Food Additives – Good or Bad?

There is a lot of myth surrounding the world of food additives. Are they really so demonic as is portrayed about them? Or do we fail in understanding the actual role they play?

Hey everyone! Welcome to Heal-Thy-Self once again. Today, let us bust the myths about food additives and try to understand their actual usage and role in foods.

For over several hundreds of years, people have used flavorings, preservatives and colors to enhance their food taste and to make them visually more appealing. That said, there are some additives used in today’s foods that can make you downright scared.  Let’s go over what additives are and why is it good or bad to add them to your foods.

What are food additives?

Food additives are substances or components that do not occur naturally in foods but are later added to them for different reasons.

What substances are additives?

Additives can be anything from a wide range of categories like, preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners, vitamins and minerals, artificial as well as natural sweeteners, salt and other flavorings, colors and dyes etc. Foods may contain one, some or all of these additives! Got goose bumps? Well, you ought to get some! Here is why.

About 2800 odd number of additives are used in north American foods alone. However, that said, the use of these additives is governed by very strict rules and regulations and extensive studies are required on an additive before it can be used in foods. Though, stringent regulations are followed to achieve this, and an additive is introduced in the market only after all the safety measures are taken, it is still possible to have instances with rare reactions to certain additives.

However, if used appropriately, additives give you the most enjoyable assortment of foods in history!

Can additives be useful?

Some additives can perform useful functions, even though they may sound distasteful. Ever heard of shellac? It is the secretion of a female lac bug and is often known as confectioner’s glaze. It is used to give a glossy coating to candies and the likes. It is also used to prevent drying of citrus fruits and avocados. This substance is used as an additive since centuries without any problems.

Most food additives are safe. However, there is an exception to every rule, right? So, you see some additives removed from the market every now and then. Some additives are approved in some countries while the same ones are banned in others. Artificial sweeteners and MSG are examples of such controversial additives.

With all these facts known, there are still tens of thousands of such other accidental additives that get added to the foods unintentionally. For example, pesticides used to treat the crops or soil, environmental pollutants like lead and mercury etc. get added to the foods unintentionally and are far more hazardous than the known additives. Due to this, sometimes an adverse reaction is wrongly attributed to the known additives in foods whereas, the real cause for the reaction is the accidental additive in that food.

Then, does it mean food additives are good after all?

Well, there needs to be a prudent approach to this. Even though it can be said that the benefits of additives are far more than the harms they cause, they ought to be used in moderation and completely avoided whenever possible. Some additives can be harmful for certain medical conditions, like salt for high blood pressure and sugar in any form for diabetes. It is advisable to read the product labels carefully before purchasing any product off the shelves.

One thing I would like to stress here is that preserved foods always do have more additives as compared to their fresh equivalents. And like I always say, when in doubt, stick to the basics. Nature has provided us with an abundance of everything. One cannot go wrong by choosing natural over processed or artificial.

You might be interested in reading about Functional Foods. Find it here!

I hope this post has shed some light on the controversial topic of additives. I will see you soon with yet another interesting post soon. If there is something you want me to write about, please let me know through comments or email. Until then, bbye and take care.

Here’s Dr Apoorva, signing out for today.

Functional Foods……Ever Heard Of Them???

Hey everyone! Welcome once again to Heal-Thy-Self. Let’s begin our discussion on another interesting, yet quite overlooked topic-Functional Foods. Ever heard of them? Well, many of you must have. For those who don’t know what exactly Functional Foods are, here’s a quick overview…

What Are Functional Foods

Functional Foods are those foods that contain specific components that may reduce the risk of certain diseases. Functional Foods provide certain benefits beyond their basic nutritional value. These components can be naturally occurring in a Functional Food, or they can be added. Foods that fall into this category can be whole or fortified, enriched or enhanced, or all of them!

Recent years have been buzzing with an increasing interest in these Functional Foods. So, what are these exactly? Well, fruits and vegetables are the commonest and simplest examples of Functional Foods. For an instance, carrots and tomatoes may be considered Functional Foods because they are rich in compounds that are linked with reduced risk of various diseases like cancer. There is a hope that these foods can be helpful in prevention and treatment of various health conditions and diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, arthritis etc.

