Amaranth : a plant for immortality

Amaranth gets its name from a Greek word that means “the never-fading” or “one that does not wither.” In India, it is popular as Rajgira or Ramdana which loosely translates to food of the God. This gluten free grain grows without need of much water , sunshine or chemical fertilizers and hence is naturally organic. Although amaranth is not a grain , it is a green leafy vegetable whose seeds are also edible, the nutritional profile of the seed is similar to that of cereal grains. Continue reading “Amaranth : a plant for immortality”

Basil seeds : Are they better than Chia ?

Like many other underrated Indian indigenous foods, basil seeds are hardly known to many except for their rare appearance in a refreshing rose falooda drink available in most restaurants. Basil seeds are popularly known as falooda seeds (Arabic) or sabja or tukmaria (Hindi) in India. These seeds have an excellent nutritional profile pretty similar to that of the famous chia seeds. Basil seeds are yet another humble relative of the Western counterpart chia who eagerly awaits its ”  moment of fame”.

Origins: Basil seeds are native to India grown across the country and also in parts of Southeast Asia as well as Iran and Africa. Chia seeds are grown primarily in Mexico and South America and are said to have been used by Mayan and Aztec cultures for supernatural powers.

Appearance:   Both the seeds are blackish but chia seeds are round and basil seeds are tear shaped.

Storage: Both the seeds can be stored for several months in a refrigerator

Taste:  Soaked chia seeds and basil seeds are almost tasteless. Basil seeds are very hard and cannot be eaten raw but raw chia seeds can be sprinkled over salads.

Cost : Chia seeds – Rs 1500-1600 per kg   Basil seeds – Rs 450-500 /kg

Common nutritional benefits

  • Both these seeds are very rich in soluble fiber. Chia seeds have approximately 35% fiber and basil seeds Fiber rich foods have a bulking effects and favourable impact on digestion and absorption of nutrients. Fiber delays digestion and absorption of the carbohydrates and fats in foods preventing spike in blood sugars post meals and prevent weight gain and diabetes .
  • Chia seeds and basil seeds have exceptional gelling properties. Chia seeds can swell up to 12 times its size and basil seeds expand 30 times their original size. They form a thick viscous gel which can act as a barrier between food and enzymes slowing down the breakdown and absorption of sugars from food. This is a valuable property in reducing the postprandial blood sugar response .
  • Both the seeds help maintain good hydration and are effective in beating summer heat due to their ability to hold abundant moisture.
  • Chia seeds as well as sabja are effective in curing stomach ailments such as indigestion, bloating or even constipation which can be attributed to their high soluble fiber content and subsequent bulk forming property.
  • 60% of fat in chia seeds comprises of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) which is the source of Omega 3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA. There is limited data to show presence of ALA in basil seeds due to poor documentation. But , both the seeds can be considered as a valuable plant source of the omega 3 fatty acids which have multiple benefits in prevention and cure of communicable as well as non communicable diseases.

Health benefits of Basil seeds :

  • Soaked basil seeds has been used by traditional Persian herbalists to treat infectious conditions such as cold, cough or asthma. This is because they can prevent contraction or spasm of the bronchial muscles thereby providing relief from the coughing to enable the person to rest .
  • Basil seeds can help relieve gas and aid digestion due to the presence of volatile oils
  • Basil seeds may help relieve stress and depression due to their soothing effect
  • Basil seeds are very rich source of iron and 100gm of the seeds can help meet 40% of the recommended daily allowance for iron
  • Basil seeds are a great antidote to the heat in summers by having a cooling effect on the stomach.
  • Basil seeds when mixed with coconut oil is very useful for treating skin related problems like eczema, psoriasis and other skin related problems.
  • Consuming basil seeds helps your body secrete collagen which is essential in forming new skin cells.

Health benefits of chia seeds

  • Chia seeds can help reduce oxidative stress in the body due to presence of nutrients such as magnesium and phenolic compounds (mainly quercetin and kaempferol), which have antioxidative effect
  • Chia seeds are very rich in calcium , phosphorus, zinc and manganese.
  • Chia seeds have an impressive protein content of 19–23% with a non-limiting amino acid profile which makes them excellent source of plant protein for vegetarians.
  • Chia seeds contains amino acid tryptophan which can be converted to serotonin in the body Serotonin has a calming effect and induces sleep as well.

