Friday, January 28, 2011

Tank up on sunshine!

Most professionals in the city take the air-conditioned car, or the fast train to spend eight to 10 hours inside the office. We pull the windows up in the car or sit away from the window in the train or bus. The closed-room air-conditioned workspace relives us from the excruciating heat, but also deprives us of sunlight a natural and a potent source of Vitamin D3.

According to endocrinologist and diabetologist, Dr Hemraj Chandalia, this silent problem manifests itself in seemingly unrelated symptoms and can be diagnosed through a blood test. The only apparent indicator of a Vitamin D3 deficiency is severe bone pain. While this is usually a problem with people who live in higher latitudes and have long grey winters. Those with darker skin pigmentation, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and inflammatory bowel disease are also at high risk.

Soak it in
Vitamin D3 is both a vitamin and a hormone. It acts as a vitamin when it binds with calcium for proper absorption. Humans cannot absorb calcium without adequate amounts of Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 promotes bone health, controls the immune system, increases neuro-muscular function, improves mood, protects the brain against toxic chemicals and reduces pain. The optimum Vitamin D level in the body should never be below 30 ng/ml. Between 30 ng/ml to 15ng/ml is considered borderline and anything below 15ng/ml is insufficient.

Headed for trouble
The lack of Vitamin D3 causes bone pain, especially in the pelvic, back and thigh region. In some cases, it can result in obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. According to a study, insufficiency of Vitamin D3 in the body may even cause kidney stones, osteoporosis, and neuro-degenerative diseases including Alzheimer.

The deficiency can also lead to cancer (especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers) and ischemic heart disease. “But these are conjectures, generalising the effects in the studies is very speculative,” says Chandalia. “An untreated patient can only develop small cracks in the bones, which could cause osteomalacia (softening of the bones due to defective bone mineralisation) and cause bow legs in the infants. In extreme circumstances, it can also cause rickets among children,” he clarifies.

Vis-à-vis, excess of it can cause drowsiness and depression. Therefore, one must not exceed consuming more than 2000 units of Vitamin D3 supplements every day.

Other Supplements
- Apart from taking in direct sunlight in mornings (when the pollution levels are considerably low) for about 30-minutes, eating milk products, oily fish, chicken and red meat helps.
- Cod liver oil supplements and consuming multivitamin tablets that include 800 to 1000 units of Vitamin D3 can also prove to be beneficial.
- In the case of patients who have a higher deficiency problem, Calcirol granule packets, which comprise 60, 000 units of Vitamin D3, are prescribed to them on a monthly basis.
- Only when the doctor suspects that the patient is unable to absorb the supplements that Arachitol injection that consists of 6,00,000 units of Vitamin D3 is infused in the body, once in six months.

“Besides, the way the government took the initiative to fortify iodine with salt, fortifying basic food items such as bread and milk with Vitamin D3 supplement can be a great way of ensuring that people are actively consuming sufficient units of it,” recommends Chandalia.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Beat diseases with a better diet

For a strong, healthy body and a happy mind, nutrition plays a pivotal part not just as prevention but as a tool for speedy recovery as well.

Diet in Cardiac Diseases
The best diet for a healthy heart is a diet low in fatty and sugary foods and rich in fruits and vegetables which are loaded with important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber and disease fighting antioxidants.

- Unsaturated oils help maintain blood cholesterol levels if consumed in recommended quantities. Thus, it is advisable to use only 4-5 teaspoons of cooking oil per day and a variety of refined oils should be taken. Select one from each group for your daily cooking purpose. Ratio of both oils should be 1:1. It is advised to use oil from Group A for 15 days and oil from Group B for 15 days or lunch with oil from Group A and dinner with oil from Group B.
Group A: Sunflower / safflower / corn / soy bean
Group B: Mustard / groundnut / olive / rice bran

- High fiber food items like whole cereals (whole wheat flour, wheat bran, whole wheat bread, bajra , jowar , oats), whole pulses ( dals with skin, rajmah , chola, kala chana, chowli etc.), leafy vegetables, salad vegetables and whole fruits are recommended.

