What Creates Disease?

Any disease – be it constipation or cancer, arises from acidic environment in the body.

All of us require an environment in which we can thrive. There is life on earth, because it has an environment conducive to life (as opposed to other planets where there is no life). People living in unpolluted regions undoubtedly enjoy better health or thrive than those living in polluted metros! The more polluted it gets, the sicker we get.

Similarly the cells of our body also thrive in an environment, and that environment is an alkaline environment. The ph balance of all liquids in our cells as well our blood is alkaline. If this environment becomes acidic, is when disease becomes inevitable in our body. This happens in two ways.

  1. Our cells begin to function below their optimum, they degenerate, organs degenerate, our immunity becomes low and hence we end with degenerative disease. Healthy cells thrive in an alkaline environment, and cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment.
  2. In an alkaline environment, the germs and bacteria in our body remain in a balance that is just right for us. However when environment is acidic they grow, and create imbalances and this creates toxicity and conditions for illness in the body.

Now what are the factors that lead to the body’s environment becoming alkaline or acidic? The main factors are – our food, water, the air and our thoughts.

Every food has a ph balance, either alkaline or acidic. Water as we all know is neutral, but these days, the pollutants in the water make water acidic also, and hence we need to purify it. Air, the more oxygen it has, the more health promoting it is. And lastly, our thoughts also play a major role in our well being. We all know that our immunity goes low and we are susceptible to fall sick, when we are stressed, or under pressure. And this is because positive and happy thoughts create alkalinity, and negative thoughts create acidity.

It is a little difficult to control the air, and thoughts take time in changing, but the one thing that we can change immediately to change the environment in our body is food. So here are the top 5 alkaline foods: –

  1. Lemons
  2. Watermelon
  3. Parsley
  4. Cucumber
  5. Broccoli

As you can see, they are all either fruit or vegetable family, in fact most fruits, and vegetables are alkaline, and eating more can ensure we remain alkaline.

And here are the top 5 acidic foods:-

  1.   Colas and soft drinks
  2.   Dairy
  3.   Meat
  4.   White sugar and all refined and artificial sweeteners
  5.   All processed and packaged foods

So if you want to avoid disease, say no to these 5 foods, and say yes to the top 5 alkaline foods.

To learn more, you can sign up for my #UnLoveLoveHandles workshop right here: http://on.fb.me/1M5X26n

A superfood right in our backyard :)

Growing up in the hills, we always had ‘Chulai’ ladoos or chikki as a Navratri staple. But it was only in 2007 when I was roaming the Himalayas filming a group of organic farmers there, that I became aware that Chulai, also known as Amaranth, Ramdana or Rajgira is nothing less than miracle food, that the paharis (mountain people) swear by.

More research revealed that this ancient seed is really high in protein (similar to its famous foreign cousin – Quinoa) calcium and loads of other minerals. It is low in fat, and also gluten free !!! What is most amazing is that you’ll find it sitting on the corner grocery store shelf at a reasonable price. If you want to know how to use it, you don’t really have to even google. Just get hold of your grandmother and have a chat with her about it. There’s a good chance that she’ll give you a million awesome ways to include it in your diet.

The farmers are full of stories about their traditional foods, and one such story I was told is that amaranth is really very resilient. Amaranth falls in the category of pseudo-millets or pseudo cereals, which makes it slightly different from millets, and even easier to digest. Other common pseudo millets that you may know are buckwheat and quinoa.

What is amazing about millets and pseudo millets is that they can grow on rugged stony soil, can withstand extreme heat or cold, survive regardless of the amount of rainfall they receive. Thus we see millets growing happily in every part of the country, even though climatic conditions differ so dramatically.

HOW TO USE AMARANTH

Here are a few ideas to go by. The seeds can be heated on a high flame and made to pop. Popped amaranth can then be used to make ladoos, chikkis, breakfast cereal, kheer, bread or high protein energy bars. The seeds can be ground into a flour, and then used to make chapatis, khakhras, or crackers.

