Nov 17, 2017

Best sources of Fibre

Over the last decade, oats has gained immense popularity by riding on the “high fibre” bandwagon. Many of us have switched to oats for our morning breakfast. It has also been pitched as a food for the diabetic. Though we may not like the taste of it, we ended up making the switch because of the “fear” created by clever marketing. Apart from oats in the form of porridge/kanji, we started incorporating it in our usual idlis, dosas, chillas, dhoklas etc.

Fibre is critical in our diet to flush out toxins and to keep our digestive system clean. A fibre-rich diet gives satiety, keeps our tummy full for a long time, slows down the release of glucose, eases bowel movement and prevents constipation. The recommended total dietary fibre intake is around 25 - 30 gms per day. 

Many of us believe that our regular Indian cuisine is devoid of fibre and we had to rely on oats to meet the requirement. Is that true?  

Ever since we started 
- embracing store-bought bread for toast and sandwiches, 
- bakery products such as cupcakes, puffs and pastries, 
- street food in the form of samosas, noodles, bhaturas, pav bhaji and parotas, 
- stocking up on different varieties of biscuits and cookies to dip in our chai, 
our intake of refined flour / maida has increased tremendously. Refined flour is devoid of any fibre or nutrients.

The same story happened ever since we started eating fully polished white rice and basmati rice for our meals. These eating habits of the past 20-30 years is what resulted in low fibre intake and the repercussions which along with sedentary lifestyle led to India becoming the diabetes capital of the world. 

Is it possible to get our 25-30 gms of fibre from our regular Indian diet? Most definitely, we can.

Here’s the list of fibre-rich foods compiled from IFCT 2017:

1) If you haven’t started to include millets, it is the right time now. High in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Provides satiety through very small quantities, unlike store-bought atta or white rice. A gentleman once told me in my food stall when my menu had foxtail millet idlis, “I don’t know if I’ll like millets or not”. I so wanted to respond to him, “now how would you know that if you haven’t tried yet?”. Remove your mental blocks towards millets. If you are ready to try the imported oats and the super expensive quinoa, you can definitely try the local millets too.

2) The lentils and pulses we use in Indian cooking are high in fibre. A bowl of rajma along with barnyard millet will give you enough fibre for a meal.

3) Most of the traditional South Indian dishes use a few sprigs of curry leaves. It not only imparts flavour but has numerous health benefits - high in calcium, iron and fibre. These benefits can be realized ONLY if we chew those leaves.

4) “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” - I’m not sure if this proverb is true anymore, given the amount of wax and shine on the apples. Local fruits such as sapota/chikkoo, gooseberry/amla, custard apple/sitaphal and guava are nutritionally much superior and give you adequate fibre.

5) We don’t need expensive lettuce, zucchini and broccoli to stay fit. Our country vegetables such as broad beans (avarakkai), raw jackfruit, drumstick and cluster beans (kothavarangai) are rich in fibre, along with other vitamins and minerals.

6) When people with diabetes are asked to include fenugreek/methi seeds in their diet, it is mainly because of its high fibre. Traditional South Indian recipes such as sambhar or morekuzhambu call for a tsp of methi seeds as part of tadka. Vendhaya Kuzhambu, vendhaya dosai and vendhaya kali are almost forgotten recipes, that can help us to include methi seeds on a regular basis.

7) Most of the ingredients used in traditional Indian cuisine such as cumin seeds, ajwain/omum, pepper, sesame seeds, mustard etc are rich in fibre. It is INSANE to run after packaged foods and supplements to increase fibre intake, when our Indian cuisine includes food combinations and recipes that provide the required nutrients.

The key influencing factor behind the increased adoption of oats is the “high fibre” promise. To validate the authenticity of this claim, I checked out couple of popular oats brands.  
Quaker Oats - A single serving of 40 gm has ONLY 4 gm of Total Dietary Fibre
Saffola Oats - A single serving of 35 gm has ONLY 3.5 gm of Total Dietary Fibre

A single guava will give me more fibre (along with Vitamin C) than these brands of oats.  

It is appalling to see how we are being fooled by the brands and their advertisements. Eating a bowl of oats every morning for breakfast WILL NOT solve all your health issues. 

