functional medicine

Do you know why non-organic potatoes are always shiny and organic potatoes not the prettiest looking?

Russet potatoes are among the top of the list in vegetables with the highest antioxidants and red potatoes has twice the amount of flavonoids compared to regular potatoes. Hence, organic russet or red potato bag is a staple in my household. But during the beginning of quarantine, I had to let go of my pickiness and had to get a bag of non-organic gold potatoes (only ones available). I was shocked 😲 to discover this gold potato in perfect condition more than 2 months later while I was cleaning my pantry. And the organic russet potato that I got less than 2 weeks back was sprouting all over.


I knew potatoes were part of EWGs dirty dozen and hence bought organic when possible https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php#dirty-dozen


This discovery made me put on my curious hat and on digging deeper found that non-organic potato 🥔 plants are sprayed with pesticides, the soil is treated with fungicide, and after harvesting potato are treated with herbicide chlorpropham that prevents sprouting and increases the shelf life of potatoes and makes them look perfect. Isn’t this crazy?!
Thanks to the tightly regulated organic food regulations in the USA we can be rest assured these toxic chemicals will not get to us if we buy organic 🌱

Tired of baking Chocolate and Vanilla cakes? Bake this guilt free Date n Walnut cake which is healthy yet delicious!

Right click to save this recipe card as an image.

My kids confirmed with me. “Are you sure it is healthy? It is too yummy!”

This cake will surely break the myth: “Healthy food is not yummy!”

 

 

If you still think eating butter will make you fat, you need to read this!

Are you the one cutting back on all sources of fat from your diet? Do you have your toast without butter or replace it with margarine? Do you pick up items from the grocery aisle that says Fat-free?

Lets go back to basics: Do you remember your school biology lessons?

Vitamins can be classified into 2 main types. It determines how each vitamin acts within the body.

  1. Fat soluble vitamins: are Vitamin A, D, E and K
  2. Water soluble vitamins: are Vitamin B and C

Fat soluble vitamins. What does that mean?

It means Vitamin A, D, E and K will be absorbed in presence of fat. So to dissect it further, how can a fat soluble vitamin be absorbed if we consume everything fat free.

If fat intake of a person is too low, he or she can become deficient in fat soluble vitamins i.e. A, D, E and K. Does that make sense?

The new health buzz says eat more butter/fat. Understand and comprehend why this shift?

Lets understand the different kinds of FAT’s first. Fats can be classified in 3 main categories:

  1. Saturated fat: is solid at room temperature.

It is found in animal products such as milk, cheese, butter, meat and oils like coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter.

  1. Unsaturated fat: is liquid at room temperature.

It is found mainly in oils from plants.

They are again classified into Monounsaturated fat (found in avocado, nuts, olive oil, peanut oil) and Polyunsaturated fat (found mainly in vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, sesame, soybean, corn oils and seafood.)

Polyunsaturated fats can further be classified as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

  1. Trans fat: Most of the trans fat we come across is created by an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.The process is called hydrogenation.

This process increases the shelf life of fat and makes the fat harder at room temperature. Harder fat makes crispier crackers and flakier pie crusts.

The dietary source for trans fats are processed foods, chips, crackers, cookies, salad dressings, margarine etc. Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some meat and dairy products but its effect is not fully studied.

In short: yes, most of the trans fat is man-made and is bad!

Both saturated and unsaturated fat occurs naturally and is not as bad as pictured for decades!

Fat is not the villain! Fats are concentrated source of energy. Our body turns to fat as a backup energy source when carbs are not available. Fats help in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat cells insulate our body and help sustain a normal core body temperature.

So then is it just because we do not like the word FAT that we are cutting down on fat? Fat was labeled as bad so the trend was fat-free for many years. For 4 decades we have been told that fat is bad!  Data was manipulated to show what the scientists thought was right. You can lie with statistics and still be right. Interesting read: http://www.amazon.com/How-Lie-Statistics-Darrell-Huff/dp/0393310728

Fat is not bad by itself! It is the kind of fat (poor quality, loaded with hormones, trans fat) that we are consuming is bad!