Amaranth has this amazing nutty sort of flavour. The best thing I find about using the flour is that unlike other gluten free grains, it is much easier to use for chapatis and they turn out much softer than Jowar, Bajra and Nachni rotis.

A word of caution when using amaranth flour. It needs to be refrigerated and used soon as it turns rancid (bitter) within 2 months of grinding. Hence buy small quantitites as per your requirement.

Amaranth leaves (the red leafy bundles available at vegetable vendors) too can be put to great use in cooking vegetables, in salads or in juicing. Gourmet chefs are now using the beautiful velvety red amaranth flowers in their salads. So truly, the world of possibilities with this humble plant are endless 🙂

Amaranth leaves

Amaranth leaves

Gluten Free Crackers, easily made with Amaranth!

Gluten Free Crackers, easily made with Amaranth!

So, tell me are you inspired to try out amaranth and other millets?

How not to fall sick as Seasons change!

To many of us, changing seasons are synonymous with falling sick, be it cold, headaches, flu or viral fever. This is almost assumed to be a norm  as the changing season itself. But should we really consider this a norm? Other animals in nature don’t fall sick as seasons change. Then why us?

When the season is changing from say, summer to the monsoon, our body is trying to adjust/cope with changes in the atmosphere. This is the body’s nature or intuitive wisdom, very much a part of our DNA.  To do this, it borrows energy from within that would otherwise be used for our normal functioning such as digestion, repair work and elimination. This has a subtle effect on our digestion and immune system, both of which go low.

At such a point, we need to help the body by making appropriate changes in diet /lifestyle, else we run the risk of falling sick.

What are some of these changes we can look at making ?

1. Slow down, make the time to relax and rest as your body demands. Deep breathing a few times a day, pranayama, and if possible sleep more. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel more sleepy than usual at seasonal cusps. This is our body’s wisdom showing us the way, and if we just listen, we can sail through. In any case if we fall sick, we are forced to pull the brakes, so is it not better to slow down before that, and prevent from falling sick? If we just listen to the body, we’ll realise it’s not asking for much. A 20 minute power nap, or just a half an hour extra in the night will in fact work wonders.

2. Eat light. This basically translates to eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, especially seasonal ones. These take up less energy to digest, and energise the body to be able to adapt to change. If you are wary of eating raw during this season, your vegetables could be steamed or lightly cooked, made into broths and nourishing soups as well! No matter which form you choose to have them in, they will benefit your immune system.

(Check out my blog post on five leafy greens you must try this monsoon)

3. Cleanse the system.  Our body uses the maximum energy to digest food, and if we give it a break from that by fasting, we can actually free up that energy for many other useful functions.

One can look at intermittent fasting or a day long dry/water fasting, ending the day with a light meal.

4. Consume anti bacterial foods. Some really common anti bacterials that already exist in our diet are ginger, turmeric, onion and garlic. Add these in generous quantities. A great immunity booster shot that you can have each morning is drinking a shot of Ginger -Turmeric Tea. Boil turmeric powder and fresh ginger in water, add jaggery syrup to it and your shot is ready.

Here are some immunity boosting recipes: Immunity Boosting PickleGolden Immunity Booster

5. Be active. I know this might sound contrary to point one, but it is not. Let me explain. Physical activity is a need of the human body. It improves circulations, helps build immunity, balances our hormones and benefits in too many ways which we cannot even fathom. We can slow down (in terms of the number of activities or how much we are packing it in through the day, maybe end our day earlier) but still be active by moving around during the day, and continuing whatever fitness regimen we are following.

That said, nourishment takes place over a period of time and immunity cannot be built overnight. This is an exercise that needs to take place throughout the year, along with changes in lifestyle that are more in rhythm with nature. Living this way, you will find that season change affects you lesser and lesser.

I’d love to hear how you are coping with season change and what you do to boost your immunity. Write in to me at bhavna@healthnut.in. 

Looking for some help with a holistic plan to help you up your immunity? Write to me at bhavna@healthnut.in to schedule a 15 min FREE call to assess how my health coaching can help you. 

