If you stop eating junk, you’ll do yourself a favour

If you stop eating junk, you’ll do yourself a favour
By Anuradha Sawhney Jul 28 2016
Tags: Leisure Writing
Do you remember I had wri­tten some time ago on the Wo­rld Health Organization dec­laring the dangers from con­suming pro­cessed meats as dangerous as that of using asbestos? Well, recently in the United States, Susan Levin from PCRM.org reiterated that schools and hospitals should drop items like hot dogs and pepperoni from their menu. Last year, the same non-profit had filed a petition urging the US department of agriculture to stop distributing carcinogenic hot dogs and other processed meats to children through the national school lunch programme.

Here’s why they want this to happen… Eating just 50gm of processed meat a day increases colorectal cancer risk, according to one study. An ongoing analysis of nutrition and cancer by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research found in 2007 that that processed meat products are “convincing” as risk factors for colorectal cancer, increasing risk by up to 50 per cent for those who eat the most. Each 50gm portion of processed meat — the size of a typical hot dog — eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent. Studies have also linked processed meat to prostate cancer, bladder cancer, diabetes, heart disease and early death.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women, with one in 20 developing it in his or her lifetime. In India too, in just this year, I have personally met five people who have colon cancer. All in their mid-30s! And that is just in my friend’s circle. Can you imagine how many more there must be? And one of the reasons for this is because there is increasingly food being sold which uses processed meats like hot dogs, sausages and pepperoni. The youngsters of today just don’t realise the seriousness of eating the junk food from the western countries.

Nearly a quarter of the meat products Americans consume are processed meat, which also include bacon, pepperoni, deli slices, sausage and any other meat products that have been preserved with additives or otherwise manipulated to alter colour, taste and durability. The dietary guidelines for Americans recommend limiting processed meat products.

Neal Barnard, MD, says it’s easy to give good health to children, the sick and everyone. Just consuming delicious, disease-fighting plant-based meals help to create a healthier future for everyone. Replace deadly proc­essed meats with nutritious foods that kids don’t get enough of — like bananas and other fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. And see how they sail through their childhood and adulthood in good health.

Top actor Gulshan Grover, gave me this recipe for brown rice poha for my book. This poha tastes fabulous and you can substitute the brown rice flakes with even jowar or red rice flakes.

Brown rice poha

Ingredients: 1 cup beaten brown rice flakes; 1 medium-sized onion, chopped small; 2 green chillies; 1 tsp oil (optional) 8-10 curry leaves; ¾ tsp black mustard seeds; 1 tbsp roasted peanuts; salt to taste

Method: Put the rice flakes in a colander and rinse them under running water. Leave them in the colander to drain. Chop the onion fine and slit the green chillies lengthwise.

Put a non-stick pan over low to moderate heat. When hot, add the oil (optional), the curry leaves and mustard seeds. When the seeds splutter, add the onion and green chillies. Sauté for 2-3 minutes till the onions turn translucent. Mix in the peanuts and rice flakes. Stir for 1 minute. Taste and add salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Serve hot.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

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Here’s to health

Here’s to health
By Anuradha Sawhney Jul 21 2016
Tags: Leisure Writing
And you thought all roads lead to tofu for vegans, eh? Listed here are a few healthy, and tasty, eating out options in hamara Bharat…
Who would have thought that veganism in India will find its way into obscure towns? I did not, for one, until a couple of weeks ago, when I had the good fortune of making a trip to Shirdi to get my longed for darshan of Sai Baba. That trip was life defining for me in two ways. One, it was the first trip to Shirdi where I did not see any dogs that had been run over en route (one of the reasons why I hate to travel on highways here) and very importantly, I visited a vegan restaurant in Shirdi.

Yes, you read it right. There is a vegan restaurant in Shirdi. Called Ahimsa The Vegan Café, it has a South African, Hein Adamson, as its chef. I entered and straightaway fell in love with the interiors. It’s a good mix of my favourite colours — purple, yellow and lime green, interspersed with white.

