Most of the moms will agree that we are always in a “rush”, running from one activity to other, often multitasking. I don’t know how and when this rushed lifestyle has become a habit and have impacted multiple aspects of my life, including meal time. When I started learning about our digestion in more detail and understanding how important chewing is for the overall process, I realized how little I chew my food compared to the recommended guidelines of turning it into a liquefied state.
The chewing process is the first step in our digestion, and is one of the most important aspects of digestion. How long you chew, can significantly impact your health.
Most common benefits of chewing well:
More nutrients and energy absorption from your food: When food is in smaller pieces, it is easier for your intestines to absorb nutrients from the food particles.
Aids digestion: As you know that digestion starts with chewing. When we chew our food, the saliva is secreted from our gland. Saliva contains digestive enzymes, so the longer we chew, the more time these enzymes have to start breaking down your food, making digestion easier on our stomach and small intestine. The enzyme lipase helps break down fats and enzyme amylase begin to digest starches so the digestion of food starts in your mouth itself.
Reduce digestive problems: If you don’t chew well or long enough, the enzymes in the saliva that break down food cannot do their job and you could end up with poorly digestive foods in your stomach. When large particles of improperly chewed food enter your stomach and intestines – the bacteria and yeast will feast on them, potentially leading to gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping and other digestive problems.
Weight loss: If you are eating all the right foods, exercising and still not losing weight – have a look at your chewing habit. Research shows that eating slowly can help you to eat less which ultimately leads to weight loss. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal to your stomach that you’re full, and if you are chewing well and eating slowly then you will receive the right signal to stop eating at the right time and prevent overeating.
Now that you understand how important is chewing to your overall health, I hope you will be more mindful during eating, paying attention to the state of the food when you swallow. I can tell you from my experience, this is one of the most difficult habit to change because it is so easy to fall back to old habits, especially when you are in a hurry.
Here are some helpful tips to incorporate this change:
- Dedicate enough time for your meals. When you sit down for meals make sure you have assigned atleast 20-30 minutes to finish your meal.
- Don’t eat on the go. Usually when we are distracted, we tend to chew less and quickly gobble up big chunks of food.
- Be prepared to be the last one at the table – when you are chewing well, you might end up to be the last one to finish the meal at a social setting. Don’t be embarrassed, just remember you are doing a favor to your body in the long run.
- Take deep breaths before the start of your meals because when you breathing allows your body to relax, focus on digestion and utilize the nutrients in your food.
- Take smaller bites of food as it’s easier to chew smaller morsels. It becomes easier with practice. You can initially start by counting how many times you chew. 30- 50 is an ideal number that works for most people.
- Keep your spoon down between bites as a reminder and signal for your body to chew well first before putting next bite in your mouth.
I hope you try this simple lifestyle tip to improve your overall health.
One of my friends just completed an Iron Man!! For those who don’t know what an Iron Man is:
An Ironman is a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world.
I am still in awe of her achievement but more so of her hard work, dedication and grit that made her succeed this year, after one unsuccessful attempt two years ago.
When I asked her what made the difference this time, her answer was clear and simple – NUTRITION PLANNING. She said last time she trained hard and was physically ready to triumph the challenge but what she lacked was the nutrition planning for the day of the event. Unfortunately, she felt a lack of energy halfway through her cycling event and had to leave unfinished and disheartened.
This time she meticulously planned her food not just during training but for the day of the race. Eating a nutritious, high energy food throughout the race provided her constant supply of energy to finish strong.
The biggest lesson to learn from her experience is in life also we all are so busy running around, preparing for our work, assignments, activities without giving much thought on nutrition, what we are eating, are we getting a balanced mix of nutrients to keep us going for the long run.
Eating healthy is a “full-time job”. It requires a lot of planning, commitment, and execution. If you are not planning ahead of time, you end up making some wrong food choices.
Here are some of the primary reasons why you should plan your meals:
- You make healthier choices
- Improved nutrition
- Saves time and money
- Reduces Stress
If you are struggling to eat healthy in order to lose weight or just stay active, reach out to us. We can assist with the weight loss consulting, food substitutes, pantry makeover, and customized meal planning.
We help YOU become your healthiest YOU!
You might be super careful about what food you put in your mouth but have you ever thought about the ingredients in your toothpaste? Commercial kinds of toothpaste are loaded with ingredients you wouldn’t think of putting in your mouth ever.
Your mouth is highly absorbent so even if you are not ingesting your toothpaste, the chemicals in your toothpaste still get absorbed in your bloodstream.