Something to think about and oppose: Kids were and are still given low fat milk in schools as a healthy choice. But drinking low-fat milk leaves kids feeling hungry, leading them to eat more—usually carbs and junk making them fat.

Fat cannot disappear in thin air. So we made fat replacers with artificial ingredient to make it fat-free or low-fat. Neither skim milk, margarine, non-fat ranch nor low-fat oatmeal has made us healthy as they were supposed to. More than third of US is obese. To make matters worse all the artificial ingredients are messing our systems and leaving us with chronic health problems which we have to deal with.

If you have subscription to Time Magazine search this good read archive: Eat more butter by fat-2Bryan Walsh

More resources: http://time.com/2863227/ending-the-war-on-fat/

http://time.com/3702058/dietary-guidelines-fat-wrong/

Decrypting allergies!

In our modern 21st century we have a label for everything – including seasons.

Fall Season has a new terminology: “Allergy Season”    

Come fall or spring and we hear all around: “Allergy season is here!”

The day is not far when our kids will learn in preschools A for “Allergy”. It is in our hands to break the cycle of this modern day epidemic.

Do you take a pill every 12-24 hours to suppress seasonal allergy symptoms mainly during fall and spring? If yes, then keep reading… Here is how I decrypt seasonal allergy as!

Why does Allergies happen?

Allergy is caused when the body’s immune system reacts to a substance such as pollen, dust mite, pollution or household chemical. The body identifies the substance as a threat and produces an inappropriate and exaggerated response to it making you sneeze endlessly or leaving you with itchy- red-swollen-watery eyes.

What does it mean to have Allergies?

What we call “allergies” are actually just symptoms of a body trying to defend itself from perceived threats (Pollen, dust etc). It is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. It could be a result of weakened immune systems.  There is a reason for everything that happens and this rule applies to the human body as well. Suppressing/stopping these reactions using standard suppression pills would mean totally halting the immune system.

Some recent data shows:

The latest surveys show that the rates of allergy are increasing throughout the world affecting up to 30-35% of people at some stage in their lives. This increase was initially seen in countries such as the UK, Europe and USA but can now be found in all countries undergoing industrial development.

The pattern of allergy is also changing – initially, the increase was in asthma and hay fever. However, recent studies have confirmed a significant increase in the incidence of food allergies particularly amongst children.

Whom can we blame for Allergy epidemic?

These are some of reasons based on data and research available but not given enough weight as the fix is not as simple as taking a pill.

  1. Our diet:

Our obsession towards fast foods, time crunch making us buy ready-made foods which are over processed and under nutritious. There is no mom at restaurants who cares what ingredients went inside the making of food.

Each family needs and dietary requirements are different. There is a fix possible:

Design a diet with nutritious ingredients that fits your lifestyle. I call it Back to Basiks diet   (made with ingredients as it exists in nature eg. butter not man-made or processed in factories eg. Margarine)

  1. Cleanliness: could be to blame too.

The “hygiene hypothesis” proposes children aren’t exposed to enough dirt, bacteria and other infectious agents early on and their under-stimulated immune system goes on the offense when exposed. Let immune systems do their work. No need for hand sanitizers 24/7!!

  1. Vitamin D is so important for the immune system.

Deficiency of vitamin D is increasing throughout the world mainly because of sunlight avoidance through spending more time indoors or using sun-screen to reduce risk of skin cancer (most vitamin D is produced by the action of natural sunlight on skin).

Human beings were not created to be indoors all the time. We are closer to nature occasionally mostly on weekends. We are starving ourselves of the best source of Vitamin D- The Sun.