- Good quality protein like egg white, soy, fish chicken and dairy protein (toned / skimmed cow's milk and milk products like curds and paneer prepared with cow's toned milk) is recommended. Oily fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna , oil sardine and nuts like almonds and walnuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and found to be beneficial for heart. All these food items are advised in recommended quantities.

- It is advised to avoid fatty meats like ham, bacon, yolk of egg, red meat, organ meat, shrimps, lobster, prawns, etc as well as alcohol, aerated drinks, squashes, fruit juices, canned, tinned, processed and preserved foods e.g. tinned fruits, sauces, processed cheese.

Diet for Hypertension
A vegetarian's diet contains more potassium, complex carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, magnesium and vitamin C, all of which may have a favourable influence on blood pressure. It can be a great benefit to start lowering your blood pressure naturally.

- Calcium: Consume skim / toned milk and milk products. This milk is low in fat, but very high in Vitamin D and calcium, both of which are known to combat high blood pressure. Calcium can also be found in fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel), nuts, sunflower seeds (unsalted) and green leafy vegetables. Cereals like nachni and whole pulses like kala chana and rajmah , soybean and tofu are also rich in calcium. Spices include hing , ajwain , khas khas , black pepper, cumin seeds, coriander, cloves and mustard seeds.

- Magnesium: Magnesium rich foods such as pulses and legumes and dark green leafy vegetables are an excellent way to lower blood pressure. Other good sources of magnesium are almonds, walnuts, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, turmeric, plums and mango figs, whole grains, soy products, broccoli, oysters and mackerel. Magnesium has the effect of relaxing the blood vessels which allows the blood to flow easier.

- Potassium: Restricting sodium intake to lower blood pressure appears to work better if accompanied by increasing potassium. Pulses and legumes, soybeans and cereals like bajra , jowar , ragi and whole wheat flour are good sources of potassium. Spices rich in potassium include coriander seeds, cumin seeds and methi seeds. Vegetables like potato, sweet potato, yam, tomatoes, karela , brinjal, drumstick, green papaya and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, sarson ka saag , chowlai and coriander leaves are high in potassium. Potassium rich fruits include sweet lime, apricots, amla, cherries, lemon, mango, muskmelon, watermelon, peaches and plums. Coconut water and vegetable soups are also rich in potassium.

- Vitamin C: It seems to expand blood vessels and constricted arteries, consequently helping to lower blood pressure. Vitamin C rich foods include strawberries, lime, sweet lime, orange, guava, amla, radish leaves, fenugreek leaves, coriander, cabbage, capsicum, green chillies, cauliflower and bitter gourd.

- Research also shows that eating foods high in fiber, such as oat bran, fruits, and vegetables can significantly reduce high blood pressure, and even improve blood pressure in healthy individuals. Omega-3 fats, typically found in oily fish, garlic and flax seeds are known to have a lowering effect on blood pressure.

- Avoid foods like pickles, papads and salted chutneys, biscuits, all sauces and soy sauce, cheese, salted butter, margarine, mayonnaise, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ajinomoto, breads, cakes, pastries, cornflakes, salted chips, nuts, popcorns, bacon, ham, sausages, malted beverages, Boost, Bournvita, preserved foods and canned foods.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Health Benefits of Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds have been commonly used in the Indian cuisine. They are small nutty seeds and are hardly visible in the various dishes they are added to. It is said to be one of the oldest condiment known to man. It is known as ’til’ in India.

Lets have a look at the health benefits of sesame seeds:
- It is said to contain the mineral copper which helps to prevent and provide relief from arthritis and strengthens our bones, joints and blood vessels.
- It contains magnesium which lowers blood pressure, alleviates asthma and prevents migraine.
- Calcium content in sesame seeds helps to biuld bones and prevents migraine too.
- Zinc content helps to improve bone health and is great for skin.
- It contains monounsaturated fats and vitamin E which helps to maintain heart health.
- It contains phytosterols which helps to lower cholesterol and prevent cancers.
- Sesame butter can help to replace the cholesterol rich butter.
- It is rich in fiber mainly due to the presence of the compounds sesamin and sesamolin which increases the vitamin E content when added to food, helps to lower cholesterol and protects the liver from oxidative damage.

