We are what we eat

If there is one thing that all of us would agree upon, it is that we are a sum total of what we eat, drink and chew! That is probably how this saying ‘we are what we eat’ came to be and is gaining popularity. In a day and age where food has transcended geographic, sociocultural and religious boundaries, it is up to us to choose a healthy diet and consume wisely on a daily basis.

Right from our hunter-gatherer days, the human race has had to fight for food, but in different ways. We fought against wild animals and natural disasters to procure food in those days and are fighting against commercialisation of food and the associated health hazards in the present times. As advocates of healthy eating practices across peoples of diverse origins and backgrounds, we believe that if our relationship with food is healthy we can be healthy humans and if it is unhealthy we will lose our health and wellness quickly. Not just heart health, but the health of our blood vessels, skin, bones, muscles, nerves, hormones, sensory organs like eyes and ears, liver, lungs, kidneys and brain, and most importantly the health of our digestive system which hosts millions of microorganisms depends to a great extent on what we eat.

A healthy relationship with food can go a long way in preserving health and preventing disease. Here are 5 things to ponder about and 5 habits to inculcate to ensure that we have a lasting healthy relationship with food.

  • How we feel about our food

A love and longing for water and food have kept us alive for millennia. The challenge today is to restore that unadulterated love and longing. Not just for water but for clean drinking water. And not just for food but for naturally available and minimally processed food. Once we re-establish that strong bonding with our food, we would better appreciate healthy food and stay away from the myriad unhealthy options available out there.

  • What we know about our food

We take great pains to research and find out as much details as possible about a new gadget or device before buying it, but we tend to take our food for granted. We assume that everything that is packaged and sold to us in the grocery store or supermarket is hygienic and healthy. We trust that the food that is prepared in hotels and restaurants and served to us is safe to eat and of high standards. Unfortunately, we are failing in our responsibility to ensure food hygiene and safety standards for our family members and ourselves by not reading food labels, not enquiring about the ingredients while eating out and by heeding to marketing strategies like media advertisements and price-cuts. Being aware of what we consume is fundamental to a balanced healthy diet.

  • How involved are we in the farm-to-table process of our food

This is an area of “growing interest” in today’s world. People are realizing that they can not only procure minimally processed ingredients and prepare their own meals but can also grow their own fruits and veggies for use in their household. This is the kind of involvement that is going to help us and our future generations eat healthy. If we cannot grow our own ingredients, we can at least choose what ends up in our kitchens as raw material. If we have to eat out often due to work commitments or social pressure, we can definitely choose healthy options while eating out and engage in preparing meals at home whenever time permits. 

  • How open are we to making dietary changes

Having an open mind is key to moving ahead and staying healthy. When it comes to food, we especially see that people are reluctant to change. While we are not recommending that you forego your dietary culture and tradition, we would like to emphasize that our nutritional requirements have changed as we have shifted to more desk-based jobs and sedentary lives. Our exposure to outdoors and to sunlight has drastically come down compared to before. Changing environmental factors have given rise to several allergic reactions to food, chemicals etc. We need to listen to our bodies and make changes to what we eat and drink so that we reduce the impact of external factors on our health. We also need to be open to take professional help, as there are experts in the field of nutrition and dietetics to help us maintain a balanced healthy diet no matter what our medical condition.

  • Who determines what we eat

If you are a young adult or a grown-up, you should be the one who determines your daily diet. Toddlers and school-going children rely on their parents, caregivers and sometimes their educational institutions for food so we have an added responsibility to ensure that our young ones are also eating healthy. It is not acceptable to blame the canteen at office, the food delivery app or the greasy food at the nearby restaurant for our unhealthy diet. It is we who should take full responsibility for our food choices and make modifications to what we eat, how much we eat and when we eat in order to meet our health and wellness goals.

To conclude, we should relish every bite or sip we take, keeping in mind that naturally available, minimally processed and home-prepared foods and beverages are always the best for our health.

Summer, Fitness & Heart Health

As the summer is here, very few will dare to get under the scorching sun and exercise. People literally sweat doing nothing and exercising outdoors will make you sweat more. Dehydration, heat stroke and even death can occur if exposed to too much heat.

In this post, we would like to share answers to some common questions we get asked during our routine work as a cardiac rehab team:

Is it advisable to exercise during summer? – Yes, you can exercise during summer, but it is advisable to do the exercises either early in the morning or just before or during sunrise (Source of Vitamin D) (or) post sunset in the evening.

What are the common precautions to be taken while exercising in hot weather? –Wear appropriate clothing and footwear; take sips of water or electrolyte mixed beverage for hydration; ensure the temperature is regulated (if indoors) or not more than 36 deg Cel (if outdoors); do adequate warm up and cool down exercises.

Can we exercise indoors during the summer? – Yes, you can exercise indoors. There are many exercises that can be done inside your house without any fancy equipment. Use of body weight and space will be helpful.

How to avoid dehydration or stay hydrated during summer? –Increase your intake of fluids. Instead of drinking plain water, add a pinch of salt and sugar to improve water retention. Use of electrolyte mixed beverages that are available in the market may be helpful for individuals who indulge in athletic activities and sports. Others can stick to water mixed with a pinch of salt and sugar, fruit juice (with pulp and without added sugar) or tender coconut water.

What types of exercises are advisable? –Combination of aerobic exercise and strength training can be done at home. Aerobic exercises should be done at least for 30 minutes on 5 days a week and strength training for 2 days a week. Free exercises using one’s own body weight or simple equipment like dumbbells weight cuffs and resistance bands are the main options for building muscle strength. The major muscle groups for strength training are shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearm, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles.

I have been diagnosed with a heart ailment and am taking medicines. Is it safe to exercise in very hot conditions? –As you are under treatment for a heart problem, it is best to take the advice of your Cardiologist or your Cardiac Rehab Team. In general, people with heart conditions should avoid exercising in extremes of weather as it can add to the workload of the heart. However, if you take the above precautions, your exercise regime will be fruitful.

From the above questions and answers, it is evident that exercise can be done indoors and also it is simple, effective and also cost-effective (sometimes zero cost too).

Some of the indoor exercises are:

  • Push ups or modified push ups
  • Forward lunges – with or without dumbbells
  • Half squats
  • Normal planks
  • Steppers – with or without dumbbells
  • Abdomen sit ups
  • Quick sprints
  • Stair climbing – brisk walk or jog 2 to 3 floors in a single repetition

These can be done while traveling too. Adequate warm-up should be done prior to exercise and slow and relaxed stretching should be done as a cool down to avoid muscle cramps or soreness. Not to forget that overtraining can also affect the body.

Thus it is important to exercise with adequate precautions during the hot summers. If you exercise the right way with proper guidance and techniques, it is easier to achieve the desired goal. And remember exercise can be done anywhere and all it needs is dedication, determination and commitment.