Farm to Fork in the City

Fresh food tastes the best, right? This is because its bio energy is most alive when it has just been plucked/harvested. Research shows that as more time passes, this bio energy keeps reducing, even though technically its nutritional quotient does not change as much. This is how nature intended us to eat – just pluck or harvest and consume immediately. Leafy greens, that are responsible for converting the energy of the sun into food energy actually do not survive long. They will or get spoilt anyway, even if refrigerated! This is how fast their bio energy depletes.

Living in a city, it may be impossible to have access to everything completely fresh, or live Farm to Fork, but here are few things that you can surely try.

  1. Grow your own micro-greens. Micro-greens are shoots of any seed, that have just sprouted their first leaves. They are nutrition power houses, quick to grow, low on maintenance and practically take no space except the tray on which they are grown!
  2. Grow your favourite herbs such as mint and basil in small potted plants, that can be accommodated even on your window sill.  If you have a balcony with a wall, you could create a vertical herb garden on it.
  3. Look around your housing society. You may be surprised to find trees or shrubs that are edible that you never knew. A friend of mine had a Moringa tree growing in his backyard, and never knew till I pointed it out!
  4. Get together with others in your housing society and create a little kitchen garden on ground or on the terrace of your building!
  5. When planting trees in your housing society, plant edibles rather than just to beautify. You will find that this even attracts more birds and butterflies into your society as they too love flowers and fruit.

I am lucky that my parents have a superb edible garden back in a small city at the foot hills of the Himalayas. Whenever I am there, I literally overdose (well, there’s no such thing actually) on the goodies of nature, in my smoothies, salads and cooking! Below is a snap shot of my latest discovery here  – Radish seed pods, which we harvested and cooked into a yummy vegetable for lunch. The pods had a yummilicious crunchy radishy sweet and stingy flavour, that would go wonderfully well in a salad or pickle too!

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(Toss your own salads at home. Head to my recipe blog here and try some salad recipes)

Lessons from Bali

When you walk into an ice cream parlor in the middle of the market, and find out the entire range is vegan, you know you have arrived in the right country!

It is not for no reason that Bali is called the Island of the Gods. People ascribe this to the presence of a thousand temples here, but truly, this land has a soul. It’s a place where one can say idealism is not just an unrealistic romantic idea, but something its people live and breathe!

There’s a café called Down to Earth. The entrance to their café says ‘Peace through Nutrition’. I am already bowled over. This is something I envisioned, they have already done it. Down to Earth serves the best quality organic, vegan cuisine. They also have a store, where they source the best quality organic vegan, fair trade stuff to be sold off the shelf. Wherever they open a branch, they source local produce in a fair manner, ensure the growth of the local economy, they hire only locals, train them well so that their capabilities grow. They run a film club, where they run documentary films on health and environment. I found their staff to be so pleasing and helpful that it would be hard to believe that they didn’t feel one with this enterprise.

The Down to Earth Kitchens are not your run of the mill commercial kitchens. They have banned aluminium and Teflon coating and use only steel, and their chefs are trained to follow macrobiotic traditions. The more I get to know about Down to Earth, the more I look up to the vision behind it.

Bali is full of such examples. Another company that I took note of is The Big Tree Farms, famed for producing the best quality organic Raw Cacao in the world. To think that the world’s best raw cacao is produced not by China, India or the U.S., but by a small underdeveloped island in Indonesia. This is a company with a fantastic vision of development, committed to giving the world the purest and the best, as well as committed to give back to the local economy.

One of the best places for food I found was Sayuri Healing Food, a café started by Sayuri, a raw chef.. The first page of the menu reads ‘this place is for us all to become KUU, as the logo of our café represent, where each one of us become the shine on each uniqueness of its existence, which is the pure purpose of here and now for each. Therefore it is the most powerful force to impact everything around you.’

And then, they serve food that not only tastes as delicious as it looks, but is also the purest and most nutritious food on the planet. You can’t beat that!

Same goes for another café Moksa, except that this place has a beautiful setting, amidst a permaculture farm! A perfect farm to fork taking place right in front of you.

Bali is full of places and concepts like this. Concepts are just what the world needs right now, or rather a consciousness that the world needs right now!

