage earners or people in occupations that are hit the hardest in this pandemic but still, it hasn’t been easy for anyone. Definitely not for the women of the house either, who deals with multiple chores including job and online schooling, all without much external help. I know I go crazy at times!

However, one thing is for sure. Everyone has realized the importance of being healthy. Call it immunity or call it weight management, the end goal is same – good health! As it should be. Weight -management is a part of the ‘being-healthy’ package as many illnesses or chronic diseases stem from being overweight/obese.

One thing that leads to not just weight-gain but many other diseases, is high-consumption of refined-sugar and products containing it. Ice-cream, cake, cookies, desserts, sweets, mocktails, few sauces all contribute to our daily sugar consumption. For some, sugar is a serious addiction and a big hurdle in their weight/disease management journey.

Have you ever thought about sugar being a serious addiction?

Yes, it’s true! Like other addictive drugs, sugar is addictive. But why? Seems pretty harmless despite all the otherwise claims…the to-die taste of desserts and cakes – what can be wrong with a little fun in life, eh?

What Is Sugar Addiction?

A true addiction happens when our brain chemistry changes to such an extent, due to some substance, that even when we know it’s bad for our health, we still consume it or repeat the experience.

Research has proved that too much sugar-consumption can lead to a true addiction.

Sugar addiction is basically the physiological or emotional dependence on sugar-laden food especially when we feel tired or feel low mentally.

Why Does It Happen?

This happens because our brain loves sugar. Sugar is the fuel for it and eating it releases dopamine and opioids chemicals in our brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and is what makes us feel rewarded when we indulge in our addiction. It makes us feel high and happy when we eat sugar. This dopamine is what compels us to repeat the experience again to again – to feel happy and high…and wanting more sugar! Opioids help with this process  and compulsive behavior.

And every time we gave way to our craving, our brain becomes even more hard-wired for it. We feel withdrawal symptoms when we try to quit sugar. Many of us can vouch for it, am sure!

Though in reality, sugar addiction is not as strong as let’s say, cocaine addiction (even if some researchers do say so) but it still is pretty harmful for us. What makes things worse for sugar is that it is widely accepted in our society as something to be indulged in and is even associated with all celebrations in a big way.

Are All Sugar Addictive?

All added sugars are addictive, for sure. Honey and fruit-juices come under the same category. In 2015, WHO recommended to consume no more than 5-6 spoons of sugar on a daily basis and this amounts to 5% of our total caloric intake.

5 spoons? That seems fine, we can do it, right? Not quite right actually as here is how we keep getting added-sugars, throughout the day:

  • From daily foods and snacks – granola bars, energy bars, protein bars, ice-creams, cereals etc
  • From bakery items – cookies, cakes, doughnuts, breads etc
  • From beverages – mocktails, liquor, soda, energy drinks, fruit-juices, coffee and tea – hot or cold
  • From ‘health’ foods – fat-free versions of many things, salad dressings etc

Do I Need To Quit Sugar Completely?

The good news is, no. We don’t need to completely quit and it is natural and alright for us to enjoy it unless we have a medical condition that strictly prohibits it.

One of my clients has rheumatoid arthritis and for him, it is absolutely essential that among other diet modifications, he quits added-sugar completely. Fruits, plenty for him!

How Are Fruits Allowed?

Most fruits are super sweet and that is how we love them, at least I do. For most of us, it is difficult to over-eat them and to get addicted to them.

Fruits are also packed with fibre so when we consume them whole, the sugar in them is regulated in such a way that it doesn’t cause high spikes in our blood. Fibre also does so many good things for us that this regulates the overall effect much better!

Another good news is that it is possible for us to re-wire ourselves, to effectively reduce the dependence on sugar. Physiological and mental, both. How? Stay tuned for the sequel post, next Friday.

