Tag Archives: Healthy

Stay Fabulous At 50 By Staying Fit

Let us face it. In your 50’s your body is not the same as it was in your 20’s and 30’s, as aging changes many things internally. However, exercising after your 50’s can add healthy years to your life, and it is important that you exercise caution and the right thing in the right way. And with the ongoing pandemic and lessons that COVID-19 is teaching us, there is no doubt that you need to be fit of all ages to battle new-age health challenges. While a significant proportion of Americans are active, less than 25% of adults meet national physical activity guidelines and 40% have obesity as per the ACSM American Fitness Index 2020 report. And as you age fitness is harder while more necessary.

Know Your Body

As the body begins to age, it is not as receptive to unexpected changes and this becomes just another reason to work out and uphold a certain level of fitness.

“As you age, adapting an active and healthy lifestyle is of prime importance to help regulate and monitor your health base. Moreover, indulging in exercise and body workouts on a regular basis can guard you against unwanted heart ailments, diabetes and can also avert you from certain forms of cancer. Working out regularly can also lessen discomfort related to arthritis. By refining one’s stability and balance, suppleness, stamina, fortitude, and strength, older adults can live restored and healthier longer,” says Shalini Bhargava, Fitness Expert & Director at JG’S Fitness Centre.

Exercise Mix

Endurance exercises, such as low-impact aerobics, walking, using cardiovascular equipment such as elliptical trainers, cycle, and swimming based on the level of physical conditioning and current status of health at least five days each week is recommended.

The 50s are when chances of developing osteoporosis goes up and therefore it is imperative to add toning exercises; cardio alone is not enough. Pilates, yoga, and weight-training are some of the options to maintain muscle mass and tone up. These exercises should best be done under professional supervision to avoid injury. Swimming is yet another great workout for this age-group as the risk of injury is much less.

“I would suggest you do either 15 minutes of toning regularly or 45 minutes, thrice a week in combination with a cardio activity of course. During a cardio workout, you are bearing your own body weight, the bones work against gravity and hence reduce mineral loss. I am 52, so I ensure I weight train for two days, dance for two days, and walk for at least four hours a week,” says Suman Agarwal, Celebrity Nutritionist, Author, and Founder of Selfcare India.

Since their movement becomes decreased at that age, they need to focus more on their flexibility and mobility.

“One should avoid strenuous training and sprinting on the treadmill. Not many chest movements should be done and overhead pressing movements should be avoided. Whenever one feels uncomfortable, they should stop immediately and not continue,” says Prosenjit Biswas, Fitness Manager, Skulpt gym, Kolkata.

Do it Right

Sujeet Kumar of Fatcherry International

Start slowly, especially when embarking on a new exercise routine, and ensure you have professional supervision.

Anjali Sareen, The Zone Mind & Body Studio avers, “Choosing a fitness program based on one’s own goals and needs is a must. Selecting fitness routines based on current popular trends or because your friends are doing them or out of convenience of location or price should not be deciding factors. A better option is to focus on personal training sessions with an experienced professional. These sessions can be customized to suit your fitness level, goals, and take into consideration any health concerns or injuries. An experienced professional will be able to include a diverse range of exercises and programming to cover all aspects of a complete fitness program from physical goals to energy and mind gains.”

“Active warm-up reduces resistance to stretch and increases elastic properties or ability to stretch where activity includes stationary cycling, fast walk, or rowing machine. “Proper breathing techniques are often helpful in relaxing and may help reduce stress levels and voluntary muscle tension to avoid internal organ injuries. Maintaining a neutral position of your spine, hips, shoulders, and neck can be greatly improved by using the hand not grasping the ankle to grab the back of a chair to maintain a balance. Gradually decrease in exercise intensity at the end of any cardiovascular exercise to allow heart rate and blood pressure to decrease,” explains Sujeet Kumar, Director & Coach, Fatcherry International Pvt Ltd.

Look Out

Once over 50, it is best to avoid strenuous exercise like long-distance running, high-impact aerobics and weight-training exercises like deadlifts as these can put you at a higher risk of injury. As you age, your muscles shrink, hence opt for low-intensity cardio and toning activities. Avoid running on a treadmill or brisk-walking on an incline as both forms put pressure on the knees. Instead, jog on the ground.

Himay Chikani and Amrin Memon, Co-founders, AH Fitness opine, “Untrained seniors who begin exercising should start at a relatively low exercise intensity and volume. The early phase of the training program should be directed towards learning proper exercise techniques and minimizing the risk of injuries. Advanced and demanding exercises should be incorporated gradually into the program.”

Diksha Chhabra, Fitness Expert, Nutritionist & Founder, Diksha Chhabra Fitness Consultation adds, “High-intensity training, plyometric training, skipping, running or certain movements of weight training like Deadlift, Pull-ups, Leg extensions, and Heavyweight training needs more attention and care while performing as this is the age when your joints start showing signs of detrition and workouts with multiple joints involved or a moment of pressure can put unnecessary jerk on the joints can lead to a long term injury. Hence one must practice controlled momentum and intensity with or without weights for long-term activity.”

Take Care

Always warm-up before starting your workout and cool down when you finish. When you injure yourself at a young age, recovery is much faster. At 50, injuries take longer to heal. Stretches are a must as shoulder, lower back, and knee pain are most common for those in the age bracket.

Sheetal Tewari, Holistic Health Coach, Yoga and meditation teacher, Sound Healer advises, “Do not overdo. The thumb rule is not overdoing anything just because you like it and it’s exciting to try new workouts. Don’t succumb to peer pressure. Choose what works for your body type not what everyone else is doing.” Do pay attention to your body’s signals and try new exercises but with complete precautions.

Dr. Ashish Jain, Orthopedic surgeon, P.D Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mahim, Mumbai explains, “The aim now is to get into ‘anti-aging’ mode. Weight training must continue with maximum possible intensity to help maintain muscle mass and bone density. I suggest focusing more on leg workouts as they comprise the larger body segment and need to be strong for the coming years ahead. Squats, leg press, knee extensions, hamstring curls, and calf raises help in overall leg development. Some form of daily cardio is essential too and I suggest ‘low impact’ options like walks, swimming, cycling, and cross trainers.”

Consistency is the key. So, stay fabulous at 50 by staying fit.


Bindu Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and photographer from Bangalore who likes taking the offbeat path when traveling. Birding and environment are her favorites and she documents her work on www.bindugopalrao.com.

Rediscover Yourself – 7 Day Challenge

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”- Aristotle.

If you are constantly disappointed, angry, frustrated, sad, stressed, pessimistic about the current ‘coronademic’ scenario or feel you have lost your self-confidence along with your money, it’s time to reevaluate, reconnect and rediscover yourself. I know it’s difficult to stay motivated in a lockdown but trust me, it’s achievable with these three simple steps:

Step I – Spend time with yourself

  • What makes you happy and unhappy? Identify a time when you were bored, satisfied and happiest. Was it during school days, college time, early professional life or when you are with your friends, family, relatives? Similarly, find out activities, things, people that irritate you so that you can embrace good things and distance yourself from ‘not so good things’. This will not only help you for a lifetime. Spend time with your family or do more activities that make you feel energized and help you feel better. 
  • Evaluate your values and morals and teach them to your child/ren. You too can learn from your elders and youngers.
  • What do I want to change? Why and how will I change it? Is change possible? If not, what should I do to accept change? If yes, how can I bring suitable changes?  