Photos on https://goo.gl/photos/s9BD4hNZZgnkRUAb6

Lord Krishna and the butter connection

Living in India most of us grow up consuming milk and milk products as a staple part of our daily diet. If we do just a little food diary exercise, we’ll see how not a single meal may be complete without some dairy in it. Of course this assumption of milk being good for us has a logical history and background.

Going into scriptures, we hear of Lord Krishna’s love for butter. Now Krishna was a cow herder. He used to herd a whole lot of cows. Yet he had to steal butter to eat it! This obviously means there was not enough.

Back then, cows were treated and taken care of like family members. Milk secreted by the cows was given to their calves (for whom it is meant). Only, the little that might be left over was kept for children and aged people as a way to secure them, since food too could be scarce sometimes.

Today India is the largest producer of milk and milk products. Super market shelves are filled with gallons and gallons of milk. Processed Dairy products (casein, milk solids, milk powder) find their way into almost every packaged food and bakery products, and most people don’t even realise how much dairy they end up consuming unknowingly. The milk available to us today is far different from the milk in Lord Krishna’s days.

Cows in dairy farms are treated as milk producing machines, artificially inseminated to make them pregnant, their calves separated from them at birth, and regularly injected with hormones and antibiotics. Hence the milk we have today is a deadly cocktail of chemicals, stress hormones, antibiotics and pus cells, creating all sorts of hormonal and other imbalances in our body.

Cow’s milk is the ideal food for calves, not for humans (just the way we consider human milk to be perfect for our babies). It is addictive as well as acidic in our body, therefore far from bringing benefit, milk comes in the way of good health.

So ditch dairy and embrace good health!

Read more on the detrimental effects of dairy in my blog Milk Moustache

Eating Healthy Tips for the Weekend

If weekends are what you live for, then chances are that binges and overeating may be the centre of it, followed with feelings of guilt and overcompensation by dieting. If you’re wondering how to break from this vicious cycle, read on.

The key to good health and healthy eating habits lies in progress, not perfection. So throw that restrictive diet out of the window and focus your efforts on building healthy habits through a little bit of self discipline. Here are five things you can do (this weekend) –

  1. Get good rest over the weekend. Rest is food too! Take some ‘me time’ out. You will be surprised at how nourished and satiated you will feel with some extra sleep, a head massage, a spa or just doing nothing for a couple of hours. This will eliminate the need to satisfy yourself with wrong foods.
  2. Always eat something healthy before stepping out. It could be a bowl of fruits, a green smoothie, a sprout salad or a big vegetable soup. This will ensure you are not super hungry and do not end up stuffing yourself with unhealthy foods when out.

Checkout some delicious salad recipes here

  1. When eating out, always order a simple salad (no creamy, oily dressings please) along with meal. It is lighter on your system and provide live enzymes to help break down other foods too!
  2. Stick to one grain per meal only. Avoid multigrain breads or mixed grains in any other form.
  3. Leave the dessert for home. Even when one has gone out for a meal, one usually comes home and wants to eat something before sleeping. So why not use that to have a good dessert at home? Mumbai is now brimming with dessert suppliers that are sugar free and dairy free. Stock those up at home, and return to their sweet comforts:)

You can also try your hand at these very easy dessert recipes:

Besan Barfi

Chocolate Bliss Balls

Peanut Butter Ice-cream

Wishing you all a happy, healthful and guilt-free weekend ahead 🙂

Rescue your gut. Get Probiotics!

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Its the first week of the New Year, and you’re done with that super awesome vacation, bonding over rich food, sinful desserts, and alcohol. You now want to kickstart a whole new health regimen – get the healthy food and exercise back into your schedule to lose all those pounds that piled on in the last month.. A great thing to accelerate and get your whole digestive track in order is to add – Probiotics!

So what exactly are probiotics ?

Probiotic foods are foods containing healthy strains of bacteria. Pro meaning affirming and biotics means life.

Why do we need them?

Well, believe it or not, our bodies are carrying a whole lot of bacteria on it and inside it. The number of bacteria we carry are 10 times the number of cells! So in effect we could say that we are more bacteria than human haha! These bacteria are not just hanging around us for nothing; they all have specific functions they help us with. The ones outside help build our immunity, the ones inside help with loads of other things.