Do join me on Instagram for regular updates on health, nutrition and fitness on the link below:

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

Till next Friday

Love, Health and Peace

Part 2: Reversal Of Insulin Resistance

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How have you all been? Am so glad to be back home! Even if you stay in the best of the hotels and visit the most beautiful places, there is no place like home, is there?

Thank you so much for all your feedback and appreciation for my last post on understanding Insulin resistance-part 1. If you missed it, please read it first, here.

Also, a big thank you to everyone who has recently joined me on Instagram. A big hug too!!! My Instagram handle has changed a bit so henceforth, please use this link to join me there:

https://www.instagram.com/jillofmanytrades_sk/

I have also received some requests to share the link for the glass tumbler that I use for my milk (from my stories on Instagram). Here it is: https://amzn.to/3nAGEBR

Now that we know what exactly is Insulin resistance and how it has no obvious symptoms as such, it would be wise to not ignore a few signs that could be an indicator for you, to undergo a simple blood test to confirm your suspicions, if you have any.

Let’s say that in the worst case scenario, you found that you have insulin resistance and let’s assume that you are willing to re-evaluate your lifestyle to see how you can prevent further damage and to even reverse the situation in most cases. Great! Perfect! Now, how to go about it?

We might still have time before it turns into full-fledged diabetes. Start today.

It is very basic and simple…and maybe, complicated…depending upon your willingness. If you ask me, we owe it to ourselves and to the concept of living life king-size. Well to live it like a king or a queen, you first need to be healthy otherwise enjoying becomes rather hard, isn’t it?

So, let’s discuss a few things that one can do in order to take care of the Insulin resistance and to prevent further damage. Mind you, one need to apply all these things together and as a permanent lifestyle change.

  • Weight Management – Find out your BMI and your healthy weight and try to come within the normal range. It’s not easy but it is not that hard either. Especially when the payoff saves your life, in more sense than one ?. Did you know that a reduction of 5-7% in body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes by 58%? Though Insulin resistance can also prevent weight loss. In such a scenario, please seek professional help such as a doctor or a nutritionist.
  • Exercise – Even 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day could do wonders. Brisk walk (where you almost jog) is a good way to start. A minimum of 5 days a week is what we should aim for and no less.
  • Nutrition – What you eat is very, very important now. I mean it is always important but now it’s almost critical. It is your body’s last warning to you to start eating well.

So, Reduce or better still, completely stop:

  • sugar intake including that of gur/jaggery, honey etc
  • intake of processed food and junk
  • intake of refined wheat flour/ maida, white bread, bakery items, colas and cookies

Increase:

  • fruits and vegetables in your diet. Try to stick to fruits which are low GI such as cherries, apple, pears, oranges, grapefruit, apricots, plums, strawberries etc
  • whole grains and legumes
  • lean  protein and fish – if you like non-veg
  • add seeds and nuts in moderation, to your diet
  • fibre intake

Apart from this, depending upon the severity of an individual case, if the doctor prescribes any medication, do take it the way it is prescribed to you. I have seen many people go off their medicines or make a full recovery – after they make certain life style changes and make health their priority.

In the end, the choice is ours. If we prefer high BP, heart issues, strokes, kidney problems, eye-problems, cancer, low blood sugar levels and Alzheimer’s Disease over a disciplined lifestyle where we exercise regularly and eat healthy….well, we can choose to be passive and do noting. Till a certain point at least, when that choice is taken away from us. I would rather keep the choice to me, what about you?

Hope today’s post help you in some way. Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Understanding Insulin Resistance: Part 1

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How are you all? Hope all safe and healthy. If unwell right now, I wish you speedy recovery.

For me also, its kind of back to March of last year. The last couple of months have been a little relaxed…though masks, sanitizers, social distancing etc were still very much in place. Somehow, the situation has worsened again. My residential compound is sealed and it’s lockdown here in Mumbai anyways. That means no helps, no workouts and back to being a one-woman-army! Client work, cooking, cleaning, laundry on top of managing online schooling/studies for both the girls, it is kind of hard. I almost didn’t get time for today’s blog! I guess it’s true after all that if one really wants to do something, one will find time. Am glad I could 🙂

Today, I want to discuss Insulin resistance with you. It is a lengthy topic so I’ll break it down into two parts, part 1 being today’s post.