Disadvantages of basil seeds

Basil seeds can induce contractions and lead to miscarriage in pregnant women. Basil is considered to be an “Emmenagogue” which are a family of herbs that stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus and may, therefore, cause stimulation of menstruation.

In India, our ancient treasure of knowledge is not documented hence goes obsolete. Western countries have several vested interests in glamorizing their health foods as it can boost economy. They even back it up with substantial scientific evidence to ensure patronage among the so-called educated masses.

Once again, basil seeds are the inexpensive, immensely nutritious, and cool alternative to chia seeds. If and when wise and conscious consumers demand for them, their latent nutritional benefits will get the limelight too!


Beet greens : Indian alternative to the Swiss chard

It is indeed unfortunate that we cut and discard the green leaves of beetroot and radish which are valuable sources of vital nutrients. But, we are ready to pay through our nose for the imported fancy greens such as swiss chard or kale even though they are literally dead by the time they reach us. Did you know that 100g of beet greens can fulfil 127% of your daily requirements of vitamins A, 50% of vitamin C and 500% of vitamin K. Cooked beet greens are also one of the best plant sources of calcium, providing about 15% of daily needs in one cup.

Origins: Swiss chard and beet green are tall dark green leafy vegetables belonging to the goosefoot family – aptly named because the leaves resemble a goose’s foot. Swiss chard was identified by a Swiss botanist and is a variety of Beta vulgaris. Today, Swiss chard is most popular in Mediterranean countries.

Appearance:   Swiss chard has large, fleshy but tender deep green leaves and thick, crisp stalks. Different types of chard have different coloured stalks and ribs – some are white, some are a golden orange and some are red – there’s even rainbow chard. Beet greens look similar only that their stalks are usually red only

Storage: Fresh beets with the greens attached can be stored for three to four days in the fridge. Similarly, swiss chard can be stored in a  perforated bag in the fridge for upto 4 days

Taste:  Swiss chard has an earthy-taste somewhat bitter. Raw beet greens have a chewy, rough texture and bitter taste

Seasonal availability: Beets and their greens enjoy a longer than normal growing season.Though available year round, beets are sweetest and most tender during their peak season, from June to October. Swiss chard is also available all year round, but best from July through to early November.

Cost : Beet greens – Free with beetroot (at Rs 100-120/kg)    Swiss chard – Rs 200-250 /kg

Common nutritional benefits

  • Green leafy vegetables are rich source of Vitamin K which has blood clotting properties, can prevent osteoporosis by improving bone health and may also be helpful against Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Abundant vitamin A and beta carotene in these vegetables helps to strengthen immune system and stimulate production of antibodies and white blood cells.
  • Betalain, a strong anti-inflammatory agent, present in beet greens as well as swiss chard helps to fight the free radicals in the body that can be introduced through pollutants, toxic chemicals, or stress


Table: Nutritive value of beet greens compared to swiss chard

% DV per 100g Beet greens Swiss chard
Vitamin A 127% 122%
Vitamin C 50% 50%
Vitamin B6 5% 5%
Vitamin K 500% 1038%
Folic Acid 4% 3%
Iron 14% 10%
Calcium 12% 5%
Manganese 7% 18%
Magnesium 17% 20%
Zinc 3% 2%
Copper 10% 9%


Health benefits of Beet greens

  • Beet leaves contain betacyanin, the pigment that has anti-cancer effects in the body
  • Beet greens are fairly rich source of iron and folic acid which can be particularly beneficial for individuals suffering from certain types of blood disorders and also for pregnant women
  • Juice of beetroot leaves soon after intense exercise can help in faster recovery from the exhaustion due to rich antioxidant content.
  • Beet greens can increase quantity of blood supply to the brain cells thereby enhancing their functioning and preventing onset of dementia in elderly


Health benefits of chard


  • High levels of antioxidants in swiss chard help protect against inflammatory diseases such as cancers, arthritis, diabetes, etc
  • Syringic acid in swiss chard is a compound that inhibits enzyme alpha glucosidase thereby helping in blood sugar regulation
  • Swiss chards can help increase blood circulation.
  • Anti-inflammatory and phytonutrient antioxidants combined with potassium in chard helps reduce stress and blood pressure.

