YOGA: A Way of life with Health Benefits

The seeds of Yoga were sown in India. Yoga is an ancient practice originated from the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda and is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuji,” which means union (1). Yoga practise is based on  the union of mind, body and soul together and hence has various physical , mental and spiritual health benefits. With its several health benefits this practise was spread widely across the globe and practise was adopted readily, though it lacked scientific backup. As we moved ahead, there started a growing research on YOGA and its health benefits, which raised the value of Yoga as a part of life. And on 21st June 2020 we celebrate the 6th International Yoga Day with the theme, Yoga for Health – Yoga at Home (2). On this occasion, let us have a quick look at the various evidence based health benefits.

Yoga is based on breathing exercises pranayama, meditations and yogic poses done at a slow pace which emphasizes on union of mind, body and soul. Various researches have indicated long lasting health benefits of Yoga but the results are seen only if you make Yoga a part of your daily routine.  Many people start practising yoga for better mental health. Yes, Yoga does  have mental health benefits:

  1. Reduces stress and promotes relaxation: Evidence based research suggested that 10-12 weeks of yoga practise reduced the stress hormone (cortisol) level, which reduce stress and mental fatigue. This power could be amplified if used in conjuction with other stress reducing techniques.
  2. Improves concentration: With the breathing and being present in the moment it improves focus and attention.
  3. Reduces anxiety and depression: There is a positive association between yoga and reducing anxiety, fatigue and depression, though the mechanism is less explored (3).

However, it could be used as adjunct therapy to meditation, mental exercises and diet for better results.

In addition to that, Yoga also offers physical health benefits such as:

  1. Increases Flexibility and Balance:. Research indicated that yoga asanas  improve flexibility and balance of muscle groups. Many people add yoga to their fitness routine to improve flexibility and balance. Practicing about 1 hour of yoga biweekly for 6 weeks improves flexibility and balance of the body (4).
  2. Weight Loss: About 4 weeks of suryanamaskar in obese people showed significant reduction in weight of about 4 kgs (5). In fact, there are specific poses in yoga that are designed to increase strength and build muscle. About 24 weeks of suryanamaskar can significantly increase upper body strength, endurance and weight loss with a drop in body fat percentage (6).
  3. Improves Breathing And Lung And Heart Health: Pranayama, or yogic breathing, is a practice in yoga that focuses on controlling the breath through breathing exercises and techniques. Most types of yoga incorporate these breathing exercises, and several studies have found that practicing yoga could help improve breathing. VO2 max (maximum amount of air that can be expelled from the lungs) improved (7). It is especially important for those with lung disease, heart problems and asthma. This promotes cardiovascular  endurance, good lungs and heart health and hence optimum performance.
  4. Reduces Inflammation: Pro-inflammatory state in the body can lead to several chronic inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. Research indicated that practising yoga can reduce inflammatory markers and thereby reduce inflammation and slow down disease progression (8).
  5. Increases Immunity: Certain yogasanas help in reducing oxidative stress and thereby protect and improve activity of immune cells, boost immunity (9).
  6. Improves Heart Health: Research evidence suggests that if yoga is practised for long – 1 year and more, then it helps in keeping blood pressure and pulse rate under control and improves lipid profile by reducing cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and reduce risk factors for heart disease (10,11). Caution: Heart patients have to avoid some yogic poses, hence consult an expert yoga trainer before trying out yoga .
  7. Reduce Chronic Pain and Improve Activities of Daily Living: Chronic pain is a common issue affecting millions of people due to various caused from injuries to arthritis.  Research has shown that practicing yoga reduced pain and improve function in knee osteoarthritis, low back pain carpal tunnel syndrome, and migraines (12).
  8. Promotes Better Sleep Quality: Poor sleep quality has been associated with obesity, high blood pressure and depression, among other disorders .Yoga may help improve sleep quality by improving melatonin levels, and reducing anxiety, depression, chronic pain and stress which are contributors to sleep problems (13).
  9. Promotes Mindful Eating: Yoga encourages mindful eating which means being the present moment while making a food choice and eating. Yoga may be beneficial in disordered eating behaviors (14).
  10. Improves Quality of life: With improved physical and mental health and function, pain reduction, good sleep quality and improved performance of daily functions, yoga improves the overall quality of life (15).