Chef Hein made me some vegan pizza with the most awesome vegan cheese (this cheese actually stretched, almost like dairy pizza cheese), a mushroom melt sandwich and an energising smoothie with cashew milk. It was the first time I was ever able to eat a proper meal on my travels in the country, especially in a small town. As he was putting together my meal, we got talking: chef Hein says he came to India as he considers this as his seva. His guru advocates veganism as the only way to stop the exploitation of animals and so when he got a chance to come to India, he jumped at the chance.

“Ahimsa means non-violence and this is our core value, but we also feel that half of healthy eating is enjoying your food. When you eat at an Ahimsa Vegan Café, you know you are getting pure, natural and vitalising food. I recommend you come here hungry, but even if you just feel like enjoying a cup of coffee with delicious non dairy milk and a good book, you know where to find us.”

The co-founders of the cafe are Sumit Partap Gupta and Phaneendar BV. I happened to meet Sumit who says that he and Phaneendar “consider vegan to be the diet of the future.”

“We believe that a vegan diet will fix all wrongs to one’s health, that it will reverse heart disease, reverse diabetes, reverse hypertension, reverse certain cancers and even help one to lose weight. Vegans tend to eat healthier than vegetarians. Just by not consuming any animal products they gain many points. And add to that the different super foods consumed by vegans like seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, melon, sesame, flax, hemp), berries (goji, cranberries, raisins, raspberries), nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashew, pecan, macadamia, hazel), whole grains (like the many different types of millets, brown, black, wild and red rice, amaranth, quinoa), beans (pinto, kidney, baked, chickpeas, black eyed beans, black beans, etc), all the vegetables and fruits possible. And it is these foods which form the core of our recipes,” says Sumeet.

So here I was, in Shirdi, actually able to eat black beans, red rice, amaranth and millets. Wonder, it seems, never cease.

Inspired, I started looking for vegan food services around the country as soon as I reached home and found a plethora of them. Mumbai has had a vegan catering service for the last four and a half years now. Aptly called Vegan Bites, it is run by Samir Pasad and Himani Gala. Samir is the CEO (chief eating officer, he tells me, tongue-in-cheek; apparently, a salsa dancer as well) and Himali is a gourmet raw food chef. They are the biggest proponents of vegan food in Mumbai, with their meals reaching 200 plus people daily. “Our menu is a mix of Indian and international cuisines. We use Nut Mylks to make dairy alternatives like curd, buttermilk, cheese and sweets. Instead of paneer, we use tofu, which is healthier and has more protein. We use whole nuts like peanuts, sesame seeds and coconut to replace oil as nuts automatically release their own oil while cooking. We follow the steam cooking method so that all the nutrients of vegetables are retained. We don’t cook anything directly on fire. Our food is oil free and gluten free. We don’t use wheat, white refined flour or sugar in our food. All our masalas and spices are organic and freshly ground. Nothing artificial.”

I was thinking that would be a hard act to follow when I came across The Philosophy Club in Ahmedabad. The owner, Gemma Ferre, moved to India from Spain to start her vegan dream project. “The Philosophy Club was one of the first completely vegan cafes in India. Nimi Hirani and I started this in September 2013. We believe that we are one with humans, animals and mother earth. That is our philosophy. We believe in the togetherness a vegan table brings. Kosher, halal, vegetarian — everybody can sit and enjoy a meal at the same table with their choices acknowledged and enjoy conversations without causing any harm to any other living beings. The pleasure of respecting the planet, while feeding your body and soul is one of the guiding forces behind my cafe. We don’t judge your food choices or preach. We acknowledge that each person is on their own journey and want simply to feed them good food in a warm, comfortable environment.”

Closer home, in Pune, there is The Real Green Café, a brainchild of Aishwarya Viswanath. I visited her café and while I ate a gluten free pizza, Aishwarya told me that “the main aim of starting a completely vegan cafe was to let the masses know that veganism is the future of food, not just in India but across the globe. Food plays a vital role in everybody’s life and getting people to change their food habits would never be an easy task due to their conditioning, hence it was important to start a vegan cafe to introduce the whole idea of cruelty free and healthy food.”