The bacteria in our gut, also called the Gut Flora, works to digest and absorb certain carbohydrates, produce vitamins, absorb minerals, eliminate toxins and prevent various kinds of allergies. The good bacteria also inhibits the growth of unhealthy bacteria.

Biologists even go to the extent of saying that the root of any illness lies in the gut, and if our gut is healthy, it is unlikely we will be unhealthy or sick.

If you have symptoms such as bloating and gas, fatigue, uncontrollable sugar cravings, nausea, headaches or indigestion, and are also struggling with losing weight, it is likely your good and bad bacteria are not in balance.

Bad bacteria grow when they are fed their food, which is mainly sugar, refined and processed foods or alcohol and good bacteria is starved of their food which is – soluble fibre (fruits and vegetables with skin, whole grains, chia seeds, aloe vera etc.)

Organic foods have a much higher percentage of healthy bacteria than inorganic foods, because commercial pesticides, and various chemicals used in different stages of food production such as artificial ripening etc. kill the good bacteria.

Which basically means that all of us who have indulged ourselves during the vacations would do great with some high quality probiotic foods!

What can I find probiotics in?

The best probiotics are found in raw fermented foods such as Kombucha, Keffir, Kimchi and saurkraut. Other fermented foods such as idli, cultured vegetables, yogurt, sourdough bread and nutritional yeast too can give us some good bacteria. Probiotic capsules too are available off the shelf and can be taken in consultation with you doctor.

Building a healthy gut takes time, so we may need to supplement over a long period of a few months at least. Another thing that can help is to get enough soluble fibre in your diet daily,  that is necessary to build good bacteria colonies.

Lastly cut back on sugar, refined foods and alcohol as it feeds the unhealthy bacteria, yeast and fungus in the gut.

Now for some action! You can make a super awesome probiotic drink right at home. No exotic ingredients, no complications. Delicious, simple and effective!  Head over to my recipe blog to get the recipe of KANJI. 

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Photo Credits – Gargi Kukreti

Vitamin B 12

Statistics say that approximately 15% of the world’s population suffers from B12 deficiency, due to our lifestyles. Even among my clients I have often noticed that they don’t know enough about this important nutrient. B12 is important for replication of our DNA. It is vital for the formation of Rd blood cells and for the proper working of our central nervous system.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency are wide ranging. Some of the common symptoms are weakness, apathy, memory loss, acidity, loss of weight, nausea and vomiting, anaemia, mental confusion, delusions, paranoia, respiratory symptoms, allergies. Long-term deficiency can even lead to heart attacks or stroke and irreversible damage to brain and nervous system.

What is interesting to know is that B12 in fact is not a vitamin at all. It is a bacteria produced by soil microbes that live in symbiotic relationship with plant roots. In a more natural world, vitamin B12 would be naturally available in organic fruits and vegetables straight off the farm and water in natural sources such as ponds and rivers. We would never find an outdoor person such as a farmer working in the soil to be deficient in B12, because they would absorb it directly from the soil. However most of us living in the city do not have enough contact with soil and hence are always short on B12.

We tend to look B12 in animal foods such as milk and meat, as these animals are getting the B12 from the soil. However these days, vegetarians and non-vegetarians may be deficient in B 12 for a number of reasons. There is not enough B12 in the animal foods, because animals are being farmed and they don’t feed from the soil any more. Their food is inorganic, and hence lacks the bacteria. Secondly, B12 may not be getting absorbed if our gut flora is destroyed.

Use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers in the soil, and injection of chemicals into food, use of preservatives chlorine in the water, chemical toothpastes which destroy oral bacteria, all end up destroying the naturally existing and available B12.

The best way to get B12 naturally would be to eat as much organic produce as possible and get out in the soil. However, if you’re suffering any symptoms, do get your levels checked and consult a doctor for supplementation!

Illness is a gateway to Wellness!!!

Are Illness and Wellness two different roads?  I’ve actually come to believe that exactly the opposite is true. Illness in fact is the Gateway to Wellness.

Most of us look at illness as a monster we never want to encounter, but in fact illness is an important signal from our body, that it is cleansing itself, fighting infections, and fighting to get healthier and better. So it is something we should be grateful for.