Disadvantage of swiss chard and beet greens

  • It contains oxalates which can increase risk of developing kidney stones in susceptible individuals.

Final verdict :

Relish on some fresh colourful chard when you are bordering the Mediterranean region, or countries on the north coast of Africa; the southern regions of France, Italy, and Greece; Croatia; and the Middle Eastern countries of Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.

In India, you have the the local nutritious leafy greens like spinach, beet greens, radish greens, red amaranth, green amaranth, colocasia, and many more to fulfil all your vitamin and mineral requirements with added benefits of freshness and low cost.

Let us learn to preserve and value the wealth of indigenous fruits and vegetables of our country.



Cabbage: the Indian contender against International Kale

Kale was crowned as “ the vegetable of 2015”   and it does truly deserve the position due to its illustrious profile of nutrients with 150gm servings taking care of 98% of your vitamin A needs, 71% of vitamin C and 1180% of vitamin K. In addition to this, it is rich in valuable minerals, B vitamins , antioxidants and flavonoids. Kale chips are the most recent favourites among high-end urbanites in India.

But did you know, that our homegrown local cabbage is a very close cousin of kale offering similar health benefits along with certain other quaint qualities ….

Lets first discuss the commonalities between the two brothers.

Origins: Both belong to the brassica family or cruciferous vegetables which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and collards.

Appearance:  Kale is leaf cabbage with green or purple leaves that do not form a head like that in a cabbage.

Texture : Both have somewhat crunchy or chewy texture that makes it suitable for eating raw as a salad. It softens when cooked.

Taste:  Both foods taste better and are much more digestible if you soak them in water for a few hours . One may even blanch them if required to be stored for later use

Seasonal availability: Kale grows best in very cold climates and hence is best eaten in winters. Cabbage is available all year around although the best season is from October to February.

Cost : Kale – Rs 700/kg

          Cabbage – Rs 30-40 /kg

Common Nutritional benefits

  • They contain glucosinolates which can be converted into isothiocyanates inside the body. These isothiocyanates provide protection against cancer by preventing growth and spread of cancer cells and causing their death.
  • Sulphur containing compounds in cruciferous vegetables known as sulforaphane have been found to protect against cancers such as esophageal, prostate, and pancreatic.

Health Benefits of Kale

  • The nutrients present in Kale support healthy skin, hair, and bones. The fiber content enhances digestion and contributes to cardiovascular health.
  • Kale has exceptional antioxidative properties that helps slow the progression of age-related diseases.
  • Kale contains an antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid which can help lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes. It may also decrease peripheral and autonomic neuropathy in these patients.
  • The chlorophyll in kale binds to carcinogens (cancer causing substances) and prevents the body from absorbing them

Health benefits of cabbage

  • Cabbage is rich in vitamin K which enhances bone health and is packed with vitamin C, which promotes collagen production and helps boost the immune system
  • Cabbage contains the antioxidants choline, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin as well as the flavonoids kaempferol, quercetin, and apigenin. Red cabbage tends to contain more of these compounds than green cabbage
  • Cabbage has strong anti-inflammatory properties that make it beneficial for healing of ulcers and other inflammatory conditions.
  • The fiber and water content in cabbage also help to prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract.

Disadvantages of Kale

  • Kale is more susceptible to early spoilage as compared to cabbage. One needs to deep freeze the excess kale to retain its texture for later use
  • Kale becomes increasingly bitter and strongly flavored the longer it is kept and so is best eaten soon after buying.
  • Kale tastes slightly bitter and is hard to use in Indian cooking. In the west, it is largely eaten sauteed, steamed or boiled, dehydrated as chips, and, in salads and juices.
  • Kale is not a local food for India. Only the medium tall variety (known as karam saag) grows in Jammu & Kashmir. The fact that Kale has to travel several miles to reach our table makes it lose substantial nutritive value and also turns more expensive

Final verdict :

Don’t forget to Eat Kale when you are enjoying winters in European countries like England, Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy (dinosaur kale is the Italian variety), Scotland, Ireland and Sweden . While In India, eat the local traditional and seasonal foods.

