6 Foods that keep you hydrated

Our body needs water to function and survive. Water keeps the delicate tissues in our body moist. It also regulates body temperature, lubricates joints and helps flush out toxins. Water is very necessary for good health as it helps in digestion and removes waste products. It also carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells. Our body is made up of 75% of water at birth. Our cells gradually dry up and that is why we need to keep ourselves hydrated.

The easiest way of staying hydrated is to drink plenty of water. The recommended amount is six to eight glasses of water. Again, different people need different amounts of water to keep themselves hydrated. Some may need more and some may need less than the recommended 6-8 glasses. One way to know if you are drinking enough water is to check your urine. If it is light yellow or colourless, then you are drinking enough water. Dark yellow or amber urine shows that you may be dehydrated.

Water is not the only liquid that keeps you hydrated. You can keep yourself hydrated by eating or drinking other food. Liquids like tea, juices, milk, soups and coffee add to the amount of liquid you consume. All food contain water to some extent. Some food contain more water than others like cucumber, watermelon and tomatoes, which contain more than 95% water in them.

Lately, health enthusiasts have been saying that eating water laden vegetables and fruits is better than drinking lots of water, as sometimes water passes straight through and does not get absorbed by the cells which defeats the purpose. Hydration is all about absorbing and holding the water in the body. Eating hydrating food is better than drinking unlimited amounts of water as when you eat these hydrating foods, other molecules in the food help the cells to absorb the water and retain it. The water in the food is absorbed more slowly because the water is inside the structure of the food. This slow absorption also means that we retain it in our body for a longer time.

Another advantage of food with high water content is that it is usually low in calories, which may also help you lose weight. As we all know watery food makes us feel fuller for longer. You are not only eating water, but also lots of fibre and plant nutrients, which are very important for good health, and build immunity against many diseases. Hence it is recommended that these water rich food should be eaten raw, as cooking them leaches out the water and nutrients.

Foods that hydrate the body

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Cellular water loss is also said to cause aging. Our body has 75% water content at birth and it reduces to almost 50% when we reach middle age. When there is lack of adequate water supply, the structure of the skin cell deteriorates and leads to signs of aging. Since skin can only be beautiful when it is healthy at the cellular level, we need to provide our cells with nutrition filled with water.

So go for food with high water content and keep yourself healthy and hydrated.

How Herbal Supplements Interact with Drugs

Herbal medicines have been used by people since ancient times in various civilizations. But lately, the issue of herb-drug interactions has ominously appeared over the practice of herbal medicine. It has been noted that herb-drug interactions may not necessarily be a chemical interaction between a drug and a component of the herb that produces something toxic. The interaction may cause a herb component to either increase or decrease the amount of a drug in the blood stream. The herb may also lead to reducing the effect of the drug or increasing the drug effect.

Even though herbal supplements are popular these days, most people still take over the counter drugs and those prescribed by a doctor, in which case not telling the doctor about the herbal supplements, may lead to dangerous consequences. Mixing herbs with medicines should be done wisely. It has been discovered that grapefruit juice could affect drug metabolism. The biggest concern about drugs and their interactions with herbs are those medicines that people took continuously – such as blood thinners that are prescribed after a heart attack or stroke. Antidepressants are another concern.

Some of the commonly used herbs and their interactions with drugs are given below:

Feverfew (used for migraines and arthritis), garlic (to reduce blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure), ginger (nausea, vomiting and vertigo) and Ginko biloba (for increased blood circulation and improving memory and mental alertness) are said to have a blood thinning effect, and may increase bleeding especially in patients taking anti-clotting medications.

Echinacea, which is said to boost the immune system and help fight colds and flu may cause inflammation of the liver if used with certain medications such as anabolic steroids. Licorice, which is used for treating stomach ulcers may cause high blood pressure, swelling or electrolyte imbalances.

Persons using Ginseng (used to increase physical stamina and mental concentration), sometimes see increased heart rate or high blood pressure. Goldenseal may worsen swelling and high blood pressure. Saint John’s-wort should not be taken when taking antidepressant medication and the herb may intensify the effects of sedatives and diabetes medication.