Here are some of the most common harmful ingredients found in commercial toothpaste. : Triclosan, Titanium dioxide, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Artificial Sweeteners, Diethanolamine (DEA) and Flouride.
All of these chemicals have been linked to various health problems like hormone disruptions, gastrointestinal disturbances, behavioral disturbances, and even cancer.
The good news is it is really simple and cheap to make toothpaste at home with only FOUR ingredients.
- 4 tablespoons raw virgin coconut oil
- 2–4 tablespoons baking soda
- Few drops of essential oils (I have used cinnamon clove and peppermint – both works)
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- small glass jar
- Place coconut oil container in a bowl of hot water to liquefy it
- Measure all ingredients into a bowl and stir until completely blended.
- Store the finished product in a lidded glass jar.
How does this toothpaste work?
Coconut oil is antibacterial, so it reduces inflammation and fights bad bacteria in the mouth
Baking soda discourages the formation of plaque and helps to prevent gum disease. It has also been found to effectively remove surface stains on teeth
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and contains antioxidants. It helps in treating gum disease.
Use this toothpaste in place of your regular toothpaste to experience whiter, cleaner, healthier teeth and gums!!
Fasting has been part of human lifestyle for centuries, mostly for religious and medical purposes. More recently there are a large number of researches to support the health benefits of fasting which includes improved disease state, reduced oxidative stress and preserved learning and memory functioning.
Here are some of the top benefits of fasting:
- Promote longevity and reduce aging.
- Increase autophaghy, which is your body’s way to recycle old and worn cells. It’s linked to many health benefits including reduced risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
- Increase human growth hormone, which helps increase energy, increase bone density, and increase/retain muscle.
- Fasting can help you get into a state of ketosis, where you’re running on fat instead of glucose.
- Reduce inflammation and improve gut health.
- Fasting can help with weight loss.
Fasting, though, is not for everyone. If you are like me, staying without food for a whole day will make you anxious but there is a better solution – Intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. The good news is that you get the same health benefits as regular fasting without stressing your body too much.
There are many ways to “intermittently fast” but the approach I liked best is the 16:8 rule, where you fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8-hour window. The good news is that you will be sleeping for part of your “fasting” 16 hours window so it is not that hard to follow.
There are some rules to follow before you start intermittent fasting
- Reduce the intake of processed foods
- Increase raw foods in your diet – fruits, vegetables and nuts
- Eat balanced meals – Protein, complex carbs, and fats
- Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water every day
- Reduce the amount of sugar, especially processed sugar, from your diet.
Once you believe you are ready to start Intermittent Fasting, start small. Start with 12-hour fasting window and see how your body reacts. Gradually increase it to 16 hours. During fasting window, drink only plain water – no lemon, honey or any other additives. No tea, coffee!
Have a combination of fruit and nuts to break the fast. I usually have banana and walnuts as my first meal. Here are some other good options – Dates/Almonds/Raisins.
It is very important to listen to your body when eating and fasting. Women, especially should not starve and stress their body too much as it impacts the hormonal balance so it is highly recommended to start slow on your fasting. Try incorporating intermittent fasting once or twice a week.
I have experienced many health benefits by incorporating intermittent fasting so I assure you that it is not a fad but a tried and tested recipe to improve health, increase energy and eventually weight loss.
Remember Intermittent Fasting is not a Diet but a Lifestyle change. It is a tool for healthy living.
Give it a try and let me know if you have any questions.
<Please consult with your doctor before starting Intermittent Fasting if you have any medical conditions that might get aggravated from prolonged starvation>
Smoothie is an integral part of my everyday diet. My morning starts with the whirl of my favorite blender that results in a drink that I carry around all morning, slowly sipping and enjoying. Smoothies are your best friend if you are trying to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet. It is the simplest change you can make to start a healthy lifestyle.
I change my smoothie recipe depending on what is available at hand but this is my go-to recipe for the days I don’t want to experiment.
This smoothie will help kick-start your busy day with a burst of energy!
2 cups Spinach or Kale
½ cup water, ½ cup ice
1.5 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (I get it from my local grocery store)
1 cup pineapple
1 cup blueberries
½ cup beetroot
A slice of ginger
1 tsp flax seeds
Blend the liquid and greens first. Add the rest of the ingredients. Blend more until you have no chunks left.