Salads that replace summer Lunches

I just find that the idea of lunch in summer to be unappetizing! And there’s a good reason why not just me, but many don’t feel up to eating Roti, sabzi and dal kind of food in the summer.

The first I figured is that we are receiving a lot of more of direct sun energy in the summer. Sun energy being the most primary and original energy source satiates us without us even realizing.

I first noticed this on a trip to the Himalayas, while staying with a group of organic farmers. These farmers would leave their home early in the morning to work in the field, do manual labour for hours before they got home and put even a morsel of food in their mouths. They would not even feel hungry. Where were they getting so much energy from? It had got to be energy from the summer sun that they were soaking in through their skin.

Of course summer is also a time when our bodies are willing to work out the most. In prehistoric times, people were busy gathering food for the lean periods in summer. They would also indulge in as much of the fresh available food (fruits, vegetables, sprouts, green leafies), which would give them the ready energy to gather more. Scientists believe that though times have changed, our bodies have not. Though we have all varieties of foods available to us year round, and we definitely have no need to gather, we still crave and relish light fresh food in the summer. This is what gave me the idea to come up with meal ideas that I could enjoy for summer lunches. I ended up creating Meal Replacer Salads, full of fresh goodness. Below are just some of the elements to go if you would like to create your own salads meal that will be renergising, flavorful, balanced and filling 🙂

Base – pick your leafy greens, lots of them. Good to rotate them on a weekly basis, and have a variety to get an entire gamut of nutrients. Micro greens (if available)are a super idea too!

High water content vegetables – cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers are a must in a summer salad. They are full of live enzymes and keep you hydrated as well as make you full.

Sprouts in the summer are a great addition. They are again full of live enzymes and simple amino acids, super satiating and energizing. Lentils, grains, seeds, nuts, can all be sprouted.

Do you think fats make you fat ? Not the healthy variety like raw nuts and seeds, just a handful. They can be thrown in, sprinkled on top or soaked and ground to make lovely dressings. Also they can be activated by soaking overnight and then using. In coastal areas, coconut is amazing to add too.

The filler – these we cannot do without, as they are what will give our tummy the filling feeling and keep us going for more than just an hour. The fillers can be starchy vegetables like potato and sweet potato, carrots, avacado or some whole millets like foxtail or quinoa.

And finally, whats a salad without a good flavor ? I am a big fan of natural flavour enhancers like lemon, herbs like parsley and celery, ginger, tamarind, as opposed to preserved bottled dressings. Look around your kitchen and you’ll find a world out there.

The last secret ingredient ? A sweet enhancer like fruit/ dry fruit pieces or jaggery can take your salad to another level.

So go ahead, experiment, try out some new stuff. Share your ideas. Look out for upcoming recipes on the Healthnut Recipe Blog 🙂 Happy Summer Lunches! 11145072_836753656404050_1041101988193534961_n

Post New Year System Reboot :)

I was on a week long holiday to Delhi and Ranthambore over the turn of the year! A complete switch off from work, a break from the routine, family time and connecting with nature, and wildlife. It was a complete mental reboot!

However being in Delhi at the peak of winter, with family obviously led to major food indulgences aka fried, spicy, processed foods, and gluten overdose ( thankfully stayed off dairy and alcohol). As we crossed over to Rajasthan for into the wild, a generous dose of spice and chilly were automatically added to this list ! It was a week of break for me – but an overload time for my stomach and it showed all the symptoms.

So once back, I knew I needed to give my system a restorative break or reboot. So here’s what I did.

I started right on the morning flight back to Mumbai. I skipped the in-flight breakfast completely and opted instead for a few bowls of cut fruit.

Back at home, through the rest of the day I alternated between 2 glasses of green juice, 2 fruit smoothies ( strawberries, pineapples, bananas and dates),  apples, and a couple of cups of warm fresh herb infusion.

The juices cleansed, the smoothies gave energy, and the herb tea was soothing. They all alkalized my system in a jiffy!