Activity – Find out any 3 items and persons that make you happy and you cherish the most.

Step II – Find out what makes you happy

  • Work on your physical and mental wellbeing, Try a new indoor sport, game or hobby; learn new exercises or yoga for meditation. When you can’t go outside, go inside. Pray for yourself, your family and others too as the entire world is one big family. 
  • Read books, articles, magazines or journals; discover some creative activities like cooking, stitching, baking, cake or cookie decoration, drawing, painting, sketching, coloring nail-art, origami, learning a new language, writing (begin with a small paragraph on any topic). You can start with simple ingredients and items available at your home. Watch videos online for further assistance.
  • Stay away from negativity. Social distancing is essential to remain cheerful, healthy and content.

Step III – Act Now

Never play the blame game or victim card by blaming others for our failures and damages (even if they have wronged you). In challenging crises instead of paying blame games, gossiping, bad-mouthing others it is important to accept full responsibility for your life and then move on. The situation won’t change suddenly on its own you have to make conscious decisions to accept it, learn from it and let it pass. As aptly said, “Tough time doesn’t last, tough people do”. 

Use this planner to keep track of your discoveries:

Stay happy, stay healthy!

Prof. Rupal Jain holds an MBA degree from Atharva School of Business (Mumbai) with Marketing as her specialization. She has 13 published books, written over 100 online articles, has been teaching for of over 12 years. Do share your response at jainrupal2519@gmail.com.

Why Nothing is My Favorite Meal of the Day

Let’s talk about one of my favorite meals….a delicious plate of nothing. Prep time is zero minutes and physical and mental health benefits are unlimited. Nihaal Karnik, a third year medical student at Ross University School of Medicine, writes about his personal experience and reviews some of the latest research on a topic close to my heart, intermittent fasting (aka IF).  Don’t miss some of my thoughts at the end on how I have used IF personally and clinically.

Overview
I just finished working from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Yup, the ever glamorous lifestyle of a medical student. The last meal I ate consisted of 2-3 hard boiled eggs I scarfed down as I ran into the hospital; because, even at 5 a.m. I am considered late for a day of work. I’ve arrived home only to see an empty fridge and realize no restaurants are open. I need to eat. I’ve read every blog post, seen every interview, and even heard from doctors that I should be eating every 4-6 hours. I mean I cannot possibly miss this meal, right? Not necessarily. Skipping a meal or two may not be the worst thing for me. In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that missing meals (fasting) may be to my benefit.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) represents a unique approach to nutrition. The approach intends to burn fat and produce muscle when combined with a proper exercise regimen. The name underscores basic principles of the program: fasting for intermittent periods of time.

Research suggests a wide number of benefits: potential protective benefits against various cancers, fat loss, muscle building, curbing hunger cravings, as well as increased insulin sensitivity (refer to other posts on diabetes and insulin resistance). This article aims to introduce readers to IF while providing some basic background on the principles of this model. Hopefully this read encourages our audience to research IF and explore the possibility of incorporating IF into one’s own daily routine.

Basic Principles

The basic principle centers upon caloric restriction for extended stretches of time. The idea behind this is two fold:

1) It falls in line with ancestral diet principles and

2) Induces hormonal responses that promote fat burning, muscle building, and overall well being.

The majority of blog posts and literature surrounding IF introduce it to us in the context of paleo dieting. The average cave man did not always have a fridge full of food to satisfy his primal hunger. Instead he went through cycles of feast (eating) and famine (fasting).

Incorporating an approach that keeps the body in between a fasting and fed state is a natural extension of our ancestral diet. Excessive feasting serves as a major contributor to the variety of metabolic symptoms that plague society, today.

Furthermore, hormonal changes govern IF’s effectiveness. The key hormone discussed here is Growth Hormone, a natural hormone that regulates metabolism and is released by the body during the following phases: starvation, extreme/intense exercise, and rest. It is involved in muscle synthesis as well as lipolysis (fat breakdown). Proponents of IF outline that fasting states induce the release of extra growth hormone—thus helping to promote simultaneous fat burning and muscle growth.

Potential Benefits
In addition to the obvious benefits of muscle mass development and fat burning IF has a number of potential benefits.

These may or may not include:
1. Satiety (feeling nice and full). This may seem counterintuitive but studies show even alternate day fasting (see more below) may promote satiety.
2. Diabetes. Promising research shows that IF may be an effective alternative to calorie restriction and weight loss to prevent diabetes. More research is pending and the authors themselves conclude more research is needed to make definitive conclusions. However preliminary reviews of IF as a way to combat diabetes are promising.
3. Help combat eating disorders by tackling restrictive eating and body image issues.
4. Cardioprotective (hearty healthy) benefits. New research suggests IF may even protect the heart and lead to weight loss.

Models of IF
The basic idea of IF may be simple enough. However, for those who may seem intimidated by the challenge of fasting, don’t worry. A number of IF techniques exist to appeal to beginners and experienced fasters alike.  Literature suggests most people may feel uneasy for the first 7-10 days. So, if you decide to partake in this new regimen do not be discouraged by mild irritability or uneasiness with the adjustment. Although the idea of fasting may be simple, readers often wonder what to eat during prescribed meal times. The theory of IF does not mean one can eat whatever they desire during his or her feast period.

Adherents still need to incorporate healthy eating habits (e.g. non-processed foods, loads of fresh veggies, and good hormone free/free range meat).

For instance, if I were to eat a meal or two during my feast window, it may consist of a huge spinach salad with grass-fed beef, avocado, and a healthy dressing. Or, I may decide to have some fresh fish with steamed veggies. The point is that the feast period does not mean one can instantly hit the closest drive thru window since there was a prolonged fasting period.

Below is a small list with brief descriptions of some of the more popular ways individuals may approach incorporating IF:

Alternate Day Fasting—One of the more popular methods. Proposed by Dr. Varady of the University of Illinois, the diet aims to offer patients a more inviting approach to fasting. Instead of incorporating a daily fast, the diet asks patients to fast every other day. Varady recommends 500 calories during one meal every other day. Her research, although young and ongoing, is quite promising. Patients who abided by this approach were a) more likely to continue this diet long term and b) actually restricted calorie intake on their regular/non-fasting days. Researchers theorize they restricted calories on non-fasting days since their bodies became adapted to the new approach.

12/12—A great approach for beginners. This simply suggests that patients have a 12 hour fasting window, and a 12 hour feasting window. A popular schedule may be to fast from 7pm to 7am.

18/6—A variation of the 12/12 model: here patients fast for 18 hours and feast for 6. One schedule maybe to eat only from 1 p.m.-7 p.m.

Occasionally missing a meal—Some people just listen to their bodies and skip a meal from time to time. Proponents of this model suggest not forcing a meal may help curb binge eating and be beneficial when periodically used.

Conclusions
Intermittent fasting represents a new way to approach caloric restriction. Although research concerning the metabolic benefits of this approach is promising, larger studies are needed to support clinical claims. Those interested in the diet should definitely research more about the topic. Combining this approach with a proper diet may offer individuals a way to achieve new body and metabolic goals.

