Tag Archives: nutrition

What is quinoa and what are its health benefits?

Have you ever wondered whether the cereal you are consuming at breakfast is high on nutrition or not?  Well, quinoa (pronounced as keen-waah) is a healthy breakfast option that includes all the nutrients found in a healthy cereal and more. Quinoa is a seed native to the Andes mountains in South America and used to be a staple food for the locales. Now it is emerging as a super food globally and is gaining immense popularity among health fanatics and food lovers alike.

First of all, the misconception about quinoa is that it is a cereal. It is not. Neither is it a grain. It could be called a “pseudo cereal” because of its nutrients, similar to those found in most cereals. The unique quality of quinoa is that it can be eaten just like other cereals but is comparatively much higher in nutrition. It is a rich source of protein, complex carbohydrates and iron. It can be also called a complete protein as it contains all the essential amino acids needed by our body, therefore it is even a great food for vegans. Quinoa is becoming more and more accessible as it can be found in most supermarkets.

Another interest fact about quinoa is that it does not contain gluten, so it can be consumed by suffers of the celiac disease. Quinoa can be prepared in a manner similar to rice. You might experience some bitterness in quinoa, which is due to the presence of saponin in its natural state. Saponin even acts as a natural pesticide for Quinoa. It had been found that a pre-rinsing of quinoa with water before cooking is sufficient to remove the saponin. There is no need to soak further.

You can easily incorporate quinoa into your breakfast cereal, cookies, porridge, sprouts, pies, multigrain bars, cake flour, stew, salads and fritters. Quinoa can even be popped like popcorn.  One serving of quinoa can give you 8.14g protein, 4.6g iron, 7g dietary fibre, 222kcal energy, 31mg calcium and 318mg potassium. Apart from these nutrients, quinoa contains magnesium, manganese and riboflavin too in good amounts. With a glycemic index of 53 and a glycemic load of 13, quinoa is quite low on the glycemic index, making it suitable for diabetics too.

Quinoa can be a good alternative to rice, as it contains much more protein than rice and wheat. Also, rice and wheat have a higher glycemic index than quinoa.

According to research studies, quinoa seeds contain good amounts of anti-inflammatory substances. Quinoa possesses various health benefits such as promotion of bone health, help in reduction of cholesterol, prevention of gall stones and is even a good source of dietary fibre. Saponin present in quinoa is found to be a very potent antiseptic for healing skin infections.

If you can access quinoa easily, incorporate it into your daily diet to reap its various health benefits.

— this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo
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Does Low Calorie Diet Work?

Few people tend to remain fit all through their life. But for most of us age and lifestyle catches up with our metabolism and makes us unfit and old. First step towards knocking off the unwanted kilos is getting on a low calorie diet. While it works for some but there are more simple ways to melt those kilos and get fit.

What are low calorie diets. They are diets that give you approximately 1000 calories or fewer to eat in a day. This calorie allowance is not based on your gender or physical activity level. Mostly they are one diet plan that fits all kind of a routine. Besides the calories you only get to eat very selective kind of food which contains no fat or carbohydrates and are largely focused on protein & fiber to help you lose weight. Before we go deeper into low calorie diet let us understand what the reasons behind weight gain are.

The weight gain usually happens over a certain period of time. This can be largerly attribute to not focusing on eating right and not being physically active. not exercising or simply – not making health and fitness a priority. If you know the reasons that have resulted in weight gain then working on those factors could help you lose those pounds again. But does it actually work this way or is there more to losing weight than just eating food.

Lifestyle has a major impact on your weight loss efforts. Weight gain can happen due to many factors other than just eating food. Your sleeping patterns, stress at work, changing eating patterns, hormonal change, skipping meals, alcohol consumption, smoking, no workouts, sedentary work life, leisurely lifestyle etc. The list can go on and on and there innumerable such reasons which might seem small, but all add up to have a huge impact on weight management.

Maybe a low calorie diet is the not the right answer to your weight loss. Its not the quantity but the quality of food you eat that matters. Since the weight gain happened over a period of time you need to know that short term strategy of low calorie diet might get you some weight loss in short term but the side effects outweigh the short term gains i.e disappointment, poor health and weight gain in the long term.

Do you know our body is a fat storing machine. If we eat too much it starts storing it as fat but if we eat too little even then it starts storing fat. Our body’s are wired to go into a survival mode as soon as you cut down your calorie intake. They learn to survive on minimal and that is why when you go back to eating regular calorie diet you tend to gain the weight back again.