Having said this, it would be prudent to note that in the article, ‘CHECKING FOR POSSIBLE HERB-DRUG INTERACTIONS’ by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon, it is mentioned that, “A standard procedure is to test the herb extract alone and to also test it with drugs that cause the same effect. If the drug effect is increased or prolonged by the herb, it is implied that the herb has a similar effect, even though it may have a different mechanism. Thus, a study intended to demonstrate that a traditional claim for an herb is true turns out to be a source of worry about herb-drug interactions. However, the amount of herb used in the pharmacology experiments of this type is often far higher than the amount normally used in clinical practice; the likelihood of herb-drug interactions occurring with normal use of the herb may be minimal.”

“When published reports alluding to adverse herb reactions (but not interactions) and to pharmacology studies only are eliminated, one is left with few instances of reported herb-drug interactions. This is likely due to the low dose of any individual herb component usually consumed and the simple absence of significant interaction at any reasonable dose.”

The best thing to do would be to consult with your doctor before taking herbal supplements.

Boost your Immunity the Natural Way

ImmunityEveryday, the immune system defends us against disease causing microorganisms, as well as protecting us from anomalies in the cellular system that may develop into cancerous growths. When the immune system works at its optimum level, the health is good. Sometimes the immune system fails, and one feels below par and constantly unwell. When immunity is compromised, it leaves the body defenceless and vulnerable to disease. The fact is that there are germs everywhere. It is very important to nurture and enhance one’s own internal resistance to disease, so that the microbes and viruses do not get a foothold.

A healthy immune system forms the basis of our well being, so it is important to make it more efficient by avoiding anything that might compromise or weaken it. This is fundamental to good health. First let us look at the factors that cause immunity to be compromised. It is mostly ascribed to the type of lifestyles we live. Diet, stress and medicines can cause an imbalance in our system by suppressing the immune response.

Diets that are high in fat, sugar, processed food and low in fresh food, fibre and essential nutrients lead to a weak immune system.  Like any fighting force, the immune system needs good, regular nourishment. This could be one of the reasons that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases.

Stress is another cause of low immunity. Chronic stress causes the adrenal glands to secrete higher levels of corticosteroids, which depress immune function. Research suggests that psychological stress affects the immune system by disrupting communication between the nervous system, the endocrine (hormonal) system, and the immune system.

Environmental pollutants in the form of radiation from mobile phones, television, microwaves and computers; chemicals from exhaust fumes, pesticides, herbicides, smoke, air fresheners and detergents; and pollutants from house dust, dust mites and mould can also cause a weak immune system.

The medications that we take when we are sick also causes imbalances in our immune system. Over use of antibiotics can cause suppression of normal immune system responses.

How to Boost Immunity?

What we eat has the power, both to harm and heal. We are what we eat and hence the efficiency of the body’s operations depend on whether the food we take in is appropriate or not. We can start by making changes to the diet we eat.

Diet: Reduce the intake of simple sugars, alcohol, saturated and harmful fats, and cut out on smoking and drug use. Diet should be natural, unprocessed and whole. Increase the intake of whole grain, legumes, fresh fruits, vegetables and drink plenty of water. Eat all colours (red, orange and yellow, white, green, blue and purple) of vegetables and fruits. Each coloured fruit and vegetable has unique health benefits that are necessary for our health. Malnourished individuals are more susceptible to disease as opposed to those who observe a healthy nutritious diet. The Harvard Health site says that “there is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies — for example, deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E — alter immune responses in animals, as measured in the test tube.”

One must also get enough rest and relaxation, quality sleep, and moderate exercise. Lack of sleep seems to impair the healthy functioning of the immune system. Exercise contributes to general good health and enhances the functioning of the immune system. Research has shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to get colds than those who are not active. Exercise may sometimes contribute more directly by promoting good circulation, thus allowing the components of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.

Natural Remedies For Optmizing Immune Activity:

Herbs like Echinacea, astralagus, licorice, ginseng, ginger and garlic are very effective remedies to boost the immune system. Garlic, ginger and onion are all immune supportive as well as warming. When used together, they provide powerful immune support than when used on their own. Herbs that support, strengthen or enhance components of the immune system are called immune stimulants. Herbs that increase general immunity are the most valued herbs in traditional healing systems, because when general immune functions become stronger and more efficient, we are generally more resistant to diseases. Ayurveda suggests the following home remedies to boost immunity.

