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Archive for the ‘Let’s make 2012 a healthy year’ Category

Eating our way to good health

Talk of desi food and mouth waters, nose hallucinates of exotic smell of desi food-of Qorma, Bihari Kebabs, Parathas or ears ring with sizzling melody of jalebis, samosas, bhaturas being fried.
And eyes vision the ultilmate combo of : jalebi samosa and chai :

Indeed, our cuisine is the crowning glory of our culture. Curry dishes have acquired the status of national dish in Great Britain. Mughlai is a globally coveted cuisine..
I have hardly met any non-desi , who on mention of South Asian food, does not express a liking for Biryani.

The awesomeness of South Asian Cuisine :

More than just the exotic flavours and tastes, the spices that go into the food have been proven as time tested home remedies ( Grand Ma’s home remedies). The haldi(turmeric), aniseed(saunf), dal chini( cinnamon), ajwain( asafoetida), lalmirch( chilli powder) etc the commonly used spices, also serve as anti oxidants, antuflu, anti inflammatory or antiseptics.

Turmeric, a kind of curcumin, is known to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and hence it’s low prevalence in the subcontinent. A study found that those who ate curry once a month or more scored better on cognitive tests than those who ate curry rarely or never.

The king of fruits Mango, contains phenols which has a high antioxidant, anticancer capabilities along with being a rich source of Vit A, E, Selenium and Iron. (The diabetics should avoid it due to high sugar content.)

However, South Asian Cuisine has it’s down side too.

  • The main culprits being that most of the delicacies are calorie dense, and are cooked high amount of saturated or trans fats.
  • Our method of cooking like deep frying, the additions of baghars, tarkas are faulty. We tend to overcook our meals , which along with reheating depletes it of its nutrients.
  • The savory snacks, like the namkeens, namakparas, samosas etc. are generally fried and laden with high salt content. While the sweets are rich, prepared from fat and thick sugar syrup. Eg Gulab Jamun, jalebis, Carrot Halwa etc.
  • Our meals are large in serving portions .
  • Our desi restaurants and take away meals are known for their liberal use of ghee and oil, not only in curries but also on naans (breads).
  • Many of our households have a high intake of meats, avoiding vegetables. This leads to deficiency in certain nutrients like Folic Acid and excess of Homogentisic Acid which is a cause of Heart Attacks. The lack of fibre in the meats increases the risk of colon cancer too.
  • A study claims most meat eaters in Pakistan take red meat (mutton and beef) 68% times and the rest white meat ( chicken and fish) .( Ref 2) Red meat is known to raise the risk of Cardiovascular diseases and cancer and the risk of dying in next 10 years is raised. ( 2. Ref below)
  • The research found that a single meal of Indian curry in Britain has more fat than the recommendation for the entire day.

Example: Imagine a typical feast: Raita, Poppadam for a starter, a Lamb Qorma and two Butter Naans for main course, and a Gajar Halwa for dessert – is a meal with over 1800 calories! When the average calorie for a day are about 2500 for a man and 2000 for women.

A BAD NEWS is that along with the faulty diet, we South Asians have been endowed with vulnerable genetic makeup which makes up 5-6 times more vulnerable to heart disease, and other chronic diseases like DM and HT as compared to other races.
(Please read the above ^^ sentence once again, and understand it).
As a result of the genetic and lifestyle, there is a epidemic of Diabetes, and Heart diseases in SouthAsians. Hence there is a dire need to make changes in our diet habits to prevent early heart and chronic diseases.

(The topics of CV Diseases and DM, HT shall be dealt in detail in the separate blogs).

AUDIO ( in Hindi/Urdu): 

We cant change our ethnicity or our genes, but the GOOD NEWS is that with slight modifications in the cooking methods and choice of ingredients, we can change the quality of our food without much change in the taste. .And hence can substantially reduce the risk of above diseases.
Let’s give it a try, for the sake of our healths.

What should we do ?

Step ONE: We need to know what is our calorie requirement: Our age and activity level determines our caloric requirement which can be calculated from the chart.
Place the cursor on the weight and your activity level to check ur calorific requirement.
If you are over weight then place the curser on your target weight ( the weight you wish to have or need to reduce to). Consider the calories that is required for the weight you desire.

Knowledge of the caloric requirement can give an idea whether we are falling short, meeting or exceeding the requirements.