Examples Of Functional Foods

An example of a fortified functional food is fortified milk. To prevent vitamin D deficiency and conditions like rickets, milk is fortified with vitamin D. Another example is salt. Salt is fortified with iodine to prevent goiter.

Some food components which are the focus of growing interest in functional foods are omega 3 fatty acids, soy protein, probiotics and prebiotics, lutein, psyllium, oats, stanols and sterols etc.

Are Functional Foods Good For You

Functional Foods are extremely important part of your diet. They help in boosting your immunity and keep you away from many diseases. Several studies conducted in recent years link them with an ability to treat certain medical conditions.

While this can act as a boon in prevention and treatment of various diseases, it is also a curse as food companies try to market these foods as medicines. For example, cereals fortified with psyllium and chips with kava-kava are a regular occurrence on store shelves these days. However, most of these products are not regulated and the buyer has no way of knowing how much quantity of the active ingredient these foods really contain. Some of the herbal supplements or medicines companies try to benefit by claiming to add these components to their products and try to exploit people’s interest in alternative medicine. While not all of them are fake and bad, it is always wise not to follow the trend blindly. Do your homework well before you try out those eye-catching products.

There are many controversies surrounding Functional Foods. Some food companies may claim their products are enriched with these foods while there is little or no evidence to support their claims in many cases. Nonetheless, there is a growing interest in people for these Functional Foods, and this increasing interest will prompt continued research and development in the field of Functional Foods.

Takeaway

What I would like to add as the bottom line is that, when in doubt, stick with nature. Always do remember that nature has provided us with an abundance of these foods by means of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and the likes. Whatever the future of Functional Foods may bring, one can never go wrong sticking with the basics, right?

I hope this post has shed some light on what Functional Foods are and what role do they play in our diet.

If you have something on your mind that you would like me to shine some light upon, I will be happy to do so. Please do mention in the comments below what you want me to write on in my next post. I will see you soon with yet another interesting post. Until then, bbye and take care. Eat healthy, stay healthy!

Here’s Dr Apoorva, signing out for today.

References-

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/functional-foods/faq-20057816

https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/functional-foods

‘Foods That Harm Foods That Heal’ by Reader’s Digest

15 Best Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep!

Hey everyone. Welcome once again to heal thy self. Are you troubled by a disturbed sleep? Do you feel you are unable to get a good night’s sleep? Are you waking up grumpy, exhausted and irritable in the mornings? Not to mention the headaches immediately after waking up? Then you must be getting an insufficient or a restless sleep in the night. Do you wish to end this now? Read on to know the 15 best tips to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleepless nights have become a common occurrence these days. The reasons vary greatly. Be it the nature of your job, health problems, stress, depression, anxiety or any other mental and physical issue. The sleepless nights that you endure leave you the next morning with a feeling of irritability, exhaustion and confusion. Here are some great tips to get a good night’s sleep hereafter

1.Keeping a track helps

Keep notes of your everyday wake up and bed-time. Also, jot down what might be the reason for your irregular and disturbed sleep for each day. Make a note of times when you take naps, exercise and drink caffeinated beverages. Maintaining a sleep log like this can help identify the behavior or activities that might be the reason for your sleepless nights

2.Rev up

Exercising late in the afternoon may help you fall asleep. However, avoid exercising within 2-3 hours of bedtime, as it might cause further sleeping problems

3.Daytime nap

Do not indulge in a long daytime nap. It may mess with your ability to fall asleep at night

4.Eat it right

Eating a heavy meal nearing bedtime can cause trouble with digestion and may hamper your sleep. Eat at regular intervals during the day and have a light meal before bedtime

5.No-coffee, please!

After you are done with your lunch, try to avoid coffee or other caffeinated drinks. Caffeine interferes with your ability to fall asleep.

6.No-smoking too!