So, at 10 p.m. at night I have two simple choices. I can go to bed and enjoy the potential benefits of my fast. Or, try to get a quick meal given the annals of conventional wisdom. As I mentioned earlier, it may not be a bad thing to skip this particular meal. Enjoying the perks of integrated fasts may make me a bit stronger, leaner, and hopefully a wiser medical student…though I guess the literature is still pending on that last wish.

Dr. Ron’s Clinical Insights on Intermittent Fasting
I am personally using and prescribing intermittent fasting for selected patients. However, many of my patients are coming in with significant micronutrient deficiencies and weight gain from under eating, overstressing and over exercising. Often these are women. I don’t initially recommend IF for these patients. I need to make sure these patients are well-nourished to replete these missing nutrients and we have to work on stress reduction and life balance which are top priorities. Eating more frequently may have to be initially implemented to replace key nutrients. Once we restore nutrient deficiencies and any hormonal and metabolic imbalances and patients start feeling better, they can then incorporate IF into their lifestyle plan. IF used in the right context can potentially increase lifespan and reduce inflammation. However, adding IF to a nutrient-deficient diet can make matters worse and I have seen inflammatory markers and body weight actually increase as a result.

For individuals who are eating a very high carbohydrate diet, adding IF may backfire since it can generate extreme hunger followed by compensatory binge eating. You need to first fix your eating habits, with a focus on adding healthy fats, proteins and more plants, which will act as a natural appetite suppressant. Once your body and metabolism are prepared, then IF can be used effectively. I have busy patients who generally skip breakfast already, thinking they are fasting, but then they overeat processed foods and excess carbohydrates later which worsens their weight and underlying health issues.

Finally, I highly recommend you fast with a purpose that goes beyond just weight loss and achieving ideal body composition. In most cultures fasting is a selfless act devoted to some higher spirit, rather than the somewhat egotistic pursuit of ideal body composition.  Just reflect on the list of fasts undertaken by Mahatma Gandhi if you need inspiration to selflessly skip just a single meal.  If the word “fasting” sounds too spartan, just call it “meal skipping.”

Try fasting for a departed relative, your favorite god, a specific life goal or higher purpose, etc. I personally have noticed that on IF days I can think more clearly, exercise longer and stronger, and meditate with greater focus. There are times I do use it for somewhat selfish purposes. For example, I use it strategically for important meetings and presentations as a cognitive performance enhancer. It beats caffeine or stimulants since its natural and you avoid the inevitable “crash” from stimulants.  If I knew about it in my earlier life, I would have used it for school exams. Today’s students flood their systems with sugar and caffeine…just think sodas, frappuccinos and energy drinks, which are staple fuels for kids today.

Giving IF a higher purpose will make it more effortless, will allow us to practice selflessness which all of us can benefit from, and in the end, you will still enjoy the physical and mental benefits.

Ronesh Sinha, M.D. is a physician for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation who sees high risk South Asian patients, he blogs at southasianhealthsolution.org, and co-hosts a South Asian radio show on health.

First Published in 2015.

All That You Need To Know About Nutrition For South Asians

I typed the word – nutrition – in the Google search bar. About 1,480,000,000 results (0.63 seconds) appeared with a display of the first 11 links.

Whoa! I paused, then I typed –  Nutrition for South Asians. About 97,700,000 results (0.60 seconds) was the result.  I let this number sink in. What could I tell readers about nutrition in 1000 words or less that would actually be useful?

I narrowed my research to four questions.  What are the principal do’s and don’ts for nutrition and healthy eating? What restrictions do health conditions pose? Are credible, well-researched guides available to help us develop individualized plans? Can we adapt these guidelines to cuisines we enjoy?

This article is about healthy eating using Indian, South-Asian and other preferred diets. In a nutshell, abide by these overarching rules:

  1. Follow a heart-healthy diet

  2. Reach and maintain a healthy body weight

  3. Always eat breakfast

  4. Stay hydrated

  5. Don’t follow fad diets

  6. Don’t skip meals

Next, download your free copy of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 published by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA. This authoritative guide provides an in-depth discussion on diet for proper nutrition and good health.

Its key recommendations are: daily consumption of foods and beverages should be within a caloric level appropriate for you. Adopt a healthy eating pattern that includes:

 (1) a variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other

(2) fruits, especially whole fruits

3) grains, at least half of which are whole grains

(4) fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages

(5) a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products

(6) Oils (fats that are liquid at room temperature and high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats).

These recommendations for healthy eating patterns should be applied in their entirety, given the interconnected relationship that each dietary component can have with others.

The Dietary Guidelines suggest that we get about half of our calories from carbohydrates. Fruit, vegetables, all grain-based foods and dairy products all contain ‘good’ or ‘whole’ carbohydrates in the form of sugar and starch and fiber (as opposed to refined or processed carbohydrates). Most carbohydrates get broken down or transformed into glucose, which can be used as energy; they can also be turned into fat (stored energy) for later use.

“Good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are an important part of a healthy diet; they lower risk of disease. Most of the dietary fat should be of this kind and is found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils (corn, olive, soybean, etc.). Saturated fats found primarily in meat and dairy products should be limited. The trans fats created by partially hydrogenating vegetable oils should be eliminated.

A healthy eating pattern also limits added sugars and sodium. The Guidelines suggest that less than 10 percent of daily calorie intake should be from added sugars and less than 10 percent from saturated fats. Sodium consumption should be less than 2,300 milligrams per day (slightly less than a standard teaspoon of salt). Your daily diet should include 4,700 milligrams of potassium which offsets sodium’s effect on blood pressure and has other health benefits. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, leafy green vegetables, and potatoes. For example, a medium banana has about 420 mg of potassium, 8 oz of plain non-fat yogurt contain 580 mg and a baked potato about 600 mg. The dietary guidelines provide a detailed listing of foods containing potassium.  Meat, milk, and some cereal products contain potassium but in a form that is difficult to absorb. Alcohol consumption by adults should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks daily for men.

A Harvard Health publication points out that “one of the first principles of healthy eating is to choose nutrient-dense foods that pack, calorie-for-calorie, the most amount of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. That’s why the Guidelines say that the 2,000-calorie-a-day reference diet should include nine servings of fruit and vegetables.”  (this can be made up by including 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day) It recommends including a “good” fat with every meal and urges limiting dairy intake (noting that dairy products are fairly high in calories) and choosing fat-free and low-fat dairy products to avoid cholesterol-boosting saturated fats. The Nutrition Source at the Harvard School of Public Health patterns the Healthy Eating Plate© on these Guidelines.

To help Americans of Indian origin better manage diabetes, pre-diabetes, hypertension, obesity and hyperlipidemia, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) commissioned Dr. Ranjita Misra, now Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at West Virginia University, to edit the second edition of the book Indian Foods: AAPI’s Guide To Nutrition, Health and Diabetes. This excellent resource on nutrition and healthy eating with Indian cuisine includes chapters on East Indian, South Indian, Maharashtrian, Gujarati, North Indian and Nepali cuisine as well as diet and lifestyle recommendations to prevent heart disease, and tips for those living with diabetes and kidney disease.