Take-Away: Several studies have confirmed the many mental and physical benefits of yoga such as increase strength and flexibility and reduce symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety, and reduce the risk of inflammation, pain and chronic diseases. Making the time to practice yoga of about 30-45 minutes 3 times a week may be enough to make a noticeable difference when it comes to your health. Yoga along with good nutrition can lead us to a holistic balance of mind, body and soul and a healthy life .

                                                                                                     

Dr. Monal Velangi 

MoVe

Clever ways to eat a Mango to make the most out of it!

The sunny summer brings with it the King of fruits, “The Mango”. This fruit is a favourite of most of us. This juicy, delicious yellow coloured mango fruit is relished upon by people across all ages.  Nutritionally speaking,  1 small mango (175 g) gives about 350 calories, also the carbohydrate content of this fruit is majorly sugar with negligible amounts of dietary fibre. This makes most of us wonder what is the best way to enjoy this fruit without gaining weight or becoming fat. Hence, I am writing this blog to throw some more light on its other health benefits and some tips to keep in mind before eating a mango.

Summer season brings mango with it for a reason. Mango’s yellow color is due to the carotenoids, namely – Beta-carotene( a provitamin A),  lutein, and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids not only give the mango its attractive yellow / mango colour but also offer various health benefits which are backed by many scientific studies.

Health benefits of eating a mango are:

  1. Carotenoids: Of the total carotenoids, major part is the beta- carotene, about 1808 mgs in 1 small mango (175 g). This B-carotene along with the mango’s vitamin C content (about 56 mgs/ 175 g); this duo forms a best combination for the body’s internal antioxidant system which offers :
    • Protection against internal oxidative stress due to oxidants such as pollution, smoke, ultraviolet radiations; and reduce the lipid peroxidation and DNA damage.
    • Protects, eyes, skin and hair in the hot sunny summers from the sun damage due to the harmful ultraviolet radiations, thus having antiaging and anti-inflammatory benefits.
    • B-carotene (provitamin A) also play a major role in eye health and vision.
  2. Lutein and zeaxanthin: They are also the carotenoids along with Beta-carotene, which play a crucial role in eye health, by protecting the retina and lens,  improving visual range, reducing the discomfort from glare, enhance visual contrast, and reduced time to recover from the stress of bright lights. They also protect eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays, and fight or slow the progression of cataract,  age related macular degeneration.
  3. The polyphenols in mango (mangiferin, catechins, quercetin, anthocyanins ) also reduce the lipid peroxidation and DNA damage have anti- inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

However its high sugar content, places mango under the high glycemic index  (GI) category which means it raises the blood sugar level quickly and if the carbohydrate stores in our body are full, it may get converted to fat and stored in the fat depots of body. Hence, we need to keep certain things in mind to make the most of this mango without fretting about gaining weight. However, if eaten in the right way we can make the most out of this fruit.

Some clever ways to eat a mango are:

  1. Portion size : small to medium mango ideally one per day, more could be allowed based on the nutritional status of an individual.
  2. If you want to have a fresh mango, have it early in the morning, first thing after to wake up, since that time your fasting blood sugar in low This is not recommended for people suffering from diabetes. However, they can check with the dietitian about the mango allowance, which would be advised based on your blood sugar levels and history).
  3. Cutting down on portion size and addition of some fibre, protein and good fats could reduce the glycemic load and prevent the weight
  4. If you wish to have it later during the day then you can include it as a part of a recipe. I have shared some mango recipes on my Instagram posts – mango shake, mango chia pudding.  You could also try adding mango slices to yoghurt, green salads, over cooked fish, or mix it into whole grains, like oats, daliya, quinoa, coconut milk based mango ice-cream, home-made mango kulfi.

Eat your mango in a right way and at the right time to make the most out of it!

Happy Summer!

Dr. Monal Velangi

MoVe

Tips to drink enough water to stay hydrated

In my last blog on “Are you drinking enough water to stay hydrated?” I spoke about why our body needs the crucial nutrient – water and why it is important to keep ourselves hydrated. Afterwards, many of you approached me with similar questions. Hence, here I come up with another blog on tips on ways to drink water to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. This blog would answer the FAQs from the readers.