Our immune system is the system within our body that protects us against disease. Basically there are cells in the body that keep moving around like security guards. The moment they see something which does not belong to the body, like a bad bacteria or virus they restrict entry. If these are in big numbers, then they need to put up a fight. This is when, say we have an infection, a swelling, an inflamation or a fever. These are all signs that the body is putting up a fight.

It is really important that our security guards be strong, because how long the fight goes on, and whether we win or lose, depends entirely on the strength of these guards or our immune system. A strong immune system will fight it out in a short time, a weak system on the other hand will take longer to fight the same infection.

What determines the strength ?– everything that we always keep talking about on this page – the quality of our food, our physical activity, how the food is digested and assimilated, the quality of our sleep, emotions and attitude, they all together build immunity.

What else determines how we fight, is what do we do when we are ill. It is important to support the body when it is fighting. Because the body knows how to heal. So here are a few things to keep in mind –

  1. REST. I’ve often seen that just resting a lot itself is half the battle won. If we use our energy in doing other things while we are ill, it is almost like Kargil War is on, and we are diverting supplies from the base to other states. Without supplies, how will the army fight.
  2. EAT LIGHT ENERGISING FOODS. Other things to keep in mind are to eat light, and eat foods which give more energy and take up less digestive energy. Fruits and leafy greens are great!
  3. Go easy on exercise.
  4. CONSUME ANTI BACTERIALS. Nature has given us the perfect anti bacterials like onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger. We take these in measured doses throughout the year. Our body anyway cannot take big quantities as their smell and flavor are pungent and strong. And this is the quality that repels bacteria too!

Turmeric is a great antiseptic. Juice of onion is great for bringing fever down naturally. Even children can be given spoonfuls. Ginger works wonderfully to soothe inflammation and pain.

The way these anti bacterials work is that they destroy the bad bacteria. However when we end taking them in big quantities, they may also end up destroying some of the good bacteria within. Hence, once better, it is a good idea to take some probiotics to improve good bacteria counts within our system 🙂

Checkout Kanji Recipe from my recipe blog !

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Concerned about Protein?

Protein

A lot of vegetarians are hugely concerned about the lack of protein in their diet. Their concerns, however are misplaced as they can get enough to meet their daily needs and more through a healthy wholesome vegan diet.

What is protein ? It is a food for growth and repair.

The next question we need to ask is – how much protein do we really need?

Human milk contains 1.5 to 2.7% protein and this amount is sufficient to help a new born grow rather rapidly. It doubles its weight in 6 months and triples it in one year, after which the rate of growth slows down. As adults, we require only 3 – 8 % of our calories to come from protein to have a sufficient amount, and this is not at all difficult on a plant based diet as all plant foods have protein.

If you’re still not convinced, look to animals in nature for the conviction. Some of the strongest animals are herbivores, not carnivores. Elephants and horses don’t have any meat, and meet all their requirements from plants, and they are never deficient. Examine the human body and you will find it has more similarities to herbivores than carnivores.

Some excellent sources of protein from plant sources are – sprouts, nuts, seeds, peanuts, dark leafy greens, peas, whole grains, chickpeas, soya beans, tofu, beans and legumes.

So go ahead, include these in your diet in good measure and rest assured, you are not going to be lacking in protein 🙂 

Organic Foods

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I had such a lovely Sunday morning at the farmer’s market. It was Sunday morning, and the market was buzzing with people trying to get a week’s worth of vegetables and fruits from the farmers themselves.

A thought came to my head – that till the 1950s all food was organic only. Inorganic farming only began in 1950s and 60s, and has now completely taken over. The way I look at it, organic food should be called  just ‘food’ and, inorganic food should be labelled ‘inorganic food’, because that came in later.

Also from the perspective of the body, our body is organic. It only understands and accepts what is organic. Anything inorganic – is regarded as a toxin, has no use in the body, and is in fact potentially harmful if it remains in the system. Various studies show the relation between increased intake of pesticides and cancer, reproductive dysfunction, autism, asthma and Alzheimer.