Step TWO: We must know what the various food groups are and how much of their proportions need to be taken for a healthy diet:

To make it easier, the pyramid has been altered into a shopping pyramid, which hints at the amount of foods we need to buy from the different groups of food.

However in order to make it more simple and visually more easy to understand what our proportions should be now a Portion Plate has been devised


Step THREE: You must spread your meals into 4-6 times per day. A good breakfast is a must. The lunch and Dinner should not be very heavy. In between the meals, take snacks like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts etc.
This spreading out of meals over the day leads to maintained blood sugar levels and prevents in weight gain.

Step FOUR: While eating or later try to assess the calories you have taken in your plate. For this refer to the chart below the article. ( Unfortunately,very few of our recipes come with their calories and nutrient details).
Better still would be to make a list of all the foods as you eat and check the list at the end of the day. You will be surprised to see how much you ate, when you thought otherwise.

Step FIVE: Once in a week after a healthy eating all week, treat yourself to comfort desi food too… Nihari, Rasgullas, Kulfi aah !!!

For more details on Food Guide check this link :

Audio in Hindi/Urdu


Tips on what healthy changes can you make in our foods:
1. Replace red meat with more frequent white meat like chicken and fish. While taking red meat, prefer lean meat and trim the visible fat.

2. For those who do not afford meat, Dal chawal is an excellent source of Protien and the two eaten together supplement each others missing Amino acids.

3. Egg is also an excellent and cheap source of good quality protein. The notion that it is high in cholesterol is proven wrong by research.

4. If a recipe needs some oil/butter/ghee, use canola or olive oil in small quantity. Make a habit of brushing or spraying the oil in the pan instead of pouring. First heat the utensil, then add (preferably spray) oil. A heated pan spreads the oil better.

(PS see about Canola Oil on internet and decide about it’s efficacy through evidence. If unsure prefer CORN OIL  ).

5. Substitute baking, barbecue or grill for frying, if possible.

6. Avoid too many reheating of the food as it destroys the nutritive value of foods.

7. Add more of green vegetables, as salads along with the meat.

8. Wash the vegetables with water containing potassium permanganate to remove infections, fertilisers and pesticides. Then rinse them with clean water.

9. Do not overcook the vegetables, leave them crunchy. Overcooked mushy vegetables lose taste and nutrients.

10. Onion should be cut and kept for at least 15 minutes before serving as oxidation helps quercetin, an important phytochemical and antioxidant to get activated.

11. Use skim or low fat varieties of all dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream)

12. Salads, sandwiches, fresh fruits are best fast foods, instead of the conventional ones.

13. When you go to a restaurant, give instructions to add only very small quantities of oils for cooking.

14. Make a habit to check the labels on the foods bought from the Supermarkets. Don’t be carried away by the words ‘No Cholesterol’ on labels. Majority of vegetable products are cholesterol free. It is the fat content of the item which matters.

15. Avoid eating while watching TV. You eat a lot and you don’t know while watching TV.

16. Never use pots and pans made of lead or aluminum. Lead can lead to severe digestive disorders. Aluminum vessels can cause high levels of aluminum in the brain tissue that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips for Vegetarians:

Vegetarians should know that they need to be very careful about their food being balanced in different groups of food. Vegetarian diet is found to be low in proteins, calcium, vitamin B12, iron and zinc.

Vegetarian diet may lack proteins. Hence it is important to include beans, dals, nuts and dairy products for proteins. Dairy products like milk, yogurt are a high calcium source.

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin whose deficiency can cause permanent nerve damage. It is found d only in animals source. So vegetarian are not able to get this in their food. Hence in order to get enough Vit B12, they need to either eat Vit B12 fortified food, or supplements of Vit B12.

Food for thought:

Last but not the least, we South Asians follow an age old tradition of preparing multiple varieties dishes especially in festivals, weddings or during the month of Ramadan.
However if we limit the number of dishes, we not just cut the cost, the labour but also reduce unnecessary intake of calories. The cost saved could instead be given to the less fortunate amongst us who cannot afford a complete two meals a day.
It is important to realise the hunger and malnourishment all around us. Our culture, our faiths and above all humanity demands that we are empathetic towards them.
We must ensure that we do not cook excess that goes into the garbage. There is nothing wrong being a food lover, but only if we imagine that those deprived desire and dream of decent meals too. And we can certainly share a meal or two with them too.
Just think…
And yes, happy healthy eating.

