Month: February 2016

Vegan Protein

The first place to get protein as a vegan is from certain fruits & vegetables, I’ll bet you didn’t realize spinach and cauliflower are a complete protein. There are many ways that you can eat these two vegetables. I don’t like to cook my spinach too much but I typically cook cauliflower to the point that it’s soft either by steaming or sauteing it. Cauliflower is an excellent replacement for rice in my opinion and healthier than your traditional white rice. I often times mix it with curry or beans as if it were rice or quinoa. I make my salads using spinach instead of plain watery lettuce. Spinach has a high nutritional value which makes it the perfect replacement so I like to mix it with avocado, oil and chick peas to make it creamier and more chewy. Some fruits are believed to be complete in protein such as Goji Berries because it contains 18 amino acids. I usually buy dry Goji berries by the pound at my local organic super market and eat it with my other dry nuts and seeds. These fruits and vegetables are one of the many options nature gives you for protein.

Nuts and seeds are a perfect snack food to give you what you need as far as Amino acids. Walnuts, chestnuts, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chia seeds, hemp seeds have all the amino acids needed to consider them a complete protein. There are many ways to incorporate these foods into your diet such as baking granola bars and adding nuts and seed to them or blending these nuts and seeds into a paste and mixing it with fruit preserves on some bread to make a tasty sandwich. Another cool thing I like to do is get the hemp in powder form and mix it in almond milk with a health natural sweetener and psyllium husk for fiber. You can also get a lot of these nuts and seeds in powder form and mix them in you guacamole which is what I do. You can also mix the powder into your pancake or muffin batter etc. Though I usually eat most of these protein sources as is throughout the day if I want to stay away from cooking, but you don’t have to do that it’s totally up to you.

Childrens Health and Mid Day Meals

The World Health Organisation (WHO) – a UN agency concerned with public health at the international level – was founded on 7th April, 1948. In order to commemorate its founding, it was decided to observe 7th April as the World Health Day. While the WHO uses the day to spread awareness about some health issue of major importance, the same is also used by various organisations working in the field of public health to draw people’s attention to issues of concern and put forth some solutions. In India, hunger and malnutrition are two such issues, and the Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDMS) is one of the solutions.

On 28th November, 2001, the Supreme Court of India directed the State Governments “to implement the Mid-Day Meal Scheme by providing every child in every Government and Government-aided primary school with a prepared mid-day meal with a minimum content of 300 calories and 8-12 g of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days.” The stipulated nutritional content has since been raised to 450 calories and 12 g protein for children in primary schools and 700 calories and 20 g protein for children in upper-primary schools.

Mid-day Meal and Children’s Health

In a country where malnutrition is rampant, 450 calories a day come as a blessing in disguise; all the more so because at times this is the lone meal many of these children afford. If malnutrition levels in India have dropped from 42.5% in 2005-06 to 30% in 2013-14, it’s partly because of feeding initiatives like the MDMS and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).

Mid-day meal guidelines also state that the meals served should supply micro-nutrients like iron, zinc, folic acid, vitamin A, etc., to the beneficiaries, thus making it a wholesome meal necessary for proper growth. It’s important to provide nutrient-rich healthy food to children, as the lack of these nutrients can result in problems like stunting (low height-for-age) and wasting (low weight-for-age).

The meals are prepared after taking specific guidelines into consideration to make sure that children get necessary nutrients. In some states, a list of recipes is provided and the schools are expected to pick one every day, whilst being careful not to repeat it that week. In some states, the vegetables used to prepare meals are repeated on a daily basis.

School teachers are testimony to the change the MDM programme has brought about, especially in the context of children’s health. Earlier, many children used to reach school on an empty stomach; at times, even having missed their previous night’s dinner. As a result, it was difficult for them to concentrate on what they were being taught in school. Since the implementation of MDMS, students are faring better in academics as their concentration has improved.

Lack of a nutritious meal on a daily basis made children weak and thus, prone to missing school. The improvement in nutrition levels of children because of MDMS has translated into reduced absenteeism and dropout rates. With examples like these, it’s but obvious that the mid-day meal is of utmost importance for these people.

Good Hygiene – Sound Health

Mid-day meals are not just directly contributing to the health and nutrition of children, but also helping indirectly by inculcating good habits in them. According to the new MDM guidelines, it’s mandatory for all schools serving mid-day meals to allocate hand washing time as a part of the school timetable in order to ensure that children wash their hands with soap both, before and after their meal. Hand washing is a hygienic practice which helps keep several diseases at bay. Studies reveal that washing hands with soap reduces the likelihood of diarrhoea by a whopping 48 percent.

The best part is that the MDMS is having a positive impact on both, health and education sectors. In the education sector, it acts as a perfect incentive to bring children to school. In fact, there are cases where school-going children are accompanied by their younger siblings for that one nutritious meal. It’s worth noting that the Public-private Partnership with Non-Governmental Organisations is helping the State Governments to feed hungry children across the country.

At the end of the day, it’s safe to say that it’s because of the MDMS that children, who would have otherwise been working to support their family, can now have a nutritious meal… and dare to pursue their dreams. So why not use this World Health Day to further the cause and help the concerned agencies to reach more children.