- If you are using frozen fruits, feel free to omit the ice
- You can use any fruit of your choice like mango, banana, kiwi, strawberries etc
- You can replace orange juice with coconut water or any other liquid but that will alter the sweetness so adjust the fruits accordingly
You don’t just eat what you think you are eating. For eg. If you are eating potato chips, you would think it is potato, oil, and salt. Right? WRONG! Here is the ingredient list on a bag of potato chips I recently found in my grocery store: Potatoes, cottonseed oil, salt, whey, maltodextrin, spices (including black and white pepper), sunflower oil, sugar, dextrose, onion powder, sodium diacetate, buttermilk, garlic powder, autolyzed yeast extract, natural flavors, yeast extract, citric acid, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate, malic acid
There are hundreds of additives, added flavors added to our food before it reaches our plate. All packaged products are enhanced, fortified and have added chemicals to increase the shelf life. Even though these additives are approved by FDA and identified as safe when consumed in small quantities but what most people don’t understand is that when we are eating multiple food items /multiple servings of these additives throughout the day, it causes havoc to our body. It makes us SICK!
Multiple studies have shown the impact of these additives on our health and causation of diseases in our bodies. The simple rule is to eat as much raw, fresh or home cooked meals as possible but it is not always feasible. The sad part is that they are present in the organic foods as well so even if you are buying organic bread or from your trusted brand (See my last post ) it is still advisable to read the ingredient list to make informed decisions.
Here are some of the top food additives I avoid when buying packaged foods.
- Artificial Sugars: Some of the most commonly found artificial sweeteners are: Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, NatraTaste Blue), Sucralose (Splenda), Acesulfame K (ACE K, Sunette, Equal Spoonful, Sweet One, Sweet ‘n Safe), Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin), Xylitol, Sorbitol. Artificial Sweeteners are found in diet/sugar-free sodas, jello (and other gelatins), desserts, sugar-free gum, yogurts, drink mixes, baking goods, tabletop sweeteners, cereal, breath mints, pudding, kool-aid, ice tea, chewable vitamins etc..Artificial sweeteners, like Aspartame, are believed to be carcinogenic, make you gain weight and have an impact on memory. These toxic sweeteners may lead to a wide variety of ailments including brain tumor, lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, emotional disorders like depression and anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines, and seizures.
- Food Colors: Food colors are one of the most widely used and dangerous additives. In Europe there regulations on labeling food dyes to inform consumers of the health risks, the United States has no such requirement. Some of the common food dyes used today are Blue #1, Red #40, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 etc. They are found in baked goods, beverages, desserts, candies, cereal, drugs. Studies have established a strong correlation between the food colors and hyperactivity in kids. They have also shown to cause tumors in lab mice.
- BHT: BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are widely used by the food industry as preservatives, mainly to prevent oils in foods from oxidizing and becoming rancid. They are found in many chips, cookies, and cereals. They are also used in used as preservatives in lipsticks and moisturizers, among other cosmetics. According to EWG research: Some data has shown that BHT can cause cancer in animals. Rats fed BHT have developed lung and liver tumors (EFSA 2012). BHT has also been shown to cause developmental effects and thyroid changes in animals, suggesting that it may be able to disrupt endocrine signaling (EFSA 2012). A neurobehavioral study of rats exposed to BHT throughout development described effects on motor skills and coordination before the animals were weaned.
- Nitrates or Nitrites: Cold cut meats like Turkey, Ham, Salami are usually treated with nitrates or nitrites which are chemicals commonly used as coloring agents, preservatives and flavoring. They are used to prolong a food’s shelf life but they come with health concerns. Studies have linked nitrites to stomach cancer. There is also evidence that nitrites may be associated with brain and thyroid cancers, but a causal link has not been established.
- Carrageenan: Carrageenan is everywhere – in yogurts, nut milk, cold cut meats and a lot of organic products. You can find it in organic yogurt, tofu, coconut milk and the list goes on and on. It has a long and controversial reputation as an emulsifier that damages the digestive system. Even though Carrageenan is derived from red algae or seaweed but it goes through a processing process, which makes it degraded and harmful for consumption. Studies have established that consumption of carrageenan induces inflammation in our body. Various sources claim that individuals experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms (ranging from mild bloating to irritable bowel syndrome to severe inflammatory bowel disease) have noticed that eliminating carrageenan from the diet leads to profound improvements in their gastrointestinal health.
Here are few in the top of my list but there are many more that you should be careful about like Trans Fats and Partially Hydrogenated Oils. Try eliminating or reducing these chemical additives from your diet and observe the difference in your overall health.
What other additives do you avoid when buying packaged foods?
Don’t let the companies fool you. I got tricked and I am here to warn you!
