Apr 27, 2017

Best Sources of Vitamin-A


 Having looked at the sources of some of the essential minerals, let’s now focus on Vitamins.

Although nature has blessed us with abundant vitamins and minerals in plants, it has become a fashion to pop a multi-vitamin pill, thereby creating a billion dollar industry in itself. It is my firm belief that our bodies absorb or process vitamins better when consumed from natural sources. Unless there is a critical deficiency, there is no need to rely on these pills. Understanding the plant sources and meal planning the right way will ensure you get your daily dose of vitamins.

To begin with, let’s look at Vitamin A. As kids, the popular health advice that we often heard was “Eat carrots, they are good for your eyes”. So much so that carrots have become synonymous with Vitamin A.

Vitamin A is not only essential for your eyes but also for better immunity and cardio-vascular disease prevention. Our body gets Vitamin-A from a source of phyto-nutrients found in plants called carotenoids. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin belong to this group of carotenoids. Among these, beta-carotene is the most effective as it gets converted to twice as much Vitamin-A as compared to the other two.

Apart from carrots, here are the other sources of beta-carotene and overall carotenoids (Data Source - Indian Food Composition Tables - 2017).



microgm per 100 gm
Sources Beta-Carotene Total Carotenoids



Grains/Cereals

Maize, dry 186 893
Maize, tender, local 36 1428
Maize, tender, sweet 47 1035



Legumes/Pulses

Bengal gram dal 165 1018
Bengal gram, whole 172 999
Green gram, whole 137 889
Peas, dry 66 933



Green leafy vegetables

Drumstick leaves 17542 38765
Agathi leaves 12582 36087
Colocasia leaves 5758 26820
Ponnanganni leaves 5288 24206
Curry leaves 7663 21862
Amaranth leaves, red 8457 21449
Amaranth leaves, green 8553 20473
Mint leaves 4602 18693
Coriander leaves 3808 13808
Fenugreek leaves 9245 12755



Vegetables

Carrot, orange 5423 9477
Sweet potato, brown skin 5376 8653
Carrot, red 2706 7570
Tomato, ripe, hybrid 1513 5826
Tomato, ripe, local 905 4656
Onion stalk 700 3488
Capsicum, red 246 3047
Capsicum, yellow 166 2717
Capsicum, green 328 2511
Celery stalk 465 2439
Pumpkin, orange 149 1449



Fruits

Apricot, dried 1806 4313
Watermelon, dark green 605 4176
Guava, pink flesh 267 4078
Dates, dry, pale brown 2700 3483
Papaya, ripe 694 2472
Mango, ripe, banganapalli 1168 1424
Muskmelon, orange flesh 771 925



1. As you can see, green leafy vegetables have 2-4X times carotenoids as compared to the popular carrots. When our grandmothers used to say “Keerai kannukku nalladhu”  (greens are good for your eyes), they are 100% correct.
2. Grains and legumes have very little carotenoids when compared to veggies and greens. Increasing the proportion of greens and vegetables, especially the ones in orange colour is the only way to get your daily requirement of Vitamin A.
3. The miracle green “Drumstick leaves” features on top of this list too. Including this green regularly will ensure you get adequate iron, calcium and Vitamin A.
4. Include mint, coriander and curry leaves too on a daily basis. Most of our Indian recipes incorporate these 3 greens so well that we don’t need to look for supplements or imported super-foods.
5. If you ignore sweet potato thinking it is “carbs”, then you are missing out on all the goodness it provides - Vitamin A, Vitamin C, dietary fibre, potassium etc
6. Given that summer is upon us in full swing, do gorge on fresh, juicy watermelons, muskmelons, mangoes, guavas and papayas. The summer heat affects our eyes by causing redness and irritation. Nature fixes this issue through such seasonal fruits. So amazing, isn’t it?

Apr 24, 2017

Conversation in the park

It was a sunny Saturday evening. We (husband, daughter D and I) decided to go to a park as D loves to play in the play area. Being a Saturday, it was crowded and the play equipments (swing, see-saw, slide etc) were lined up with children. D was so excited that she was shouting “yay” on top of her voice. I followed her around as she started to climb up the slide. Husband walked up to me slowly and was looking a little worried. I asked him, “what happened? You look tense”. He showed me his phone with an email open. Without getting into further details, let’s just say, it was a stinker email from someone whose ego was hurt and was venting out his frustrations. More on the lines of “How dare could someone do this to me?”.

I was telling my husband to let it go and not give too much of a thought. With such an arrogant, rude and authoritative tone of that email, it was hard to put it aside your mind and enjoy the evening. Meanwhile, D got upset with two boys who were sliding down fast, without giving her a chance. The mother of the two boys noticed that D was sad. She walked up to her and said, “What happened, dear? Do you want to climb the slide too? I’ll tell the boys to wait”. D then got her chance but she wasn’t happy yet. She then started crying that she wanted the swing and see-saw too. Both my husband and I tried to convince her that she needs to wait for her turn but she was adamant. The kind lady spoke to D and calmed her down. She then asked her son to play with D on the see-saw. The boy also obliged happily. The lady then introduced herself as a teacher and was having a nice conversation with D. Her words were kind and pleasant. Her actions were proactive and calm. She could have just spent her time with her two boys but instead she voluntarily decided to calm a young girl and talk to her.

The difference between these two conversations made us wonder why such positive communications are rare and few.