Try to quit smoking. It can cause all possible health hazards that you can think of. Unable to quit smoking? Limit it beyond evening and don’t smoke before bedtime altogether.

7.TV and cell phones??

Well, avoid all mental stimulation when you are nearing bedtime. It includes watching TV or working on your cell phone or even laptops.

8.Create a sleep schedule

Waking and going to sleep around the same time each day can kind of set up your inner clock. Create a routine for each day and follow it to make your body identify its own clock

9.Creating a bedtime ritual

Taking a warm, relaxing bath, a few minutes of reading before bed, listening to soothing music, meditation etc. ca help you unwind completely and fall asleep better. Try out these and see which one works the best for you

10.Keep it hushed…

Keeping your room dark and quiet can help in falling asleep better. Mask the outside noise with some inside noise or white noise like a humming of a fan or a soothing music on tape

11.Its meant for sleeping..

Your bedroom is meant for sleeping. Don’t use it for other activities like watching tv or working

12.Clothing matters too

Wear bedtime clothing that is breathable, loose and comfortable. Anything too tight or clingy or non-breathable can make you too uncomfortable to sleep

13.Don’t worry your pretty head at bedtime

If worries or problems is what is keeping you awake at nights, make place for them at some other time during the day. You can devote half an hour after dinner to write down your worries or problems and their possible solutions on a paper and deal with them during sensible hours. Worrying before bedtime wont solve a thing and will only give you sleepless nights, which, in itself can become a worry later.

14.Get up, you gotta go!

If you feel you are unable to sleep even after trying for 15 minutes, give it a break. Get up and go to another room, read a book, listen to music, until you feel sleepy again. Staying put in the bed and fretting about being unable to sleep will only worsen your troubles

15.A sleep promoter won’t harm

Milk and honey is considered to be a great sleep promoter since ancient times. Have some warm milk with a dash of honey before bedtime. Following this regularly will improve your sleep. Just a thing to remember, never mix honey with something too hot. It destroys I’s beneficial properties and may even cause harm. Make sure the milk is lukewarm or warm.

I am sure these tips will help you improve your sleeping habits and make you fall asleep like a baby! A good night’s sleep is extremely essential when it comes to your overall health and well-being. If you are facing trouble while falling asleep, don’t ignore it for too long. Stop it right in its tracks and wake up to a refreshed morning!

I will see you soon with yet another interesting topic.

If you want me to write on a specific topic, suggestions are all welcome. Until then, bbye, take care! Here is Dr Apoorva, signing out for today…

How I Ended A Long-standing Battle With My Kids About Their Lunch Boxes!

Hey everyone! Glad to see you all once again. As usual, I have been absconding from the scene for quite some time now. And I know, you all must be so tired of forgiving me. However, I would still like to say I am sorry and try to be as regular as I possibly can. That said, let us get to our topic today, which would tell you how I ended a long-standing battle with my kids about their lunch boxes!

I am sure, if you are reading this, you have endured the pain of seeing your kid’s lunch box coming back home- full and untouched. Dearies, I guess this happens to all of us at some or the other point in life. Trust me, I was there too. It was just sssooo annoying to see that box being brought back to home exactly in the same condition as I sent it to school. More than annoyance was the pain of thinking that my kid was almost on no food the whole day, in spite of her box being full! It kept happening for quite some time, until i felt, that was that, and I decided to do something about it.

I sat my kid down one day and asked her, “Why is it that you don’t finish your lunch box? It’s been so many days that you haven’t even touched the food in your box and you seem to be eating fine at home? Is there a problem?” And her reply was so dramatic! She said, “Mom, I was expecting that you would give me this(some other thing than that was given) in box. I opened the box and when I didn’t see that, I was so disappointed!”

There you go. So, it turned out that I was making a big mistake by not asking my child what she would like in her lunch box and giving her food just because I thought she would like it or she should eat it, what with healthy stuff and all! That night, I sat down with both my kids and asked them what all their favorite foods were. Of course, they didn’t remember all the dishes by their names. However, they could relate to most of them when I described the dishes. They could identify some, like banana balls, pancakes etc.