Another challenge of being on a low calorie diet. You kick start the diet by losing weight very fast but suddenly you will hit a wall commonly known as a weight loss plateau. When you start cutting down your calories the body gets needed energy by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver. Glycogen holds on to water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it also releases water, resulting in substantial weight loss that’s mostly water.

A plateau occurs because your metabolism — the process of burning calories for energy — slows as you lose muscle. You start to burn fewer calories than you did earlier doing the same activities. All this effort and then a road block. In retrospect you wish someone had told you to be wiser and not fall for the low calorie diet.

Besides low calorie diets are outdated. People get on a diet to lose weight but land up losing their health. The reason why low calorie diets also fail is because they dont factor in lifestyle changes that are key to sustain weight loss efforts and maintain good health. A good diet should focus on quality of food and also give importance to physical activity.

Exercise plays a vital role in weight management as it helps to improve blood flow and circulation in the body, accelerates metabolism for faster calorie burn and lowers your stress levels. Exercise helps you to use the excess fat stored in your body by burning it. It is an essential part in weight loss and weight management process. If you have never exercised in your life before starting with 15 minutes walk post your meals can help you boost your metabolism.

We have nothing against eating less. Its okay to manage your calorie intake but what you need to ensure is the balance of nutrition in the diet. Just cutting your calories will not boost your metabolism. Infact the right kind of food combinations can help you get best results. So don’t waste your time on low calorie diets that restrict you to eat different variety of foods and force you to eat one kind of food every day.

If you focus on including seasonal fruits and vegetables in your diet, be conscious about how food is cooked you will automatically reduce your calorie intake. Healthy food besides being nutritious makes you full faster and longer curbing your need to constantly reach out for food,

So stay away from fad diets that just focus on cutting down your calories while forcing you to eat insipid food. Instead say yes to diets that control your calories by adding essential nutrients to your daily diet. The idea is to lose weight and not your health.

— this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo

The Nutrients your Body Needs Every Day

A healthy and balanced diet is the key to a healthy body. But a balanced diet should include a variety of nutrients. Below is a list of nutrients and their sources, and their recommended daily values.

-Calcium: It is a vital nutrient for the body as it helps in providing strength to your bones. Strong bones are less prone to fracture and diseases like osteoporosis. Calcium also plays a role in nerve transmission, maintenance of healthy blood vessels and muscle contraction. The recommended amount of calcium is 1g/day. To meet the daily recommended value add dairy products like milk, curd, paneer and green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, etc to your diet.

-Fiber: Dietary fiber helps in proper bowel movement and provides bulk to your stool which decreases the chances of constipation. It also helps in regulating blood sugar levels in the body as the presence of fiber in food slows down the absorption of the sugar. Soluble dietary fiber helps in controlling the levels of cholesterol by reducing the levels of “bad” fat from the body. The recommended amount of dietary fiber is 40g/day. Include fruits, vegetable, whole grains and legumes in your daily diet.

-Magnesium: Many studies have shown that magnesium with calcium helps in improving the bone mineral density in the body. Magnesium deficiency can affect calcium metabolism and a fluctuation in the levels of hormones that regulate calcium can result in osteoporosis. It is associated with lowering the risk of coronary heart disease and helps in regulating high blood pressure. It also plays a major role in controlling diabetes, migraines, insomnia, and depression. Recommended amount of magnesium is 410mg/day. Include nuts, whole grains, wheat germ, fish, and green leafy vegetables in your diet to increase magnesium intake.

-Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a type of antioxidant which protects your body cells from free radical damage. Free radicals lead to break down of healthy cells and may contribute to heart disease and cancer. It also helps strengthening immunity. The recommended amount of vitamin E is 15mg/day. To get your daily dose of this vitamin include nuts, vegetable oil, eggs and green leafy vegetables in your daily diet.

-Vitamin C: Vitamin C is also a type of antioxidant that protects your body against free radical damage. Apart from this, vitamin C supports collagen production in joints. Collagen is a shock absorbing gel like substance which fills up the space between two bones in a joint. The recommended dose of vitamin C is 75-90mg/day. Rich sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, nuts, vegetables, etc.

-Vitamin A: Vitamin A plays a major role in maintaining vision, cell growth and promotes healthy tissue and skin. It also participates in physiological activities related to the immune system, inflammatory system, maintenance of epithelial and mucosal tissues, creation of red blood cells, and bone development. The recommended dose of vitamin A is 600-900 µg/day. Rich sources of vitamin A are sweet potato, carrot, spinach, Green leafy vegetables, etc.

