Jan 2, 2018

Plant-based Sources of Macro and Micro-nutrients

I believe in eating balanced, wholesome meals. I don't pick a certain ingredient, just because it is low in carbs, high in protein, high in calcium etc.  A typical Indian vegan meal is complete, with all the essential macro and micro-nutrients. But off late, the nutrition discussion topics have shifted to specific nutrients, due to which the packaged food industry is thriving with the help of fortified vitamins and tags like #lowfat, #highprotein, #highcalcium etc.

Plant-based sources have all the nutrients that we need and we don't need to look elsewhere to get our vitamins and minerals. This project of understanding various nutrients is my sincere attempt to put an end to the expensive imports, packaged food claims and fad diets that tend to put certain nutrients on a high pedestal and bring down others.

Here's a compilation of the list of plant-based sources of various macro and micro-nutrients. Will keep this list updated as I add more.




Plant based sources of zinc

Zinc is one of the important minerals required by the human body. It is required for several physiological processes, responsible for growth and maintenance of the body and helps in the efficient functioning of our immune system. It is usually prescribed as a supplement to young kids who frequently suffer from cold, cough and ear infections. It is also prescribed to people suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, ADHD and asthma. 

The typical symptoms of zinc deficiency include frequent colds, coughs, hair fall, dry skin, loss of appetite and slow wound healing.

Zinc is an “essential trace element” and is required in very small amounts. The recommended dietary allowance for zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women per day

For children,
1-3 years => 3 mg
4-8 years => 5 mg
9-13 years => 8 mg
Here’s a list of plant-based sources of zinc I have compiled from IFCT-2017 tables.

1) Most of the lentils that are commonly used in Indian cuisine have adequate amounts of zinc. When taken with cereals like wheat, bajra and ragi, it is possible to meet the daily requirement.
2) Although fruits and vegetables don’t have enough zinc, the green leafy ones such as amaranth, mint and curry leaves provide sufficient quantity of zinc, along with various other vitamins and minerals.
3) The common spices used in Indian cooking such as ajwain, cumin, coriander and fenugreek seeds are high in zinc. It is better to use fresh, whole spices rather than store-bought spice powders. Many of us have switched to plain boiled vegetables without any spices. This is due to the wrong belief that spice powders increase acidity. Excess use of red chillies could be the issue here and it doesn’t make sense to avoid the other spices that possess healing properties. 
4) Sesame seeds / Gingelly seeds top the list for zinc as well (along with calcium and iron). Toasted sesame seeds can be added to vegetables, parathas and salads. My favourite way to eat sesame seeds is of course, the molagapodi ;-) Cashews and flaxseeds are also rich in zinc and can be easily incorporated into our daily diet.


Dec 31, 2017

2017 in review

Yet another year is coming to an end. Around the same time last year, I was winding up my last-day formalities with Flipkart. I didn’t have a plan for 2017. I decided to just let time take its course and go with my intuition. I wasn’t sure about getting back to work. Though I knew I wanted independent part-time sort of opportunities, I didn’t put enough effort to seek them. I was clear about one criteria though - I wanted those 3-4 hours that I have for myself to do meaningful work. 

That goal translated into more activity in my blog. The number of blogposts I wrote this year is the highest in my blogging journey of the last 13 years. Except for a few random posts and book reviews, the majority of them were around food and nutrition. I especially enjoyed the process of writing about different packaged foods, their ingredients and nutritional information. Supermarket visits became more interesting - looking for new products, clicking pictures in various angles and then rushing home to write about the same. Words flowed very easily when written with passion and a genuine need to share. 

Change begins at home - my husband who used to eat a lot more packaged foods has cut down tremendously after reading my blogposts. My daughter D is much more cooperative when I tell her not to eat a specific junk food. A few of my close friends have stopped buying packaged foods. My in-laws have switched to hand-pounded rice and millets and their sugar levels are normal. I may not have earned as much money this year like the previous years, but I’m so grateful for these tiny ripples I’ve been able to create in an area I’m passionate about. Gives me so much satisfaction and happiness. And the journey has just begun.

Apart from writing, managed to read quite a number of books this year.

2. Appa ennum villain by Bharathi Baskar
3. Power of habit by Charles Duhigg
4. Mary Kom autobiography
5. Deep work by Cal Newport
6. Uyir Pizhai by Dr. Sivaraman
7. Udal nalam kaakum iyarkai maruthuvam by R.Vasudevan
8. Idapaagam by Senthamizhan (short book)
9. Looking for the rainbow by Ruskin Bond
10. When Dimple met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
11. Indian Super Foods by Rujuta Diwekar
12. CV Raman - the scientist extraordinary by Dilip M Salvi (short book)
14. What Kitty did by Trisha Bora
15. Oor: Meendu selludhal by Senthamizhan
16. A Book of Simple living by Ruskin Bond
17. Turtles all the way down by John Green
18. Murder in Paharganj by Kurdeep
19. Pregnancy Notes by Rujuta Diwekar
20. A house for Mr.Misra by Jaishree Misra  

And there are around 10-12 books that are in different stages of completion. 

One of the most memorable trips happened this year - a 2 week trip to my brother’s home in Dubai. It was great to spend time with my brother, my SIL and my handsome 2.5 year old nephew. D had so much fun during this trip that she kept saying she wanted to go to Dubai for like 6 months after we returned ;-)

We also did two short trips to Mysore and Thanjavur this year. One of my wishes to see the majestic Brihadeeswara temple came true. 

Morning Yoga sessions continued this year too. Except for a few short breaks, I have been consistent at it throughout the year. Healthy eating and cooking continued with conscious effort this year too. Bid goodbye to refined oils and switched to cold-pressed oils. Threw away nonstick dosa tava and shifted to iron tava. Offered salads, soups, thokkus (pickles) and more varieties of podis (spice powders) in my EthnicPalate menu for my apartment orders.