We are ready to lash out rude, cynical and negative thoughts on email, social media and text messages, without a wink. If only we could take a few minutes to re-read what we have written and think whether we would say the same thing to the intended person in front of their face, many ruthless emails could have been avoided.

Maybe, I’m generalizing and stereo-typing, but my experiences so far have led me to this bitter truth - “the more you go high up in the bank balance ladder, the bigger your ego builds up

In this ever-connected world of smart phones, emails and social media, all it takes is one email to spoil a beautiful evening with family. Let’s try to curb the urge to check our emails on the go, atleast during weekends. Our families deserve our undivided attention, especially our children.

Last but not the least, a kind word or a gesture can be such a powerful, positive boost to someone in need. The teacher’s kind gesture took our minds completely away from the effects of the nasty email. We felt happy and relaxed later that evening. Let’s spread more such kind words and actions. The society needs them badly.

Apr 21, 2017

30+ quick snack ideas for summer vacation demands



As a mother of a growing child, it is a challenging task to keep up with the snack demands, especially on holidays. With summer vacation having started, my daughter likes to repeat “I want to eat something” multiple times throughout the day. Sometimes, it could be that tiny hunger pangs between meals, while at rest of the times, it is sheer boredom and attention-seeking (and also to keep mummy on her toes all the time!!).

Summer prevents us from spending long hours in the hot kitchen. That doesn’t mean we need to buy loads of unhealthy packaged snacks and juices from the supermarket.

 I have compiled 30+ quick snack ideas that can be prepared in less than 15 minutes. With a little planning and stocking up the essential ingredients, you can feed your children healthy and tasty snacks.

  1. Fresh fruit juices - sweet lime (mosambi), watermelon, muskmelon or a chilled lemonade
  2. Seasonal drinks - aam panna (raw mango drink), panagam (cooling drink made with jaggery), tender coconut water
  3. Fruit popsicles or ice lollies - healthy treats that get set in freezer overnight
  4. Fresh cut fruits - mango, watermelon, grapes, guava, muskmelon, papaya or pineapple
  5. Fruit salad with honey and chaat masala
  6. Dry fruits and nuts - a small bowl of their favourites (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, dates, raisins, figs)
  7. Milkshakes - chikoo milkshake, mango milkshake, chocolate milkshake (I usually try to avoid banana milkshake as it increases kapha/mucus. Once in a while is fine)
  8. Fruit yoghurt - home-made with thick curd, fruit pulp and a dash of honey or cane sugar
  9. Smoothies - I’d recommend mixing fruits, seeds and nuts with coconut milk or almond milk
  10. Buttermilk - perfect for the summer. Can blend with ginger, mint, green chillies, curry leaves or coriander leaves, depending on what your kid likes
  11. Raitha - Can make a variety of raithas using cucumber, carrot, tomatoes, pomegranate. With a little dash of chaat masala, roasted jeera powder and black salt, it tastes heavenly.
  12. Lassi - chilled glass of mango lassi is a bliss, isn’t it? :-)
  13. Curd rice - my little girl can eat curd rice anytime of the day ;-)
  14. Boiled peanuts
  15. Roasted peanuts
  16. Sundal - a South Indian snack made with lentils. High in protein and fibre.
  17. Popcorn - keep dry popcorn seeds handy. With 2 tsp of oil and salt, mix a handful of popcorn seeds. Cover and let it pop on high flame. Delicious, home-made popcorn is ready - fresh, no preservatives, less oil, less sodium.
  18. Boiled sweet corn - Universal favourite snack. Steam some frozen corn for 5 minutes, add a dash of butter, salt and freshly ground pepper.
  19. Veg Salad - Mix and match a variety of veggies - carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, boiled potato. Add some lentils like cowpeas or chickpeas to increase nutritive value.
  20. Boiled sweet potato - It used to be my favourite during my childhood. Boil the whole sweet potato. Once cooked, peel and eat it as it is
  21. Red Poha with milk and nuts - Soak red poha in water for 10 minutes. Drain completely. Mix with milk, cane sugar and chopped nuts.
  22. Chikkis - If you can make it at home, nothing like it. I usually buy it from the store. Compared to the numerous junk out there in the shelves, chikkis make it to my shopping cart always
  23. Puffed rice (pori)
  24. Dry bhel - Mix puffed rice, boiled peanuts, cucumber, carrot, onions. Add salt, pepper and a dash of lemon juice. Beach style snack is ready!
  25. Upma with Sooji (rava) or Vermicelli - Only if your kid loves upma. It’s a general rule that kids hate the sight of upma ;-)
  26. Sevai (rice noodles) - In 10 minutes, it’s easy to whip up a lemon sevai or a coconut sevai. My daughter’s favourite.
  27. Mini idlis/dosas/oothappams - if your child loves to eat chutney podi as an accompaniment, then these can be made in a jiffy, provided the batter is ready.
  28. Jaggery dosa - healthy and sweet treat. Can be made with either wholewheat flour or a combination of ragi and rice flours. Give a fancy name like jaggery pancakes if it doesn’t attract attention! :-)
  29. Adai/Chillas - quick to make provided the batter is prepared. Can be served with jaggery and/or butter.
  30. Porridge / Kanji - Can be made with multigrain (sathumaavu), ragi flour, bajra flour or broken wheat.
  31. Idiyappam - might take a little more than 10 minutes. Most kids love it. Keep the processed rice flour handy.

Hope this list helps you as a quick reference. If there are any other healthy and quick snack ideas, please share in the comments below.

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