We cannot overlook the colossally rich nutritional profile of Kale and hence its value in maintaining good health. But remember that it grows well only in certain areas (suitable temperature, time and soil) and hence is most beneficial for people residing there.

Creating a demand for Kale in all seasons and all regions is detrimental to health of the individual, economy and ecosystem.



Juice cleanse at dawn

The first thing you put into your mouth upon waking up plays a vital role in setting up your metabolic tone for the day. Assuming that the food eaten previous night has been processed and suitably disposed, the gastric tract then prepares itself for a fresh start the next day and what you begin with has a large impact on health. Adults usually start their day with cup of tea or coffee while children are forced to gulp down a glass of milk . Is this ideal way to start your day?   Continue reading “Juice cleanse at dawn”

Brain-exercise to dust off the rust

Although brain is not anatomically a muscle , the same principle ‘Use it or lose it’ applies with reference to its functioning. According to the latest findings in Neuroscience, our brain reaches its peak performance at 16-25 years, and thereafter cognitive functioning declines. Having said that , we also like to emphasize that intelligence is not a fixed trait that is dependent upon heredity or environment at birth but it is an ability that can be cultivated and developed throughout life .

Individuals who believe that intelligence can be expanded are found to be open to challenges, more resilient and persistent in every aspect. Such people are not scared of failure or appearing dumb upon not being able to accomplish a task.

Some of the skills developed through mind games include:

  • Keep brain sharp and alert
  • Improved memory
  • Quick thinking
  • Improved reaction/response time
  • Enhances cognitive ability
  • Delay degenerative diseases of the brain
  • Delay memory loss as in dementia, Alzheimers disease, etc

Constantly training the brain through memory tests or problem solving can enhance mental capacities. Contrary to the common learning that happens in classrooms within a tense and pressurizing environment, mind games entail fun activities that are stimulating and refreshing. The games compel you to think, strategize , remember and apply the right information at the right time in order to win.

Examples of certain fun mind games

  • Chess
  • Chinese checkers
  • Sudoku
  • Scrabble
  • pictionary
  • Crossword
  • Jenga
  • Othello
  • Learning new language

After some time your brain may get used to solving the above and will develop relevant strategies making the task mundane and not-so-challenging. The key is to keep exploring new options, reinventing the challenges. There are various applications available which offer more personalized brain training program tailored to your needs in personal or professional life.

Start with simple inexpensive games and gradually stretch this muscle to its fullest to build fitter and faster mind!


Baltes, P. et al. (1999), Lifespan Psychology: Theory and Application to Intellectual Functioning.Annual Review of Psychology 50: 471-507

Mindful eaters can manage weight better

The act of eating can be meditative too! Mindful eating is derived from the Buddhist ideology of mindfulness which involves ‘being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment’. We realize that basic necessities of humans is food, shelter and clothing : food features as the first basic need. But gradually, from being an essential act for survival , eating has just been rendered as a daily chore for some while others misuse it by making it an overly fancy affair.

Mindful eating entails eating slowly savoring each bite and being fully conscious about the colour, texture, smell and taste of the food.  It creates a nexus between the mind and the body which ensures that food actually nourishes your body the way it is supposed to. Limited but strong evidence exists to show that mindful eating can be a tool for weight management as the slower, more thoughtful way of eating increases inclination to choose healthy and stay away from the processed and unhealthy foods. Continue reading “Mindful eaters can manage weight better”

Why does Mr 2018 wake up early?

Early bird is almost like a cuss word in the corporate world and it is indeed fashionable to be a night owl! Yet, most of us will agree that working till late in the night ruins the mornings as you drag yourself out of bed with a foggy mind and sluggish body.

Imagine a scenario where you wake up with a smile, glide through the morning chores and eat a mindful breakfast. If you speak to someone who wakes up between 5-6 am , they can boast about refreshing mornings with sufficient time to do everything they want and still make it on time for work. Continue reading “Why does Mr 2018 wake up early?”