In ayurveda, the most important herbs to boost immunity are Amla, Ashwagandha, Turmeric, Guduchi, Neem and Holy basil. Amla is a great liver toxifier and an anti-oxidant. Ashwagandha has a tonifying effect on the whole hormone system and it reduces stress. It is said to stimulate host defence. Turmeric as we all know is a very effective natural remedy as it is anti-inflammatory. Excessive inflammation causes tissue damage and depletion of the immune system. Curcumin, the compound in turmeric is recognized for controlling inflammation without the risk of toxicity.

Guduchi is a versatile herb which supports immune and liver function. Research indicates that Guduchi produces its anti-inflammatory effect through blocking the effect of inflammatory signals, thus controlling non-specific allergic reactivity and reducing the burden on the immune system. Neem is an anti-microbial herb of the Ayurvedic tradition. Medicinal compounds found in neem oil and leaves stimulate various immune cells to act against pathogens. Studies on the properties of neem have shown that it is toxic against a variety of fungus, bacteria, and viruses.

Holy Basil, is another herb that is a great immune booster. It is rich in essential oils that have a beneficial effect on the nervous system, immune system and the antioxidant system. The herb is known to have anti-stress effect in animal studies. Holy basil helps to replenish anti-oxidant enzymes in the body, while also controlling inflammation.

There are other ways to boost your immune system.

  • Drink a glass of lemon juice every morning. This is a perfect way to boost digestion and immunity at the same time.
  • The immune system is strongest in an alkaline environment. Drinking plenty of water will boost the alkalinity and thus the immunity.
  • Eat one cup of yogurt every day. Yogurt contains probiotics – bacteria that stimulates immunity cells in the GI tract.
  • Eat both – cooked food and raw food. Overcooked food diminishes the amount of immune boosting nutrients.
  • Have more Omega 3s by eating oily fish at least once a week. Flaxseed oil also contain Omega 3s, which is a good choice for vegetarians.

As an article in ayurvedicscience.com says, “It is very clear that balanced immune system is required for optimal health. Immune system cannot be balanced with a pill, herb, vitamin, drug or vaccine. Immune system can only be balanced with good and balanced nutrition, exercise, yoga, meditation, herbal and mineral support, along with creating balance at mental, emotional and spiritual levels.”

To Eat or Not to Eat – A Potato

 

health benefits of potatoesThe potato though much loved is also a much maligned vegetable, due to its high glycemic index and its tendency to make people obese. Here are some things you should know about a potato.

Potatoes originated in the Andean mountain region of South America. It was brought to Europe by Spanish explorers. At first it was not widely consumed, as it belonged to the night shade family, of which some species are poisonous. It is said that the potato promoted economic development by helping the industrial revolution in England. It was so easy to cultivate and provided ample calories, thus liberating workers from the land and provided labour for the new factories. Today it is one of the most popular vegetables throughout the world. In October 1995 the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space, to help feed astronauts on long space voyages.

The potato is a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese and dietary fibre. It contains a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity.

Health benefits of Potato

The potato is a very good source of B6. Vitamin B6 helps a lot of systems in our body like cardiovascular, digestive, immune, muscular and nervous system. It is very critical for new cell formation. It protects the heart and plays a very important role in brain cell and nervous system activity. The B6 vitamin is needed to make the hormone serotonin and norepinephrine, which affect mood. Thus eating potatoes may help with depression and stress.

The vitamin C in potatoes acts as an antioxidant.  Antioxidants protect us against damage caused by harmful molecules, as well as toxic chemicals and pollutants. Vitamin C protects us from immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and eye diseases.

Many of the beneficial phytochemicals in potatoes are contained in the potato skin, which is also the primary source of dietary fibre. Potato has both soluble and insoluble fibre. Potatoes are rich in fibre, but only when eaten with the skin.