Audio in Hindi/Urdu

1. Researchers TP Ng, PC Chiam, T Lee, HC Chua, L Lim, EH Kua published an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006 entitled “Curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly.
3. conducted by “Which” magazine (Feb 2010) of Britain
4. In the study, a research team led by Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., from the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, looked at more than 500,000 people who were aged 50 to 71 when they enrolled in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health study).

Links for desi recipes:

P.S.: When writing any information, it is my utmost ‘responsibility ‘ to give only information which is scientifically researched and evidence-based through research. I do not give any personal opinions or grom my ‘gut’ feelings. Thanks. 🙂

P.S. Thanks in advance to Dr Babar Khan, Farhan Masoosd and Zawaf for the RTs.

Estimated approx. calories in desi foods:

Cucumber Raita , (1tbsp) 20
Tomato Sambal, (1tbsp) 20
Mango Chutney, (1tbsp) 60
Poppadom, (each) 65
Lime Pickle, (1tbsp) 70
Onion Bhaji, (each) 190
Potato Samosa, each) 260
Meat Samosa, e(ach 320

Main Dish: Calories
Vegetable Curry( 1plate) 280
Saag Aloo masala( 1plate)  334
Daal fry( 1plate)  350
Butter Chicken Masala ( 1plate) 450
Beef nihari( 1plate)  650
Lamb Rogan Josh ( 1plate) 589
Lamb Qeema ( 1plate) 562
Lamb Qorma Curry ( 1plate) 570
Naan Bread ( 1pc) 317
Chapatti ( 1pc) 80
Nan Butter ( 1pc) 325
Paratha (1pc)250
Puri (1pc)225
Rice plain boiled (1cup)80
White Bread (1slice)80

Barfi (single)230
Carrot Halwa (1 cup)570
Gulab Jamun ( 1 pc)250
Jalebi (1 average)459
Ras Mallai (1pc)250


Living a healthy lifestyle

This is the first of the series of Health Blog posts I begin from January 1, 2012 to raise awareness amongst South Asians on different  Health issues of importance to them.


What comes to your mind by hearing of Healthy lifestyle ?

Exactly, it is these four essentials along with some other things which together make up the components of a Healthy Lifestyle.

There is nothing in it which any ordinary person cannot achieve. Healthy Lifestyle is no rocket science , and it needs no huge investments.

Just tiny conscious steps which will build up with time into habits and reap as a reward a Healthy YOU .

Why need a Healthy Lifestyle?
I ask why not?

A healthy lifestyle :
• Shall reduce chances of illness and injuries, and hence improve quality of life.
• Will reduce visits to doctors, save time and misery.
• Will reduce cost of health care, less medical bills.
• Enable us to pursue our passions and work better and uninterrupted.
• Keep us employed, and with less of sick leaves or leave without pays.
• A sound mind in a sound body will enable better relationships at home, at work and in society at large.
• A healthy individual will be a healthy citizen of a healthy nation.

What constitutes a Healthy Lifestyle?

They are all simple steps, and as you go through them check which all you already follow, which ones you need to follow more. It just requires a constant conscious effort.

STEP ONE: Make Healthy eating habits:

I know our foods are delicious, but some are pretty unhealthy too. However, there is still a way we can manage to strike a balance between satisfying our taste buds and eating healthy.

A healthy balanced diet which has all the nutrients and vitamins we need is essential to make us stay healthy and avoid diseases.

The next very blog shall be in detail on healthy eating while we enjoy our desi food at the same time.

STEP TWO: Have an Optimal Weight:

Do you know what is your weight and height?

Do you know what is BMI (Body Mass Index), its significance is and how to calculate it?

Please check your BMI by plotting the weight and height on the chart below.

See where does your BMI lie.

If it is in the green zone, congratulations, your BMI is normal, but you need to maintain it in the same color.

If it is in the red or yellow zone, you need to check it and think of bringing it down to green.

Benefits of weight control: Maintaining an optimal weight saves us from a number of serious diseases like Heart disease, Stroke, Diabetes, Blood Pressure, Joint problems like arthritis, and Cancers like breast cancer, colon cancer, and sudden death.

(A blog shall be dedicated to weight management too.)

In the meantime you can check the link for more information:



STEP THREE: Be physically active and exercise:

Do you know how much is the minimal exercise you need to do to stay healthy?