First Of All, What Is Insulin?

Insulin is a very important hormone made in our body, by our pancreatic beta cells. This hormone is responsible for converting the glucose that we ingest (through food), into energy.

After we are done eating, the carbohydrates in foods are broken down into glucose which the body absorbs via our intestinal walls into our blood. Then the pancreas releases the hormone Insulin which enables our body-cells to use this glucose for energy.

In short, our blood sugar levels stay balanced due to Insulin. When we have too much glucose, Insulin also tells our liver to store it so that it can be used later in hours of need such as between the meals, stressful situations, fasting and energy for physical exertion/activities.

Now, Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance happens when Insulin is produced alright…but our cells, even liver, don’t respond well to it. As a result, our bodies can’t use glucose in our blood, for energy which ideally happens. Our pancreas gets the wrong signal and it thinks that it’s not making enough Insulin so it makes more.

However, the blood glucose levels go up, stay up and affects us in many harmful ways.

Insulin Resistance vs Diabetes

Oh yes, there is a slight difference. In the case of Insulin resistance, our cells don’t understand the signaling by Insulin and are unable to utilize the glucose efficiently and hence the blood glucose levels increase. However, the levels are generally still not that high as to qualify for diabetic category.

We can call it prediabetes and we can be in this stage for years without even knowing about it. The good news is that it’s easily reversible with proper care.

Diabetes on the other hand, can be of two types, Type 1 and Type 2. In Type 1, our body can’t make Insulin hormone at all. In Type2 diabetes, body becomes immune to Insulin and whatever Insulin the body produces is not enough. Liver overproduces Insulin to keep a balance and exhausts itself soon, resulting into diabetes.

How To Detect Insulin Resistance

It is very hard to detect insulin resistance as it has no significant symptoms but that does not make it any less risky. Around 50% of people with prediabetes end up with diabetes later in life, if they do not make any lifestyle changes. Insulin resistance can only by detected by a blood test or glucose tolerance testing. However, a few signs might point to it:

  • Being overweight
  • Irregular lipid profile (low HDL or high cholesterol or high triglycerides)
  • High blood pressure of systolic 130 and above
  • Fasting glucose level over 100 mg/dl
  • waistline over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women
  • A skin condition called acanthosis nigricans which is believed to occur due to the buildup of insulin in body. This can be identified by the dark, velvety patches on the back of neck, in armpits or in groin area
  • skin tags
  • Any other symptoms commonly associated with diabetes such as constant hunger, thirst or fatigue

The Bottom Line

Do consider undergoing a simple test – primarily a blood test, to confirm your suspicions in case you see any above-mentioned symptoms of insulin resistance, especially if:

  • you have a sedentary lifestyle or job
  • family history of diabetes
  • had gestational diabetes

Hope you found the post useful. Best weapon against any disease or illness is the knowledge to detect it before it makes irreparable damage to our body. Do join me on Instagram for more regular stories of health, nutrition, fitness and more.

https://www.instagram.com/jillofmanytrades_sk/

Otherwise, till next Friday 🙂

Love, Health & Peace

Is Honey A Good Sugar Substitute?

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How are you all?

Last to last post was about jaggery vs sugar (read here if you missed the post) and we saw that in terms of calories and sugar content, there isn’t much difference. For a non-diabetic healthy person, switching over to jaggery from white refined sugar might be okay but for rest, jaggery is and should be treated as a sugar only, especially if you are watching your weight or sugar level spikes.

Oh and make sure to find good, unprocessed jaggery to get real benefits out of it! Adulterated jaggery, highly bleached and full of toxic chemicals – from certain parts of India is a big news these days. The worst part of this adulteration it is that we consume something thinking it is beneficial for us when it is actually doing more harm than good.