Dr. Misra recommends the Dietary Guidelines “as the Bible to go by,” and advocates following it to build a personalized eating plan, using the AAPI Guide and similar sources to tailor it to your cuisines of choice. I spoke with Dr. Misra at length, and she offered several tips that you’ll soon see in the sequel to this article.

In conjunction with a healthy-eating plan, everyone – children, adolescents, adults, and older adults – should meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Consult your doctor to account for your specific health requirements, and get on the nutritious and healthy-eating bandwagon with these few simple rules.  Develop your own healthy eating plate and enjoy varied, tasty, healthy and nutritious meals every day!

Mukund Acharya is a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area established to advocate for healthy aging within the South Asian community.  Sukham provides information, and access to resources on matters related to health and well-being, aging, life’s transitions including serious illness, palliative and hospice care, death in the family and bereavement. If you feel overcome by a crisis and are overwhelmed by Google searches, Sukham can provide curated resource help. To find out more, visit https://www.sukham.org, or contact the author at sukhaminfo@gmail.com.  

The Healthy Eating Plate copyright © 2011 Harvard University. For more information please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,  http://www.thenutritionsource.org and Harvard Health Publications, health.harvard.edu.”

“Copyright © 2011 Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, http://www.thenutritionsource.org and Harvard Health Publications, health.harvard.edu.”    

 

Sweet as Honey: Delicious Indian Desserts (Balushahi and Dry Fruits Milkshake)

Sweet as Honey: Delicious Indian Desserts

Honey was man’s first sweetener. Honey was also an important condiment in medieval times. We crave sweets, as our stone-age forefathers have been deprived of it for centuries. Humans (Homo sapiens) evolved some 50,000 years ago, whereas bees were making honey 40 million years before that. Honeybees as a group probably originated in South East Asia. It seems they developed social behavior and structural identity similar to what we observe in modern honey bees, some 30 million years ago. Apis mellifera, known as the western honey bee, is a commonly domesticated species. It is believed to have originated in Africa and spread later to Europe and Asia. Honey was the staple sweetener in Europe till the 1500s. The name “honey” comes from the English word “huning.” In 1622, European colonists brought these sub-species to Americas. Cooking with honey was a mark of privilege and it was long used for preserving fruits whole or as a jam.
Cave paintings in Spain from 7000 B.C show the earliest records of bee keeping. Honey is also mentioned in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings from 2100 B.C. From available evidence, we know that humans have been collecting honey for 10,000 years. But the interplay between bees and flowers is understood much later in 1000 A.D.
The pre-historic cave paintings at Bhimbetka in India show men despoiling beehives built on rocks, perhaps around 6000 B.C. Even as early as the Rigvedic period (2nd and 1st century) the Rbhu brothers were credited with building artificial hives of reeds and straws. The Mahabharata (4th century B.C.) has references to apiary keepers, flower gardens and pollen yielding plants, indicating some degree of commercialization by then.
Bees were domesticated in artificial hives both in India and Egypt about 4500 years ago. The earliest record of bee keeping in Egypt is found in the Sun temple (near Cairo) believed to be erected in 2400 B.C. In 1800s, when archaeologists were working in Egypt, they found a large jar of honey, and found that it tasted perfect, even though it was thousands of years old.
Honey is truly an insect product of high nutritive value. The food value of honey may be estimated by the presence of about 80% sugar in it. One should not mistakenly assume that honey is only a plant product because the nectar, pollen and cane-sugar are all secretions from flowers. As they are digested by bees, it gets mixed with their saliva and it soon undergoes certain chemical changes due to the action of enzymes. At this stage sugar (sucrose) is converted into dextrose and levulose. At the same time some ingredients of bees are also added to the mixture and the water content reduces. The whole mixture is then collected in the crop until the honey bee reaches the hive. As the bee reaches the hive this compound is regurgitated in the hive cell and is known as “Honey.”


Honey Dipped Balushahi
IngredientsBahulashi
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 2 tsp. yogurt
* 1 tsp. sugar
* 1/2 tsp. baking soda
* 2 tsp. clarified butter
* ghee for deep frying
* Honey for dipping
Method
Mix all the ingredients together, except ghee and honey. Prepare smooth fluffy dough. Divide them into equal parts and shape them as you please. Now, heat the ghee to medium hot (not too smoky) and fry these balushahis to golden brown. Then, dip them in honey until it coats all over it. Serve chilled as a dessert.

Dry Fruits Milkshake
Honey Jar* 3 fresh figs
* 5 dates
* 5 almonds
* 3-4 cashew nuts
* 4-7 pistachios
* 1 large banana
* 2 tsp. honey
* 4 cups of organic milk
Method
Blend all the above mentioned ingredients together till smooth. Serve chilled in tall glasses.

Malar Gandhi is a freelance writer who specializes in Culinary Anthropology and Gourmet Indian Cooking. She blogs about Indian Food at www.kitchentantras.com

First published in May 2017.

Will Sambar Die With Me?

My cousin Ravi and his wife Radha were visiting America  for the very first time. One day, as I was waiting to pick them up for a drive around town, Radha was unusually late. As she slowly stepped into the car, she handed me a small box, saying “this is what made me late, wanted to warm it up for you.” I could smell the treasure. “Elai Adai!” I screamed with joy (translates to leaf pancake). The last time I had savored this heavenly dish was at Radha’s daughter’s wedding in India about three years ago. I was teary and grateful for her thoughtfulness. All through the car ride we reminisced over my grandmother’s cooking and the culinary precedent her ancestors had set. The taste goddess had blessed my family tree with amazing cooks. In Tamil, there is a term for this, kai manam, which means “aromatic hands” meaning that whatever one cooked was filled with flavor and taste.

We talked about my great-aunt Rashamma who lived alone in a big house surrounded by her paddy farms, mango and jackfruit groves, rubber plantations, and cows. Rashamma was known for her “kai manam.” She worked and managed the farms by herself; she was quite the busy landlady. Cooking was the last thing on her mind. But when she stepped into the kitchen, she created magic with the least amount of ingredients. I can never ever forget her keerai masiyal (a mashed spinach dish), that she whipped out with the bunch of spinach that she had just picked. Every time I make this dish it always takes me back to her kitchen.

All this talk about food and family tree made me wonder—what will happen to my cooking lineage? My cousin and I wondered what our kids will cherish when it comes to our culinary heritage. Will  elai adai and keerai masiyal die with me, along with sambar and rasam? Will my two boys ever know the value of the dishes I ate as a child or savored as a grown-up? Will it matter to these Indian American kids, who prefer In-N-Out burgers to idly sambar, that the idly is also a part of who they are?
I almost had a panic attack thinking of the-almost-extinct dishes of my heritage. For example, I fear the endangerment of the quintessential Avial (a mix of many vegetables like long beans, winter melon, pumpkin, drumstick, raw mango, raw plantain, in a coconut green chili paste with yogurt) which is scorned at my dinner table with a “Yuck! Who invented this dish that looks bad and tastes bad?” sending a dagger through my heart bred in Kerala. The pavakkai pitla (bitter gourd in a tamarind coconut sauce), which is welcomed at the dinner table with “I think I’ll make myself a sandwich” or “I’m going out to eat,” I relegate to the dinosaur category. And the list goes on.