After our list was done, I sorted it into two categories- snacks and lunch. My girls take two boxes to school- a snack box and a lunch box. I divided the dishes accordingly and then made a meal prep chart according to the dishes. I paired some snacks and lunch recipes and noted them on a piece of paper. I stuck this paper on the fridge. Now here comes the tricky part. It’s obvious that my daughters wouldn’t both want the exact same thing. Naturally, there was a war deciding whose choice it would be. It was becoming difficult to get them to make a settlement. So, I decided, for one whole week one of my girls would have her choice for breakfast and the other one would have it for lunch. The next week, we would just rotate it around. That way, they both get to carry their choices to school.

I have this magnetic board, which I attach to the fridge. It helps me a lot in this task. Every night, I or my elder one write down the meal plan for the next day according to their choices. I add in the dinner menu along with that, make the meal prep accordingly and am good to go for the next day!

Many of you must be thinking that I can make the meal prep and planning for the whole week. Then why take the trouble to do it each day separately? Well, that’s because my girls are very small. And though they may seem okay with the meal plan for the whole week while we are writing it, they may not actually want to eat a particular dish three days later as per the plan and the whole point of doing this exercise would be a waste. It’s better that I ask them each night what they would like to have the next day and plan accordingly.

I know, the options that they have chosen may not be entirely healthy ones always, but I have made sure that they are at least partly healthy. Also, I would rather have them eat something that they like than have them stay hungry throughout the day and get cranky by the time they get back. I have ample chances to feed them the healthy stuff at dinner, on weekends and each morning before they leave for school.

So far, this thing is working like a charm. In fact, they are pretty excited to write their choices on the board each night and I am saved the trouble of thinking each morning what to cook for them! Not to mention, the box comes home empty almost everyday!

Oh, and one more thing. In case their choice is a complete junk, I make sure to add some healthy stuff like cut fruits or salad veggies, to balance it out.

I hope this helps you to get some ideas as to how you can plan your kids’ meal times, especially for school days and you are treated to an empty lunch box when your kids come back home!

I will see you soon with yet another interesting topic. Until then, take care, bbye. Here’s Dr. Apoorva, signing out for today!

Keep well…..when Monsoon dwells !

pexels-photo

The first showers of rain, the distinct fragrance in the air, the lush green grass and trees…. who doesn’t like all of this! oh well, maybe a rare few !!

Hey everyone! Thank you all, for yet again finding your way to this blog. Here I am, back again with yet another interesting post. I hope, the title has given you a fair idea as to what is going to follow in the post. We are well into the monsoon and hence into various rainy-season related diseases. While it is very much a part of our nature to enjoy the particular weather traits, it is equally important that we take good care of our health as well. As it would only help us more to enjoy to our heart’s content; without giving a break by reason of sickness!

As many of you know, Ayurveda is called science of life. It greatly believes in prevention and precaution, more than cures. Following this principle , the great Acharyas or practitioners of Ayurveda have written down a well versed discipline for each season, which they strongly recommend to be followed in each particular season. It is proven that following these ancient texts can actually help you to keep several seasonal diseases at bay. So , let us begin!

Most of us are aware of the basic principles of Ayurveda, like the tridoshas( three humours- vata, pitta and kapha), Prakriti ( body type) etc. Our body is affected by different doshas in different stages of our life. Likewise, these doshas have an influence over the seasons too! And each season is dominated by one particular dosha. So naturally enough, our seasonal routine ( or shall I say discipline?) as well as our daily routine should be in accordance with these season specific doshas, so that the body behaves as naturally as it should and adjusts easily to the seasonal changes . Else, it is  forced to adapt to the new season, resulting in low immunity and a host of diseases.

Rainy season as such, is related to aggravation of vata and accumulation of pitta. So the diet and lifestyle has to be the one which balances both of these doshas.