Kukoamine, a compound found in potatoes, is said to have blood pressure lowering compounds. UK scientists have identified previously unknown compounds in the potato that are also found in a herbal used to lower blood pressure. Potatoes also contain potassium which acts as a vasodilator and reduces blood pressure. It is said to have more potassium than a banana.

Potatoes contain cartenoids, flavanoids and caffeic acid. A flavonoid-rich diet has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer, cardio-vascular disease and other chronic diseases. One of the key flavonoids in potatoes is quercetin, which has been linked to a lower risk of asthma, heart disease and lung cancer.

In spite of having all these health benefits, most of us do not absorb the nutrients because of the way it is cooked. Much of the nutrients in a potato is in the skin. Potassium, a mineral that helps lower blood pressure is found in the skin of the potato. It is also a good source of fibre.

Potatoes should be baked or steamed to retain most of its nutrients. Baking is the best. Boiling and cooking a peeled potato leads to loss of nutrients as most of the water soluble nutrients like B-complex vitamins, vitamin C and potassium leach out into the water that is used for boiling it. If you do want to boil it, it makes sense to use the water in a soup or as a stock for cooking. Also, do not leave the chopped peeled potatoes to soak for long.

According to forbes.com, “Storing potatoes in the fridge can increase the amount of acrylamide that forms when they’re cooked.” Keep potatoes outside the refrigerator in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or a pantry. The FDA suggests soaking potato slices in water for 15-30 minutes before cooking to reduce the amount of acrylamide that will form.”

Health risks of Potato

Potato is a nutrient-rich complex carbohydrate and plays an important role in a healthy diet. Starches usually take longer to digest, so in most complex carbohydrates they don’t cause a boost in blood sugar. But unfortunately, the starch in potatoes is easier to break down and digest than many other starches and hence, the carbohydrates in potatoes are digested very rapidly by the body thus causing rapid spikes in blood sugar. While healthy individuals can tolerate them in moderation, the rapid rise in blood sugar can lead to increased insulin production, which is why diabetics are discouraged from eating potatoes.

Because of this rise and fall in blood sugar, people may also tend to feel hungry soon, leading to over eating. Eating with the skin helps, as it is high in fibre. Soluble fibre becomes gel-like in the stomach, which fills you up and helps you feel full longer.

It has been recommended by some nutritionists to replace grains with potatoes and to not use potato as the only vegetable on your plate along with grains. Even when you cook potato in a healthy way, it can lead to health problems in persons with obesity or diabetes. Hence it makes sense to not make it unhealthy by frying it and adding butter or cheese to it.

Caution

If the potatoes are sprouting, you should cut out the eyes and the sprout before cooking the potato.

Potatoes turn green when they have too much exposure to light. Never eat potatoes that are spoiled or have turned green below the skin as they are poisonous.

Potatoes should also not be stored around onions because both vegetables emit natural gases that cause the other to decay.

Studies have shown that potatoes, which cooked above 120 degrees C or 248 degrees F, produce a chemical known as acrylamide. This compound, has been found to play a role in the development of several cancers, and and may also have negative effects on genes and reproductive health. Fried potato products, such as potato chips and French fries, are high in acrylamides.  “Decreasing cooking time, blanching potatoes before frying, and postdrying (drying in a hot air oven after frying) have been shown to decrease the acrylamide content of some foods” says the website, cancer.gov

Potato is a good source of potassium. However high levels of potassium in the body is not good for those with kidney problems, as the kidneys may not be able to filter excess potassium from the blood. This could be fatal.

Knowing both the benefits and risks, help us choose food wisely. Since the overall eating pattern is very important in achieving good health, we should eat a diet with a variety of foods, instead of  depending on individual foods to keep us healthy.

Eat right – the traditional way

The purpose of food, it is said is not only to increase longevity and bodily strength, but also to purify the mind and consciousness. Food is supposed to nourish the organs, regulate various activities of the body and help the different organs in the body to grow. Eating the right kind of food promotes health and growth, while there are some food items and practices that should be avoided as they lead to health problems. Ayurveda tells us to combine food wisely, eat in a pleasant atmosphere and at fixed times to get maximum benefits from the food that we eat. The choices we make regarding food, either builds up immunity or destroys it.