I felt a little heaviness in the head for some time, and this could be because of sudden change in food regimen, but the fruit and smoothies helped counter that and also helped me feel full . How heavenly my stomach felt in less than a day. It was unbelievable 🙂

I ended the day with some lovely home cooked dinner with a friend – a salad, a lightly cooked coconut based vegetable curry and brown rice. We also had vegan raw brownie for dessert 🙂

There’s been no time to continue this way ( though I would have loved to), as I dived head long into work on Monday. So I did the next best thing. I incorporated a few changes in my daily diet for the week. I increased my fruit intake in the morning, my intake of vegetable juice in the day and a vegetable soup in the evening before dinner. These additions will ensure I get more fruit and vegetable in, than I ordinarily do. Little tweeking – but something that will go a long way to restore balance. Whats more, small changes over a period of time, create a big difference, and build not just healthy habits , but health, vitality, and immunity 🙂

When it comes to changing habits for better health, I’ve always seen – the bigger the scale, the quicker you fail. One small step is all we need to take. Decide on what that step is. Do it everyday. Make it sing. Declare victory. Move to the next step. Build good health 🙂 Resolve this year!

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mental reboot – feeding tiger birds at Ranthambore national park

Chikoo smoothie

system reboot – fruit only smoothies 🙂

Five leafy greens you absolutely must try this Monsoon!

I love leafy greens. And why not. Leafy greens are the most nutrient dense food per calorie on the planet. They are alkaline and loaded with minerals (such as calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium etc.) and protein which are present in their bio available to our body. This means all these are very easily absorbed in our body.  Be it in juice, chutney, in a salad or sabzi, we have to find a way to get at least 3-4 cups of greens in every day.

Consuming leafy greens during the monsoons however, could be a scary idea since we hear the greens get dirty and contaminated, and are prone to having a lot of germs and bacteria on them. Besides, a lot of our staple leafy greens like spinach and methi are too delicate to survive the torrential Indian monsoon. If grown naturally, they just rot and die (all organic farmers confirm this). 

Beware the spinach and fenugreek (which are actually winter greens) that you might be seeing at your sabzi walas these days. They are probably  force grown off season with a heavy doze of fertilisers pumped in to make them survive. I don’t like the sound of this at all!

Over the years I have investigated if there are really any leafy greens worth having during the monsoon or not. I really believe, nature knows best. If nature does not provide them during the monsoon, then there’s probably no need for us to have them either.

Over the years, I have been pleasantly surprised with the varieties of greens I have found at farmer’s markets and ‘gouti’ (local) vegetable vendors☺

These monsoon greens with their lovely flavours, packed with immunity building minerals, we can totally have so much fun experimenting with. The fact that they survive the monsoon fury, means they really are resilient and therefore transfer the same qualities to us too! After all ‘we are what we eat’ right ?

I am listing my 6 top greens (along with ways to use them) this monsoon.

1. Sorrel, also known as pitwa in Hindi, ambadi in Marathi and gongura in Telagu– sour, tangy and totally versatile. Can be used to flavour salads, ground into a chutney with a bit of garlic thrown in, can be cooked as a simple sabzi and can even be juiced along with cucumber and long gourd ☺ A little handful can even go into your green smoothie! 

(Try out some delicious Green Smoothie recipes here)

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2. Cow pea leaf, locally known as Chawli Patta, or ‘hari maat’ is abundantly and easily available. This is lovely to use in salads, lightly saute and sprinkle on chillas (savory pancakes) or dal. Last resort – cook it. Use grated coconut or peanuts for extra crunch.

3. Poi ( Malabar spinach ) is actually a creeper and has these fleshy green leaves and stems. This is popular in the south and East (Bengal). It can be cooked as saag and combined with a variety of gourds (also available during monsoon) or starches, or simply added to dals.

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4. Red Amaranth, also known locally as ‘lal maat’ or ‘lal bhaaji’ though technically not green, is a reddish leaf, now available through the year, but is originally grown during monsoon. It is really high in calcium and iron and great to juice, to sprinkle on salads or cook lightly as a sabzi !