Despite this evidence, there is a resistance among some for going organic, cost and easy availability being two reasons for this. Here’s what I have to say about these reasons :

Cost of foods is a function of various factors. It is more expensive to grow organic as it is not as subsidized as inorganic. Secondly inorganic food may be monetarily cheaper, but a lot more expensive when you add social and environmental costs of growing it. If these were added to the costs, organic food would be the cheapest 🙂

Both of these are issues we can take up as a community and work to rectify with the Govt. agencies. But even if this remains so, we can look at eating organic as an investment, and pay the farmer now, instead of paying doctors later. Its also an investment towards a better, cleaner environment for ourselves and our future generations.

A superb cost saving tip would be – go for as much seasonal produce as possible, as it will be the cheapest in season, and the most nutritiously satisfying as well !

The other contention that organic is not easily available is also nothing that we cannot work around. Organic grain, cereal, pulses and spices are easily available off the shelf so those should not be an issue. For the rest, the transition could be done in phases. One could go for fruits and vegetables from markets as and when they are available, or look for good suppliers who do weekly doorstep deliveries. When these feel light, one can also begin to look for organic household items, toiletries, cosmetics, clothing, and so on.. Even if you can’t source 100%, do as much as you can. And that is good enough too!

Another big contention against organic, that one often hears is – that if everyone goes organic, would there be enough food to feed everyone? This is pretty unfounded, because currently, there is a huge amount of overproduction of food, and yet everyone is not fed! Only 43% of the cereal grains grown world-wide becomes food for people; 35% becomes livestock feed, and 10% goes into making bio fuels, high-fructose corn syrup and other processed products. One-third of food produced for humans, in any case gets wasted. So the problem is not so much about quantity but usage, storage and distribution of food. If this can be rectified, then the quantity of food required itself is much lesser than what is produced currently.

Balancing festivities and health.

It’s that time of the year again, when one evening of slipping, can become a reason for letting ourselves just slip away. A piece of mithai here, some alcohol there, a late night and there goes your morning workout, for many days in a row.

Let’s get this straight, being ‘healthier than thou’, is a serious challenge during this time. You also don’t want to be a party pooper and super strict around others. But a little bit of mindfulness and balance could hold the key to sailing through.

And here’s what making that effort could be worth –

  • It shows you value yourself and are committed to your your own well being. You will feel great about yourself.
  • You could potentially inspire others around you. It may seem like they don’t care much, but deep down they do, but just don’t know where to start and what to do.
  • You won’t have any guilt feelings by the end of the month, no weight to lose, no pain of trying to coerce yourself back on track.

Hence, here are my top 5 tips to stick by, which may not seem so heavy, but really work wonders to keep you close to track!

  1. Always eat something nourishing and filling at home before stepping out. It could be a Green Smoothie, a filling salad, or soup. This way you could just get by with nibbling when out and since you would not be very hungry, you could select smart. Go for salad sticks or grilled foods, instead of fried.
  2. Load up on fresh fruit and raw salads on days that you are not socialising – as they help to balance out the heavy food. They also keep you hydrated and energised, also because  your sleep hours may be erratic.
  3. If you are going to an intimate home gathering, offer to bring a dish along with you – could be salad or a healthy dessert. Chances are all guests will be wowed by your dish, and will be gorging on what you brought than the other foods, and also a great way to open the conversation to health and self care!
  4. Have desserts mindfully. How do you do that?

Try some healthy, sugar free desserts at home- Besan Barfi, 5 min Coconut Barfi

Firstly, you would agree that all desserts are not made equal. Some are better than others. So make a mental note of the ones you like better and reserve your sweet spot for only those. Skip all the others.

Second, when indulging, sit down and enjoy the dessert with all your senses. Eat slowly, and enjoy every bite. You will find yourself so much more satiated with such little.

  1. Get exercise EVERY DAY. Now this may seem a little difficult to begin with, but if you break your goal down and make it something like the bullets below, it could feel a little more doable right ?
  • 10 minute brisk walk
  • 5 Surya Namaskars
  • 7 minute HIIT
  • Climbing the stairs 3 times a day
  • Dancing to 2 bollywood numbers

It could be anything else you enjoy doing and anything more than this as well.

Staying healthy must go beyond eating habits. They must also include conscious practices that do not pollute our surroundings or environment. For in the end, it all comes full circle and affects us. We don’t really have to let our health or the health of our environment suffer to have a good time and bond with family and friends.

And you, how do you take care of your health and environment around you during festivals?