That evening as I walked into my home, I could smell garlic and basil simmering on the stove. My son was cooking dinner. He asked me to taste the one-pot pasta he had made. He noticed the longing in my eyes and continued, “I will cook all your dishes one day, but for now it’s just pasta.” I chuckled and smiled hugging my son, for it really didn’t matter if its pasta or pitla that he was cooking. What did matter was that I had passed on the love for cooking to the next generation. Hopefully, the “heritage” recipes will come in time!

Rashamma’s Keerai Masiyal

Ingredients
2 cups tightly packed fresh spinach
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon urad dhal
3-4 dry red pepper

A pinch of asafetida
3-4 green chilies sliced
3-4 curry leaves
¼ cup fresh coconut scapings
Salt to taste

Method
Clean, chop and cook the spinach in little water. Puree it and set aside. Heat coconut oil and add mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add urad dhal, dry red pepper, curry leaves, asafetida and green chilies. Add the fresh coconut scrapings and sauté for a few minutes. Once it is a little toasted add the pureed spinach, mix well and season with salt. Serve as a side dish with rice.

Avial
This is a famous Kerala side dish that is served at feasts and weddings. There are many variations to this basic recipe.

Ingredients
Vegetables used are winter melon, raw plantain, long beans, pumpkin, carrots, and drumstick.
Raw mango (a few pieces)
2 cups of vegetables julienned
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3-4 curry leaves
1 cup sour yogurt
Make into Paste
1 cup fresh coconut scrapings
3 to 4 green chilies

Method
Place the vegetables in a large flat sauce pan with winter melon at the bottom. Season with salt and add coconut oil, salt, curry leaves and turmeric. Cook the vegetables in a medium flame without mixing too much. Use a flat ladle to gently mix so that the cooked vegetables don’t become mushy. Now add the ground coconut chili paste and mix. Lower the flame and add yogurt and mix. Cook for a few minutes. Check the seasoning and serve hot.

Elai Adai
This is a delicacy made in homes and it cannot be found in restaurants. It requires a banana leaf (elai) that is warmed over a gas flame to make it pliable without letting it tear apart. The outside shell is made with raw rice that is soaked in water, drained and made into a thin batter with salt (adai). The filling consists of fresh coconut, jaggery, small pieces of ripe jackfruit and cardamom. A ladle of rice batter is spread into a circle, on a banana leaf. The coconut filling is spread on the bottom half on the rice batter circle. Then the leaf is folded on top of the filling. The sides are folded and secured with a toothpick. This leaf pack is then steamed. It tastes like a modhak.

For all of us who want to cherish our culinary heritage, the best way is to write down family recipes in a Word document to  share with your children. Maybe one day in the future, they will look through the document, feel inspired and try one of mom’s ancient recipes!

Maybe, they will even ask me to show them how to make Elai Adai—a recipe that cannot have precise, written measurements—a recipe that needs to be learnt by watching to be able to emulate—a treasured treat from the taste goddesses hailing from my family tree!

Praba Iyer is a chef instructor, food writer and a judge for cooking contests. She specializes in team building classes through cooking for tech companies in the Bay Area.praba@cookingmastery.com

Indo-Mexican Fusion: Hearty Casserole

When we don’t go to India, my husband and I go to Mexico for vacations. Like in India, the weather is always warm and sunny, the people are friendly to travelers, and the food is vegetarian-friendly and delicious!

We often book a hotel room with a kitchenette so we can experiment with recipes using local ingredients. Similar to Indian vegetable bazaars, food markets are bustling in Mexican towns, full of discriminating shoppers vying for the best quality produce. Herbs and spices are easy to find, and often sold in bulk so that one can inspect them for freshness. After trying some local entrees in restaurants, we copied the dishes in our kitchenette and created some interesting recipes. Here are two examples that combine the flavors of Mexico and India, two of the best cuisines in the world! These two dishes are ideal for a potluck dinner or a picnic basket.


Chilaquiles
Chilaquiles is one of the many recipes in Mexican cuisine that makes use of stale tortillas. The dish can take many forms, from a soup with tortillas floating on top to a hearty casserole like this one. The casserole can be made with a tomato or tomatillo sauce. In addition to traditional tortilla chips, ingredients can be added to create a substantial entrée.

AvocadosIngredients
2 cups of cooked rice and quinoa pilaf (recipe below)
4 cups Mexican Salsa Roja (recipe below)
1 dozen corn tortillas (dry, stale tortillas are best)
2 tablespoons canola, corn, safflower or olive oil, plus extra tablespoons as needed
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese, queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese), or a melt-able vegan substitute
Chopped cilantro for garnishing
 
Basmati Rice and Quinoa Pilaf
Rice and quinoa are nourishing and easy to digest. Indian Basmati rice has a unique fragrance that has been attributed to its native soil.  Quinoa, an ancient Incan grain, is very nutritious, high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Like Basmati rice, quinoa cooks in 10-12 minutes, making the combination a perfect marriage of two grains.

Ingredients
2 cups hot water boiled with ½ teaspoon salt
½ cup white basmati rice and ½ cup white quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon oil
¼ cup chopped almonds or cashew pieces
½ teaspoon cumin seeds

Method
Bring the water and salt to a boil. Heat the oil in a skillet and stir fry the nuts for 2-3 minutes. Add the cumin seeds and sauté for one minute. Add the grains and stir-fry for 3 minutes, but don’t allow them to brown. Add the grain mixture to boiling water. Allow the water to return to a boil, reduce the heat and cook covered for 10-12 minutes. Turn off the heat but keep the grains covered. After 10 minutes, use in the casserole recipe as described below.

Yield: approximately five cups of pilaf.

Mexican Tomato Salsa Roja
Salsa Roja, Indian-Mexican CookingIngredients
2 pounds fresh red tomatoes
2 fresh jalapeno or serrano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 to 4 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons corn or safflower oil
½ cup onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste

Method
Boil the tomatoes in a water until their skins split. Transfer to a bowl of cold water to cool. Peel and cut them into chunks. Blend the tomatoes and other ingredients (except the onion) in a food processor. Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the chopped onion for 2 minutes. Add the blended tomatoes and salt. Stir and cook for 10 minutes. This salsa can be refrigerated for up to a week.

Yield: approximately 6 cups of sauce.

Avocado Chutney
Guacamole always seemed to resemble the Indian chutney.  So I wanted to create a recipe for avocado chutney that would taste distinctly different. The inclusion of ginger with the traditional herbs cilantro, scallion and fresh hot chilies used in a Mexican guacamole recipe did the trick. Here is my avocado chutney with an Indian twist. Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 soft, ripe avocados
2 to 3 tablespoons green onion (scallion), including some greens, finely minced
3 tablespoons cilantro
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely minced
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
Salt to taste

Method
Peel the avocados and remove the pits, reserving one pit. Place the chopped onion, cilantro, ginger and pepper in the jar of a food processor. Process them for a minute.  Then add avocado, lime or lemon  juice and salt and process the contents for a minute or two until pureed. Transfer to a serving bowl and place the pit in the center to keep the guacamole from discoloring.