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5. Colocasia, popularly known as Arbi patta springs up bang in the middle of the monsoon. The Gujratis make a delicious steamed snack called patra with it, while the pahadis often use it to make a saag gravy. An absolute must have during the monsoon.

Giant cocolassia leaves currently growing in my kitchen garden

(Also check out healthy no oil Patod recipe here)

If you cannot find these or run out of these greens, other perennial greens that you can add to up your greens quotient are curry or moringa leaves in the form of chutney or in smoothies. These leaves grow way above the ground, and are sure to be a safe bet during the monsoon!

Tip off : – Make a trip to your local farmer’s market and check out  what the farmers are bringing in.  Chat with them about how to use it, and do share how you found using leafy greens during the monsoon! 

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I can still run :)))

I recently participated in the Running and Living 5 kilo metre run. I was able to complete the run quite comfortably, and in fact I was one of the first in the women’s category to complete it. I was thrilled ! You might ask what the big deal about completing a 5 km run is. After all, people do a lot more all the time. But considering I have not done any running or major cardio vascular exercise in the last 5 years, doing this with such ease and comfort was a pleasant surprise.

In the last 3 years, one of the biggest shifts I have made is in my diet – moving to a whole foods plant based diet. This basically means I have been off the commonly known proteins such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs, paneer etc. and instead replenished with a whole lot of healthy plant based protein like sprouts, leafy greens, beans, whole pulses and grains like amaranth. Approximately 50% of my diet is raw, which works beautifully in the tropical Mumbai climate.

This way of eating had a miraculous effect on my health. I rid myself of many chronic acidity and sinus, low blood pressure and general weakness in the process. It has supported my near consistent yoga practice too. Although weight was never my concern, I have lost a few kilos and am now more slender and toned up. So far so good, however what I now wanted to test was whether this way of eating had the capacity to support active and energy expending sport like running. Completing the 5 km with such ease, that too without any practice once again convinced me that this works!

More surprises lay in store as the day progressed.

During my growing up years, running was a part of life. However we would plan 5 km runs only on Sundays, so that we could relax the whole day after the morning run. Even at the time I ran the first Mumbai marathon (Standard chartered) more than a decade ago, I needed the rest of the day to recover from the exhaustion of the run.

But to my surprise I felt no exhaustion after this run. I went in for a hearty south Indian breakfast with friends, lazed around with the newspaper for an hour or so at home and then went about the rest of the day pretty actively, like any other.

This reminded me of something a dear friend and long time marathon runner Venkatraman Pichumani had shared with me a few years ago. Pichumani has been running marathons for the longest time. He turned to a plant based diet a few years ago. I asked him what difference he felt in his running and fitness after the change in diet, since he was so fit anyway. His reply was that the difference was not so much in the running as it was in his recovery. Plant based foods made his body environment alkaline and further aided his quick rejuvenation. Proteins have never been a problem, since there are a super range of plant based proteins that take up less energy to digest and give off more life energy. He could now go running long distances in the morning, and go about the rest of the day just like any other non running day.  Pichumani is in his 60s !!!

I had found his experience incredible to hear. But experiencing it first hand was even more incredible!

Running and Living pic

Nature’s perfect antibacterial and how to make them work for you!!!

I remember as a child if I ever got hurt, the first aid my mother ran to was her kitchen masala box! I was made to gulp down a spoonful of haldi powder (turmeric) with a cup of milk or water. Turmeric paste was even applied to wounds to keep bacteria away. And it worked!

Perhaps because we carry the heritage of the ancient science of ayurveda, most Indians are already aware of the most potent antibacterial given to us by nature. These are our every day foods like – Onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger.

They are all found under the ground, and survive well there amidst millions of microbes and bacteria in the soil, simply because the bacteria are repulsed by them and want to save their life, so they keep away. They have a strong distinct smell and pungent flavor which one cannot take too much of. I don’t know of any dish in our cuisine that has more than a dash of ginger, or a dash of garlic, or a pinch of turmeric. If more is added, we just will not be able to relish it anymore.