Start the day with warm water

The water that is used by the body overnight for digestion, cleansing, and elimination, needs to be replenished. It is hence, necessary to drink water first thing in the morning, preferably warm. Warm water is said to stimulate digestion and wash out the toxins, thus preparing the body for the day ahead. Adding the juice of half a lemon to warm water, makes it even more healthy. This is because lemon leaves an alkaline residue, which is necessary for good health.

Do not Overeat

Ayurveda advises us to eat slightly less than what the appetite demands, because it is not only about the amount of food we ingest, but also how well we digest and absorb the nutrients from the food into our system. The stomach needs working space, and so, it should be filled only half and actually thats how much we need to feed our hunger. We should leave 1/4th space for liquids and 1/4th space for air to help in digestion. Overeating dulls the mind and tires the body.

Chew properly

It is said that half the digestion takes place in our mouth. By chewing properly, we can save our intestines a lot of work. The intestines have to work harder to digest half-chewed food. One should eat slowly and chew well. This helps in two ways. It gives the brain enough time to receive the signal from the stomach that it’s full. Therefore, the slower we chew, the lesser we eat. Also, when we chew thoroughly, our digestive system becomes aware of incoming food, and triggers the production of digestive acids which  helps the body absorb nutrients.Food that has not been chewed properly, promotes all sorts of problems like intestinal bacteria, flatulence, bloating, constipation, stomach ache, cramps and even diarrhea. That is why we are asked to chew our food at least 32 times before swallowing it.

Focus on the Food

Ayurveda asks us to eat with the belief that the food we eat is enhancing the energy, intelligence and health. It advises us to eat mindfully, that is , eating without distraction. How do we do this? We eat mindfully by not doing anything else while eating, like watching television or reading. By eating slowly and savouring the food, one enjoys it more. Above all, when we are aware of every morsel we eat, we know when we are getting full, and can avoid over eating. The environment should be peaceful during meals and we should refrain from emotions like anger, irritation, and negative thinking. The food should be cooked with love and care in order to transfer positive energy to food. Food is considered next to God because it gives us life, and it is said that, eating the food with our hands enables to transfer the warmth of our body to the food, and creates a closeness and a bond with our food.

Should you drink water with food?

Our stomach starts releasing digestive juices as soon as we start eating, or even before. When we drink water during meals, what we are essentially doing is diluting the digestive juices that are released to digest the food, thus hindering them from breaking down food. Sipping a little water during meals isn’t a cause for concern but drinking more than that may interfere with digestion. Drinking water before eating leads to loss of appetite and this may be helpful for people who want to lose weight. It is best to drink water about 30 mins before we start eating. We should avoid drinking water for about two hours after meals as this helps in the absorption of nutrients. Eating in a hurry causes us to gulp down our food, thus triggering our need to wash it down with water. If we chew our food well, we will not find the need for water to wash it down.

Eat at fixed times

In ayurveda, an important rule is to maintain atleast a gap of three hours between meals. The habit of snacking in between meals, hampers the digestive process and other complex functions of the body. The digestive power is said to be the strongest at mid day, and therefore we should take our main meal at this time. Ayurveda asks us to wait at least three hours after a light meal and five after a heavy meal before eating again.

Have fresh and natural food

Eat fresh food to remain healthy. One should try to eat seasonal vegetables and fruits, and whole grain and dried fruits. Food should be as fresh as possible. Natural foods like milk products, grains, fruits, and vegetables are believed to increase longevity, give strength, health and happiness. It also satisfies the body and mind. Ayurveda also tells us to eat different tastes – salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, in one meal. This is because these various tastes stimulate the digestive juices to a great extent. This may explain why a traditional Indian meal (which has a variety of different tastes and flavours), also includes a small sweet dish in the main meal and not as a separate dessert.

How to cook your vitamins

We all are aware that fruits and vegetables should be an important part of our diet. Most of us try to ingest as much as possible. Yet we don’t see positive results, we don’t seem to be really getting all the nutrients from the food. This may be because of many reasons – the food is not fresh, and hence has lost most of the nutrients; we lack knowledge about how a particular vegetable should be cooked, so that we can absorb most of the nutrients;  Should the vegetable be eaten raw or cooked? Most of the time, we lose a lot of vitamins during the process of preparing, storing and cooking food.