I get my milk from Oberweis. The company claims that their milk is better than Organic as it is fresh from local farms and lightly pasteurized. They pledge that there are no artificial growth hormones, antibiotics, non-nutritional additives or preservatives ever added to the milk and they treat their cows humanely. I was sold. I started trusting the brand. I subscribed to their milk service, so it is delivered fresh at my doorstep every week.
It’s summertime so I decided to stock my fridge with some ice-cream. Of course, I would go nowhere else but to the company I trust. I added their Mango and Pomegranate ice cream to my order. This is where I went wrong:
- I believed that since the milk is of good quality; ALL products from this company would be of great quality.
- Another factor we consider is price – there is a common misconception that if the price is high, the product is better than its competitors.
Both the assumptions failed when we received the ice cream. I was shocked, when my son who was getting ready to enjoy this treat asked– Mom, How are you letting me eat this ice cream when it contains a lot of the ingredients you don’t allow us to have?
He was right – High Fructose Corn Syrup, Carrageenan, Yellow #5, Yellow#6 all of these were staring back at me from the ingredient list. I felt cheated and tricked!
I trusted the brand, I trusted their products so failed to do my part in validating the ingredients before ordering.
My advice to you is to read the ingredients of the products you buy – EVERY SINGLE TIME. Don’t believe in what is published on the front of the package, turn it around and read the ingredient list. You will be surprised to learn that there are so many artificial, synthetic ingredients “hidden” in the packaged foods you eat.
Your health is in your own hands – Stay healthy, Stay armed!
We all have experienced pain in our bodies at some point. Pain usually appears when there is inflammation. Inflammation is an important part of the body’s immune response. It is the way our bodies heal itself. Without inflammation, infections would never heal. Inflammation becomes a problem when it is chronic.
Imagine the inflammation as our body’s personal army to protect against invaders or injury. Their job is to fight the battle (against infections and germs) and come back to base. When the soldiers lose the signal on when to stop fighting, it leads to chronic inflammation. Chronic Inflammation is when the body stays in the inflamed state even after the “threat” is gone”. Most common cause of chronic inflammation is the food we eat and environmental toxins we are exposed to. Our body’s immune system doesn’t recognize this “stuff,” so it tries to get rid of it by fighting it.
Recent research from well-known sources such as the Harvard School of Public Health has found that many illnesses are directly related to inflammation in the body including heart disease and stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and stomach or intestinal problems. When there is inflammation, there is a pain. Did you know Anti-inflammatory medicines are most widely taken medicine in the US?
If you believe that you are suffering from chronic inflammation – here are three easy steps you can take to reduce pain and inflammation:
- Practice “Clean” eating: Try adding more natural, raw food in your diet. Buy organic whenever possible. The best way to reduce inflammation is to just eat real foods. They are foods that bypass tinkering by a food chemist and are eaten very close to the way they grew on the farm. Slowly eliminate/reduce processed and packaged foods from your diet. A fiber-rich diet helps reduce inflammation by supplying naturally occurring anti-inflammatory phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables.
- Follow the 4-S diet: The easiest way to remember the key anti-inflammatory foods that will help keep you young and active is the Four S’s. Salads, Smoothies Spices, and Seafood.
Salads and Smoothies are natural anti-inflammatories because they are from plants. The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables gives them their rich color and make them anti-inflammatory. Antioxidants are natural medicines. The National Cancer Society says we should eat 9 – 13 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Spices contain high levels of antioxidants and immune boosting nutrients. Ginger and Turmeric which are heavily used in Indian cooking are one of the best spices to reduce pain and inflammation. Ginger inhibits production of the free radical that causes inflammation and pain. Turmeric’s benefits are largely because of curcumin, a potent antioxidant that dramatically reduces inflammation. The bioavailability of curcumin is highly improved if taken with black pepper so make sure to spice up your food with turmeric, ginger and black pepper.
Seafood, especially cold water fish, contains omega 3 oils which are the most helpful anti-inflammatory nutrients you can eat. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis — conditions that often are triggered by chronic inflammation. If you cannot eat fish for any reason, consider taking a good quality fish oil supplement to get the benefits of Omega-3.
- Exercise: What type of exercise should you do? The BEST exercise is the one you will do! You do it because you enjoy it!
There are lots of fun ways to move. You can take up a new sport such as ballroom dancing or hiking or just do walking, yoga, running..whatever you enjoy doing!! Besides movement being good for your muscles, it’s good for your mind. New movements actually build new cerebral pathways.