In my busy routine of back-to-back diet counselling sessions, I often used to forget about drinking water. By afternoon, I felt dryness in my mouth, sluggishness, low energy and a drop in concentration levels. All these were early signs of dehydration. Many a times you miss out on these signs, and the best way to check if you are well hydrated, is to check your urine colour. Consistently colorless or pale yellow urine suggests optimal hydration, while darker yellow urine suggests dehydration. My problem areas were: my water bottle was not kept ready on time by the help at work, and me not getting time to fill the water bottle amidst the counselling sessions and e-consults. So I planned out a 21 days water goal to overcome this issue, and reminded myself that “wherever I go, my filled water bottle will follow”. Every morning, before stepping out of the house I made sure that I carried my water bottle for 21 days and kept it handy at my work desk and used to refill during the lunch break. By the end of these 21 days, I developed a habit of drinking water more regularly to stay hydrated!

I tried to jot down some tips which could come handy to meet your water goals.

  1. About 2-3 litres (12-15 glasses) of drinking water per day for a healthy individual. (If you have any medical conditions such as kidney failure, acute and chronic kidney disease, liver failure and heart issues there would be some restrictions on water intake allowance, which you can check with your nutritionist / dietitian).
  2. Divide the water intake throughout the day instead of drinking 1 bottle at one shot, as mentioned in my last blog. Begin and end your day with a glass of water, in fact have a glass of water at every hour of the day. This would ensure you are well hydrated throughout the day, with reduced frequency of washroom visits which could be seen when you gulp down large amounts of water at once.
  3. Stay hydrated while you exercise, because physical activity demands higher water requirements. Make sure that you drink water before, during and after your workout.
  4. Don’t get confused between thirst versus hunger. When you feel hungry, first drink water, as thirst could mask the hunger. However, actual hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water.
  5. If you don’t like the taste of plain water; you can add lemon or orange slice to it.
  6. You can carry a reusable water bottle so that it could be re-filled with water once it’s empty and help you keep a count of the litres of water intake.
  7. To drink or store water use copper or  glass or steel bottles or utensils, or earthen pots or BPA(bisphenol A) free material. Avoid plastic glasses and bottles, as it contains BPA which is harmful for human health and is linked to cancer and fertility issues.
  8. Drinking water also helps to control portion sizes of beverages and food intake.
  9. Summers and hot climates definitely calls for higher water needs in order to replenish the water losses via sweating for cooling down the body temperature.
  10. Choose filtered water to drink and avoid water from any unknown source, to prevent infections and water-borne diseases due to contaminated water.

Stay well hydrated to stay healthy and fit!

Dr. Monal Velangi

MoVe

Are you drinking enough water to stay hydrated?

During my diet conversations when I ask “are you drinking enough water? ” I hear a “NO”. When we further try to understand the  “Why?” behind it; some of the top reasons which we come across are:

  • I don’t feel thirsty too often
  • I forget
  • I am busy, no time to get up and fill the water bottle
  • I don’t drink tap water at work
  • I don’t prefer to pay for packaged water
  • I don’t like the taste of water

But do these reasons outweigh the benefits of drinking water and staying hydrated?

People commonly respond to the FAQ on name the nutrients with carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and some do tend to scrape up to vitamins and minerals as well. But as usual we are missing out on the most abundantly available and crucial nutrient – “WATER”,  a nutrient that is taken for granted but can do wonders if taken in the right way.

Why is drinking water important for our body?

Water constitutes around 70% of our total body weight. All cells contain water, but in different quantities.  Interestingly, muscle cells (70-75%) contain way more water than the fat cells (10-15%). Every cell and organ depends on water for crucial functions:

  • Structure, function and protection of the cells, tissues, organs and systems
  • Transportation of nutrients and oxygen to cells and removal of waste and toxins.
  • Maintaining blood volume , blood pressure, circulation and heart’s pumping.
  • Role in saliva and enzymes production, and metabolism of nutrients
  • Regulation of normal body temperature
  • Urine formation and regulation of kidney function and bowel movements
  • Lubrication of the joints

Why do we need to stay hydrated?

It is essential to maintain the water balance of our body, the balance between the water gain (water and food intake and metabolism) and water loss (sweating, losses through skin and lungs, urine, feaces). In our day to day lives, often despite healthy food intake, water intake in missed out on. In this poor hydration scenario, the cells start losing water, the water losses exceed the water intake, resulting in a negative water balance and dehydration. Dehydration is a serious condition, and could cause an array of  issues ranging from reduced energy, focus, headache, dizziness, fatigue to serious heat stroke. Poor water intake could also increase the risk for disorders like – kidney stones, generalised body ache, low blood pressure, weight gain etc.