In Mexico, traditionally a grinding stone called Molcajete and a pestle is used to mash the avocado and the herbs together into a puree. But you can use a food processor to puree the avocado chutney easily.

Yield: approximately 1 cup chutney

Preparing the casserole
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the tortillas one at a time on both sides to soften them. Add more oil as needed, but just enough to moisten the pan. Do not allow the tortillas to become too oily or too crispy. Remove and place on paper towels to drain excess oil. Cut the tortillas into 1½-inch-wide strips and set aside.

Lightly oil the bottom of a 9×14 inch casserole dish. Layer the ingredients as follows:

Line the bottom of the casserole with a cup of Mexican Salsa Roja.  Cover the sauce with a layer of tortilla strips. Next, sprinkle a cup of cheese on top of the tortilla strips. Then, layer 1½ cups of rice and quinoa pilaf, spreading evenly. Repeat the process, layering salsa, tortilla strips, cheese, and rice and quinoa mixture. Lastly sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and cover the casserole with the rest of the salsa, making sure to cover the dry corners.

Cover the casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Uncover and bake for a few more minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool for a few minutes, cut into squares, and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.  Serve with avocado chutney.

Makes 6 to 8 servings
Variations:

(1) Chilaquiles with Beans or tofu: Add a layer of 2 cups of cooked black beans, or tofu.

(2) Chilaquiles with Salsa Verde: Prepare a green salsa using the recipe provided below but substituting cooked, husked tomatillos in place of tomatoes. Assemble as described above.

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine is co-owner of Other Avenues Food Cooperative in San Francisco. Serena Sacharoff is a chef, an illustrator and an art student..

Thinking Out-of-the-Box with Baby Eggplants

Thinking Out-of-the-Box with Baby Eggplants

The first signs of spring are in full display. Never before have I been so welcoming of spring. This past winter was harsher than usual and experiencing it in our new home which is surrounded by trees only made it seem worse.  After an especially cold winter, I feel specially invigorated by the advent of spring! I enjoy the crispness in the air, the prospect of longer days and I look forward to seeing fresh vegetables in the farmer’s market. Nature always has its own way of quite literally springing tiny pleasant surprises urging us to take notice.

Our Sunday morning visits to the local farmer’s market have once again become a weekly ritual that I really look forward to. The soothing sight of fresh and vibrant produce complements the hustle and bustle and I feel tempted to buy everything that is arrayed in front of me!

When I head back home, I start thinking about how to prepare tasty, healthy foods that are easy to cook on a weekday. I try to experiment by completely reinventing the recipe or by making small changes like adding cumin seeds instead of mustard seeds.

Some vegetables have been used only in a particular way that I feel bored at the thought of having to make them using the same recipes. One such vegetable is the baby eggplant. I am sure there must be several ways of preparing them, but one dish that immediately comes to mind is Bharwa Baigan. (Stuffed eggplant)

Last Sunday when I picked up baby eggplant, I mentally swore that I would make something other than the usual Bharwa Baigan. Even though it is delicious, it is also quite tedious and time consuming to prepare. As I let my imagination play with these fresh baby eggplants, my aim was to come up with a recipe that was simple to cook and tasty. So here’s the recipe from my Sunday experiment with baby eggplant.


Achari Baigan
Yield: 3 servings
Total Time: 45 minutes
Achari Baigan, Eggplant Dish
Ingredients
12 baby eggplants
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chili powder
3 tablespoons mustard oil
(You can use any oil for this)
Pinch asafetida powder (Hing)
1 medium onion sliced thin

Mix together:
2 medium tomatoes pureed
3 teaspoons sambhar powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp sugar to taste
Salt
2 tablespoons yogurt
½ tsp garam masala
Chopped cilantro to garnish

Steps
1. Make two perpendicular cuts in the form of a cross at the base of the eggplant. Sprinkle salt, turmeric powder and chili powder and massage the insides of the eggplants. Keep aside for 10-15 minutes.
2. Over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons oil into the pan and once it is heated, add in the marinated eggplants.
Stir fry for about 3-4 minutes till the eggplants are charred slightly on the outside. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once it is heated, add in the asafetida and sliced onions.
4. Sauté till the onions soften and are pink in color (less than 1-2 mins). Now, mix in the dry masala with the tomato puree and add to the oil.
5. Add ½ cup of water and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes till oil floats on the top.
6. Then, add in the sautéed eggplant into the masala and continue to sauté till the eggplant is soft.
7. Now add in the yogurt, mix well and sprinkle in the garam masala and cook for 1-2 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Notes:
1. To reduce cooking time, add a little oil to the marinating eggplants and place in the microwave on high for 4 minutes. This softens the eggplants and reduces cooking time on the stove.
2. To make this dish look fancy, you can add a tempering of mustard seeds, asafetida and curry leaves at the end. It adds a touch of sophistication to the dish and yes, the extra love too.
3. I use mustard oil to make it typically achari (pickle-like); you can use any oil that you want.
Having experimented with eggplant, I was immensely satisfied with the results. It was all the more gratifying since I had finally chosen to do something other than the usual Bharwa Baigan. Serve it with plain rice and dal or some pulao. This is a must-make vegetarian dish for all who are eggplant lovers. Don’t be afraid to play around with the recipe and remember to always have fun experimenting!n
A science educator with an ardent love for experimentation in the kitchen, Jagruti writes about cooking in her blog The Turmeric Kitchen. To help popularize her otherwise not very well known East Indian heritage, she writes extensively about Odia food and about dishes that evoke nostalgia of her days growing up in Odisha.

chicory, stir fry, salad, potatoes

‘N Dive Into Chicory!

ChicoryMy childhood is filled with memories of waking up to the strong aroma of filter coffee. My grandmother needed her cup of coffee to be just the way she liked it. Her day began with brewing a huge steel filter full of coffee and it ended with her ritual of washing that huge filter and adding a heap of the coffee powder ready for brewing the next morning. Her coffee beans were bought at specialty coffee retailers like Narasus Coffee, Kannan Jubilee Coffee, and Leo Coffee. I remember going to these coffee retailers with my mother and she would buy a blend of three-fourths of Pea berry, Robusta or Arabica beans with a quarter of chicory. The beans were always roasted to perfection.

I remember asking my mother, “What is chicory?” She told me that chicory was a root that was added to the expensive coffee powder for a slight bitter aftertaste, and it also helped extend the use of the coffee powder. Only a quarter of the chicory was added since too much would take away the real flavor of the coffee beans.  I still miss my grandmother’s chicory coffee and her morning coffee rituals.

Historical Origins
Chicory dates back to ancient Egypt. In 4000 BC, it was documented as a medicinal plant for the treatment of intestinal worms and as an aid to digestion. Later the Greeks and Romans used chicory as a liver tonic. It is said that the Roman poet Horace ate chicory as a part of his vegan diet. During the Middle Ages, medieval monks cultivated chicory and thus introduced it to Europe.

The Dutch were the first to use the roots as an enhancer for coffee. According to Peter Simmonds, a 19th century writer, coffee was introduced to France by M. Orban and M. Giraud. By the 1800s, France, Denmark and Germany were exporting more than 1 million pounds of chicory.