I took a 2 month long social media break in Jan and Feb. It helped me realize that I’m not a social media addict and I can cut them out of my day (and life) whenever I want to. There were many such short digital detox breaks throughout the year. Most importantly, I used social media as an intentional tool to spread my thoughts on nutrition and healthy eating. All thanks to Cal Newport’s Deep Work. Highly recommend this book, my most favourite of this year. 

Last but not the least, I have been able to spend a lot more time with my daughter this year. We bonded over books, music, cooking and our mutual admiration for Shahrukh Khan ;-)

Just like the previous years, I have planned a few focus areas for 2018. And ofcourse, wherever my intuition decides to take me. 

Wish you all a very happy, healthy and meaningful 2018!

Dec 26, 2017

14 Food related resolutions for 2018

2018 is just a few days away and if you are someone who sets resolutions or goals, here are a few I’d recommend related to food and healthy eating. Do pick the ones that are relevant to you. As for me, I’m picking up #4, #6 and #9.

1) Avoid packaged food for atleast 3 days a week
- Includes oats, cereal, muesli, bread, sandwich spreads, cheese

2) Keep weekly shopping cart free from processed/junk/ready-to-eat food
- If that’s too extreme, set a limit to only ONE pack per week

3) Cook/Eat atleast one fresh, home-made meal a day
- No pre-chopped veggies, frozen food, reheated food etc

4) Eat atleast one meal a day with full awareness (mindful eating)
- No gadgets, no books, no TV
- Chew food properly
- If possible, sit down on the floor and eat

5) Eat 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits a day
- atleast 80% of them will be local to the region I belong to (more guavas/chikkus/papayas and less kiwis/avocados/Washington apples etc)

6) Include more greens (keerai)
- Amaranth, drumstick greens, methi, gongura(sorrel leaves) etc are more nutritious than the expensive lettuce

7) Finish having dinner by 7:30-8PM
- atleast 2 hours before bedtime

8) Avoid starting the day with tea/coffee first thing in the morning
- Have it 30 min after breakfast

9) Include more raw foods in daily diet
- A % like say 20-30% would be easy to measure and track

10) Stop using refined white sugar
- Substitute with jaggery, palm jaggery or honey

11) Stop using iodised table salt
- Substitute with rock salt or unprocessed sea salt 

12) Stop using refined vegetable oils
- Cut down oil as much as possible or switch to cold pressed oils

13) Set a limit to eating out in restaurants and stick to it
- max 1-2 times a week

14) Learn to cook a few basic healthy dishes
Just like the way we have incorporated exercise as part of our daily routine, we also need to start taking control of the food that goes into our body. It cannot be outsourced to food corporations or restaurants on a daily basis, if we care about our health. 

Dec 18, 2017

5 Foods I stopped buying in 2017

Healthy Eating is not ONLY about adding super foods and nutrient-dense foods to our everyday diet, but also about eliminating the harmful, the unnecessary ones. I believe, if we focus more on “cutting down” rather than “adding more” foods, then 80% of our health issues would vanish.

Here are the 5 foods that I stopped buying this year.

1. Ginger garlic paste
Though the brands call themselves “mother’s recipe”, “home made” etc, the ingredients paint a different picture with various chemical additives in the form of stabilizers, preservatives and acidity regulators. In the morning rush hour cooking, it takes just a few seconds to grab the pack from the fridge, squeeze a tsp of such pastes in gravies and put it back in the fridge. But is it really worth it? Definitely not. The alternative is to make a batch of home made ginger garlic paste and stock it. I find that too cumbersome a process to peel a big batch of garlic and ginger. So as and when needed, I peel 3-4 cloves of garlic and a small piece of ginger, finely chop them up and add it to my gravies. They taste fresh and bring amazing flavour to the dish without any preservatives. Takes me an extra 2-3 minutes, that’s it.

2. Biscuits
Earlier, there used to be stock of biscuits at home, mainly to go with our evening chai. This year, I put an end to it completely. Even the so-called healthier “digestive biscuits” are high in maida and unhealthy fats. If we feel like having some munchies to go with chai, we either have it with roasted peanuts or roasted makhana. When my daughter asks for biscuits, I buy the smallest pack once a month.

3. Bread
We used to buy bread on a weekly basis, as my husband used to have sandwiches almost on a daily basis, either after his morning run or pack it for his evening office snack. He has now stopped bread altogether and takes fruit, dates and chikkis. Many of us tend to buy brown bread or whole wheat bread, thinking they are healthier. But they do contain large proportions of maida, along with various other additives in the form of improvers, raising agents and preservatives.

4. Oats
I have written enough about oats in my previous articles. Though I wasn’t eating oats on an everyday basis, I used to stock them once every 3-4 months, primarily for mornings when I feel like having a light breakfast. Being a firm believer of adopting local foods, I decided I no longer need oats in my pantry. The quick cooking ones we get from the market are highly processed to the extent that there are no nutrients left. For light breakfast, I resort to fruits or ragi porridge these days.

5. Instant Coffee 
One of the many benefits of doing Yoga on a regular basis is that you’d be able to understand the signals from your body more clearly. Through such signals, I learnt that I have started to hate the flavour of instant coffee. I made it a couple of times and after 2-3 sips, I didn’t feel like drinking it anymore. Yes, the same instant coffee brand that I have had for years. I can't believe it was so easy to quit instant coffee. 

What foods did you stop buying this year? What were your alternatives? What foods do you plan to stop buying in 2018? Please share in the comments below.

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