20 minutes a day outdoors is good enough to make ample daily requirement of sunshine vitamin. (Walking back and forth from car in a parking lot is the most I am outdoors at times)

  1. Antibiotics and Vaccines:

Over the last 100 years, vaccines and antibiotics have radically changed our lives and defeated many infections that previously killed large numbers of the population. The continued use of vaccines is essential to protect the health of our children and the nation. However, the cost of this may be the reduction in the pressure placed on immune system to mount a strong immune response against infectious agents. This may be one of the factors why our immune systems are now reacting to allergens.

My 2 cents here:

Most allergy problems can be eliminated with a healthy diet that is low in processed foods such as sugars, simple carbohydrates and chemicals. We cannot undo everything but try to lead a life closer to nature and eat a diet with ingredients made by nature (butter) not man-made (margarine). Remember real food does not come in packets.

Some Magical nutrients that can work to your rescue are: Green tea, apple cider vinegar (ACV), honey, yogurt, coconut oil.

Does your mom say – “I never heard of Allergies in our time!”

Wonder question: Why your Grandparents didn’t have Allergies—but you do?

I found answer to a question I long carried in my head but did not have time to solve the puzzle. Glad someone did it for me!
Read this if it concerns you to see an epidemic of allergies all around! http://www.realfarmacy.com/grandparents-didnt-food-allergies/

Invest in your health not your Health savings account!

Your investment to buy a professional blender like Vitamix might pinch your wallet but would be the best investment you can make for your health! 

A good blender will take a big leap towards your healthy lifestyle. It will truly be a lifestyle change and also change the way you cook – in a good way!

Pros:

  • No need to sieve any food– be it wheatgrass, dressings, chutneys, anything.no sieve Enjoy fiber and all the nutrients in the whole super fine consistency.
  • Enjoy Veggie smoothie instead of a Veggie juice for your breakfast each morning. (If veggie juice is a IMG_6570good detox, veggie smoothie is the ultimate detox) Here’s the recipe for : Healthy morning breakfast
  • Time crunch cannot be an excuse because most recipes are done in 1 minute. 2015-05-19 01.56.35Grind your own flour for bread or chapati in 1 min-     Learn how to grind and enjoy the nutritious flour
  • Grind your wholesome grain ( Wheat, rice, quinoa, beans, etc) for healthy recipes.
  • Grate your own cheese in 10 secs. No need to buy chemical laden shredded cheese from store.
  • Above all cleaning is a breeze. Fill up the container with hot water and soap and run it for a minute. It will act like a dishwasher. Cleanup should not stop you from being healthy.
  • It is not only a blender- it is a food processor, dry and wet grinder, mini chopper, grater and blender. It is 5 in 1 appliance.

Cons:

  • The one and only cons is high dollar amount which is difficult to accept. (As for me when I first saw the cost, I told myself- I don’t need it)

Trust me, you will thank me a lot for this tip! My sister convinced me to make this health investment. Cannot thank her enough!

Cheers to Vitality!

P.S. I am not a sales agent or have any affiliation with Vitamix. It is purely a recommendation based on my positive experience.

Guess which food has highest Vitamin C?

If you would have asked me this question few years ago I would jumped to answer Citrus fruits! It definitely has lots of Vitamin C but do not top the list!

Not so glamorous Bell Peppers tops the list! I did not believe it first time I heard it!

Next time you get some sniffles and think of chugging a glass of fresh orange juice add some orange bell pepper for a booster dose of Vitamin C. Also incorporate it in your daily diet by making an addition to your stir fry or salad or curry! I consider them innocent cause they blend in and can complement any dish without a fuss!

Papaya has even higher Vitamin C content then Bell Peppers but I am not putting it on the top of my list given most Papaya we import here in US are Hawaiian Papaya which is a GMO. (Might do more harm then good)

If you are a Non-GMO shopper like me bookmark this website: http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/ for tips and lessons to be a smart Non-GMO shopper!