Ms 2018 maintains a gratitude journal !

One of the most rewarding habits you need to cultivate for the coming year is to maintain a gratitude diary. Although it may sound trivial, it is unbelievable as to how this habit can change your life for better for ever!Author of the book Thrive , Arianna Huffington notes “Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation.” Continue reading “Ms 2018 maintains a gratitude journal !”

Can you maintain normal blood sugar levels without medication?

Once diagnosed with diabetes, we are disheartened by the fear of being stuck with a deadly disease for lifetime. Diabetes is a serious disease since it is the stepping stone to coronary heart disease (number one killer) and it is a final broadcast of the metabolic errors silently perpetuating in the body over a period of time.

However, those with type 2 diabetes can find some respite in the evidence suggesting role of substantial fat loss in normalizing blood sugar levels.

One of the main derangements in Type 2 diabetes is compromised insulin action and recognition. Unlike type 1 diabetes where insulin production is absent/insufficient, among type 2 patients the existing insulin is not being able to do its job well due to fat acting as a barrier. SO, technically if the fat barrier is removed, it opens the gates for insulin to enter and start its work. “Type 2 diabetes can be understood as a potentially reversible metabolic state precipitated by the single cause of chronic excess intra-organ fat” (Taylor 2013)

Evidence across different population groups show remission (temporary reversal) of diabetes with intensive and committed dietary changes. The common thread between all interventions has been loss of body weight to the tune of 10-15% of the total body weight achieved by means of severe calorie restriction.

For e.g. Assuming you weigh 110 kgs and have been detected with diabetes, losing just about 11-16.5 kgs can bring you closer to normalcy .

Keep a tab on that fat

Fatty tissue is like fast spreading fungus that begins with stomach and extends to the liver impairing its function. Gradually, the fat from liver spills onto the pancreas which are the main insulin producing glands. The fat forms a layer on the pancreas like a fuzzy coat the prevents it from releasing insulin freely into the body. The constant expanding barrier of fat means that insulin function will be impaired leading to higher sugar levels in blood! We do know that insulin has to sit at the gate ( cell surface) to open them for entry of glucose.

How does weight loss help!

Weight reduction corresponds with a reduction in the fat mass, especially that sitting at your waistline. Lower weight means reduced demands on existing insulin and improved efficiency of work with only optimal fat tissues.

Creating an energy deficit by consuming lesser calories will force the body to use the stored fat as a fuel (ketosis). Utilization of this fat means gradual clearing up of the fatty layer from all vital organs allowing them to function adequately.

The American Diabetes Association divide remission into three levels:

  • Partial remission: blood sugar levels are elevated, but remain below diabetic levels for at least a year without medication.
  • Complete remission: blood sugar levels remain at a normal range for at least a year without medication.
  • Prolonged remission: when someone has been in complete remission for 5 or more years.

Evidence from Research! 

30 Individuals with type 2 diabetes for 6 months to 23 years were put on a very low calorie diet (700-800 calories per day) for 8 weeks.

During the first eight weeks of the study, the volunteers consumed three diet shakes per day, along with about 240 grams of non-starchy vegetables, for a total of about 600 to 700 calories daily. After eight weeks, regular solid food was introduced at weight-maintaining levels of roughly 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day, or roughly one-third less than the participants had been eating before the study. The volunteers were also seen once a month for six months and provided with an individualized weight maintenance program.

On average, the participants lost 14 kilograms, and did not regain any weight during the 6 month study period. Achieving this levels of weight loss may not put the individual into normal weight category but despite being overweight or obese, 12 of the participants who had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes within the last 10 years reversed their condition and remained diabetes-free six months later.  At the end of the study, 87% of the people with diabetes less than four years successfully reversed their diabetes as did 50% of the people with type 2 diabetes for more than eight years.

Take home message

  • Retaining normal blood glucose requires sustained commitment to weight maintenance. Regaining weight means regaining the troublesome fat tissue.
  • Long standing diabetes with poor control makes reversal difficult but not impossible
  • Claim prolonged remission of diabetes if blood glucose has been normal for 5 years or more!