For adults it is a minimum of 30 min per day for 5 days or 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise (which is enough to increase your heart rate upto safe limits) is needed to keep an optimal heart health. It could be a brisk walk or jogging.

What exactly is moderate exercise?

A study suggests that a moderate-intensity walk should have 100 steps per minute, or 3,000 steps in 30 minutes.

And some studies have suggested that moderate-intensity exercise –like walking — may be just as beneficial as more vigorous exercise.

It does not need to be continuous…you can split it into three session of 10 min each through the day.

It could be swimming, walking, skipping rope, or playing sports like tennis.

– Benefit of Exercise: A daily routine of exercise will help control weight, increase the body metabolism, gives sound sleep, reduces stress and makes you feel good.

Caution: And if you have any health problems or have never exercise, I suggest you to first get a check up from your doctor before you begin.

For children the minimum exercise should be 90 min each day of active play, every day.

Do you also know that it is unhealthy for the children to be watching TV more that 2-3 hours a day?

It leads to obesity, hyperactivity and low attention span in the children-hence not only poor school grades but also many problems in later life.

Instead of watching TV or sitting on Computers all day, encourage them to play physical games . If space is a concern, after the minimal play, even indoor board games like ludo, chess, scrabble are great which encourage interaction, active thinking, learning frustration tolerance and competition.

Encourage them to read books. Studies prove if you expose children to books from early age, they do not get aggression later.

And for children below 2 years, no TV viewing at all, is the recommendation.


For more on exercise check :

STEP FOUR: Avoiding unhealthy habits:

• Excess of caffeine, tea, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
• Avoid smoking as well as second-hand smoke. (A couple of blogs on smoking shall follow too).
Avoiding drugs of abuse… it all begins with poor parent child relationship and smoking. If the parents-kids  have a positive relationship and the parents  counsel their child against the harmful effects of drugs and smoking since early, the kids can most likely not tread that path.

I strongly recommend you check this link for preventing drugs abuse in children:

STEP FIVE: Have adequate sleep

–a healthy mind needs at least 8-9 hours of sleep to rejuvenate.

Sleep debt occurs if the hours slept are less than the hours one needs.

Studies show that such short-term sleep deprivation leads to a foggy or confused brain, worsened vision, impaired driving, and troubled memory.

Long-term effects include obesity, insulin resistance (Diabetes), and heart disease.

A Fact: Do you know that the Chernobyl Disaster and Challenger Explosion have been attributed to lack of sleep.

For further on this check:

STEP SIX: Prevent Infections by good hygiene:

Our South Asia  is a region where infections of all sorts are so common.

Personal Hygiene: Some common practices can help us minimise these infections like:

1. Wash hands frequently and properly–It is the single most act that prevents major infections
2. Do not share razors, combs, nail cutters, tooth brushes, towels and needles.
3. Practice safe sex habits.
4. Get the required vaccines on time.

There are more steps which need detail discussion in a separate blog. Till then check the 10 tips to prevent infections:

It is very important to know that in our countries Hepatitis C and HIV infections have high prevalence. Many of the people are not even aware that they are infected.

It is very important to not share your razors, combs, scissors, nail cutters and needles, to avoid infection.

Also know that handshakes, hugging, kissing, sharing utensils or eating together will not cause spread of Hepatitis C or HIV infections.

It also very important that if you happen to get injections or blood transfusion in a Hospital, make sure the seal of the disposable needles, syringes or the equipment are opened in front of you.

And you also have the right to inquire from the health personnel about adequate sterilization of instruments and blood products.

(A separate blog shall be dedicated to Hepatitis C and HIV infections and their prevention).

Do not forget the cleanliness of your surroundings.


Further links on avoiding littering :



The following steps are more to do with mental health and we all know
‘a sound body needs a sound mind’.

STEP SEVEN: Healthy personal relationships:

• Along with taking care of ourselves, ne need to give the due attention to the people around us. Sharing and caring with the loved ones makes one feel good.
• Take time off to just sit with your loved ones. Have a family time, with no laptops, smart phones, television coming in the way.
• Talk to the kids at an eye level as friends, not as their commanders.
• Eating together as a family at least one meal a day. Talking on dinner table is a proven way to strengthen closed family ties.
• Hug your ageing parents for no rhyme or reason, no matter how old you or they are.
• Add humour to your life. “Good humour is one of the preservative of peace and tranquility.”Jefferson.
• Take time to say ‘How’re you’ to people who work for you like your driver, maid, your gardener. Then  see a smile on their face and  a twinkle in their eyes.