In the 19th century the French brought their chicory and coffee to Louisiana. During the Great Depression and the Second World War, coffee was expensive and in short supply. Chicory became a popular substitute drink. Sometime during the 1850’s New Orleans became the second largest importer of coffee. During the Civil War when the ports were blocked and coffee shipments were halted, chicory found its place as a substitute. That’s how, even to this day, you can find a good cup of Chicory coffee at Café Du Monde in New Orleans as it has become a part of their cultural history.

My grandmother and I are indebted to a 17th century Sufi saint named Baba Budan for bringing coffee to South India. Legend has it that, Baba Budan smuggled seven coffee beans from Yemen on his way back from his holy Hajj pilgrimage and planted it in Karnataka, South India. Later on, chicory was introduced by the British. Till the 1950s chicory was imported in India. Later, imported seeds from France were cultivated in the North West. Now India is the largest producer of premium grade chicory in the world.

Roots, Leaves and Flowers are Used in Chicory

1) Root chicory is roasted, ground and brewed as a substitute for coffee.

2) Leaf Chicory has two kinds—wild leaf used in many Turkish and Greek dishes and cultivated leaf chicory that is of three main kinds: Radicchio or red chicory, Belgian endive (pronounced as En-Deeve); we grow Californian endives too, and Sugarloaf chicory which looks like a hybrid of Napa cabbage  and romaine lettuce. Apart from these varieties, we also have salad greens such as escaroles, curly endive (pronounced as N-Dive) and frisee.

3) Chicory flowers are predominantly blue but sometimes are pink and white too. These flowers are used in tonics for the prevention of gallstones, sinus issues etc. These February flowers are known as a symbol of love, desire and inspiration.

Chicory the Champion of Health
We know that the Egyptians had planted chicory for its medicinal use. In India chicory roots are used in the treatment for jaundice and liver enlargement. The Native Cherokee and Iroquois tribes used chicory in treating sores, lesions and as a laxative. Chicory is well known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. It is also used in the treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, acne, cellulite, constipation, diabetes, eczema, gallstones, gastritis, gout, hepatitis, jaundice, liver enlargement, rheumatism, and urinary ailments.

Chicory promotes a heart healthy diet as it contains inulin a carbohydrate fiber called fructan, that helps reduce LDL or bad cholesterol and triglycerides and thereby reduces the risk of atherosclerosis. The inulin also helps in the prevention of diabetes and obesity in humans, by amanaging and aiding digestion and appetite regulation.  Chicory is a great source of calcium, potassium and vitamins. It also helps in absorbing calcium thereby aiding bone density and reducing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.


Farm to Table
Here are some chicory dishes to warm your cold February days.

Roasted Radicchio Winter Salad
My friend Poornima makes the best Radicchio Summer Salad. I’ve adopted her recipe to make a warm winter salad. Radicchio has a bitter and spicy taste. Roasting radicchio reduces the bitterness.

For Roasting
1 head Radicchio torn into large wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tablespoon dried herbs (thyme, parsley, basil)
Salt to taste

For the Salad
2 steamed beets cut into matchsticks
1 green apple cut into matchsticks
½ cup fresh corn
1 avocado cubed

Dressing
½ teaspoon honey
1 clove garlic minced
½ jalapeno pepper minced
2 tablespoons of Muscat vinegar (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Rub the radicchio wedges with olive oil, garlic, dried herbs and salt. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place inside for 12-15 minutes till it is charred. Remove, cut up into large pieces and place in a large bowl. Add rest of the salad ingredients—beets, apples, corn, avocados and mix gently. Drizzle the dressing and mix. Serve.

Variation: Roasted Radicchio Walnut Pizza. Place the roasted radicchio in a layer over pizza dough along with gorgonzola and mozzarella cheeses and toasted walnuts. Cook the pizza in the oven.

Belgian Endive, Tomatoes and Mushroom Stir Fry
According to Chinese medicine, endives help preserve the Qi (energy) in the heart. They use it in many stir fry dishes.

Ingredients
2 bulbs of red and green endive halved and sliced crosswise.
1 tablespoon oil
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 inch fresh ginger minced
1 cup Shitake mushroom sliced
1 large vine ripe tomato cut into wedges
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt to taste

Method
Heat oil in a large pan and add the minced garlic and ginger. Then add the sliced endive, sliced shitake mushrooms and sauté in high heat for a few minutes. Now, add the tomatoes, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, salt and red pepper. Cook until the endives are wilted and mushroom slices are soft. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot as a side dish with rice.

Roasted Fennel, Endive Potato Gratin
Belgian endive is mostly used for appetizers. Each leaf serves as a holder for small salads. This hearty au gratin is an all-time favorite.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small fennel bulb sliced
1 red Belgian endive sliced lengthwise
1 green Belgian endive sliced lengthwise
8 red potatoes sliced into ½ rounds
1 tablespoon butter
1 ½ cups milk
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (basil, parsley rosemary)
½ cup grated Gruyere cheese
½ cup grated mozzarella cheese

Heat olive oil in a flat pan and add garlic. Now place the fennel and endive in a single layer, season with salt and pepper, and then brown them. Remove and set aside. In the same pan add butter and garlic. Now add 1 ½ cup of milk and layer the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes. Remove from stove and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking pan with butter and layer the potatoes, roasted fennel and endive slices. Sprinkle half of the Gruyere cheese and Mozzarella cheese. Add the remaining milk mixture on top. Sprinkle the rest of the two cheeses at the top. Place it in the hot oven and cook until the top is bubbling golden brown and the potatoes are well cooked. Remove and serve.

Praba Iyer is a chef instructor, food writer and a judge for cooking contests. She specializes in team building classes through cooking for tech companies in the Bay Area praba@cookingmastery.com

Best Foods For Building Lean Muscle

If lean muscles could be built from beer and chips then everyone could be looking huge with well-defined muscles. Unfortunately this is not the case. It takes a lot of exercises and healthy eating habits to develop lean muscles. But wait; did you know that there are certain foods that can help you to build lean muscles faster? These foods have particular properties, which increase the rate at which your muscles burn fat to look more defined. Below are my recommendations for best foods for building lean muscle:

Salmon
While fish has gained a lot of glory as one of the best sources of white meat, salmon takes the lead when it comes to the types of food, which are responsible for building lean muscles fast. Salmon contains a unique blend of the right proteins, B vitamins and other essential nutrients such as magnesium, which is crucial to the repair and formation of new muscles. Besides, scientific evidence has pointed out that salmon boosts mood, which goes a long way in preventing unhealthy eating habits and therefore contributes directly to lean muscle development.

Eggs
Eggs have always been identified as the best source of proteins, and indeed their ability to boost the development of lean muscles extend beyond the protein value. Eggs are highly functional due to the yolk, which contains sufficient amounts of cholesterol. If you are troubled that the amount of cholesterol could hike from excessive consumption of eggs, it is time you knew that the type of cholesterol obtained from eggs has been shown to lower the amount of bad cholesterol which is mostly associated with cardiovascular infections. Eggs therefore boast of the highest biological value, a measure that depicts how well they support your body’s protein need.

Almonds
Almonds carry a substantive amount of Vitamin E, in a form that is best absorbed by the human body. Vitamin E is required in the body especially after exercising because it is a potent antioxidant, which prevents free-radical damage that could prevent effective muscle development after workouts. The moment such kind of destruction is prevented; lean muscle development will be accelerated.