I'd suggest the following four steps towards better health:
1) Cut down on all maida based products completely. Stop buying bread and biscuits on a regular basis.
2) If you eat rice or wheat rotis, reduce the portion size and include more dal and veggies
3) Include millets atleast 2-3 times a week. There are so many varieties available. If one of them doesn’t agree or you don’t like the taste of it, try a different one.
4) Embrace local fruits and vegetables. The custard apples from the roadside cart vendor are more beneficial to our health than the imported wax-coated Washington apples from fancy Nature’s Basket.

Nov 13, 2017

Master List of Analysis of packaged / junk foods

Over the past few months, I have shared my analysis of various packaged/junk/ready-to-eat foods - their ingredients, nutrition information, preservatives, false promises and health claims. Thanks for the positive response and words of encouragement.

This post is a compilation of all such previous posts put together, so it is easily accessible for anyone new to my blog. I'll keep this list updated as I write more about new product launches in the near future.

Ready-to-eat desserts and snacks:
Flavored Yoghurt
Brown Bread
Jams, Cheese and Spreads
Digestive Biscuits
Kelloggs Chocos 
Kinder Joy
Lotte Choco-Pie
Oreo Cream Biscuits

Health drinks:
Pediasure and Horlicks Growth Plus
Quaker Oats Milk 

Packaged Juices:
Paper Boat Fruit Beverages
Tropicana Fruit & Vegetable Juice

Easy-to-cook foods:
Saffola Masala Oats
Maggi Nutri-licious Oats Noodles
McCain Frozen Snacks 
Knorr Soups
Nestle Ceregrow

Pantry Non-Essentials:
Iodised Table Salt
Olive Oil
Kissan Tomato Ketchup 
Saffola Aura Oil 

Diabetes focused products:
Fortune Vivo Diabetes Care Oil
Aashirwaad Sugar Release Control Atta

Nov 10, 2017

Entertainment, at what cost?

 Early this year, I got hooked onto the series “the good wife” on Amazon Prime. It was crazy - more like an addiction. I finished the entire 7 seasons in around 45 days. Whenever I got little time, I would watch an episode. Sometimes, I would put my daughter to sleep and stay back late night to watch 2-3 episodes. No doubt, it was an excellent series, atleast for the first 5 seasons. The series had many cliff-hangers that persuade you to proceed to the next episode effortlessly. But at the end of it, I felt so stupid for wasting too much time and sacrificing my precious sleep. Each episode is around 45 minutes. Each season had around 22 episodes. So for 7 seasons, the total time I had spent is around 6930 minutes or 116 hours. 

This experience made me realize the power of such addictive series. It is easy to argue that one should have self-control and not over-indulge. But these series are designed to keep you hooked. No-ads is an added advantage.

I don’t have a Netflix subscription yet. Though I know there are some interesting documentaries and movies in Netflix, I cannot let technology invade my sleep hours. 

The fact that Netflix founder openly stating “sleep is our competition”, it is imperative that we are conscious of the time we spend on such addictive series. New terms like “binge-watching” and “binge-racing” are targeting our time, attention and our minds.

This quote by Reed Hastings is a wake-up call for all of us:
“but think about if you didn’t watch Netflix last night: What did you do? There’s such a broad range of things that you did to relax and unwind, hang out, and connect–and we compete with all of that.” 
 What are those things we did earlier to relax and unwind?
- Sleep on time
- Read a book
- Play with kids
- Write a page in our journal or diary
- Spend time with family
- Go for a post-dinner walk with spouse
- Watch Masterchef Australia ;-)
- Plan for the next day

Now, many of us settle down with dinner plates in front of Netflix after we reach home.

I haven’t watched “Game of Thrones”, “Stranger things” or other popular series. So I don’t know about the addictive nature of their story plot. It is fine to seek such entertainment, as long as we are conscious of the time we spend and not allow such series come in the way of the numerous other things we could do. 

Good sleep is one of the most essential factors for good health and well-being. Nothing is worth sacrificing your sleep - be it work or entertainment. 

The battle for attention is going on and only the strong willed would survive. 

Nov 9, 2017

Book Review: Murder in Paharganj by Kulpreet Yadav

 The cold, gloomy weather in Bangalore provides the perfect reason to cuddle up inside a blanket, with a hot cup of masala chai and a page-turner mystery novel for company. Over the last couple of days, I finished reading this interesting thriller - Kulpreet Yadav’s Murder in Paharganj

I love to watch murder mystery movies that stay focused on the main plot without ANY distractions. Usually, the hero who investigates such crimes would have a sub-plot, that at times becomes so dragging and takes the interest away from the main plot. Not to forget the totally unnecessary songs - be it the romance angle between the hero and the heroine OR an item-number with skin show. So irritating to sit through such movies, isn’t it?