STEP EIGHT: Healthy connection with the surroundings;

  • It is so important to look beyond one’s personal and family life and see what s going on in the outside world-both living and non living.
  • Make sure to watch the news on TV or read Newspapers to know what is going on in your country or in the world at large. The news may be depressing, but it makes us conscious of the various problems in the world.
  • Understand your sociopolitical responsibility: Form healthy opinions on the events occurring in your society.
  • When its election time, make sure you vote (with your conscience).Remember that each vote counts.
  • Give charity. Charity is not just through money, we can give our time and a few words of empathy to those who are in need. Research proves that charity or public service helps the individual develop self-esteem and mental well-being.

STEP NINE: Stress management

Yes stress is a reality. But we need to manage the stress of our lives. Half that work is done if we eat well, exercise, sleep well, and have less illness.
However there are many scientific tools available on the net to manage stress. A blog shall be dedicated to stress management.

In the meantime for more on stress management check:

I know this blog was long and loaded with lots of information. I would suggest go slow, read the three different parts over different times, and if needed come back again. It’s going to stay here 

You may begin the New Year with great resolutions, with great enthusiasm, but will forget in the middle. That’s all so normal. I do the same. So long as you keep getting back on track and not give up, it’s all very human. Keep trying! I am trying too 

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything. (Arabian Proverb)

With a hope that 2012 shall be a healthy year for all of you…



P.S. 1: This and the other forthcoming Health Blogs do not substitute a Doctor and they are only aimed at increasing Health awareness and to develop interest in the readers to read further about health issues. For any serious health problems, do not delay a doctor’s advice.

P.S. 2 This is the first of the series of Health Blogsposts  that shall be posted every fortnight with a new Health topic relevant to the South Asians. Please share and do play  the Audio to those family members who do not ‘indulge’ in the social media.

P.S.3: Many thanks to DrBabarKhan and FarhanMasood for their generous ReTweets. 🙂

Let’s make 2012 a healthy year–A health blog series starting from Jan 01, 2012

I plan to start from the New Year 2012 a series of Blogs on Health issues named

Let’s make 2012 a Healthy Year.

The blog series shall be target the South Asians, primarily living in their homelands, but could be useful to others living elsewhere.

The need of the blog was felt primarily due relative less awareness amongst South Asians on Health issues.
Primarily, this is because culturally we we worry about health only when sick or unwell.
Secondly, due to relative deficiency of health activism in our countries.
Thirdly, though there is a mine of information on health issues on internet, but not much of it is specific to South Asian context, hence many times lacks relevance.

I have been working on the contents of the blogs for the past 4 months. Most of the information would be from the well researched, evidence based sources, and shall be peer reviewed by the specialists from the field.

It would be an informal format, not a lecture. I have tried my best to make it like a walk through for the readers where they will along with the information also be guided on what to do ?

The blog post shall be up loaded every 1st and 15th of each month and will consist of different health issues on which I feel there South Asians need to be aware of.

The blog in English shall be accompanied by a podcast in a Hindi-Urdu language, in case those who wish to share it with their kin who feel more comfortable in their language. A lot of medical jargons will be used in English instead of Hindi & Urdu so that both can easily understand.

The blog shall not serve as a consultation, but just a means to give direction towards increasing interest in the readers to inquire more on health issues.

The first few topics in the serial order are

1. Living a healthy lifestyle ( Jan 1, 2012)
2. Healthy eating the Desi way ( Jan 15, 2012)
3. Love Your heart to live ( Feb 1, 2012)
4. Diabetes- the bitter truth ( Feb 15 2012)
5. Smoker but you won’t quit ( March 1, 2012)
6. Smoker and you wish to quit. ( March 15, 2012)

There shall be others on Infection Control, Weight Management, Osteoporosis, Arthritis, Chronic Bronchitis, Depression, Stress Management Strategies etc.

Readers are welcome to suggest any topic, and if deemed of importance to large numbers, we would be glad to include it.

The readers are also welcome to post their questions, point out any criticism or disagreement to any content in the blog. I would try my best to answer them in Consultation with the specialists from the relevant field.
And I would request that if you feel worth, please share the blogs with others and contribute towards spreading of Health Awareness.

Thank You and see you with the first one on January 1, 2012.



Special thanks to Fatima Fasih for technical support.

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