Check out this table for produce with Vitamin C in ascending order:

 Food Serving size Calories % DV Nutrient Density
Bell Peppers 1 cup 28.5 157 98.9
Broccoli 1 cup 54.6 135 44.5
Brussels Sprouts 1 cup 56.2 129 41.3
Strawberries 1 cup 46.1 113 44.1
Pineapple 1 cup 82.5 105 22.9
Oranges 1 med 61.6 93 27.2
Kiwifruit 1 med 42.1 85 36.5
Cantaloupe 1 cup 54.4 78 25.9
Cauliflower 1 cup 28.5 73 46.2
Kale 1 cup 36.4 71 35.1
Cabbage 1 cup 43.5 69 28.5

Hope this helps and remember to give justice to all the produce in your daily meals!

Brown rice is the healthiest! Is conventional wisdom true?? My happy healthy medium is Parboiled!

September is the celebrated as the National Rice month. There are thousands of varieties of Rice and is enjoyed as a  part of the staple diet by millions of people across the world.

I wanted to share what I learned about White rice vs. brown rice and above all pros and cons of both of them.

What is Brown rice?

Brown rice or the un-milled rice is the whole grain rice. When only the outermost layer of a grain of rice (the husk or hull) is removed, brown rice is  produced. It has a mild, nutty flavor and is chewier and more nutritious than white rice. One cup of cooked brown rice contains 84 mg of whole-grains-explained1-610x366magnesium compared to 19 mg in white rice. 

How is White rice made?

It is produced  when the next layers underneath the husk – the bran and the germ are removed  leaving mostly the starchy endosperm. Several vitamins and dietary minerals are lost in this and the subsequent polishing process like in making of long grain Basmati rice. Hence many manufacturers fortify it with vitamins and minerals to make up for the lost ones. One mineral not added back into white rice is magnesium.

After reading this you might say, I am switching to Brown rice today. But wait there is more to learn before you switch.

Have you heard about arsenic in rice?

Arsenic is an element found in nature but is a cause of concern these days because the levels of arsenic found in our soil and water is going up. It has been released into the environment through the use of excess pesticides. And rice tends to absorb arsenic more readily than many other plants.

Arsenic accumulates in the grains outer layers so brown rice tends to have more arsenic in it. Brown rice has 80 % more arsenic on average than white rice of the same type. Brown rice has more nutrients though, so you shouldn’t switch entirely to white rice.

All types of rice made in US particularly in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas had the highest levels of  arsenic in the tests conducted by Consumer reports.  White Basmati rice from California and India  had on average half of arsenic amount compared to most other  types of rice.

Tip  to reduce arsenic in your rice is what my mom always did so I do it too, not knowing the reason but on autopilot: One can cut the exposure to arsenic in any type of rice by rinsing raw rice thoroughly before cooking, using a ratio of 6 cups water to 1 cup rice and draining the excess water afterward.

If you wish to read up more on Arsenic in your rice checkout these links: Consumer reports: Arsenic in rice and EWG report

Brown rice:  Pros: Highly nutritious                                                                                                                                            Cons: Comes with a risk of high arsenic depending on where it was grown                                                 and you have to develop your taste buds for liking it.

White rice:  Pros: Low risk of arsenic as the outer layers are removed in manufacturing.                                Cons: Low nutrient content more like white flour and high in starch

After learning of the pros and cons, I hit a middle ground with healthy Parboiled rice.

What exactly is Parboiled rice and how is it made?

Parboiled rice also known as converted rice is steamed under pressure or partially boiled prior to removing of the hull and bran The three steps of parboiling include soaking, steaming and drying, and then removing the husk of the rice. This process enhances the nutrition density by driving nutrients from  the bran to the endosperm, making it about 80% nutritionally similar to brown rice. It is a better source of fiber,  B vitamins and magnesium than regular white rice. Parboiled rice might sound like it’s precooked, but it is not. It is just processed quite differently from other types of rice.