First of all it is necessary to know our vitamins. For instance, we all know that tomatoes, red capsicums, spinach are rich in vitamin C. So we cook them and eat them, thinking we have had a very nutritious diet. But the truth is that vitamin C is water soluble and when we cook it, it leaches out into the water, and if you don’t drink the water or use it in a soup, you didn’t really get vitamin C from the food you ate. So its best to eat them raw or steamed. But wait a minute, there is something called Lycopene in tomatoes, that is not available all that much in raw tomatoes. Lycopene increases as the tomatoes are cooked more and more. Also, when eaten with oil, it increases lycopene absorption by the body. Spinach has quite a good amount of calcium. But it also has oxalic acid which can interfere with the absorption of calcium by the body. Since spinach offers a lot nutritionally, you cannot stop eating spinach. The answer is to eat yogurt to get calcium and spinach to get all the other nutrients like vitamin C, Iron and vitamin A.

The secret here is to know your vitamins and minerals, and how to cook them. There are water soluble vitamins and fat soluble vitamins. We can avoid specific types of vitamin loss, by cooking them right. Vitamins A, E, D and K are fat soluble vitamins, therefore the food has to contain some fat, to be a good source of one of these vitamins, and to get the most from them. In general, fat soluble vitamins are fairly well retained while preparing food, largely because they don’t dissolve in water. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues. They are used by the body as required and eliminated more slowly than water-soluble vitamins. So an overdose of these vitamins could lead to toxic results.

Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body and as such have to be replenished every day. The water soluble vitamins are the B vitamins, vitamin C and folates. These vitamins are also easily excreted by the kidneys. Water soluble vitamins readily dissolve into the water used in cooking. This is one reason why you should cook with just enough water or use the liquid from cooking to make soups. Heat is another problem for many water soluble vitamins.

Following these tips will help cut down the nutrient losses from foods while preparing and storing food.

Use fresh fruits and vegetables, as soon as possible after purchase, as nutrients get destroyed with the passage of time. Avoid soaking vegetables in water for long periods of time. Keep the skin intact whenever possible, as in some vegetables and fruits the nutrients are often just below the skin. Do not wash the vegetable after cutting it and try to cut it into larger pieces as there is less loss of nutrition. Vitamin C also evaporates into air, hence keep juices covered tightly in the fridge. Riboflavin is destroyed by exposure to light, hence keep food with riboflavin, covered and in the fridge as soon as possible. Serve cooked vegetables immediately, as it starts losing nutrition after 24 hours in the fridge.

Where cooking vegetables is concerned, it is better to steam vegetables than to boil them. Don’t cook for long and avoid high temperatures. To avoid stickiness in food like pastas, adding some oil is a better alternative than to rinse them, as some vitamins will also be washed off. The key is to cook vegetables gently, without a great deal of water. This will help protect the water-soluble vitamins. Blanching the vegetables will also help preserve the color and nutrients in the food we eat.

Health benefits of fruits

 

fruitsWe are most often born with healthy minds and bodies, but as we grow older, our body invariably loses its natural capacity to renew and rejuvenate itself. The main reason for this is poor diet and lifestyle choices. We have become completely alienated from nature. The progress of science has led to man being better fed, but very poorly nourished. The food we eat is devoid of vital nutrients. Diet plays a very important role, in the maintenance of good health, in addition to prevention and treatment of various diseases.

Nature has given us a vast choice of natural and fresh food which helps us lead a healthy, energetic and disease free life. All that we need is available in nature. We just need to have the knowledge to use them effectively in order to gain the most from them. Fruits are the most natural food you can find, which can be eaten raw – that is, in its natural state. Fruits are an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and enzymes. They can be easily digested and have a cleansing effect on the blood and the digestive system. There are a lot more reasons why we should have a generous helping of fruits in our diet.

Why should we eat fruits?