The discipline ( or what we call Ritucharya in Ayurveda) for the rainy season , as written in ancient texts goes as follows –

Rainy season falls in the northern solstice( Uttarayana) and the general body strength of a person during this season is weak. The chances of getting digestive problems is great in this season. You are likely to experience a loss of appetite too. Keeping this in mind it is advisable to make some changes in your diet.

DIET

  • Consume light and fresh foods, especially prepared from barley, rice and wheat.
  • Include cow ghee, lentils, green gram, rice and wheat in daily diet.
  • If having meat, have lean meat.
  • A small piece of ginger mixed with rock salt taken before every meal will greatly help in improving digestion.
  • Consume sour and salted soups of vegetables.
  • On cooler days, take a diet  that is sour, salty and oily( how many of you thought of pakoras aka fritters 🙂 Ohh and I forgot to mention tea to go with it :-)) ). This is the time in India to make yummy pickles-sour, salty and oily, and rightly so:-) .
  • Drink boiled and cooled water mixed with a little honey- a great immunity booster.
  • Green gram and ginger is to be used in daily diet.
  • Avoid consuming stale food.
  • Avoid foods that take longer to digest-like red meat and curds, choose buttermilk over curds.
  • Consuming haritaki ( terminalia chebula) with rock salt in monsoon is very beneficial for health.

Now lets move to what behavioural discipline has been mentioned in Ayurveda texts.

LIFESTYLE in rainy season –

Taking healthy diet alone may not help in getting the desired good effects, unless it is supplemented by a healthy lifestyle. U have to make at least some of the following important changes in your lifestyle in rainy season.

  • Sleeping in the daytime has to be avoided as it affects the digestive system and slows down the metabolism.
  • Over exertion is to be avoided and so is over exposure to sun (oh well, if and when mr. sun shows up 🙂 ).
  • Try to keep the body warm, as cool body temperature is what is needed for the viruses to attack….seems our grannies weren’t wrong after all, when they said we ought to wear warm clothes in this weather too…especially kids :-).
  • Keep your feet dry, especially diabetics!
  • It would be good if you could burn some neem leaves at home and fumigate the house with that from time to time…wards of unwelcome pests!

Make sure to advocate these diet and lifestyle changes slowly, as any abrupt change in the routine can shock your body.

Oh, and by the way, there had been  requests from a few of you about posting some such recipes which are easy to make and weather friendly and also which suit particular body types, according to Ayurveda. So, I had made an attempt in this post by listing two very easy to make recipes, which can be included in your diet this monsoon. These recipes are designed in accordance with the diet guidelines mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts. Now you can have a yummy dish with the benefits of Ayurveda diet too !

RECIPE-1

Ingredients

  • diced carrots- 1 cup
  • fresh or frozen green peas- 1 cup
  • diced potatoes – 1 cup
  • 1 tbsp ghee or sunflower oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • a pinch of hing
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • fresh coriander for garnishing

Method of prep – Heat oil or ghee in a heavy skillet. Add mustard and cumin seeds. When they crackle add hing and turmeric. Add all the veggies one by one and stir a bit. Add coriander powder and stir once again for a minute. Add salt and  a cup of water and let the veggies simmer and cook till done. Once done, mash some of the potato pieces to give the curry a thickness. Adjust the consistency by adding more water if desired. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or chapati.

RECIPE -2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 cup fresh corn
  • one very small onion chopped
  • some coriander for garnishing
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt or according to taste
  • water to boil veggies
  • a small blob of butter (optional)

Method of prep– Heat water in a heavy bottom pan and add all the veggies. Let the veggies cook properly till tender. Once the veggies are done, add salt and pepper. Blend into a paste in a blender jar. Your easy and yummy soup is ready. Serve hot with some fresh coriander chopped and sprinkled on top. Can add a small blob of butter on top if desired.

So while you enjoy these two delicious, easy to make and weather – friendly recipes, I say bbye with a promise to bring another interesting topic in my next post and if you wish to have more of such recipes, please do write in the comments section below and I will surely try to upload as many recipes as I can.

Enjoy the monsoons while they are here, both in and out of the house! Be seeing you soon,  here’s Dr Apoorva, signing out for today.

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