Health advice that doesn’t need you to change a thing

  • Kavita Devgan, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jun 06, 2015 13:19 IST

Quit smoking. Cut down on sugar. Start exercising. Sleep early. Your well-being is always about stopping, starting or changing what you’ve already been doing, isn’t it?

Change is hard. So how about we focus on what you don’t have to change – habits that come naturally to us because, well, we’re like this only. Many of our quirks are great health practices that are now being advised to the rest of the world. So pat yourself on the back, and keep doing them!

Raw onions with your meals
A 2002 study in Thrombosis Research suggested that sulphur in onions acts as a blood thinner and prevents blood platelets from aggregating. The researchers at University of Maryland Medical Center believe that the antioxidant quercetin in onions may also help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries.

Both quercetin and sulphur boost immunity, and onions prevent sunstroke. Scientists are trying to figure out if the heart-healthy French diet could actually be attributed to the high amount of onions that they consume. So salute that plate of sliced onions at your next meal.

Spicy food
Spices do more than flavour meals. Turmeric is said to be good for Alzheimer’s disease, as it is loaded with the antioxidant curcumin, which research says helps prevent the buildup of a protein that can clog neural pathways in the brain.

A report published in Nutrition Today in November points out that adding spices to a high-fat food may help keep the concentrations of triglyceride and other blood lipids down, lowering your risk of heart disease. Oh, and food with spices tastes wonderful too.

Sitting cross-legged
Kirit Thacker, yoga head at Ananda in The Himalayas believes it aids digestion and improves circulation. Dr Rakesh Tandon, medical director and head of gastroenterology at Delhi’s Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute for Liver, Renal & Digestive Diseases backs up this claim.

“Sitting crossed legged allows our back to remain straight, hips opened, knees bent and leg muscles relaxed – factors that prevent back pain and osteoarthritis,” he says. “The amount of blood drawn by our legs is lower when compared to sitting on the chair with legs hanging down. As a result, more blood is available to go to the stomach and heart.” This improves the delivery of digestive enzymes in the gut and assimilation of nutrients.

A bit of pickle
Achaars are great vehicles for health. They deliver good bacteria to the gut, which keeps several lifestyle diseases in check. Fermented foods like pickle, in small quantities, also keeps intestines healthy. Don’t worry about the oil – you’re not consuming so much of it in aachaar, and the spices cut out the triglyceride, remember?

Cleaning your tongue
Westerners swear by dental floss. But it is a thorough cleaning of the tongue that gets a bigger thumbs up from dentists. Indians have been doing it for years. A daily cleaning of the tongue is part of the ayurvedic routine. The belief is that when one is sleeping, the digestive system works to remove toxins, which are deposited on the surface of the tongue.

Dr Ritika Singh, the clinic head at Delhi’s Clove Dental, says that the human tongue has grooves and ridges that can trap bacteria. “The surface holds as much as 50 per cent the bacteria in the mouth. A tongue scraper can do wonders. Clean the tongue first thing in the morning, before consuming food or liquids,” she says.

Saunf and paan
Fennel seeds help digestion, bust bad breath, help lower cholesterol levels and are a rich source of copper, zinc and potassium. A study published in 2012 in Food Science shows that fennel seeds contain significantly higher amount of nitrites, which promote vascular functions.

A paan (without tobacco) after a meal can help too. “Betel leaf contains various biologically active compounds, which are responsible for its antioxidant, chemo-preventive activities,” writes S Sripradha in a 2014 edition of the Journal Of Pharmaceutical Sciences & Research.

Bright colours
Indians don’t shy away from reds. Pink is the navy blue of India. And we love fuchsia, yellow, neon green and turquoise all in one kurta! This is a wonderful thing for our brain, says Dr Sayyara Ansari psychology consultant at Gurgaon’s Columbia Asia Hospital. “Research shows that bright colours release dopamine, which can improve our mood, and heighten the attention span. So keep wearing them,” she says.

From HT Brunch, June 7
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