Remember : Thirst is not a signal to drink water, but it is the danger signal indicating dehydration. It is essential to drink the right amount of water, in a right way at a right time. Drinking 1-2 litres of water in one go wont be beneficial as the excess water will be excreted. Instead try sipping water throughout the day to reach a goal of 2-3 litres by the end of the day. Also, higher the muscle mass, higher would be the water requirement. Caution: In clinical conditions such as kidney function failure and severe heart diseases, there are restrictions on total water intake calculated based on the condition.

Dr. Monal Velangi

MoVe

Turmeric Drinks to Boost Immunity

Turmeric powder commonly known as haldi holds a crucial place in our spice box and in Indian cuisine. This typical yellow coloured spice is the ground form of the turmeric root. There are about 30 varieties of turmeric. Best varieties are found in south India, amongst which organic “Salem” is widely preferred.

Turmeric contains bioactive compound curcumin, which has several functional properties which provides medicinal benefits as follows:

  1. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and pain relief : bone disorders (arthritis, joint pain), cancer, heart diseases, eye disorders (age related macular degeneration , mebomitis), brain health (Alzheimer’s and depression)
  2. Anti-viral, antifungal and antimicrobial and immunity boosting effects (cold and cough, skin rashes, allergies)
  3. Wound healing : Post-operative cases, cuts and bruises.
  4. Antioxidant : Anti- aging, protects against pollution.

How to make the most out of the turmeric spice in beverages?

For maximum benefit use it with pepper, as its piperine improves curcumin absorption or ghee or virgin coconut oil , curcumin being fat soluble can help in better absorption. 

Home based DIY Recipes

  1. Turmeric tea / Golden tea: A) Bring 250 ml of water to a boil. Add ¼th teaspoon of turmeric  powder, simmer and steep for 10 minutes. Strain this tea through a strainer into a cup. To this add 1/8th teaspoon pepper, ¼th teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon lemon; or B) Bring 250 ml of water to a boil. Add 2 cloves, ¼th teaspoon cinnamon powder, ¼th teaspoon of turmeric powder, ¼th teaspoon pepper powder to it. Allow it to steep for about 5 minutes before pouring in the cup. Best time: Early morning.
  2. Haldi milk/ Golden Milk: Add ¼th teaspoon of turmeric powder to 1 cup of milk and bring it to a boil. Further to this add 2 strands of saffron , ¼th teaspoon ghee and ¼th teaspoon honey. Best time: Early morning or bed time.
  3. Turmeric Coconut latte / Golden Coconut milk : Take 1 cup of coconut milk , add ¼th tsp turmeric powder, ½ inch grated ginger and bring it to a boil. To this add, 2 strands of saffron 1 teaspoon of virgin coconut oil and ¼th teaspoon honey. Best time: Mid morning or late evening

Caution: Consult your nutritionist / dietitian before taking any supplements.

Dr. Monal Velangi

MoVe towards a healthier you!

A Balanced Diet is essential for Immunity!

A Balanced Diet is a diet that provides all the essential nutrients in required, adequate quantities and proportions for optimal growth and functioning of the body. In addition to this, we must include bioactive compounds, antioxidants and functional foods.

It includes all nutrients in proper quantities and proportions to each other. It recognizes individual variations as well as those due to age, gender, physiological stage of development, etc. It reflects the availability of various foods, socio-economic conditions, preparation facilities and cooking skills.

It helps you to meet your energy needs and get your share of adequate macronutrients -carbohydrates (55-60%), proteins (15-20%), fats (20%-25%), vitamins, minerals and other nutrients of an individual. By meeting the energy requirements, promoting growth and development, maintenance and repair of tissues and other living processes, it helps in smooth functioning of the body.

Based on the macronutrients content the foods are grouped together into 7 food groups (Table 1) and they need to be taken in proper proportions to meet the nutritional needs along with physical activity as portrayed in the My Pyramid (Figure 1).

MyPyramid - Info on the USDA Food Pyramid: My Pyramid
Figure 1. Food pyramid adapted from mypyramid.gov

Table 1. Food Groups based on their Macronutrient content.