Leafy greens
Leafy greens have gone beyond the boundaries of keeping your skin glowing to facilitate the development of lean muscles at a faster rate. They contain a lot of iron, whose function is to speed up the circulation of oxygen during workouts. Similarly, leafy greens contain enough proteins to help build lean muscles further. Some of the greens that have a higher amount of proteins are spinach and kales, and should therefore be consumed in large amounts.

Apples
When it comes to fruits, apples play a crucial role towards the development of lean muscles. These fruits are packed with specific polyphenols, which prevent muscle fatigue while increasing muscle strength at the same time. Apples should therefore be used as pre-workout carb sources because they allow you to train harder and over an extended period of time.

Oats
These are some of the most unique grains that you will find in the local store. If you consume half a cup of rolled oats for instance, you will get 5 grams of proteins and a number of vitamins which boost metabolism and promote muscle growth. If you observe most bodybuilders, you will find out that they consume oats at the start of their day because it is the kind of diet that that keeps one satisfied for long besides preventing the accumulation of abdominal weight.

Peanuts
Peanuts are mostly consumed for their protein content, forgetting that they contain a host of other nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and plenty of iron. In a single serving of roasted peanuts, you get 12 grams of proteins and all the aforementioned nutrients. Besides roasted peanuts, peanut butter is a good alternative, but one has to be careful not to choose the sweetened varieties.

Beef from grass-fed animals
Beef contains zinc, iron, B vitamins, cholesterol and proteins. These are some of the best components for anyone who wishes to develop lean muscles, but they should be obtained grass-fed animals. Compared to conventionally raised animals, grass-fed cattle contain a higher level of conjugated linoleic acid, which helps the body in shedding fat in order to develop lean muscles.

In summary, there is a wide variety of natural foods which have particular properties vital to the development of lean muscles. However, it is also essential to note that food alone cannot help one to develop lean muscles. As such, one should consume such healthy and balanced diets besides regular exercising before the results start to appear.

Puja Mukherjee is a certified Fitness Trainer, who woke up one morning to drop everything in the pursuit of her passion for fitness. She says the best part about her job is to liberate her clients from their preconceived notions about fitness and see them be dazzled. Follow her at www.getmeanmuscle.com

References.
http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/muscle-building-foods
http://diet.allwomenstalk.com/foods-to-help-you-build-lean-muscle
http://www.muscleandfitnesshers.com/nutrition/15-best-lean-muscle-building-foods
http://fitlife.tv/top-vegan-foods-that-build-lean-muscle/

Skyrocket Your Energy Level

Do you ever watch a group of kids at play and wonder where they get all that energy? If you were able to bottle all that vim and vigor, you would make a fortune selling this elixir at offices in early afternoons or at the juice bar in the local fitness center.

You are not alone when you get that sagging feeling in the early afternoon, or when you just don’t have quite enough oomph to finish your exercise routine.

There has been a proliferation of energy drinks and “healthy” granola bars in the market, as the solution to replenishing that empty fuel tank.

However, most of these highly sweetened liquids and foods use sugars to give your body a quick energy boost. The catch is, not only do you exhaust the sugar-supplied energy very quickly; it also slows your metabolism down and can further hinder you’re the progress towards your fitness goals.

The good news is, there are a number of other things that you can do to increase your energy levels…naturally. Some of it has to do with shift in dietary habits, while others involve lifestyle changes, and then there are exercises that immensely help fill up your energy reserves.

Dietary Energy Boosters

Reduce your sugar consumption
Sugar causes energy fluctuations that contribute to fatigue. Eat foods and snacks that are high in protein and good, complex carbohydrates, the source of energy.

Increase your iron intake
An iron deficiency is responsible for much of the chronic fatigue. Eat foods that are high in iron and take a good, natural iron supplement.

Drink lots of water
A dehydrated body tires easily, so stay hydrated with frequent glasses of water.

Eat smaller and frequent meals
Large meals, particularly lunch, will contribute to that groggy feeling in the early afternoon. More frequent meals stabilize insulin levels and keep your metabolism up throughout the day.

Eat brain food
Consume healthy fats like those in fish and green leafy vegetables to boost your brain function and provide energy.

Eat healthy snacks
A snack of protein, complex carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables will keep your blood sugars at a consistent level all day long. Protein combats fatigue and builds muscle mass to appear toned.

Whole grains take longer for your system to metabolize and give a steady supply of energy, not the quick, short-lived burst that sugars supply.

Enjoy your cup of coffee but don’t over do it. The initial rush from caffeine is not long-lasting and will leave you fatigued and dehydrated.

Eat lots of fiber
Fiber promotes satiety and the slow release of sugar will give you sustained energy throughout the day.

Lifestyle Changes for An Energy Boost

Practice deep breathing
Breathing with your abdominal muscles will increase your oxygen intake to improve your lung capacity and increase overall stamina overtime.

Start your day with a big breakfast
Your body needs a jump-start in the morning and a good, well-balanced breakfast rich in protein and complex carbohydrates is the best way to start the day and feel fresh for a long time.

Stop smoking
Smoking depletes oxygen and in turn reduces stamina to leave you feeling fatigued.

Sleep with the sun
Sleep hormones are linked to natural light. Going to sleep early helps you awaken naturally without requiring an alarm.  If it is still light outside, create the illusion of darkness by using heavy curtains to block off sunlight and streetlights, switching off laptops, cell phones and other gadgets to prepare your body for a restful night of sleep.

Read before going to bed
Establish a sleep ritual like reading before retiring. It helps block out other noise in your mind and helps you fall asleep faster.

Avoid sleeping with pets
Pets on your bed will disturb your sleep if you keep bumping into them. So get the dog and cat to sleep in their own beds. That way everyone wakes up feeling fresh.

Exercises That Provide Energy Boost

Get up and stretch
It is important to take a break to stretch from sitting down for too long to maintain a good blood flow to your body and brain. Stretch your body out will keep you from sagging into lethargy and bad posture.

Have a short morning workout routine
This will shake off your sleepiness, rev up your metabolism and get your blood flowing for most of the day.

Play competitive sports
Playing a sport requires thinking and will spark your mental energy. Desire to win and winning provides adrenaline rush to keep you feeling youthful.

Go for a brisk, short walk after a big meal. It will aid digestion and avoid feeling bloated.

Try doing the following to beat drowsiness. Remove your watch, and stand straight. Extend your right arm slightly, palm down. With your left hand, rub the right arm firmly from wrist to shoulder. Rotate palm upwards, and rub firmly from shoulder to wrist.

Repeat this until ten repetitions are completed. Reverse and rub the left arm with the right hand.

Stand straight with feet slightly spread. Raise your hands to shoulder height, elbows bent at 90 degrees, palms facing down. Start shaking your hands very fast with your wrists relaxed. Do this for a count to 100.

All of the above will help restore your energy and awaken you.

Puja Mukherjee, is a certified fitness trainer, who woke up one morning to drop everything in the pursuit of her passion for fitness. She says the best part about her job is to liberate her clients from their preconceived notions about fitness and see them be dazzled. Follow her at www.getmeanmuscle.com.