Try Immunity Boosting Pickle and Golden Immunity Booster !

What we need to understand is that there is a reason why nature has given these properties to these antibacterials. It is because we need them only in measured doses to keep us healthy. A little bit of these peppering our food and system throughout the year is good to keep us going and protected.

Why is too much bad ?

Firstly, humans and bacteria have a love hate relationship. We have millions of friendly bacteria within our body, especially our digestive track in our mouth, in our intestines, that do some great things for us like breaking down our food. The gut micro flora (basically the good bacteria in our intestines) exists in a certain number, which a healthy body maintains.

A measured dose of antibacterial kills the bad bacteria within, however an overdose could destroy even the good bacteria. This we don’t want right ?

So the best way to maintain the balance is to include all of these in small amounts all through the year.

The only exception to this rule is when we are severely ill. At this time the number of bad bacteria in our body have gone up, and we can bring them down by having concentrated doses. Juice of onion works wonderfully in bringing viral fevers down. Juice of ginger works wonderfully to soothe inflammation and reduce pain.

Of course after we recover we should work on building the good bacteria colonies by taking probiotics (contained in fermented foods, kimchi, kombucha, coconut kefir etc. – but more on these later).

Try  Carrot and Beetroot Kanji recipe here !

Nature always gives us what we need and in the form that is best for us. We can never really run out of these super antibacterials because they all have a long shelf life. Onions and garlic can stay for months. Ginger and turmeric dries up instead of rotting, and can still be used whenever required. Of course we may not realize this in this age of abundance when everything is anyway made available to us off the shelf, but even if it were not, it is almost like nature has endowed these foods with the perfect qualities just in order to insure us 🙂

Love Fats ? It’s not your fault !!!

A cousin of mine was on a 6000km long road trip, meeting chefs all over India for a food based website he is soon launching. He shared a thought provoking trade secret that not one, but many chefs shared with him, and that is  ‘if you’re not sure of the taste of the dish, add fat to it.’

Explains why so much of the restaurant food is full of fat!!! But also makes me wonder, are all these chefs not sure of themselves?

Whatever be the case, fact remains – We love fat! We simply cannot keep our hands away from all the fried, cheesy, buttery stuff  if it happens to be around us. A popular potato crisps jingle is so true to the times ‘ No one can eat just one.’

Do you feel guilty about it ? Well, you need not, because its not your fault ! You are built to love fat !

Dr. Christiane Northup, one of America’s leading health and wellness experts says,  “You are programmed to put on fat, whenever there is food available. But now there is a lot of food available, but it’s the wrong kind.’

To understand, we need to rewind a 12,000 years ago; to the time when humans were hunter gatherers. They basically lived off gathering fruits, berries and vegetables, and when these were not available, they hunted to survive. This was a time of extreme uncertainty,  no one knew where his next meal was coming from. Periods of plenty were interspersed with periods of no food. Spring could bring with it bounty, followed by a harsh winter, when there was absolutely nothing for months at end. Refrigerators, preservation and cold storage were still thousands of years away, and hence the body itself became like one, storing food in the form of FAT, to help the body survive when nothing would be available. Storing fat is our body’s survival mechanism, and remains to this day.

The problem now is that we now live in an endless period of bounty. If you are sitting and reading this, and excess fat happens to be your concern, you definitely belong to that percentage of the world’s population, for whom droughts and winters of food do not exist. You are pretty sure not just of where your next meal is coming from, but also where your next month’s and next years meals are coming from.

Our lives have evolved from the active hunter gatherers to sitting on the desk, all day species, but our bodies are yet to catch up.

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The other problem is that we are having fats which are so far from their natural form, which are so highly processed in ways that make them completely harmful for us. And hence we have to deal with things like obesity, cholesterol or heart disease that are commonly attributed to excess of fat, issues the hunter gatherer never had to bother about.

So the question that arises is – should we have fats or should we not ?