Anyways, let’s evaluate another sugar substitute today. Now that we know where jaggery and sugar stand, the next question is “and what about honey”?

First, What Is Honey

Honey is made by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. Sweet and syrupy, it ranges from golden colour to a much darker shade of yellowish-brown.

Today, the market is full of all kinds of honey. The difference could lie in the plant-source, the way it is extracted or even in how it is processed. It could be raw, it could be pasteurized. Our choices are vast – from wild honey to acacia honey to clover honey to even neem honey! Not to mention blended honey, now.

Nutrition & Calories

Let me share a personal experience with you. There was a time long back when I decided to try warm honey-lemon water first thing in morning – for weight loss. Well, that was the prevalent wisdom then and a very famous brand was actively promoting its honey for the same purpose.

Did it work for me? A big NO! That got me thinking how it could even? If you are trying to lose weight, the first general step is to reduce sugar intake. Was honey-lemon water in morning helping with it? No. It just added to my sugar intake and the logic was so simple to me that I refused to listen to all the “weight-loss wisdom” after that till it fitted my basic, simple logics of nutrition and calories.

I never got to examine the detox part of it as I stopped consuming it altogether after that whole weight-loss debacle.

Before we come to the nutrition part, let’s clear the calories part. Did you know, honey has more calories than white sugar? Oh yes, 1 tbsp of honey contains 64 calories versus 1 tbsp of sugar with 46 calories. This means swapping sugar for jaggery or honey would not be a safe bet for weight-watchers!

It also means that for diabetics, honey isn’t a good alternative to sugar, just like jaggery. Though it has a relatively less glycemic index (61 against 65 of sugar) but it still causes sugar spikes and still adds up on calories for weight-watchers.

Much sweeter than sugar, honey is about 35% glucose, 40% fructose, 9% sucrose and rest other simple carbohydrates. Though this could also mean that you use it in lesser quantities!

Having said that, a dash of honey in your herbal tea is fine if it increases the flavour or makes it slightly less bitter. At least you know/understand why you are having it and what exactly would it be doing!

Honey does contain several micronutrients like iron, zinc and potassium but in minute quantities. However, high-quality honey:

  • is rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants (such as phenolic acids)
  • helps in wound-healing and anti-inflammatory purposes
  • can also help with heart health and other chronic diseases

Doctors strongly advise against giving a baby of less than 1 year any sort of honey as it contains pollen spores and might result in botulism, a kind of serious toxicity caused by bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

For more health, nutrition and fitness facts & motivation, do join me on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/jillofmanytrades_blogger/

Which Honey Is The Best?

That’s an important question!  Choose raw, unprocessed, unpasteurized honey always. Preferably an organic one and definitely without any added sugars or chemicals/preservatives!

The Bottomline

For normal healthy people, swapping sugar with high-quality honey might make sense. Even then, consume only high-quality honey and in moderation.  If it fits into your daily healthy diet, no harm taking it and it would be best to consume it with other nutritious foods.

If you are a weight-watcher/diabetic and your doctor/nutritionist allowed you some honey, make sure it’s high-quality and you add it with some other foods with fibre/protein/fat etc so that the sugar-spikes are regulated.

That is all for today, friends. Hope you found the post useful 🙂

Till next Friday!

Love, Health & Peace

Jaggery vs Sugar

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How are you all? Hope all good. Spring is here and in Mumbai where I live, it has already become quite hot. Make sure you keep hydrated!

Do limit your intake of sugary sodas and other sugary beverages this summer (and always, actually) because one thing that our body can absolutely do without, is added sugars. Almost everything that we consume, has some amount of sugar in it and any extra added refined sugar that we eat, does us more harm than good. Eat fresh fruits a lot instead. High on fibre and other nutrients, juicy fruits can quench our thirst equally well.

Whenever I tell my clients to limit their sugar intake, I am almost always asked, “and what about jaggery?”

