Food: The heroes on your plate
In ancient cultures, food was used as medicine. Over the years, we have moved away from that concept and lost the instinct to choose the foods that are right for us. Nutrient-rich foods or superfoods can create good health and repair what’s wrong in our body. Real food has a healing effect, but is a slow and gradual process, a long-term investment into our health. There are hardly any negatives to using food as medicine.
Eating one kiwi fruit every day has been proven to reduce DNA damage by 60 per cent. If this were a drug, it would be sold for thousands of rupees.
There are 39 nutrient-rich foods mentioned in my book, Everyday Superfoods, and here are some worthy of the title.
For the school-going child burdened with studies
Make homemade nut butters from peanuts or almonds and include it in their daily diet. Add them to a smoothie or in a sandwich, paired with a sliced banana or fruit preserve. Nut butters are very easy to make at home. Toast the nuts over a medium flame for 5-6 minutes until crisp. Cool and grind in a high-powered blender or mixer until you have a smooth paste. Sweeten with some honey or organic jaggery. Nuts are rich in healthy fats, zinc and calcium, all of which are vital at this stage. Make sure the children get a dose of omega 3 from fortified foods, oily fish, flax seeds or supplements. Ground flaxseeds can easily be added to homemade muffins or granola.
For a weight-conscious woman in her early 20s
She must focus on eating plenty of low-calorie vegetables in a variety of dishes. These provide vital micronutrients and also keep us filled up for fewer calories. Choose from cauliflower, cabbage, bell peppers, mushrooms, gourds, leafy vegetables and sprouts.
She should also include high-fibre foods that prevent sugar spikes and provide satiety for a few hours after the meal. All kinds of beans, whole grains, leafy greens and fibre-rich fruits like apple are good choices. Beverages with sugar can be substituted with green tea or herbal teas.
For the start-up founder in his late 20s, a smoker
He must definitely include two to three vitamin C-rich foods every day to reduce the damage from smoking. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C also helps offset the inflammatory damage caused by stress and possibly poor eating habits. Choose from seasonal fruits like guava, amla, orange, mosambi, pomelo, limes. Folic acid-rich vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and bok choy help reduce the risk of heart disease. He should also eat a few tryptophan-rich foods (egg, cheese, pineapple, tofu, nuts, seeds) that generate serotonin which relieves stress and stabilises the mood.
For a woman in her 40s, juggling career and family Eat one fruit or vegetable from the yellow-orange family every day. Choose from pumpkin, yellow or orange bell pepper, mango, papaya, apricot, pineapple, corn etc. All of these are rich sources of beta carotene which gets converted to vitamin A, the vitamin that provides skin elasticity and improves cell regeneration, both of which give youthful skin. Consume a handful of nuts and seeds in the daily diet as they are rich in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that helps repair damaged skin and prevents further sun damage. It is important to eat one to two biotin-rich foods every day for healthy hair. Choose from eggs, almonds, cheese, cauliflower, mushroom and sweet potatoes.
For a 70-year-old retired gentleman, diabetic
One serving of whole grain added to the daily diet provides vitamin B, folic acid, iron, chromium along with beneficial soluble and insoluble fibre. Choose from single-polished rice, amaranth and millets. These grains can also be cooked into a soft khichdi so they are easier to eat. One to two servings of low carb vegetables from the leafy greens or squash family also provides a good dose of fibre while keeping the blood sugar from spiking. Eating amla everyday in juice form or in brine boosts the anti-inflammatory response and its strong antioxidant effects reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.
Dr Nandita Iyer is the author of the recently released book Everyday Superfoods. She goes by @saffrontrail on Instagram and Twitter
From HT Brunch, July 18, 2021
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