How To Boost Your Protein Intake In a Plant-Based Diet

In recent years, we have witnessed a huge shift in people’s dietary preferences. An increasing number of individuals are leaving their meat-heavy platter and shifting to a plant-based diet. There are various reasons for this transition. Some of these include environmental concerns, animal welfare and awareness of certain health risks associated with animal protein.

Individuals who have switched to this diet are often concerned about their protein intake. It is a common misconception that a plant-based diet cannot provide your body with a sufficient amount of protein. Here’s a list of 5 plant-based food items that can help you meet your daily protein requirement.

1. Oats: If you want to start your day with a protein-packed meal, then oats are your best option! Oats contain 16-17 grams of protein per 100 grams and are rich in a protein called avenalin which is not present in any other grains. They also help lower cholesterol levels and prevent high blood sugar levels [1].

2. Peanut Butter: Peanut butter is the perfect choice for a protein-rich breakfast. 7 grams of protein are contained in two tablespoons of peanut butter [2]. Peanut butter is high in calories and hence recommended to be consumed in moderation. Peanut butter is high in two kinds of a protein called arachin and conarachin and is low in amino acid methionine. Apart from being a healthy protein option, it is also delicious and can be combined with several other dishes.

3. Tofu: Originating from soybean, tofu is an excellent source of protein. It is made by curdling soy milk and contains 15-20 grams of protein per 100 grams. Like animal protein, tofu is packed with all the nine important amino acids that the body needs for functioning and is considered as a complete protein. It is also rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus and manganese [3]. Owing to its versatility, tofu is a very popular and nutritious meat substitute and can be used with a variety of dishes.

4. Lentils And Beans: Lentils contain 25% of protein making them an ideal alternative to meat. 100 grams of lentils contain 9 grams of protein [4]. Just half a cup of lentils is enough to keep you fuelled for the whole day. It is also high in fiber and folate which helps in the formation of red blood cells and proper functioning of the nerves. Meanwhile, beans too are rich sources of protein. Unlike animal proteins, it also has a high fiber content which keeps your stomach fuller for a longer time. Moreover, both lentils and beans are naturally low in cholesterol.

5. Nuts And Seeds: Nuts are perfect for a light snack and also have an impressive nutrient content. Nuts and its derivatives contain about 5-8 grams of protein per ounce [5]. It is also a good source of iron, calcium, vitamin E, and phosphorus. Nuts are recommended to be consumed raw without any added preservatives to fully utilize its benefits. Among all varieties, almonds provide us with the most amount of protein. Moreover, nuts are loaded with antioxidants and also aid weight loss. Certain seeds such as flax and chia help reduce the risk of heart diseases and are rich sources of protein and dietary fiber.

6. Green Peas: Green peas contain 5 grams of protein per 100 grams [6]. Often confused as vegetables, peas are actually a part of the legume family and is one of the best sources of plant-based protein. Although peas are not considered as a source of complete protein and lack amino acid methionine, they can be paired with protein-rich food to make up for that deficit. Peas also have high fiber content which makes digestion easier. The high protein content of peas also boosts muscle and bone strength. They also contain polyphenol antioxidants which help in keeping our body healthy.

References:

  1.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325078/
  2.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4711439/
  3.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793271/
  4.     https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172421/nutrients
  5.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17125529
  6.     https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22916813

There Are 6 Types of Hunger, Here’s The Psychology Behind Them

Do you think you always eat when you are genuinely hungry? Does your hunger control your eating patterns? Do you often fall in the guilt-trap after relishing the food that you always wanted to avoid? Then you should read further.

Mindless eating can harm your physical and mental health. And that’s where the psychology of eating healthy comes into play. It is about identifying out eating behaviors and taking control of our appetite to gain actual benefits of food, which include providing nourishment to the body, maintaining metabolism and feeling great throughout the day!

Here we discuss six different types of hunger to help you make out what type of hunger you have.

Types of Hunger

1. Eye Hunger:

Eye hunger happens when your eyes signal the mind that it is hungry [1]. In this case, it’s not your body that wants the food but your eyes. Imagine this, you just had dinner and see that ice-cream cart, which seems too good to pass.

Here your eyes send the message to the brain that it is allured by the image of the ice cream, which is in front of you and that you should have it. Here the eyes override the information from the body, stomach and mouth, hence called the eye hunger.

Signs: Getting allured by the food that’s in front of you even though you are full.

Manage eye hunger: Instead of rushing to have the food that you just saw, stop and notice with awareness. Be mindful. Tell your mind that you feel content, no longer hungry and don’t need to eat more.