Hmm…that is a tricky question and the answer depends from one person to another. I personally, do avoid added sugar as much as I can. However, some days when I feel like having sweet milk-ginger tea, I put in half a spoon of jaggery powder instead of white sugar. But then, my sugar intake is low anyways and I do not have high blood-sugar levels either.

If you are a healthy person with limited sugar-intake, it is alright for you to make the switch from sugar to jaggery or jaggery powder. Jaggery is less processed after all.

However, if you have excess weight and/or high sugar level already and/or looking to lose some weight, consider jaggery as a sugar only. Why? Let’s just see what jaggery is and you would get your answer on its own.

What is Jaggery?

Jaggery or gur in Hindi, is generally made out of sugarcane or date palm. The sugarcane/palms are pressed to extract their sweet juice which is then allowed to stay in large containers for long so that the sediments settle down and can be filtered easily. The strained juice then is boiled, cleaned and the remaining paste is put in moulds ending up in big/small blocks of gur/jaggery.

Interestingly, darker the jaggery is, the more trace minerals it would contain and hence better. However unattractive it might look!

But, somehow we believe (and it’s true, industrial grading-wise) that brown means it is higher in impurities and golden-yellow means that it is relatively pure. Due to this grading scale, artificial colours are sometimes added to jaggery, to give it the golden/red colour.

The way jaggery is made also gave it the name ‘non-centrifugal’ sugar because sugar-mix is spun while it is getting cleaned and in the process of getting clean/refined sugar, the nutritious molasses are separated from the mix. With jaggery however, this process is not needed hence the nutritious molasses stay in it. This molasses is what makes jaggery more nutritious than sugar!

Now, Jaggery vs Sugar

Compared to sugar, jaggery is more nutritious (due to trace minerals) but it is still essentially sugar. As simple as that. All the extra nutrients that come from jaggery, come with lots of sugar too. And you have to consume a lot of jaggery to get any tangible benefit out of it. With the calories and sugar attached, is it worth it? Not if you are already struggling with diabetes, high sugar-levels and weight issues, for sure.

With a high glycemic index of 84.1, jaggery can raise blood sugar levels, it just takes a tiny bit longer. Though, jaggery:

  • being a more complex carb than sugar, breaks down slowly in our body
  • has relatively lower glycemic index than white sugar
  • if consumed in completely unprocessed version which is made in traditional way with no chemical additives, believed to be alkaline. I am still looking for that one though, if you know where to get it from, please let me know too!
  • contains trace minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and calcium
  • due to these trace minerals, is said to improve digestive health, prevent anemia and improve immunity, if one is deficient in them otherwise

The Bottomline

If you are a diabetic, have blood sugar issues or struggle with weight concerns, best to avoid sugar and jaggery both. They both are sugars -spike up insulin levels and add up to the calories.

If you are healthy and a non-diabetic, you would still do best to reduce any sort of sugar-intake all together. With overall reduction of sugar-intake, replacing your white-refined sugar with jaggery is alright. Try to get organic and unprocessed jaggery for the purpose, to maximize any benefits out of trace minerals etc.

There are many foods and fresh produce available that would help better with many benefits associated with jaggery though. Where sugar cannot be quit completely, replacing it with jaggery makes sense but only if you are non-diabetic and enjoy a normal health/weight.

Hope you found today’s post useful. Don’t forget to join me on Instagram on the link below:

https://www.instagram.com/jillofmanytrades_blogger/

Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace

Carbs: Good or Bad?

Hi Friends, happy Friday!

How are you all? Did you use the BMI-calculator that I put in my blog-post, last Friday? Did you fall in the Asian normal (or even western normal) range? If you did, great! Keep doing whatever you are doing.

If you didn’t fall into the normal healthy range, please start with some lifestyle modifications at the soonest so that you can nip any weight-related diseases/illnesses, in the bud only.

If you already are in early stages of any lifestyle-related disease or illness, don’t worry. If you take care now, majority of them are either reversed or easily managed. Don’t underestimate human body or nutrition!