Food Group FoodsMacronutrient content
CerealsChapatti, Rice, Daliya,
Idli, Poha, Upma, Dosa, Kurmura, Popcorn, Cornflakes, Wheat Flakes, Oats, Muesli, Quinoa, bread
Majorly carbohydrates
Very low protein and fat content
Vege-tablesGreen, orange, red, purple, yellow vegetables, potatoes.Majorly carbohydrates
No protein and fat content
FruitsBanana, Apple, Papaya, Orange, Watermelon, Kiwi, sweetlimeMajorly carbohydrates
No protein and fat content
Meats, fish & poultryEggs, Chicken, Mutton, Beef, Pork, Fish, Prawns  Majorly protein (High quality)
Variable amounts of fat
No carbohydrate
Pulses Dals, chanas, rajma, chickpeas,
Soya, Sprouts
More Carbohydrates
Fair source of Protein but lower quality than meat, fish, poultry.
Very low content of fat.
DairyMilk, Curd, Paneer, Cheese, buttermilkGood quality Protein
Fat and carbohydrate content varies
Fats & OilsButter, Ghee, Cream, OilOnly fat

Balanced Diet is essential for good health and smooth functioning of the body. It is also keeps our body’s internal and external defence mechanism strong, helps in maintaining health and immunity.

Also to learn more about the colourful platter to include dietary fibre, antioxidants, bioactives and functional foods, you can read the blog posted on rainbow diet.

Eating the Rainbow: A Super Foods Pick List

Have you ever charted out health goals and then got sidetracked? The common reasons for this are daily routine, busy schedules, boredom, decision making fatigue etc. Developing healthy habits and making healthy choices form the cornerstones of healthy living. Smart planning can help you out. As we always read, hear and understand have a colorful platter; the gap is we are unable to put it into practise. For healthy eating we need to include an array of visually appealing, nutritious, healthy, and colorful foods.

The pigments (carotenoids, anthocyanins etc.) in the food are responsible for their different colors. These visually appealing colors satisfy our eyeballs, while these colourful foods also provide us with macronutrients, micronutrients, antioxidants and bioactives (polyphenols), which have several health benefits. Hence, to get the maximum benefit of such foods and to make your lives simpler; I have made an easy to use picklist based on color.

Eat the Rainbow: Super Foods Pick List

Do try implementing it in your daily routine while you make your grocery lists and see the effective result in your goal of healthy eating. Feel free to connect / email for any health and nutrition concerns.

Dr. Monal Velangi

MoVe

A pocket list of foods to boost your immunity!

If you are facing frequent episodes of cold and cough, fever; or have a recent history of increased sick leaves at work; or experience  lethargy frequently, then lowered immunity could be one of the contributors to these issues. Immunity is your body’s defense mechanism against viruses and diseases, which when compromised, would increase the risk of illness. Hence, we need to increase and maintain our body’s immunity power. One of the most talked about ways is eating right, having good nutrition. Now that leads most of us to the question “What should I EAT to strengthen my immune system?” Here is a pocket list of immune boosters and antiviral foods and nutrients which should secure a place in your diet routine.

  1. Protein: Milk, curd, yoghurt, buttermilk, cottage cheese (paneer), white meat (seafood, eggs, chicken – must be thoroughly cooked), soya, pulses.
  2. Vitamin C: Indian gooseberry (amla), guava, orange, lemon, red and green bell peppers, honey.
  3. Vitamin D: eggs, mackerel, bombay duck, chicken, vitamin A and D fortified milk and oil, mushrooms.
  4. Zinc and Selenium: nuts, eggs and seafood (mackerel, sardines, shellfish), white meat – chicken, turkey to be cooked thoroughly), whole grains, whole pulses.
  5. Antioxidants and polyphenols:
    • Fruits and vegetables:  Green, red, yellow, orange and purple coloured ones.
    • Spices and herbs: Turmeric (haldi), cinnamon (dalchini), ginger, garlic, pepper, fennel, asafoetida (hing), saffron (kesar),  cumin seeds (jeera), holy basil (Tulsi), oregano, basil, sage, curry leaves, lemongrass.
    • Nuts and oil seeds: Almonds with skin, walnuts, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, chia seeds.
  6. Lauric acid: Coconut oil and virgin coconut oil; but to be used with the limits of fat intake
  7. Honey due to its vitamin and mineral content have also been found to be useful in immunity, however make sure you have them within right proportions.
  8. Warm temperature: Warm or lukewarm filtered water.

The key to immunity and good health is to have a daily balanced diet, with the right blend of these immune boosting foods.