2. Nose Hunger:

Smells can evoke different kinds of responses. This is a type of hunger, where you feel hungry after smelling the aroma of the food. For instance, the tempting smell of freshly baked cake can generate the urge to have it even though you are not hungry. In fact, research depicts that food odours influence food choices and desire to consume certain foods [2].

Signs: Smell of food evoke a feeling of hungriness

Managing nose hunger: Engage in the smell of the food. Tell yourself that food is not on your mind since you already had your breakfast, lunch or snacks.

3. Mouth Hunger:

This type of hanger arises when you want to eat something that has a particular texture or taste [3]. This has much to do with our food habits in the family, cultural traditions, conditioning and even genetics. This may include how salty, sweet or spicy we want our foods to be. This could lead to mindless eating as though our stomach may be full, our mouth would still crave for more sensation of taste.

Signs: Wanting to eat something that has a particular flavor or texture – examples, include pastry, chocolate or chips.

Managing mouth hunger:  Instead of swallowing the food after a few chews, chew your food slowly.

4. Stomach Hunger:

The growling feeling in your stomach, as if something is eating away inside may indicate that you are hungry [4]. However, this cue may at times be misleading because we inadvertently train our body to feel hungry by eating at the same time every day.

Signs: Grouchy feeling in the stomach, light-headedness,

Managing stomach hunger: While eating food, be aware of how full you are feeling. Once in a while, pause for a few seconds and ask yourself, “If you are still hungry?” [5].

5. Cellular Hunger:

When our body demands what our mind is asking for such as citrus juices, salads, starch, protein or solids etc. then we term it as cellular hunger [1]. Our minds crave specific nutrients during certain times and cellular hunger is a way to tell us exactly that [6]. This type of hunger is more difficult to bring awareness to as other types of hunger easily override cellular hunger.

Signs: Craving for specific foods       

Managing cellular hunger: Eating healthily is a way to nourish your body with the right nutrients

6. Heart Hunger:

Also termed as emotional eating, heart hunger is often related to our emotions, wherein we resort to certain “comfort foods” to make ourselves feel loved or better [7]. Research reveals that people in a negative state of mind (sad, stressed out, angry) opt for comfort foods to satiate their emotions.

Signs: Unpleasant emotions

Managing Heart Hunger: Be patient, slow down, take a few moments to understand what your body really needs right now. It could be carb, protein, rest, listening to music, going for a walk etc.

References:

  1. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/seven_hungers
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/food-odor
  3. https://thirahealth.com/understanding-hunger-decoding-important-messages-from-your-body/
  4. https://www.samhealth.org/about-samaritan/news-search/2018/08/20/take-control-of-your-hunger
  5. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa155258
  6. Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship  
  7. https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/emo-emo0000422.pdf

What Does Gluten Do To Your Body, and Why Does Everyone Avoid It?

With gluten-free diets becoming more prevalent in recent days, most people laugh it out considering it as just another diet fad that will fade with time. However, people need to educate themselves on the topic first before judging the food choices.

What is gluten? It is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and spelt. Gluten acts like a bonding agent that helps hold the grain together. It imparts a stretchy quality to the dough. Now, though gluten is a protein, most people have started avoiding it for various reasons. Some follow a gluten-free diet to help control symptoms associated with gluten-induced conditions while some go gluten-free because they believe it will help them control health issues such as chronic fatigue, weight gain, headaches and depression [1].

What exactly gluten does to your body?

In some people, gluten can cause havoc. The immune cells of their body identify it as a toxin and start attacking it, which over time can cause inflammation in the body [2]. Some of the major side effects of consuming gluten diet include bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, intestinal damage, etc.

Here are some conditions that are either caused by intake consumption of gluten through a diet:

  1. Celiac disease

Celiac disease also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy is an autoimmune disorder, which generates immune reaction to eating gluten [3]. In such a condition, eating a diet that contains gluten can harm the villi of the small intestine and result in the poor absorption of nutrients [4]. A person suffering from this disease may have symptoms such as anemia, osteoporosis, skin rashes, elevated liver enzymes, depression, headaches, and they may suffer from infertility or miscarriages. Pediatric patients may have unexplained growth failure, short stature, suffer from diarrhea, delayed puberty, and iron deficiency.