You can add sesame seeds to your morning porridge, add it to a glass of warm milk, toss it in a salad or sprinkle over breads while baking. Now you can say open sesame to health.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Don’t dash for it (All about running for fitness)

If you are planning to participate in the marathon, or want to just include running in your daily fitness routine, congratulations on your decision. Good on you for picking a easy, low investment, high returns and most of all, highly effective form of exercise.

Running is great cardio and it improves the body’s immunity while reducing the risk of stroke and cancer. It’s a complete exercise that tones calves, thighs, abdominal, back and shoulder muscles. It strengthens the heart’s capacity to pump more blood and lungs’ capacity to extract oxygen from the air, relieving stress. Best of all, it slows down the ageing process.

But before you take flight, you’ve got to get your posture and form right to save yourself from injury and get the most out of your jog. Leena Mogre helps you gear up for the dream run.

The right way to run

- Posture: Keep your body straight while running. A slouching posture leads to deactivation of muscles in parts of the body, especially the back, causing injury. An upright posture puts less pressure on the knees and facilitates a swifter run. Some people clutch their fists too tight and transfer the rigidity to rest of the body. Keep you arms enough so that even if you were holding a wafer, it wouldn’t break.
- Don’t stomp: Hear the sound your feet are making to know if you are running right. If there is absolutely no sound then you are running perfectly. You must land on the peds of your feet, below your toes, putting pressure neither on the heel nor on the toes. Letting your feet fall loose on the ground with a stomping action sends shock waves to the shin bone, the knees and the back, causing injury.
- Hydrate your body: People experience pain on the one side of the stomach after running for sometime. Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for the same. Having a glass of water (at room temperature) 30 minutes before running can help avoid the pain. Dehydration can also cause muscle crams. If your routine lasts more than 30 minutes, sip water or sports drinks that have glucose and essential salts lost through sweating. Running on an empty stomach may lead to dizziness. Having a banana 15-20 minutes before.
- Breathe through the nose: Breathing through the mouth dehydrates and tires you quickly. Breathe through the nose if you want to run for a longer time.
- Over running is harmful: Build stamina gradually by starting to run for at least five minutes. Your muscles take time to get used to running. Pay attention that there is no strain on your lungs or leg muscles while running. If you feel any kind of cramp, it’s better to stop and take rest. Stretch your schedule by five minutes every two to three days and see if you are comfortable completing the target.


- Get the right shoes: Many people run in casual sneakers which are not meant for running. It could cause serious harm to the knees because the shoes are not designed to support body weight while running. Buying a branded pair which has been designed for the specific purpose after scientific research.
- Warm-up: Running should start with warm-up, followed by stretching, running, cool down and stretching again. Breaking into sweat is a sign that your body is ready for strenuous physical activity.
- Strengthen calves and shin: After the heart muscle, which works the hardest while running, the calf muscles are the most used. They help regulate blood flow from bottom to top. Standing and sitting calf raises help strengthen them.
1> Stand on a raised surface such that the heels are lower than the toes. Put your weight on the toes and raise you heels as far as you can. Fall back again and perform three sets of 20 repetitions.
2> Sit on your toes on a platform, raise your heels and bring them down again. Flex your calves at the top of this movement for one count. Return to the start position and repeat.
3> The shin muscles take the weight of the body when the foot lands on the ground. To strengthen it, rest your heel on a raised surface such that the toes are on a lower level. Raise the toes up and down for 20 repetitions. Do three sets.
- Quit smoking: The heart and lungs come under immense stress while running. Smoking before running reduces the capacity of lungs to pump oxygen.
- Diet: The running body burns muscle, so the activity has to be supplemented with proper diet so that you don’t lose muscle mass. Include a lot of carbohydrates, protein and calcium content in your diet. Drink water 30 minutes before running to avoid dehydration. You can also have a banana then.


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Wish you all a Happy & Healthy New Year!