Their range of products include oil free burgers, vegan pizzas, sandwiches and wraps, beverages like fresh juices, smoothies and a variety of hot and cold coffee and not to forget the yummy vegan desserts by the vegan food service Back To The Basics which are sold at The Real Green café.

When the doctor told Mayavi Khandelwal, the owner of the vegan food service, My Pure Path, to go straight to the hospital, as she had very high diabetes and high blood pressure, she didn’t. Instead, in consultation with diabetes reversal specialist Pramod Tripathi, she reversed her diabetes, hypothyroid and high blood pressure with the help of a vegan diet (so did I, for the record). Furthermore, she lost 22 kilos just by going vegan. And that’s how My Pure Path came about. Mayavi has a whole range of jowar, bajra, and methi crackers, a nondairy cheesy dip, feta cheese and gluten-free breads. Mayavi says her mission is to empower others in healthy living by empowering homemakers in healthy food.

Energy Home, a vegan raw food restaurant, has been operating in Pondicherry for over seven years now. And then up north, a store cum café called The Holy Tree has opened in the city of Ludhiana. Run by Vinu Kumar and her husband Vishal Kumar, it is doing brilliantly. Vinu, who is a raw food practitioner for some years now, gave in finally to her patients’ demand and opened the store.

She had advised them to follow a no-wheat-no-milk diet, as a result of which many got rid of arthritis, muscle dystrophy, hypertension, and diabetes, amongst other ailments.

“In the 15 years of my career, I have cured my patients completely only through nutrition, as I feel that we can cure or harm our body through nutrition. And the healthiest way to cure our body and to keep it pure and healthy is by following a complete vegan diet. Our body has healing codes and if we create a support for our body, we enhance our body’s healing power. So if we make sure that all the proper nutritional requirements are given through our food then we help in enhancing the power of our body’s healing codes and our body’s immunity also increases. It is a misconception that vegans have a very limited choice in eating. We at The Holy Tree have proved this wrong. We have broken the wall between dairy products and vegan products. We have more than 250 recipes which are much tastier than the non vegan versions.”

So there you have it. Vegan is growing and this trend will only increase, there is no stopping it now. What is the biggest benefit of being vegan? The chance to eat healthy and be fitter. zz

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

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Think beyond milk for calcium requirements

Think beyond milk for calcium requirements
By Anuradha Sawhney Jul 07 2016
Tags: Foods and Drinks
Everyone knows the importance of calcium for our bodies. Calcium not only helps the heart muscles beat properly it also helps to build healthy bones. By healthy bones I mean bones that will not break easily, that are strong and can withstand sudden blows. Brittle bones is a condition when bones break easily. I know most people who drink dairy do so because they believe it gives them their calcium. But the opposite is true in fact. It is a myth that dairy milk provides calcium for humans.

Most Indians consume substantial amounts of dairy products — and government policies still promote them — despite scientific evidence that questions their health benefits and indicates their potential health risks. Over 75 per cent of Americans are deficient in calcium. The number of Indians who are deficient in calcium is not readily available but it is sure to be high.

Calcium is an important mineral that helps to keep bones strong. Our bones are constantly remodelling, meaning the body takes small amounts of calcium from the bones and replaces it with new calcium. Therefore, it is essential to have enough calcium so that the body doesn’t decrease bone density in this remodelling process. Though calcium is necessary for ensuring bone health, the actual benefits of calcium intake do not exist after consumption passes a certain threshold. Consum-ing more calcium than that needed by our body does not improve bone integrity.

It is possible to decrease the risk of osteoporosis by reducing sodium intake in the diet, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables and ensuring adequate calcium intake from plant foods such as kale, broccoli and other leafy green vegetables and beans. You can also use calcium-fortified products such as breakfast cereals and juices. Soy milk and fortified orange juice are two examples of products which provide about the same amount of calcium per serving as milk or other dairy products.