  1. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is also referred to as gluten-sensitive enteropathy (GSE) or gluten intolerance [5]. The symptoms of GSE seem similar to that of celiac disease. However, there won’t be any increase in the antibodies’ levels and intestinal damage. Since there is no diagnostic test available to detect GSE, it is determined by a negative diagnostic celiac test and watching out for the persisting symptoms.

  1. Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH)

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is a type of skin rash that is caused as a reaction to eating gluten [5]. It is also an autoimmune disorder that causes persistent red, itchy rashes on the skin. These rashes may later produce blisters and bumps. It is possible for people suffering from celiac disease to have DH but those with DH may not have celiac disease.

  1. Gluten ataxia

Gluten ataxia is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the consumption of gluten [6]. It affects the nerve tissues and creates problems with voluntary muscle movement and muscle control.

  1. Wheat allergy

Wheat allergy is caused when the immune system mistakes gluten or some proteins found in wheat as a foreign agent such as a virus or bacterium. Here, the immune system releases antibodies to counter the protein, resulting in difficulty breathing, congestion etc.

Gluten Wasn’t An Issue With The Older Generation Then Why It Is now?

Grains such as wheat, rye, barley etc. have been the staple food of various cultures for many centuries across the world. Our ancestors ate grains (though they have not been of the same variety) through various food preparations for years, then why gluten is an issue now.

Dr William Davis, author of the “Wheat Belly” and Dr David Perlmutter shedding light on this topic speculate that gluten debate can be attributed to the hybridization of grains carried out to increase their nutritional value and gluten content [7].

While this claim has not been established yet, dietary gluten continues to be a real problem for many people around the world. Gluten-free diet thus remains the cornerstone of therapy for all gluten-dependent conditions.

 References:

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000813.htm
  2. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/gluten/
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/celiac-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352220
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5439366/
  5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/gluten/
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530
  7. https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/gluten-free/

Keep Calm And Have These Foods To Beat The Heat

Summers are fun until you have to leave the house and deal with the heat, sweat, dehydration and irritation. As much as it is irritating and annoying, it is also the root of a lot of problems. Prolonged exposure to heat can cause illnesses such as exhaustion, cramps and even sunstrokes.

In a country like India where the temperatures are usually high, it becomes important to take care of yourself. You must take precautionary steps to avoid heat-related illnesses. While you cannot control the heat outside, you can work on maintaining it from the inside. What you eat plays an important role in maintaining the body temperature, and keeping your body cool. Here’s a list of healthy and easily available foods that will keep you cool and hydrated during the hot sunny days. 

Beverages

The key to keeping your cool in the heat is to keep yourself hydrated, and what can keep you hydrated better than the liquid itself. However, water is not the only liquid you should look up to as an option. There are plenty of other sources in nature that will help you keep your water-levels on point. 

  1. Coconut Water

Coconut water is loaded with vitamins and minerals like potassium, sodium and calcium. It also contains electrolytes that are effective in re-hydration and energizes your body when you have heat stress. Having just one serving of coconut water can rejuvenate your body.   

  1. Buttermilk

Buttermilk (Chaas) is high in potassium, vitamin B12 and calcium. It is a rich source of probiotics that help build healthy bacteria that are good for the gut. Buttermilk is also a good source of phosphorus that helps the body restore its natural energy when it’s feeling drained by the heat. 

  1. Lime Water

This one particular beverage is easily found in every nook and corner, is easy to make and really cheap, but has multiple health benefits. A glass of nimbu paani will refresh you when you are down and drained. 

Fruits

Summer heat can make us feel lethargic, which not only affects the person’s performance, but affects the appetite as well. It is hard to enjoy a heavy meal during the summers, especially in the afternoons when the sun is literally above your heads. However, skipping the meal is not a wise thing to do. Something that you can do is replace your mid-day meal with some healthy fruits that are rich in water content. 

  1. Watermelon:

As the name suggests watermelon is one of the best hydrating foods. Watermelon is around 90% water and a great alternative to help you out this summer, will also tickle your sweet tooth with its natural sugars. It is full of antioxidants that help remove free radicals from the body that are produced during natural processes, such as metabolism. Watermelon must be a part of your diet this summer. 

  1. Cucumber:

Loaded with fibre and contains a high amount of water, eating cucumber in summer will help you keep constipation at bay, which is often a major cause of water-loss in the body. The water content of cucumber is nearly 95%, so it will not only keep your body cool but will also keep you hydrated. 

  1. Pomegranate:

Intake of pomegranate in the summers is highly recommended. They have sun protective compounds that protect the skin from sunburn and reduce the signs of skin damage. The oil from pomegranate seeds contain the antioxidant ellagic acid that helps inhibit skin tumors, not only protecting you from skin damage but also skin cancer.

Vegetables:

Summers can be an uncomfortable time. Therefore, it is really important to keep your diet on point. Including food items that are rich in water content and other essential elements becomes necessary. Here are a few veggies that you can include in your diet. 

  1. Tomatoes:

Lycopene, the pigment that makes tomatoes red can protect you from the sun, hence it is recommended to include tomatoes in your diet in summers. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, and are considered to be a superfood when it comes to sun protection.

  1. Carrots:

Carrots are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, minerals and fiber making it a super healthy food item. The beta-carotene in carrots reduce reactions of sunburn protecting your skin. 

  1. Radish:

Radish is a great source of vitamin C that helps lower the body heat. Apart from being water-rich, radish also has anti-inflammatory properties that effectively fight heat stress and fatigue.

How To Survive An Indian Wedding On Keto

We don’t know about you, but food is perhaps the sole reason we attend weddings. On getting there, almost everyone makes a beeline towards the aromas wafting from the various counters lined with everything delicious… but what about that keto diet you’ve been on for a while now?

Following any kind of diet takes a lot of will power and we have all been tempted to indulge in a cheat-day at some point or other. The keto diet includes cutting down on your daily carbohydrate intake. This diet focuses on losing weight and is high-fat. It includes consuming fewer calories from carbohydrates and more from fats and protein. In absence of carbs, the body burns and breaks down the stored fats for energy; this is called ketosis.

For the diet to work, your body needs to stay in ketosis and consuming carbs can have the opposite effect. The whole process of maintaining your keto diet becomes more difficult when it’s the wedding season with its never-ending buffet spreads. To make your job easier, here’s a list of 5 Indian dishes that you can indulge in at a wedding on a keto diet.

1. Palak Paneer: Paneer is your best friend during the keto diet. According to studies [1], 100 grams of paneer contains only 3.4 grams of carbohydrate which is ideal for your keto diet. Whereas, palak contains only 3.6 grams of carbohydrate per 100 grams. Therefore, a combination of palak and paneer cannot go wrong while you are trying to maintain your keto diet. Paneer bhurji and paneer tikka are also keto-friendly options.

2. Chicken Tikka: Now you can have your favorite chicken dish while on a keto diet! Chicken is a great source of protein for your body and is a keto-friendly option. Chicken with added vegetables can turn out to be a delicious ketogenic meal. However, remember to avoid the gravy or sauce.

3. Egg Curry: Apart from being one of the most versatile foods, eggs are also keto-friendly. One large egg contains less than 1 gram of carbs and fewer than 6 grams of protein, making eggs an ideal food for a ketogenic lifestyle [2]. Scrambled or in a curry, you don’t need to think twice before indulging in eggs.

4. Mutton Seekh Kebab: Since the ketogenic diet is all about high fat and low carb, fatty meat such as lamb, bacon, and pork belly are good food options. Usually marinated with curd and tandoori masala, mutton seekh kebabs are a regular at weddings and can be eaten on a ketogenic diet.

5. Baingan Ka Bharta: 100 grams of baingan or brinjal has just 6 grams of carbs, which is lesser than the carb content of many other vegetables. Baingan can be prepared in different ways, but smoked baingan with veggies and seasoning can take the cake away!

Without proper planning, the expansive buffet spreads can take a massive toll on your diet. To keep your food intake in check, it is advisable to indulge in a nutritious high-fiber meal before the event. This helps you stay fuller and prevents you from overeating. Make sure to plan your meals ahead and save your calories for the wedding buffet. Drinking water before the event will also help curb your hunger.

There are certain obvious keto non-friendly dishes that you should avoid at all costs. Steer clear from breads such as naan and kulcha as they are high in carbs and full of gluten. Rice and starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn should also be avoided. It is a good idea to give the appetizers a miss as they usually tend to be deep-fried and full of carbs; chomp on some salad instead. Portion control can also work wonders for you at a wedding or any other social gathering.

If you’re a drinker, go for pure spirits such as vodka, tequila, and gin, as opposed to sugary drinks like Jagermeister and wine. For mixers, opt for something diet or just go with the plain old soda. Also, what’s a big fat Indian wedding without some latke-jhatke! Burn those extra calories on the dance floor and don’t forget to have fun.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4008736/
  2. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/111/2

Soaked Vs Raw Almonds: We Unveil The Truth

Widely known for its numerous benefits, Almonds are seeds or nuts of a tree called Prunus dulcis. They are native to Iran and its surrounding regions but are cultivated worldwide. We have all been recommended to eat almonds at some point in our lives as they promote a healthy lifestyle.

Packed with vitamin E, almonds act as an immunity booster. Apart from being a rich source of proteins, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, almonds are also one of the tastiest and most versatile tree nuts. 

Due to its versatility, people are often confused about the best way to consume almonds. There is often a debate regarding the benefits of having soaked almonds over raw almonds. Soaking almonds overnight for at least a period of 6-8 hours before having it is often recommended.

Here are 7 reasons why you should soak almonds before eating them.

  1. Eases Digestion: Almonds may be difficult to digest because of their hard texture. Soaking almonds overnight softens them making the whole process of digestion a lot easier [1]. Soaking almonds also leads to the release of the enzyme called lipase which stimulates the digestion of fats in the body. 
  2. Nutritional Content: Our body can absorb more nutrients from soaked almonds than raw almonds. The soft texture of the almond after soaking will facilitate chewing which in turn leads to the absorption of more nutrients. The outer brown peel of almonds contains a substance called tannin. Tannin is said to prevent nutrient absorption and inhibits the release of enzymes until proper sunlight and moisture conditions are reached. Once the almond is soaked in water, due to moisture the outer peel comes out easily allowing the nut to release more nutrients. Soaking almonds overnight also reduces phytic acid which inhibits nutrient absorption [2].
  3. Weight Loss And Aging: Soaked almonds are rich in antioxidants [3] which eliminate harmful free radicals from the body and prevents inflammation. Antioxidants like vitamin E delays the process of aging and help you maintain your younger-looking self. Soaked almonds also aid in weight loss. They are rich in monounsaturated fats because of which you can munch on almonds and satiate your midnight hunger pangs without gaining additional weight [4].
  4. Regulates Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Level: Soaked almonds help regulate cholesterol levels and blood pressure. They are rich in protein, magnesium, folic acid, potassium, which helps in combating heart diseases and reduces the chances of artery congestion [5]. Moreover, they help regulate blood sugar levels, which reduces the risks of diabetes [6].
  5. Better Taste: Some people prefer soaked almonds as they taste much better than raw almonds. Soaking the almonds makes it softer and gives it a better texture and taste. They are also easier to chew. Raw almonds are hard and have a bitter taste making it less appealing to eat.
  6. Skin and Hair: Soaked almonds can be blended with milk to be used as a face scrub and body moisturizer. This scrub acts as a great exfoliating agent and can also be used to treat skin inflammations. Using a hair mask with soaked almonds will give luster to your hair and help in preventing hair fall and hair damage due to their high nutrient profile.
  7. Other Health Benefits: The high content of folic acid in soaked almonds helps in reducing birth defects during pregnancy. They are often recommended to pregnant women as they are nutrient-rich and provide ample energy for the healthy development of the baby. Vitamin B17 present in soaked almonds helps to fight cancer and tumor growth [7]. Children are also encouraged to eat soaked almonds as they are said to boost their memory and act as a tonic for the brain. Constipation can also be treated with soaked almonds due to high fiber content.
    References:

    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2854608/
    2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325021/
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4276397/
    4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3898316/
    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5946253/
    6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22296169
    7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986699/

Clean Eating & Anxiety: Is There A Connection?

Clean eating is sometimes dismissed as a ‘fad diet’, but it’s not really a diet and certainly not a fad. It’s based on the idea that eating whole foods, while restricting or avoiding processed foods can yield health benefits. This fundamental belief is supported by evidence[1], which shows that high intake of refined sugar, trans fats, and other additives can contribute to a variety of ailments. Not surprisingly, cutting back on processed foods and focusing on whole foods may also help cope with anxiety disorders. Although there is a need for more research, this idea is supported by animal studies [2], which show that diets high in sugar and fat can affect behavior. Research into the gut-brain axis [3] also points to the role of diet in brain function and mental illness. 

We’ll take a closer look at some food groups that are notable in the context of clean eating and anxiety relief.

Healthy Fats

Despite what you may have heard, not all fats are unhealthy. When we talk about healthy fats, we’re mainly referring to omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These nutrients are vital for brain health and are found most abundantly in foods like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Vegetarian sources of these healthy fats include flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans. Studies suggest [4] that adequate intake of these healthy fats can improve the brain’s ability to adapt to different situations, helping you cope with stressors more efficiently.  

These anti-anxiety benefits could be linked to the vital role that healthy fats play in the regulation of dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters. They are also known to reduce inflammation, which can protect against brain cell dysfunction that is linked to mental illnesses like anxiety.

Vitamins E & D

While balanced nutrition is essential and all of your vitamin requirements should be met, vitamins E and D deserve mention, as deficiencies in both vitamins have been linked to anxiety and depressive disorders. Vitamin E intake can be boosted by consuming nuts like almonds and peanuts, and by using oils like sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean oils. Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, but it can also be obtained from the same fatty fish that are rich in healthy fats. Other whole food sources of the vitamin include egg yolks, beef liver, and cheese. Vitamin D deficiencies are among the most common, so it’s important to get your levels tested and take supplements if you need to. 

Vitamin E works as antioxidant, protecting against free radical damage and is believed to protect against changes that increase the risk of anxiety and depression. Research shows [5] that vitamin E supplementation may even slow the progression of degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s. Similarly, vitamin D is essential for mental health as studies suggest [6] that vitamin D deficiency results in neuronal changes and a reduction in serotonin levels in the hippocampus. 

Minerals – Magnesium and Zinc

As with vitamins, adequate intake of all minerals is essential for the maintenance of optimal health. However, we now know that magnesium, zinc, and potassium play a particularly important role in the maintenance of mental health. Magnesium appears to be particularly important, as research suggests [7] that magnesium deficiencies are widespread among patients who suffer from depression. This important mineral can be obtained from whole foods including leafy greens like spinach and kale, pulses like chickpeas and soybeans, nuts like almond and cashews, seeds like chia, flax, and pumpkin, and whole grains like wheat, barley, and oats. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are also good sources of magnesium. 

Like magnesium, low serum levels of zinc have been observed in patients [8] with depressive disorders. Zinc may benefit patients with disorders like anxiety and depression as it is believed to increase Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (sometimes described as brain fertilizer!) in the hippocampus. Zinc intake can be increased by eating whole foods, especially red meats like beef, pork, and lamb. Shellfish like oysters are healthier low calorie sources of zinc. The mineral can also be obtained from the same nuts, seeds, pulses, and whole grains used to boost magnesium intake.

Probiotics

The role of probiotics in gut health, inflammation, and mood disorders is a burgeoning area of research and there’s much that we have to learn about the subject. So far however, studies do show [9] that probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, and tempeh, can help in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders because of the strong connection between the gut microbiome and brain function. One study published in the journal Gastroenterology [10] found that the functioning of brain regions that regulate emotion and sensitivity improved with daily consumption of 125gms of yogurt twice a day for 1 month. 

While our focus here is limited to a few food groups and nutrients, this in no way implies that other nutrients are non-essential. The importance of the nutrients mentioned here is emphasized as they are most commonly associated with anxiety disorders. In addition to ensuring balanced nutrition and increasing your intake of the foods mentioned here, you should also increase your intake of whole foods that are rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, as they are associated with a wide range of health benefits, including stress reduction and improved brain function. 

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723973/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3762204/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31460832-the-microbiota-gut-brain-axis/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4540034/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9110909-a-controlled-trial-of-selegiline-alpha-tocopherol-or-both-as-treatment-for-alzheimers-disease-the-alzheimers-disease-cooperative-study/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6132681/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3046018/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20156515-the-role-of-zinc-in-neurodegenerative-inflammatory-pathways-in-depression/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25470391-gut-emotions-mechanisms-of-action-of-probiotics-as-novel-therapeutic-targets-for-depression-and-anxiety-disorders/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3839572/

5 Reasons Why Should Include Chia Seeds In Your Diet

Chia seeds have grown in popularity in recent years. From cereals to salad and smoothies, these edible seeds are everywhere these days. The word ‘chia’ in itself means strength and the seeds are harvested from a flowering plant in the mint family known as Salvia hispanica. Once cultivated by the Aztecs, chia seeds were a staple of Mayan and Aztec diets.

Chia seeds are nutrient-dense and contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, minerals, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Don’t be fooled by their size, an ounce of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons) contains 138 calories, 10 grams of fiber, 9 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein, as well as 17 percent of your daily calcium needs, 12 percent of the iron and 23 percent of your magnesium [1].

Chia seeds are tasteless, which means it can be added to almost anything – from granola bars to cereals, sauces, and baked goods. When added to water, these seeds expand to hold about 10 times their dry weight and swell into gel-like globules

Here are five reasons why you need to incorporate chia seeds into your diet

1.Loaded with Nutrients & Minerals:  A combination of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese makes chia seeds extremely nutrient-dense. You can get 20% of your daily calcium requirement from chia seeds, which makes it a great choice for people who do not consume dairy products [2].

Calcium is essential for bone health, while Manganese plays an important role in collagen production. Magnesium is known to improve mood and the quality of sleep, whereas phosphorus helps from cell structures and keeps the bones healthy. Whip up a smoothie with some chia seeds for a boost of energy. You can also sprinkle some seeds on your yogurt or oatmeal.

2. Full of Antioxidants: Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants which helps the body defend itself from cell damage. Antioxidants are known to fight free radicals [3], which contribute to aging and diseases like cancer. Add some chia seeds to our cereal for healthier and younger-looking skin.

3. High In Fiber: Chia seeds are one of the best sources of fiber as 40% of its weight is made up of roughage [1]. Its high soluble fiber content contributes to a feeling of fullness, which keeps you from snacking mindlessly.

This makes chia seeds a good option for people trying to lose weight. Fiber also helps keep the gut healthy and prevents constipation. It promotes slower absorption of your food which keeps blood-sugar levels stable. Add chia seeds to your salad or stir fry it with veggies for a healthy and wholesome meal.

4. Rich In Protein: Chia seeds are an excellent source of protein and amino acids, especially for vegans and vegetarians. About 14% of chia seed’s weight is protein, which is comparatively high when it comes to most plants [1].

Protein is crucial for our overall health and promotes healthy muscle growth and hormone balance, amongst other things. Protein also helps you feel fuller for longer, aiding in weight loss. Satiate your sugar cravings with some easy to whip chia pudding. Creamy, satisfying and packed with proteins, chia pudding is a healthy take on desserts.

5. Packed with Omega-3 fatty acids: Often referred to as the ‘superfood’, chia seeds are the richest plant source of Omega-3. These unsaturated fats help keep the heart and brain healthy.

Omega-3 also protects the body against inflammatory diseases such as Arthritis [4]. Unlike flax seeds, you don’t have to ground chia seeds to benefit from its nutritional properties. The gel from soaked chia seeds can replace egg in vegan baking. You can also top your baked goods with toasted chia seeds for a healthy crunch.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627181/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4926888/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796167/

Understanding Antioxidants And Their Effect on Free Radicals

A walk down the aisles of a grocery store is proof of the fact that the hype around antioxidants is very much real. They are in your food, your packaged juice, and your skincare. Highly promoted by dieticians and health professionals, antioxidants are said to slow the aging process and help prevent vision loss, cancer, heart disease, and stroke, amongst other things. But what is an antioxidant and how does it work? Let’s take a closer look.

Antioxidants are a group of compounds found in food that share a chemical property. They are known for their ability to protect our body by neutralizing free radicals. They help prevent and reduce the damage caused by free radicals.

What Are Free Radicals?

By definition, free radicals are essentially unstable atoms and are natural by-products of chemical processes such as cellular respiration [1]. Additionally, free radicals are also formed from the air we breathe, the water we drink and things we consume such as tobacco or alcohol.

Our body needs the energy to function. We get this energy from the food we consume, which is then broken down in the mouth, the stomach, and the intestine and finally absorbed into the blood. Once in the bloodstream, sugars are made into energy within tissue cells by a process called cellular respiration, the by-product of which is free radicals.

Free radicals form when atoms or molecules gain or lose electrons. Because of their unstable and reactive nature, free radicals scavenge the body to find a replacement for their missing electron and regain stability. In this process, they end up damaging proteins, DNA and even cause cell death [1]. 

How Do Antioxidants Work?

An imbalance between the free radical and antioxidants leads to a state called oxidative stress, which leads to cell and tissue damage [2]. Factors such as lifestyle, diet, and environmental conditions contribute to oxidative stress, symptoms of which include headaches memory loss, fatigue, gray hair, and more.

This is where antioxidants come into play. They bind with the unstable free radicals by giving up their electrons. This terminates the oxidative chain reactions and the body’s cells and muscles are no longer under attack.

Sources of Antioxidants

Our body produces some antioxidants on its own, however, it is not enough. A diet rich in antioxidants is essential to keep the body healthy. Here’s a list of most common antioxidants and where you can get them.