I keep on writing about various things that one can do and about many others that we can take care of through our diets, to achieve our health and fitness goals. Whether you want to feel/look great or you simply want to manage certain medical issues, there is no easy way around. You have to start…and stay consistent. However, the good news is that it isn’t that hard either! You just need to give it 3 months and these good habits would take care of themselves after these initial three months. Why? You would know on your own, just try. It’s magic!

And when you do start to make lifestyle/diet/fitness related changes, make sure that you don’t treat the precious carbs as your worst enemies! Carbs or carbohydrates, are vital to us. They are the primary fuel-source for our body and our bodies are designed that way only. Any other way is neither natural nor sustainable for long!

What Exactly Are Carbs

One of the basic food groups (or macronutrients), carbohydrates are the sugar, starch and fibre component of any food that we eat. Almost every food that we eat has carbs in it.

In our body, sugar and starch is broken down for glucose, for energy. In human body, glucose is the main source of energy. This energy is required for our body to perform all daily activities. Each single cell, each of the vital functions of the internal organs as well as daily voluntary or involuntary actions that we do, need energy.

Dietary fibre doesn’t get broken down in our body however is needed for gut-bacteria as well as our digestive health.

Carbohydrates are divided into 3 types:

  • Monosaccharides – are simple sugars e.g. glucose. Other types of monosaccharides are galactose and fructose
  • Diasaccharides – When two monosaccharides form a bond e.g. lactose, maltose, sucrose
  • Polysaccharides – A long chain of monosaccharides e.g. starch, cellulose, glycogen etc.

Simple carbs are naturally present in fruits, veggies, milk, honey, white sugar etc as well as in the form of additional sugars that is added to most processed foods. Foods rich in starch and fibre can also be referred to as Complex carbs.

Now, coming to how carbs got a bad reputation when it comes to weight loss. We can divide carbs in two categories: good carbs and bad carbs, for the ease of understanding and to simplify it all.

Good carbs are present in high-fibre foods and our body takes a longer time to break them down. Examples of good carbs are – whole grains, products made of whole grains, vegetables and fruits (with the peels/skin whenever possible).

Foods that have a low fibre content are generally called bad carbs. Some examples are – white bread, white flour products, bakery items, cookies, fruit juices etc

Good Carb Sources

Not all carbs are same! However, one would not need to count carbs if one eats a diet full of whole veggies, whole fruits, legumes and whole grains. The fibre content makes all the difference, be it the soluble or insoluble kind.

Would I Gain Weight If I Eat Carbs?

As a person specializing in nutrition, I would not think of food – for weight loss alone or in terms of carbs only. Neither should a person interested in weight loss. It also is about the other nutrients that we get from the food that we eat. And carbs are NOT the “cause” for your weight gain!

Yes, too much of sugar can result into fat-deposits in our body but one can’t blame the entire food group ‘carbohydrate’ for it.

Personally, I never measure carbohydrates in my own daily diet. It is more about calories and nutrition, to be honest. Fibre is super important. As long as I am eating a well-balanced diet which has all the macronutrients including fibre, I am good. Same goes for everyone else!

Any diet which is low-carb might give you a jump-start in your weight loss plan however it is not sustainable in long run. Diets which are low-carb and high-fat, should be taken with proper care as the presence of unhealthy fat/oils in such foods might cause heart diseases later.

For long-term, our best bet is to stick with a balanced diet with everything in moderation. Diets rich in whole grain, veggies and fruits are the best and easiest to follow. They are nutrient-rich and are easily sustainable as well as enjoyable.

I hope that with this post today, you would know that carbs are vital for us and to cut them off completely, would be a bad idea. Rather stick to moderation and remember one thumb rule, “fibre is good”. Do join me on Instagram for many more mini-blogs and nutrition/health info in my daily stories!

https://www.instagram.com/jillofmanytrades_blogger/

Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace