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Tips To make Your Food Healthier!

Is Paneer Good Or Bad For Your Weight?

Is Paneer Good Or Bad For Your Weight?

Most weight conscious people are confused if paneer is good or bad for their weight, largely because they constantly keep hearing contrary opinions. Some experts advice them not to eat both paneer and cheese, others say it is fine to eat paneer but not cheese.

So should you eat paneer or not?

The answer is simple.

We can have two kinds of paneer. One is the home made variety, made from cow milk after removing the cream from it and the other, the full cream commercial paneer available in the market.

The home made paneer has little fat as the cream (malai) is removed from the cow milk, which is already low in fat, while the full cream commercial paneer has between 25 to 27 per cent fat.

Thus the home made paneer is low in both fat and cholesterol. And it retains most of the goodness of the cow milk. So non fried, home made paneer made from fat removed cow milk is perfectly fine to eat, if you are a weight conscious person.

Most of the of the commercial paneer available in the market is full cream paneer and contains fat comparable to that in cheese (25 to 27 per cent in full cream paneer to a little over 34 per cent in cheese).

Thus the commercial, full cream paneer retains all the goodness of milk, plus all the fat and cholesterol in the milk and is best avoided by weight conscious people. Fried full cream paneer is even worse!

So the verdict is, eat non fried, home made paneer but avoid commercial, full cream paneer, whether fried or non fried, if you are weight conscious.

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Fresh Fruits Vs Fruit Juices

Most people are confused about having fresh fruits and fruit juices. Many consider drinking fruit juices to be an option to eating fresh fruits.

Fruit juices, even if freshly made, even at home, are no match for fresh fruits, packaged once are far worse!

All fruits provide us with varying quantities of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and fructose, the fruit sugar. Fibre in the fruits slows down the uptake of the fructose, hence it does not allow sudden spiking of your blood sugar, which is bad for the body. Plus the fibre also helps bowel movement and helps lower cholesterol. Fresh fruits also retain the Vitamin C in them completely, when we consume them.

Most of the fibre is removed when we extract juice from fruits. So when we consume fruit juices, there is also sudden spiking of your blood sugar, which does not happen when you consume whole fruits.

Most domestic and commercial juicers are high speed machines, which cause heating of the juice and this destroys most of the Vitamin C in the fruit. Slow speed juicers retain more of the Vitamin C than the high speed ones, but they are more expensive and not in common use. Also the Vitamin C gets oxidised unless the juice is consumed immediately.

Also when we make juice from a fruit like an orange or sweet lime or tangerine, we need three or four fruits to make a glass of juice. This means you consume three or four times the fructose and calories compared to eating one whole fruit. This also causes a sudden spike in your blood sugar levels, which is bad also for a non diabetic, even worse for a diabetic.

Sugar also is often added to fruit juices, further worsening the situation for diabetics and weight conscious people.

Eating ample fruits provides excellent nutrition, keeps hunger satisfied and helps prevent bad snacking and cravings for sweets.

Packaged fruit juices are positively harmful, most commercial fruit juices from top international brands have been found to contain dangerously high levels of pesticides and many have reported finding insects and fungi in the juices. They are an absolute No-No!

This means that eating fruits is very healthy and drinking fruit juices is unhealthy. Cardiologist and dentists too will advise you against drinking fruit juices.

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Eating Wax Coated Apples And Pears

Most of the foreign fruit manufacturers coat their produce with wax, to help preserve them longer and give them glossy look to attract buyers!

The claim is that the wax is food grade and the layer is thin.

Such imported, cold storage fruits look luscious and shiny even after leaving them out in the open air for weeks!

Most of the off season fruits we buy in India these days are imported.

Recently a giant US cola and bottled water maker admitted that the water in their so called purified water bottles was, in fact, tap water.

So can we trust the foreign fruit producers when they assure us that their waxed fruits aren’t harmful?

And many rightly consider the wax to be harmful to our health and hence eat imported fruits like apples and pears only after peeling them.

Eating apples and pears without skin is a bad idea!

Apple skin contains nearly half the fibre in the apple, almost three fourth of its Vitamin K, fair bit of its potassium and Vitamins A and C!

It also includes an antioxidant that helps keep the heart healthy and prevents many cancers.

Most of the antioxidants and micronutrients in fruits are stored in the fruits just below the skin. This vital part of the flesh of most fruits is peeled off along with the skin, when we remove it.

The best choice is to eat fresh, seasonal Indian fruits those have not come from the cold storage.

If you must eat imported, cold storage fruits like apples and pears, soak them in warm water with baking soda or vinegar and lime juice and rinse them thoroughly and scrub them with a napkin. This will help remove much of wax from the their skin.

Fruits like oranges are no problem because we don’t consume the skin anyway.

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Why Soak Nuts?

Nuts and seeds have a considerable amount of phytic acid, a phosphorus compound. It is an antioxidant and also protects the nut till germination. They also have enzyme inhibitors which prevent the nut from premature germination.

Both bind with minerals in our intestinal tract, reducing the absorption of the minerals leading to mineral deficiencies and also cause irritation of the intestines, making the nuts difficult to digest. Nuts in the raw form make it difficult for us to digest and absorb the nutrition in them adequately.

Soaking nuts in water with sea salt overnight and then sun drying them adequately breaks down these substances and renders the nuts more easily digestible and improves their texture and taste. Soaking also cleanses the nuts.

It is difficult to digest and absorb all the good nutrition available in the raw nuts, soaking and drying help us utilities the nutrition more fully.

People in the Western world use dryers or ovens to heat them at low temperatures, but we have ample sun most times.

Drying the nuts properly and refrigerating them is essential if you wish to preserve them longer. If not, they can develop moulds quickly.

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Harmful Oxalates In Spinach

Spinach is a most easily available, inexpensive, highly nutrition dense vegetable.

Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and vitamin C. It is a very good source of dietary fibre, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and choline.

Spinach is rich in antioxidants known as alpha-lipoic acid, Vitamin C and A, and carotinoids that help us prevent or fight hypertension, diabetes, asthma, certain cancers and improves bone health.

But it is also high in sodium and oxalates. Sodium elevates blood pressure opposing the action of potassium.

Oxalates bind with iron and calcium, reducing their absorption. Excessive use of spinach can cause renal stones, anaemia and osteoporosis.

Oxalates can be reduced by soaking oxalate rich vegetables in water, boiling and adding citric acid rich lime juice, tomatoes and potatoes to these vegetables.

So it is prudent to include a wide variety of leafy vegetables in your regular food and not just spinach. All leafy vegetables are low calorie and nutrition dense.

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Easily Affordable Super Fruit: Guava

All fruits are treasures of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, some of them more abundantly endowed than others.

Guava is easily the most affordable super fruit, rich in Vitamins C and A and potassium and antioxidants.

Vitamin A and flavonoids like beta-carotene, lycopene (pink guavas are twice as rich as tomatoes in lycopene), lutein and cryptoxanthin are essential for optimum health. Vitamin A is essential also for keeping our mucous membranes and skin healthy and for protecting us against lung and oral cavity cancers.

Guava is the richest source of Vitamin C, other than Indian gooseberry. The sourness of the Indian gooseberry makes it difficult to eat them in large quantities. Citrus fruits like oranges and lime have less Vitamin C than guava.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, it helps repair and regenerate tissues and helps build immunity. It helps absorption of iron, helps reduce the intensity and duration of bouts of common cold, helps lower total cholesterol and LDL, the bad cholesterol, helps prevent heart disease and many cancers.

Potassium helps regulate our water balance and blood pressure, helps keep our nervous system, heart, kidneys healthy, helps prevent heart disease and strokes. It helps control anxiety and stress.

Guava is also a moderate source of B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid, niacin, vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin E and K, as well as minerals like magnesium, copper, and manganese. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is required for the production of red blood cells.

So make it a point to eat them amply in their best season, viz. monsoon and early winter.

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Rajgira (Amaranth Grain) Nutrition

Amaranth (rajgira in Marathi, ramdana in Hindi) is not exactly a cereal, as it is not a grass, it is otherwise similar in nutrition to cereals and can be used as cereals like wheat, jowar and bajri, only it is much superior in nutrition.