-Vitamin D: Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium in the body and helps in building strong bones. It helps in regulating insulin activity and blood sugar balance in the body and prevents muscle weakness. The recommended amount of vitamin D is 600 IU/day. The food sources of vitamin D include milk, egg, and fatty fishes like salmon, tuna and some variety of mushrooms. To get your daily dose of vitamin D morning sunlight is the best source. There are hormones beneath the skin which produce Vitamin D with help from sunlight.

-Potassium: It is one of the electrolytes and even helps in managing electrolyte levels in the body. A diet high in potassium levels is associated with improved blood pressure control. It also contributes to improved kidney function, reduction in blood clotting, and more efficient opening of blood vessels. The recommended value of potassium is 4.7g/day. Five foods rich in potassium include Swiss chard, lima beans, potatoes, yams, and soybeans.

-Protein: Protein is the building block of tissues. It is required to repair the daily wear and tear of the cells in the body. Protein is an important part of the diet as it helps in building muscles. Recommended value of protein is 46-56g/day. To have recommended amount of protein in your daily diet include milk, curd, paneer, eggs, lean cuts of chicken, soy and beans in your diet.

-Iron: Iron is a part of red blood cells and helps in transportation of oxygen in the body. In case of iron deficiency, or anemia, the body’s efficiency to transport oxygen decreases. As a result you may feel lethargic and fatigued. The recommended amount of iron is 18g/day. Foods rich in iron include, green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and pulses, whole grain, etc.

To have a healthy and balanced diet chooses your foods wisely to maximize the benefits of different nutrients.

— this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo

Anjeer (Figs) and Weight Loss

Fiction: Anjeer (Figs) are good for weight loss.

Fact: Anjeer or dried figs are nutritious, but they may not be the healthiest food option for weight loss. Dried figs provide higher calorie count than fresh figs for the same weight. 100 gm of dried figs provide approximately 220 calories. Apart from that, figs are also sweet and make the blood sugar level rise, as dried figs quickly release a high level of sugar in the body, which is not helpful for people on a weight loss diet and for those suffering from diabetes.

Answered by Prachi Agarwal, first appeared in HT City (Hindustan Times), Get Healthy Delhi! campaign, where she is a Fitness Expert on the panel of health experts.

— this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo

Tips to Beat Post Meal Sugar Cravings

Most people crave something sweet post their meals. You don’t need to have a sweet tooth to develop this habit but this can be one of the key reasons that could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Eating something sweet is an acquired habit and that’s what makes it that much more easy to undo.

Here are some intelligent tips that can help you control your mind & limit your post meal sugar cravings -

Reach for Fruit

One of the best ways to get rid of sugar craving is to opt for fruits because they are the healthiest combination of something sweet & nutrition. The natural sugar in fruits can help hit the spot and fulfill the sweet cravings without adding empty calories to your diet. Besides, all the anti-oxidants present in it will help boost your immunity and also boost your metabolism.

Drink More Water

Dehydration can trigger sugar cravings, so make sure you drink adequate amounts of water. When a sugar craving hits, drink two glasses of water first and then re-evaluate whether you need any sugar.

Eat Balanced Meals

You should eat balanced meals containing both major and minor nutrients. Have small, frequent meals to help keep your blood sugar level stable and eliminate your body’s need for a quick sugar fix. Avoid skipping meals (especially breakfast).

Say NO to Colas

Colas give people a temporary ‘high’ and the feeling of fullness. They somehow shut off the hunger signals. However, this is short-lived, misleading sensation. Also, colas increase the craving for high caloric foods like a burger, pizza, creamy sandwiches, and noodles.

Yogurt with Fruit

Sweet your yogurt naturally by adding natural sweetener present in fruits. One of the best tip to beat sweet craving is to eat a combination of fruit and yogurt as a mid day snack. Most importantly, it can be one of the healthier options for snacking.

— this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo

Probiotics for Weight Loss

Our digestive system has over 500 different types of bacteria living in it which are responsible for the health of our intestines and assist in digesting food. We suffer from digestive disorders when the balance of these bacterias in the intestines is disturbed. This could be due to any number of reasons like an infection or side effect of taking a medicine etc. Probiotics are touted as the next big health trend that can help manage your gut better. Probiotics are used as natural substitute for these digestive bacteria and help improve and maintain the health of the intestines when the current equilibrium is disturbed.

The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, is naturally found in yogurt with live cultures. Yeast is also a probiotic substance. But only certain types of bacteria or yeast (called strains) have been shown to work in the digestive tract.

Lately probiotics foods are being promoted in the market. The reason behind adding probiotics in the food product is just to make it a healthy and intestine friendly product because it aids in digestion and also keep intestines healthy. Another benefit of going for Probiotics that it even boosts the body’s ability to burn fat and could play a role in treating and preventing obesity.