Fruits are alkaline forming    

When the body is acidic, it is more susceptible to diseases, and can lead to acidosis. It has been known for a long time that fruit is one of the most alkaline forming foods that exist. Some fruits like oranges maybe acidic to taste,  but are alkaline forming after digestion. An alkaline diet is said to improve the K/Na ratio and may benefit bone health, reduce muscle wasting, as well as prevent diseases such as hypertension and strokes. Most fruits are alkaline forming, except a few like prunes, plums and cranberries.

High in Water Content

Fruits also have a high percentage of water, about 80%, and hence are very hydrating. Water is one of the most essential nutrients. It regulates body temperatures, eliminates toxins, carries nutrients and helps chemical reactions that occur in our cells. Water also lubricates and cushions our joints.

Source of natural sugar

The body needs natural sugar as a source of energy. The complex sugar from starchy food is broken down into simpler sugars by digestive enzymes. Fruits contain simple sugars which is used directly by the body, unlike refined sugar which is devoid of nutrients and fibre, and do not provide any minerals and vitamins. Fruit on the other hand is a nutrient-dense food, full of vitamins and minerals.

Medicinal Properties of fruits

Fruits help to clear the system of wastes and toxins and replenish the body’s sugar, vitamins and minerals. The fibre in the fruits acts as a laxative and aids the smooth passage of food in the digestive tract. Papaya is an excellent source of vitamin C and carotene, and a medium sized mango provides much of the vitamin A necessary for the body. The minerals in the fruits and dry fruits like raisins help to build strong bones. Fruits like custard apple supply enough calcium to meet our daily requirement.

Certain fruits are known to be beneficial in combating certain ailments. Apple, pomegranate, lemon and orange are said to be beneficial for the heart. Fruits like apple dates and mango are said to be good for the central nervous system. The nutrients in these fruits exert a tonic effect on the nerves. All berries are said to strengthen nerves and build blood. Watermelons cleanses the kidneys. Lemons are a good remedy for liver problems and indigestion. Thus, a generous helping of fruits taken everyday, may help prevent diseases and keeps one energized and healthy.

How should we eat Fruits?

Eat Seasonal Fruits

Food culture usually evolves to suit the needs of every region. Globalization has taken away the food culture that is suited to a region. When one chooses to eat local fruits, one is sure that they are fresh. Nowadays it is difficult to know what fruit is in season as all kinds of fruit are readily available. When we eat seasonal fruits, we know that the phytonutrients have developed to their full potential. Fruits are available in certain seasons for a reason. We need more of certain nutrients during certain seasons. Water melons and tropical fruits are available in the summer, and they should be eaten then as they are high in water content and potassium. They replenish the water and salts that have been lost through sweat. Citrus fruits are available in winter. According to ayurveda, in winter, the constitution is usually imbalanced, which results in a sluggish internal environment that leads to the breeding of many viruses. To avoid this we need to build up our immunity, and what better fruit than oranges to do this.

Eat a Large variety of raw fruits

Nutritionists advice eating a large variety of fruits, so as to get all round nutrition.  One should also eat one type of fruit at a time, and avoid mixing acid fruits with sweet ones. Choosing local variants and seasonal fruits will be more affordable and an assurance that one eats fresh fruit rather than packaged, processed or preserved stuff. Fruits are best eaten raw, as they lose much of their nutritional value when cooked.

When Should we Eat Fruits?

The best time to eat fruits is first thing in the morning after a glass of water. There are some nutritional claims that fruit should not be eaten along with other foods. This is because they believe that when fruits are eaten with other foods, they stay longer in the stomach and ferment the other digested foods, causing gas and indigestion. Another claim is that the body has trouble digesting the carbohydrates in fruit when in combination with other foods. Even though this is not supported by the science, natural hygienists believe that fruits don’t combine well with other foods. The reason is that fruit contains simple sugars that require no digestion, and hence don’t stay for a long time in the stomach, whereas foods rich in fat, protein and starch, stay in the stomach for a longer period of time because they take more time to digest. Therefore when you eat fruit after or along with a meal, the fruit sugar stays longer in the stomach and ferments. You need to leave a gap of at least 30 minutes between a meal and a fruit snack. Ideally, one should eat fruits an hour before the meal or two hours after, if they have diabetes or any other digestive problem like acidity.