Just as a machine needs to be oiled to run smoothly, we need to be oiled too 😉  to function smoothly. Our Brain is nearly 60 % fats. Fatty acids from fats are what the brain uses to create the specialized cells that allow you to think and feel. Fats help build cell membranes and the sheaths surrounding nerves. They are vital to blood clotting, muscle contraction and relaxation, and inflammation.

The question then (which is on everyone’s mind ) is what is good fat and what is bad fat.

I found a really good article from Harvard Med School that explains good fats and bad fats in a simple clear manner.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/Truth-about-fats.shtml

As for me, I love the good old fats, the way nature gave them. Nuts and seeds in their whole, natural and untampered form. The kind of processing I do is blend them into butters, whip up sauces and dips with them, sprinkle them on salads and cereal.

Make your own Nut/ Seed Butter

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Health experts will tell you – that we simply cannot beat nature. It provides fat along with fibre, it makes us full faster, hence we never really can go overboard on it. With any kind of processed fat ( which is an extract, with all fibre stripped off)  there’s no knowing, till the stomach feels heavy much after we finished eating.

A wellness expert who loved cashew nuts decided to see how much cashew nuts she could have. She started with 250 grams.  Then ate more, and more, till she was nearly a kilo of cashews down. That was it. She was so full, that she was done with cashews for the next 10 years! Her mind and body just said no, when cashews came in front of her.

So here’s to all the nuts in the world.. the healthiest and yummiest fat in the world  that will rarely make us fat 🙂

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home made peanut butter

Food infused with a prayer for good health…

As we sit down at our dinner table, how many of us typically think about where the food we eat is coming from, who is growing it, with what mind and intention? Does any of this make any difference to the food, and more importantly – to our health ?

A couple of years ago, I witnessed a theatre workshop at a school in Delhi. It started with some typical breaking the ice exercises. The kids were asked what they ate for breakfast. Varied answers – bread – butter, milk, parantha – jam, cereal, biscuits, cornflakes. The conductor’s next question was

‘So what is a parantha made of?’

‘Its made of atta.’

‘And what is atta made of ?’

‘umm.. errr.. atta comes from the supermarket..’

‘What is cornflakes made of ?’

‘they are made of atta.’

Cornflakes is made of atta ! Bizarre is how it gets. The school here didn’t seem too far from the elementary school in West Virginia of Jamie Oliver’s Food revolution.

My thoughts go back to my boarding school days in Dehradun. Anyone would vouch that meal times were undisputedly the most awaited, and food, a single point agenda on everyone’s mind. This was a school that didn’t allow us to stock any kind of food or cash, and anything packaged (chocolates, biscuits, chips etc.) we could buy from the tuck shop that opened twice a week for an hour only.

The entire school would wait at their dining seats in a single dining hall, filled with endless rows of dining tables, in pin-drop silence. The schoolie (head girl) would say the grace ‘Thank you God for everything” and almost instantly the silence would convert into a deafening sound of cutlery clanking mixed with the chatter of the 450 schools girls. And it didn’t matter whether it was the kadi chawal Tuesday or the shahi paneer/butter chicken Thursday, the eagerness for the food was the same each meal.

The grace I guess was the last moment of patience between us and the food, a moment created for us hungry souls to feel the good fortune in what awaited us.

This one moment of silence, of patience, of prayer, probably even went a long in making the food more delectable ever.

As the rain came to a halt at the farm, off we were with buckets of aloe veras to plant, on a hillside near the water pump, as aloe needs a considerable amount of water to grow healthy.

But what it needs even more, says Kalyani, as she teaches us to plant them into the soil, is prayer. Prayer that the plant grows into the healthiest plant, and it gives the maximum health and benefit to the person who uses it. And this is how each and every sapling and seed is planted on this farm.

What a thought.. I was blown with this idea !

Now imagine, if what we eat every day, has an embedded prayer in it, for our health… I can only imagine what power one such meal could have – if only we give it its due, take a moment to reflect on where our food is coming from, the soil it grew on, the person who sowed it, nurtured it over a few months, and toiled out in the open, in the heat, in the rain, to reach this to our dinner table.