Murder mystery stories should keep you hooked for the entire duration of the movie, with suspense and clues for the audience to keep guessing. A recent good mystery movie I enjoyed watching was “Dhruvangal Padhinaaru”.

The expectation holds true for books as well. Thankfully, the author of “Murder in Paharganj” focused completely on the core plot, without any major deviations. There weren’t too many elaborate subplots that could have potentially expanded - be it the estranged relationship between Vicks and his father or that of Vicks and his girlfriend Tonya.

Right from the start, the story moves at a brilliant pace. I wouldn’t call this a murder “mystery", as the killer is revealed in the first few pages. The story is more like a cat-and-mouse chase between Vicks and the killer, spanning various cities. The chase keeps you on the edge of your seat, especially during a couple of unexpected moments when Vicks get attacked by the killer. 

Towards the end, the story fell a little bit flat and there weren’t many explanations given for the turn of the events. Maybe, the author assumed that the reader would be able to predict the sequence of events that led to the closure of the case. Though Vicks is a likable character, I wished that his skills were more well-defined - what is so unique about his investigation? How does he connect the dots? I so wished that Vicks would be the one who intercepts the code that was being sent to Sherry. More on the lines of Robert Langdon ;-)

Locating the killer in a big city like Bangkok seemed too easy. A better handling of the search would have made it more intriguing. 

Overall, it was an interesting, entertaining read, except for the end.

P.S. The book was sent to me by Flipkart as part of their "bloggers initiative". The review is my honest and unbiased feedback on the book.

Nov 6, 2017

Bonding over books

It was a lethargic Monday afternoon - the weather Gods haven’t decided whether it’s gonna be a rainy, gloomy day OR a bright, sunny day yet. My apartment was so cold that I couldn’t keep my feet on the floor. I nicely tucked myself inside a warm comforter, with my daughter D next to me taking a NAP…yes, you read that right. My 6-year old took an afternoon nap after so many months. The kitty cat was cuddled inside a blanket in the adjacent room.

Slowly, the clouds decided to give some space for the sun and the shiny rays started brightening my home. Our sunshine-loving cat became aware of this sudden change, that she wanted me to let her out to the balcony, so she could stretch her legs and continue her nap. D woke up from her nap and wanted idlis for lunch. We are a idli-crazy family and we don’t mind eating them ANYTIME during the day. Thankfully, I had some batter and quickly made a plate of mini idlis for her and a piping hot cup of chai for me. 

While she was eating her idlis, I was holding my hands along the sides of the hot cup to get some much needed warmth. Drinking tea is a sensorial experience, not just for its taste but for all the senses. Only a tea lover would get what I’m trying to say! :-) We both were quiet, no devices or TV to distract us - glancing through the balcony mesh door, admiring the sunshine and taking in the sounds of birds, car honking and the screeches from a drilling machine somewhere.

After finishing my chai, I opened the murder mystery thriller I’m currently reading - “Murder in Paharganj”. 

D slowly enquired, “What are you reading? Tell me the story”
“It’s a scary story, not for children”, I replied.
“No, I won’t feel scared. Tell me the story”, she insisted.

As I narrated a little bit of the story, she listened keenly. 
“Amma, read the story”, she ordered.
I continued reading in my mind. 
“No amma, you have to read like this”, she picked up the book and started reading a line from the page I was reading.

“His left hand lifted, trying to stop the bleeding; the pistol fell from the other hand as a result of shock and pain……”. 

I panicked and grabbed the book from her hand. 

“That’s enough, baby. This story is not for you”, I responded.  
“Ok, then I will pick up Turtles all the way down. You already finished it right?”

This little one reads comfortably these days and now wants to advance into my collection of books. :-)

This experience made me realize how much we bond over books. Our home is filled with books - her collection of Magic Pot Magazine subscriptions, Panchatantra, Aesop Fables etc scattered all over the rooms. We read every night before going to bed. She loves to lie down on my lap and listen to stories. Ever since she started reading on her own, she insists that I listen to her and not read my books during bedtime. She keenly observes the books I read - the title, the cover image, pictures (if any) and the phrases I underline. 

Little did I knew that I would find a good friend in my daughter, sharing common interests - be it our love for cooking, reading or even our craze for SRK movies! ;-)

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