Why Choose Organic

Why Choose OrganicMany people are now choosing organic as one way to help optimise their health and wellbeing. The vitamin and mineral content of fresh produce and other foods will vary based on how the soil is cared for, the environment they are grown in, and how they are processed, among other things.

In organic farming, caring for the soil is of the utmost importance, because it forms the basis for health, for all life forms. As Sophie Grigson and William Black explain, “Healthy soil encourages healthy plants, plants which are strong and disease resistant, which means there is less need for artificial pesticides in organic production”. Their book “Organic – a new way of eating” highlights the fact that if we feed the soil, the plants will look after themselves.

Sally Fallon reiterates this in her book “Nourishing Traditions”, when she explains that nitrogen fertilizers used in conventional (non-organic) farming produce high yields, in part by pulling minerals from the soil. In turn, the food suffers because the vitamin and mineral contents are depleted. She explains that vitamin and mineral content between conventional and organic crops can vary hugely – some commercially raised oranges have been found to contain no vitamin C!

The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ really does ring true. If you consume meat that was once a sickly animal who was fed routine courses of antibiotics, how healthy do you think you will be? Similarly, if you eat a diet of genetically engineered, pesticide sprayed grains, how healthy do you think you will be?

If you are eating food that has been sprayed copious times with a herbicide that has been engineered to kill everything around it, except that particular crop, how do you think this affects the health of the soil, and the subsequent health of your body? Similarly, with the skin being the largest organ in the body, and readily absorbing anything you rub on it, have you considered what is entering your system via this method (by way of creams and lotions)?

Yes, our bodies are amazing, and yes they can process and eliminate a certain degree of ‘rubbish’. But when they become overloaded they are unable to summon the resources required to neutralise the onslaught of poisons entering them. Therefore it makes sense to limit our intake of toxins wherever we are able to do so; for example by making organic choices.

Organic farming helps ensure you are receiving the best quality for your body, allowing your cells to be as healthy and strong as possible. Growth hormones, protein rich feeds and the routine use of antibiotics are not allowed, nor are synthetic chemical fertilisers, fungicides, herbicides or pesticides.

Do You Chew or Do You Smoothie

Are your mouth and jaw getting the food workout they need? Here’s why we should eat – rather than drink – our food and chew it thoroughly.

Chewing Starts the Digestive Process

Digestion begins in the mouth. Saliva contains amylase and lipase, enzymes needed for starch and fat digestion.

Adequate chewing increases saliva to lubricate food, which eases its passage through the esophagus when we swallow.

Chewing signals the GI tract to prepare for food. The stomach makes gastric juice, which comprises enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and other substances. The pancreas prepares to secrete enzymes and bicarbonate into the small intestine. Extra saliva relaxes the pylorus so food can exit the stomach and move into the small intestine.

Enzymes and stomach acid work on the surface of food only. Chewing increases the surface area available for them to work. That’s especially important for the digestion of protein, which has many functions in the body.

But all foods need to be chewed small enough for stomach acid to further reduce them in size. That enhances bioavailability, the faster release and fuller absorption of nutrients and fluids into the GI tract.

In fact, most of the foods we don’t chew enough tend to be carbohydrates, such as bread and rice. They absolutely need amylase for digestion, but can be easy to swallow without adequate chewing.

Dogs eat carbs the right way. A dog will simply swallow meat; its digestive system can process meat in that whole state. Give a dog a piece of bread, though, and the chewing begins.

But back to humans…

Chewing Increases Satiety, the Had-Enough Feeling

Sensors throughout the GI tract monitor nutrient levels and the amount of chewing, tasting and swallowing involved in a meal. Giving your mouth and jaw a good food workout can bring on fullness signals sooner.

Foods with harder, crunchier textures – apples, raw broccoli, carrots, celery – require more chewing. They also provide more nutrients than semi-soft fats, or junk foods. So choosing foods that require lots of jaw action could lead to greater satiation – which ends the meal – and satiety, how soon we want our next meal.

Chewing longer helps to raise glucose levels. Those in turn raise insulin levels. Insulin is involved in satiety and feedback loops that end a meal, again marking chewing as a key satiety factor.

What About Hormones?

Chewing thoroughly helps to release higher levels of CCK (cholecystokinin). CCK is a powerful satiety hormone, so releasing more of it can decrease appetite for a longer time.

CCK is released primarily when we eat protein and fats, but its satiety function tends to be specific to carbs.

The chewing-and-CCK connection could help vegans, for example. They often have strong cravings for carbs generally and sugar in particular, due to their low protein intake and low levels of CCK. Chewing foods for a longer time could help vegans eliminate sugar cravings by increasing their CCK levels. (So could more protein, but that’s another article.)

Then there’s ghrelin, truly a monster hormone. It increases appetite and decreases energy expenditure. Yikes. More chewing increases satiety by decreasing levels of ghrelin.

In a country that produces 3950 calories per day for every man, woman and child, no one needs more ghrelin. So if simply chewing longer can reduce ghrelin levels, by all means chew longer.