Rajgira flour can be used singly or mixed with other cereals to make chapatis or bhakri.

It is a super grain, superior to the heavily publicised, aggressively marketed and unnecessarily expensive quinoa. And it is a readily available, indigenously produced, Indian food grain, which is much cheaper than the imported quinoa.

It makes no sense in wasting foreign exchange on buying quinoa when the much superior Indian grain, rajgira, is readily available, for much less!

It provides 65 gm of carbohydrates, 7 gm of fats, 14 gm of proteins, 372 calories and 7 gm of fibre per 100 gm.

It is an excellent source of proteins, 14 gm per 100 gm of the grain, 9 of which are complete protein, that is, they provide all the essential amino acids, on par with proteins from animal products.

Thus milk and rajgira could help supply top quality proteins to purely vegetarian people.

It is also an excellent source of iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, Vitamin B5 and B6, folate and fibre. It is also a good source of Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2) and Niacin (B3) and potassium.

It is gluten free and hence it can replace wheat in the food of people who have gluten intolerance.

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Rajgira (Amaranth) Leaves Nutrition

Amaranth leaves include a number of green and red leafy vegetables like ‘rajgira’ or ‘lal math’, ‘green math’, and ‘chavlai’.

They provide about 4 gm carbohydrates, 2 gm proteins, 1 gm fats and 23 calories per 100 gm.

Amaranth leaves are an excellent source of Vitamin A and manganese and a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folate.

Vitamin A plays an important role in growth and development, in maintenance of immunity and good vision. It is also essential for maintaining the skin, mucus membranes and teeth enamel healthy.

Manganese is essential for keeping bones and the thyroid glands healthy and for regulating blood sugar and digestion. It boosts metabolism and immunity and reduces inflammation and PMS.

Calcium is essential to the health of our bones and muscles. It also helps regulate our blood pressure.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, it helps repair and regenerate tissues and helps build immunity. It helps absorption of iron, helps reduce the intensity and duration of bouts of common cold, helps lower total cholesterol and LDL, the bad cholesterol. It also helps prevent heart disease, strokes and many cancers.

Potassium helps regulate our water balance and blood pressure, helps keep our nervous system, heart and kidneys healthy, helps prevent heart disease and strokes. It also helps control anxiety and stress.

Like spinach, amaranth too is high in oxalates which bind with the calcium and iron in the amaranth leaves, reducing the absorption of the minerals in our intestines.

Like in spinach, we can neutralise oxalates by soaking and boiling the leaves first and then cooking them with lime juice, tomatoes and potatoes.

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Folic Acid And Healthy Babies!

Three decades ago, I had advised a young paediatrician not to conceive on a low folate diet. She loved fish, ice creams and pastries and hated vegetables and fruits.

But she did conceive, only to miscarry soon. When the foetus was examined, it was found out that it had no brain development (anencephaly), caused by folate deficiency.

Sonography and modern day foetal anomaly detection tests were not yet there, nor the significance of folate in pregnancy adequately appreciated.

Folic Acid, the synthetic form of folate (Vitamin B9) is vital to the health of babies as the lack of enough of it can cause serious neural tube defects in babies very early in pregnancy, even before a lady knows that she is pregnant.

The neural tube is the part of the embryo from which your baby’s spine and brain develop. Deficiency of folate in the diet of a pregnant lady leads to spinal chord defects like spina bifida and defects in the brain like anencephaly (lack of development of the brain). It may also cause congenital defects like cleft lip and cleft palate and heart defects and preeclampsia, a severe hypertension problem in pregnancy.

Folate are also essential for the production, repair and functioning of DNA, our genetic map and they are a basic building block of cells. Getting enough folate is particularly important for the rapid cell growth of the placenta and your developing baby.

That’s the reason why every lady planning a pregnancy must take Folic Acid supplements at least a month before conception, even better for three months, for the healthy development of the foetus. Even the expectant father is also benefited by taking Folic Acid, it helps improve the sperm quality.

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Also visit the article ‘Basics Of Nutrition’ on this website.

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