Effect on Weight Loss

As in 2010 in one of the study, the improvement in fat percentage was observed in some of the individuals who were kept on probiotic foods. The findings also included a decrease in body weight, body mass index, waist size and hip size by almost 2 percent each. In a different study published in 2011 by the “Annual Review of Nutrition”, differences were found in the gut bacteria of lean and obese individuals. Study data suggested an inverse correlation between the amount of gut bacteria and the presence of fat and other disorders – greater number of bacteria are associated with less development of body fat, diabetes and low-level inflammation associated with obesity.

Probiotics and Weight Loss

The mind-body connection comes into play, too. If your gut is not working, you might feel temperamental and crave food that make you feel happy which may or may not be healthy. Resorting to comfort food may get you in serious weight trouble in the long term. Studies have shown that a healthy gut often equates to a happier person and the person feels less depressed, therefore making it easier for a happy person to lose weight and avoid temptation.

Probiotics play an important role in food metabolism and are involved in the absorption of most nutrients in the small intestine and in the processing of undigested food in the large intestine. The large intestine completes digestion by absorbing additional nutrients, producing vitamins and creating waste products. Probiotics can help to maintain the levels of healthy bacteria in the gut to optimize the function of the digestive system, especially in overweight and obese individuals.

The state of your digestive tract acts reflects your overall health. Keeping it balanced will keep your body and mind in shape. Whether you want to lose weight or improve your overall health, eating foods rich in beneficial bacteria or taking probiotic foods can give you great results.

— this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo

Are Juices Healthier Than Fruits?

Fiction: Juices are healthier than fruits.

Fact: People often believe that juices are healthier than fruits, but the fact is that when you extract juice from a fruit, it reduces most of the fibre content. So while the juice does give you vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants along with carbohydrates you don’t get the rich fibre. Fibre is not just about your digestion. It keeps you full for long and slows absorption of carbohydrates into the blood stream. The fibre content promotes a healthy release of energy into the blood stream. Also, due to lower fibre content, the calorific concentration per gram is higher in fresh juice than fruits.

Answered by Prachi Agarwal, first appeared in HT City (Hindustan Times), Get Healthy Delhi! campaign, where she is a Fitness Expert on the panel of health experts.

— this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo

Are Almonds Good for Weight Loss?

Fiction: Almonds are not good for weight loss.

Fact: Nuts in general acquire a bad name because they have high fat content. There are two kind of fat – saturated fat (bad) and unsaturated fat (good). Almonds are high in unsaturated fats, the same type of healthy fats found in olive oil. They are packed with monosaturated fats that are great for your heart health. Besides this they pack a punch of protein. Protein takes longer to digest, so it keeps you satisfied for longer. It thus reduces hunger pangs and helps you build muscle and get fitter. They also contain calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and anti-oxidants.

Answered by Prachi Agarwal, first appeared in HT City (Hindustan Times), Get Healthy Delhi! campaign, where she is a Fitness Expert on the panel of health experts.

— this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo

Are Low Fat “Baked” Snacks & Diet Namkeens Healthy?

Fiction: Low fat “baked” snacks and diet namkeens are healthy.

Fact: Baked snacks are the latest to hit the aisles of the grocery stores, along with diet namkeens. They may be better as compared to fried ones, but to compensate for being fried, some snacks include added carbohydrates, which mean that even if the fat content has been cut by 50%, the calories in your diet snack might only be 10% less from the fried version. You can know this by comparing the total calories of the original version with the “healthy” version. Also, diet snacks might be high in sodium, sugar, oil and refined flour.

Answered by Prachi Agarwal, first appeared in HT City (Hindustan Times), Get Healthy Delhi! campaign, where she is a Fitness Expert on the panel of health experts.

— this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo

Do Sugars Found in Fruits Help to Lose Weight?

Answered by Prachi Agarwal, first appeared in HT City (Hindustan Times), Get Healthy Delhi! campaign, where she is a Fitness Expert on the panel of health experts.

Fiction: Fruit has sugar and it is bad for weight loss.

Fact: Fruit tastes sweet. All naturally sweet foods contain some form of sugary carbohydrates. Sugar can make you gain weight, so people wonder if it’s okay to eat fruits or not when trying to lose weight. People fail to realize is that the natural sugars found in fruit are different from regular sugar and are far healthier. The Glycemic Index (GI) of most fruit is quite low, far lower than even brown bread. Their fibre and water content keeps you full for longer, helps you cut down cravings and help you lose weight.

— this article is written by a dietitian @ FitHo