Health Benefits of Sprouts

alfaalfasproutsSprouting raw grains, seeds and legumes is considered one of the best ways to enhance the nutrients in the food that we eat. Sprouts are one of the most nutritious food. This is because, when food is sprouted, it improves its digestibility and nutritional qualities. All edible grains like wheat, barley, maize, wheat and rice, seeds like alfalfa, fenugreek, sesame, and legumes like mung, bengal gram, peas and beans can be sprouted.

The grain is considered a sprouted grain, during the brief period in its cycle when it has started to sprout, but has not developed into a plant. The outer layer, which is called the bran, splits open and the beginning of a young shoot becomes visible. Some of the starchy portion of the grain gets digested by the shoot. By sprouting whole grains, we increase their vitamin, mineral and fibre content, lower their glycemic index and increase bioavailability, which is the ability of the body to make use of nutrients like calcium.

Raw nuts and seeds already have a lot of nutrients in them. Sprouting them multiplies their nutrition. Soaking the seeds and rinsing them helps to remove the enzyme inhibitors. The seed begins to germinate and the nutrients in the seeds start to break down into simpler components. Proteins break down into amino acids and amides. The complex starches break down into simpler sugars. Fats and oils are converted into more simple fatty acids by the action of the enzyme, Lipase.

The vitamins, minerals, ascorbic acid and proteins increase substantially with corresponding decrease in calories and carbohydrates content. Due to this breaking down process, the food becomes easily digestible (often referred to as ‘pre-digested food’). This is because the food has already been acted upon by the enzymes.

Legumes like beans lose their gas producing quality. Oligosaccharides are considered responsible for gas formation. Oligosaccharides are large molecules which are not broken down or absorbed by the human body as other sugars are, as the human body does not produce the enzyme that breaks down oligosaccharides. When beans start sprouting, the oligosaccharides is reduced by 90 per cent. In the book ‘History of Soy Sprouts (100 CE To 2013): Extensively Annotated Bibliography’ … by William Shurtleff, there is a reference to soya beans where the ”concentration of oligosaccharides decreased with germination”. Thus sprouting is a simple way of removing most of the oligosaccharides, which cause flatulence or intestinal gas in humans from soya beans.

There are reports of many studies that have proven the phenomenal health benefits of sprouts. German researchers have found that the process of sprouting decreased gluten proteins and  increased folates. Longer germination process led to a substantial increase of total dietary fibre, with soluble fibre increasing three times and insoluble fibre decreasing by half. Korean researchers fed hypertensive rats for five weeks with raw buckwheat extract and germinated buckwheat extract and compared the results. They found that the rats that were fed the germinated buckwheat had lower systolic blood pressure. In Japan, a few men and women with type-2 diabetes were randomly asked to eat either white rice or sprouted brown rice three times a day. They reported that “blood concentrations of fasting blood glucose, fructosamine, serum total cholesterol and triacylglycerol were favorably improved on the sprouted brown rice diet but not on the white rice diet”

Korean researchers found that when buckwheat was sprouted for 48 hours, it developed anti-fatty liver activities that led to a significant reduction in fatty liver in mice after eight weeks. They found that sprouting the buckwheat, increased the concentration of rutin quercitin, which are known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Forty-one breast-feeding Japanese mothers were randomly divided into two groups, one eating white rice and the other sprouted brown rice, for two weeks.  When psychological and immune tests were done with both groups, the group who had consumed sprouted brown rice, was found to have decreased levels of depression, anger, hostility, and fatigue, and a significant increase in immune system function.

In a study in the ‘The Journal Sprouting of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, December 13, 2006;’ it was found that the folates in rye increased by 1.7- to 3.8-fold, depending on germination  temperature. In a study on the effects of different processes on rye, they came to the conclusion that thermal treatments – including extrusion, puffing, and toasting – leads to significant folate losses. But, when  rye was sprouted and then heat-processed, losses were minimized, showing that sprouting helps to retain nutrients during food processing.

For those of us who want to include raw food in the diet, this is a very healthy way to go about it. Sprouts can be included in salads, sandwiches and rolls to add that crunch to the food. It can also be eaten as it is, a tablespoon at a time.