  1. Vitamin A:  Orange vegetables like carrot, sweet potato and green leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbage are good sources with vitamin A.  Vitamin A is also found in liver, milk, and egg yolks.
  2. Vitamin C: Citrus fruits such as orange, lime, kiwi are rich sources of Vitamin C. Additionally, green vegetables such as broccoli, capsicum, and spinach are also packed with this vitamin.
  3. Vitamin E: All kinds of nuts, sunflower seeds, and greens like spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of the vitamin. You can also find vitamin E in vegetable oils, avocados, and whole grains.
  4. Beta-carotene: This antioxidant is mostly found in fruits and vegetables that are red, yellow or orange. These include sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mango, apricot, cantaloupe, and carrot. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli also contain beta-carotene.
  5. Lycopene: Red fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, tomatoes, grapefruit, and papaya are packed with lycopene. Guava, red cabbage and bell peppers are also excellent sources.
  6. Lutein:  The best natural food sources of lutein are green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, kale, broccoli, and spinach.
  7. Selenium:  Animal produce and seafood such as ham, tuna, oysters, beef, beef, chicken, and shrimp are rich in selenium. Brazil nuts, tofu, cottage cheese, whole-wheat pasta, and mushrooms are great vegetarian sources of this antioxidant.

Additionally, dark chocolates, green tea, and coffee are also rich sources of antioxidants. If required, one can take supplements as per directions from the doctor.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10693912

Good Vs Bad: Choosing Healthy Fats

For years we’ve been told that fats are responsible for clogged arteries, obesity, and diabetes, among other things. However, not all fats are created equal. Knowing the difference between the good and the bad fats can help you decide which to avoid and which to eat.

Fat is a nutrient that is crucial for normal and healthy body function. The body uses it to build nerve tissue and it also supports cell growth. In addition, they are vital for the digestion, absorption, and transportation of vitamins A, D, E, and K. So, the fact of the matter is, our body needs fats.

To make the best dietary choices, it is important to understand the different kinds of fats and how they affect the body. There are 2 main types of fats – unsaturated and saturated fats.

Healthy Fats

Unsaturated fats are considered healthy fats and include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Unlike saturated fats, these are liquid at room temperature. Incorporating healthy fats in your diet can help you feel fuller for longer, thus promoting weight loss. To include unsaturated fats in your meals, consider drizzling a dash of olive oil, adding a few slices of avocado or a small serving of nuts.

  • Monounsaturated Fatty Acids: Eating foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids helps reduce bad cholesterol low-density lipoprotein (LDP) levels in your blood, which can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. They help your heart stay healthy by increasing the level of good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in your blood [1].

Some good sources of monounsaturated fats include avocados, nuts, olive, peanut butter and cooking oils made from plants or seeds like sesame, sunflower, canola, olive, peanut, and soybean.

  • Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Polyunsaturated fats help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by lowering your LDL cholesterol. The two main types of polyunsaturated fats are omega-3 and omega-6 and both offer excellent health benefits. These fats are essential for normal body functioning and cannot be made by the body, therefore they must be obtained from food. They play a role in many important body processes such as blood clotting and blood pressure regulation.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Studies suggest that Omega-3 is beneficial for heart health and reduces the risk of coronary artery disease [2]. They help lower the triglyceride levels in the blood, the increase of which puts the heart at risk. They are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Whereas flaxseeds, walnuts, nuts, chia seeds, and canola oil are some of the plant-based sources of this fatty acid.

  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Omega-6 fatty acids have also been linked to protection against heart disease and diabetes, and are an important source of energy for the body. These fats can also help with the symptoms and pain of rheumatoid arthritis [3].

Foods in omega-6 fatty acids include vegetable oils such as soybean, sunflower, walnut, and corn oils.

Unhealthy Fats

Saturated and trans fats are the two main types of unhealthy fats. These fats are usually solid at room temperature, which is why they’re typically referred to as solid fats.

  • Saturated Fats: This type of fat comes mainly from animal sources of food, such as red meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products. Saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol levels, which increases your risk of cardiovascular disease [4].

Processed and junk food have a lot of saturated fat, excess of which can lead to weight gain

  • Trans Fats: Trans fats serve our body no nutritional purpose [5]. Health experts recommend that the consumption of this kind of fatty acid should be as low as possible.

Meat and dairy products contain a small amount of naturally occurring trans fats. However, it’s artificial trans fats that are considered dangerous as it not only raises LDL cholesterol but also lowers good HDL levels. Being linked to heart disease and stroke [6], artificial trans fats have been banned in several countries.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5875103/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6357022/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5634864/
  4. https://www.internationaljournalofcardiology.com/article/S0167-5273(18)36924-9/fulltext
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4016047/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26620830