Make sure you incorporate these three components into your exercise routine:
Strength training: At one time it was believed that losing muscle was a natural part of aging, but studies now show that older people can maintain muscle with the same amount of strength training as younger folks.
Endurance. Endurance exercises increase your breathing and heart rate and include exercises like walking, swimming, and dancing.
Flexibility: Flexibility exercises like stretching, yoga, and Pilates, loosen and lengthen our muscles. As we age, muscles not only become weaker, they become tighter and shorter. Orthopedists have found that people who have increased flexibility are less likely to suffer from arthritis and joint problems.
By following these simple guidelines and slowly making lifestyle changes, you can definitely reduce chronic inflammation and lead a healthy, pain-free life.
“Should I stop eating carbs if I want to lose weight” or “I am on a low-fat diet but still not losing weight. Why?” or “Is dairy bad for me”. These questions come up almost every day in my conversations with people.
Our “food wisdom” is often swayed by the food marketing industry. Last decade they made fat the “villain” and I see that happening to our good ol’ friend “carbs” now.
All macronutrients – Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins are required for a healthy body. It’s the form in which we eat them make them good or bad for us.
Adults and “active” children need approximately “50%” of their daily calories from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates or carbs can be “simple” or “complex” based on their chemical makeup and what your body does with them. Simple carbs are quick-burning fuels. They very quickly break down into sugar in your system. You want to avoid these. They can be found in cakes, processed foods, soft drinks, candies etc..Complex carbs take more time to break down, which allows for a slower, more gradual release of energy. Whole grains, beans, legumes, and starchy vegetables are all examples of complex carbs. Complex carbs have fiber and vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients so go ahead and enjoy your “roti”, rajma-rice, potatoes or any of your favorite complex carbs without guilt.
Similarly, there are good and bad fats. Fats from coconut oil, ghee, grass fed butter, and fish are all good for us. Chemically created fats that are made in a lab, like partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats, are what causes harm to our body. Avoid all foods that contain trans fat. These fats are found in most of the packaged and fast foods.
So how do you lose weight then?
The answer is not that simple. A human body is very complex and many factors contribute to its functioning like nutrition, environment, lifestyle, even our thoughts as our mind and body are closely inter-linked. The first step is to understand the underlying cause of weight gain – is it stress, is it junk food or eating outside or is it because of your erratic lifestyle and eat/sleep patterns. Once you understand the root cause, it will be easier to plan your weight loss. Most people go on “strict” diets by eliminating various food groups without understanding the root cause but If the cause is not addressed, the weight will come back – pretty soon.
Here are the four pillars for a healthy lean body: L.E.A.N.
Lifestyle – how you live? Do you have a disciplined lifestyle? How well do you sleep at night? Do you eat/sleep in a “fixed” window every day? All of these factors control how your body functions. Also, there are so many toxins in everyday products that have impacted our health in a negative way. From household cleaners to cosmetics – everything is full of harmful chemicals that we expose our body every single day (a topic for another time) . Try to simplify your life by having a routine and using natural products whenever possible.
Exercise – how do you move? People always ask what is the best exercise to lose weight and the answer is whatever exercise you love to do. For some people, it could be walking/running, for others yoga or dancing. Whatever you enjoy doing is what is good for your body. Also, sitting all day and then going to gym for one hour is not a good idea. Stay active by walking, taking stairs or just standing instead of sitting whole day. Also, don’t “over-exercise” to lose weight faster. Too much exercise could put stress on the body and will be counter-productive in your effort to lose weight.
Attitude – how do you think? A lot of studies have shown a strong correlation of stress to weight gain, especially around your mid-section (tummy) area. No amount of diet or exercise will work if you are constantly stressed out. Try deep breathing, mindfulness or meditation to manage stress and the weight issue will automatically be taken care of.
Nutrition – how do you eat? First of all, you don’t need to eat less to lose weight – you have to eat right. Add more raw fruits and veggies to your diet: Most of the food we eat is either cooked or processed, which are depleted of most nutrients. Try to add more unprocessed, uncooked raw food in your diet. Start your day with a bowl of fresh fruit and have a salad with your lunch and dinner. If you need to eliminate something, eliminate junk, processed food. Eat all food groups because they are full of nutrients that your body needs. Fat or carbs do not make you fat; eating junk food that is full of toxins makes you fat.
These are some simple guidelines that clarify some myths about food/diet and how to start thinking about weight loss. Start off by introspecting and making small positive lifestyle changes based on your root cause. Follow LEAN to get lean!
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or need additional help to meet your goals.