Because of heavy promotion by the dairy industry, the public often believes that cow’s milk is the sole source of calcium. However, other excellent sources of calcium exist. Unlike milk, plant-based calcium sources contain vitamins C and K and the minerals potassium and magnesium, which are all important for bone health. Sources of well-absorbed calcium for vegans include calcium-fortified soy milk and juice, calcium-set tofu, soybeans and soynuts, bok choy, broccoli, collards, Chinese cabbage, kale, mustard greens and okra. Grains, beans (other than soybeans), fruits, and vegetables can contribute to calcium intake but cannot replace these key foods.

According to an article from the Harvard School of Public Health, one cup of collard greens contains 357mg of calcium, but a cup of milk has 306. Collard greens also are one of the leafy greens with calcium that is more absorbable. (Some greens like spinach contain oxalic acid, which interferes with the absorption of calcium). The humble turnip or shalgam greens have an awesome amount of calcium (1 cup of turnip greens contains 249mg so start eating that shalgum saag right away), cooked kale is a calcium powerhouse (1 cup contains 179 mg of calcium), cooked sarson ka saag is awesome for its calcium content(1 cup contains 152mg), and even 1 cup cooked bhindi contains 135mg of calcium.

No matter what your diet, you just need to make sure to include two or three servings of calcium-rich foods and/or calcium-fortified foods in each meal, and you’ll be able to hit that target for bone health. And remember exercise is one of the most effective ways to increase bone density and decrease the risk of osteoporosis, and its benefits have been observed in studies of both children and adults.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

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YOU CAN BEAT STRESS AT WORK WITH NUTRITIOUS FOOD

You can beat stress at work with nutritious food

Adults in the United States spend more than half of their waking hours at work, giving employers a unique opportunity to impact the health and wellness of their employees. Similar working hour statistics can be found in urban India.

Staff working in corporates and multinationals in particular, by the very nature of their jobs and the fierce competition, often tend to suffer from work stress. According to a survey conducted across 10 corporate companies in New Delhi, 52 per cent of the corporate city population indicated mild to moderate stress levels, 39 per cent showed signs and symptoms of minimum to mild stress and 9 per cent manifested severe stress.

Workers who are stressed are also more likely to be unhealthy, poorly motivated, less productive and less safe at work. Stress management can be a powerful tool for wellness. People who are under constant stress are more vulnerable to everything from colds to high blood pressure and heart disease.

One strategy to cope with stress is to eat stress-fighting nutritious foods. The health advantages of a vegan diet have been confirmed by numerous doctors and nutritionists. A vegan diet strengthens the immune system and promotes longevity, health, intelligence and balance. It has a preventative affect against cancer, as well as coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and diabetes. A wholegrain plant based diet helps people manage work stress and related conditions like diabetes, hyper tension and heart disease.

People in offices should eat organic, nutritious, wholegrain, oil free lunches as well as snacks for the afternoon time munchies, when people typically tend to eat anything at hand, with no thought to how unhealthy it may be.

Companies can play a big role here. Many forward thinking companies, seeing the rising rate of ill health and stress amongst their employees have invested in providing some modicum of good food, even if it is in the form of daily snacks. With chronic disease rates rising and health care costs mounting, it’s more important than ever that workplaces adopt programmes and policies to encourage employees to eat more healthfully.

A physicians committee study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, American Journal of Health Promotion, Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism and Public Health Nutrition found that companies that offer employees a low-fat plant-based diet in the office can help their workers lose weight and improve diabetes.

Helping employees achieve optimal health is not only the right thing to do, but can impact a company’s bottomline. Healthy employees reduce the cost of health insurance premiums and other health related expenses, are more productive during the workday and take off less work time for illness and doctor’s visits. Making the right food choices is key to the prevention and survival of chronic diseases and health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Companies who want to help their employees improve their health have many options available to them. Companies can hold weekly sessions for workers consisting of nutrition education, cooking demonstrations, food samples and supportive group discussions.

Companies can also provide support for their food service caterer to incorporate healthful food options into the menu that is served to the employees. And in case the company does not provide food to its employees, it can provide guidance on healthy eating out choices to its employees. Staffers should be encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle within their working environ by eating nutritious, diet, low oil, wholegrain, vegan snacks and foods. Not only will they start to feel fitter, their energy levels will increase and so will their productivity. Companies owe it to their employees.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)