Parboiled rice:  Pros: 

  • It is more nutritious: Parboiled rice has double the fiber than you get from cooked white rice. It is an excellent source of niacin, thiamine and magnesium and a moderate source of protein, iron and  zinc.
  • It has a low glycemic score of 38, even lower then brown rice which has a score of 47 and White rice which is  89 notes Harvard Health publications. A low glycemic score indicates that the carbohydrates in parboiled rice do not cause a large spike in blood sugar.
  • It has more resistant starch which helps lower blood glucose levels and improves insulin sensitivity
  •  It has lower amount of arsenic compared to brown rice

Cons: It is 20% less nutritious compared to brown rice.

Shopping guide: Given rice grown  in California and India has low amounts of arsenic compared to those grown in Southern states of US, I prefer to buy my parboiled rice from Indian grocery store (Laxmi is personal favorite). Ponni boiled is similar in processing to Parboiled but smaller grain. If you like long grain rice go for Parboiled Basmati.

P.S. A tip to add protein to your daily carbs. I mix 1/3rd cup of Quinoa to 1 cup of Rice, rinse it thoroughly, soak it for 30 mins before cooking. Does not change the taste and works like a charm even with my tiny picky eaters!

We all know fresh foods is good but do you know why?

Why cooking and eating fresh food is important and  healthy?

Aging of foods tend to increase the levels of histamine in foods. This can add to levels of inflammation in the body when these foods are consumed. Hence, choose fresh foods for greater health.  I did it because my Mom and my Religion (Jainism) told me to do so. But when I learnt the science behind why freshness of food matters I had the Aha moment. Fresh foods are low in histamine. Cook daily. Avoid reheating and leftovers.             Keep reading to learn about histamine in foods we eat.

First co-relation that comes with Histamine is allergies. But what exactly is Histamine? Histamine is a chemical (amine) produced and stored within our body. It is a part of our immune response and is released by cells in response to an allergic or inflammatory reaction.

In addition to the histamine produced inside your body, there are also a variety of foods that naturally contain histamine, cause the release of histamine or block the enzyme that breaks down histamine – (DAO) Diamine oxidase.

Histamine-rich foods: Fermenting and aging makes foods histamine rich.

  • Fermented alcoholic beverages like wine, champagne, beer
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt
  • Vinegar-containing foods like pickles, olives
  • Dried fruit like prunes, dates, figs, raisins
  • Aged cheese
  • Nuts like walnuts, cashews, peanuts

Fermented foods  are considered healthy and have long history of benefits extending back 8000 years. They are considered first pro-biotics  due to the growth and use of bacteria during fermentation. If you think any of the above food is problematic for you, it may be stimulating release of histamine in your body.

Histamine – releasing foods: are foods that  promote the release of histamine from the immune cells in the body. Put them on watch list but not necessarily avoid. Listen to your body. If you feel it does not suit you, the reason is high histamine.

  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Mangoes
  • Tangerines
  • Banana
  • Artificial dyes and preservatives

Can you co-relate a situation where you had some fermented food and you felt it did not suit you? Not a life threatening reaction but some swelling or joint pain or rash? Well it might mean that particular food triggered a high histamine release. 

What are anti-histamines?

Antihistamines work by preventing the release of histamine from certain cells (mast cells) thereby blocking the allergic reaction. Turmeric is a natural anti-histamine. Taking 1 tbsp of turmeric powder can work as a substitute for medications. It is a vital part of the Indian spice family and an essential ingredient in Indian cooking.

Another health food tampered with! Any guesses?? Almonds it is!

Natural, raw, unsalted almonds are a tasty and nutritious snack with plenty of health benefits. Loaded with minerals, they are among the healthiest of tree nuts. Almonds – the heartbeat of all nuts are a rich source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, protein, fiber and antioxidants. Just a handful of almonds a day helps promote heart health and prevent weight gain and it may even help fight diseases like Diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

 

Is it true that raw almonds must now be pasteurized in US, Canada and Mexico?

Yes, starting on September 1, 2007 it became illegal for 100% raw almonds to be manufactured and sold in the United States. (The law was made after 2 salmonella outbreaks linked to almonds in early 2000’s).  While they will still be labeled “raw”, they will be pasteurized. Some will be pasteurized with steam but many will be treated with Propylene oxide. In addition, all pasteurized almonds available in the marketplace will still be labeled as raw almonds. Almond pasteurization is required by law in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico.

Why did it become mandatory to pasteurize Almonds?

The origins of this new law date back to 2001, when an outbreak of Salmonella poisoning in Canada was traced back to an almond grower in California. At that time, the California Department of Health Services worked with that grower to increase the safety of almond production. But when a second round of Salmonella problems occurred with an entirely different grower, the federal government stepped in to consider a more comprehensive set of actions. USDA together with FDA, CDC,  California Almond Board and other agencies drafted legislation to prevent further Salmonella outbreaks based on post-harvest processing of almonds.

Check this out: You can read the new law and its specific provisions by going to the website of the California Almond Board @ Almonds food safety

Suggested methods of pasteurization of almonds are:

  1. Steam Pasteurization (degrades the integrity of nuts and also devalues the nutrients, enzymes and antioxidants.)
  2. Propylene Oxide (PPO): Fumigation with toxic PPO gas. Propylene oxide is considered to be a carcinogen but this method is cheaper for bulk growers.

Even almonds on the watch list now! My first reaction when I heard about almonds being treated was what do we eat now without worrying about its contents or authenticity?

If so, what are the health implications of this new requirement?

If they are  pasteurized with high heat you can expect some nutrient loss in almonds that is unnecessary. Main concern will be if they are  gassed with PPO: then you will see some Propylene oxide residues in almonds that were gassed to reduce Salmonella concentrations and this will be a bad thing because Propylene oxide is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable human carcinogen.

Source you might want to consider meanwhile: 

Meanwhile you might want to opt  to purchase your almonds from

  1. A grower at a local farmer’s market or
  2. From a certified organic almond grower outside of the United States who exports almonds to us. I bought these raw almonds exported from Spain of great quality: Raw Almonds exported from spain

Something to think about: Within the past 10 years tomatoes, spinach, green onions and many other fresh produce have been linked to salmonella outbreaks. Does that mean we should eliminate all fresh produce?

My breakfast is green. What color is yours?

I would like to share my nutritionally superior smoothie recipe we consume each morning as a  breakfast. We are tea drinkers so need to have a dose of caffeine too (working on changing that habit). But next comes the green smoothie which has become a part of our morning rituals, which I love. And guess what, it is extremely easy to make and will bring super health for you after you do a 30 minute prep once every 2-3 weeks.

The reason why we need to have our green dose is because we live in time where the daily stresses and burdens of toxicity are increasing multifold leading to chronic inflammation, allergies and eventually diseases.

Rather  than take a pill approach to treat the symptoms, lets consume some healing foods to boost our immunity and restore wellness. You might need to fine tune the recipe as per the foods that suit you and your family.

A green smoothie a day will repair and regenerate your body cells in a way you never imagined. It has been a part of our mornings for a year now and I can see the benefits and make it a point to not miss it. Every minute is precious in the morning hustle so here is my quick smoothie recipe. Untitled

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I got organic frozen berries mix, organic pineapple chunks and organic apples.          Mix them together and freeze it for added convenience.

seedsI also add 1 tbsp of chia seeds, hemp seeds and flax seeds to the smoothie for a omega-3 boost.

 

 

Recipe: Mix 2 cups greens + 1 cup frozen fruits + 1 tbsp whole seeds mix + 2 cups water + 1 carrot or 1 stick celery +   salt to taste and blend it together for 1 minute.

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It will provide you with a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, proteins, antioxidants, omega 3’s and 6’s, essential amino acids and dietary fiber.

Cheers to a life of health and vitality.

Keep reading  and write back your thoughts.

P.S. If you are new to smoothie world, I would recommend you start with 1 greens and 1 fruit and work your way up!                                                                                                                       Also do not go overboard with Kale/Collard greens. Yes they belong to Healthy Cruciferous family and has tons of health benefits but consume them in limit in smoothies cause it is raw.