Thursday, April 30, 2009

Trying to get rid of belly fat? Try whole grains.

I had just finished reading the post on whole grains on Sybil's blog "Nutrition Nibbles" and was browsing for some studies to prove that whole foods were indeed good.That's when I found this study that was conducted about a year ago by Heather I Katcher at the Pennsylvania State University and published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition.
The study was conducted on 50 obese adults with metabolic syndrome (metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors that increase the risk for diabetes and heart disease). They were divided into two groups and put on a reduced calorie diet for 12 weeks.One group was given only whole foods while the other group had absolutely no whole foods. At the end of the study,both groups lost weight and also showed a decrease in body fat,but the whole foods group lost more belly fat. Not just that,the whole foods group even had a decline in C-reactive protein (a marker for inflammation in the body and high levels of CRP are associated with increased risk of heart disease).
The bottom line: if you want a flat stomach ('wash board abs' as it's more popularly known as), just exercising may not be enough. Include more whole grains and REDUCE the consumption of refined foods.
Read more:
  1. Nutrition Nibbles: What's A Whole Grain?
  2. WebMD: Whole Grains Fight Belly Fat
  3. American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition: The Effects Of Whole Grains
  4. Mayo Clinic: Whole Grains-Hearty Options for a Healthy Diet.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Khara Pongal
Pongal is both a festival as well as a dish. In Tamil Nadu (a state in South India)it is the "harvest festival" and the dish is made on this day(I suspect, that is why they both share the same name)! There are actually two versions to this dish-the sweet one(sakkarai pongal) and the spicy one(khara pongal).
As a kid I would insist that my mom made only the sweet pongal(blame my sweet tooth for it) and subsequently, I almost forgot what the spicy version tasted like.It was much later when I started my career as a Dietitian,that I was re-introduced to the khara pongal, as it was on the breakfast menu for the patients.Again, having rice for breakfast was new to me and I tried my best to avoid it for a while.Then my seniors decided that they had to make me try it, and one fine morning(I still remember that it was a cold, rainy, Friday morning) I was ordered to taste it.So,there was me,squirming in my seat when the cook brought me a tasting cup of steaming hot pongal and another cup of raitha. Duty called(it was a rule that the dietitians had to taste the food before it could be sent to the patients) and so I took the spoon and dipped it into the cup and took a little(I was after all JUST tasting) and tasted it-and my,my, it was the tastiest pongal I had eaten. I ended up finishing the whole cup(even though I had eaten a substantial breakfast at home) and have ever since become a pongal fan!! After that I would bug mom to make the khara pongal at regular intervals.
The recipe is quite easy and if you want to up the nutritional value,you could add your favourite veggies to this rice+lentil dish.The cook at the hospital even shared a secret(that even my mom didn't know)-just before serving the dish,mix a cup of hot milk for a nice flavour(and for some added calcium indeed)!!
Ingredients: (Serves 3)
  • Rice:1/2 cup
  • Split mung dal: 1/2 cup
  • Onion:1 cup (chopped lengthwise)
  • Green chillies:1 or two(slit lengthwise)
  • Ginger:1" piece(chopped fine)
  • Turmeric:1/2 teaspoon
  • Milk:1 cup(optional)
  • Mustard seeds:1/2teaspoon
  • Zeera/Cumin seeds:1 teaspoon
  • Urad dal(dehusked and split black matpe bean)-1/2 teaspoon
  • Chana dal/Bengal gram dal: 1 teaspoon
  • Peppercorns: 5-6
  • Curry leaves:3-4
  • Oil: 1 teaspoon
  • Salt: to taste
  1. Wash the rice and mung dal separately and let it soak in water for 10-15 mins.
  2. In the meanwhile,heat the oil in a pressure cooker, then add the mustard,cumin seeds,urad dal, chana dal, and peppercorns.
  3. When the mustard starts to sputter,add the curry leaves, the chopped ginger and the turmeric.
  4. Stir the ginger till it turns slightly brown,then add the chopped onions and the green chillies. Fry till the onions are translucent.
  5. Drain the water from the mung and rice,add the mung dal and saute for 2-3 mins on medium heat. Then add the rice and again stir for a minute.
  6. Add a little more than 3 cups of water and salt, mix and close the lid of the pressure cooker and let it cook for about 3 whistles. (If you have a rice cooker,then transfer the contents to a rice cooker and cook till the rice and dal are well cooked).
  7. Once it is done,mix well (the dal should be completely mashed).
  8. Just before serving mix the hot milk(optional, and check for salt) and serve piping hot with either raitha or chutney(we ate it with the tomatilla chutney ).

International Confederation Of Dietetic Associations(ICDA)

The ICDA is an International Organization of Dietetic associations around the world and was formed way back in 1952.It's members represent about 150,000 dietetic professionals from 40 National Dietetic associations around the world.
It's mission :to achieve
  1. An integrated communications system,
  2. An enhanced image for the profession,
  3. Increased awareness of standards of education,training and practice in dietetics.
If you are a Dietitian and are a member of your National Dietetic Association,then you can be a member of the ICDA.Do check if your National Association is a member of the ICDA first.
  • Dietitians Networking Service
  • Dietitians Around the World Newsletter
For more info check out the ICDA webite:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fructose Worse Than Glucose?

The body metabolizes different sugars in different ways. Peter Havel and his colleagues conducted a study over a period of 10 weeks at the University Of California.There were around 32 obese men and women who drank either fructose or glucose sweetened beverages during the period.
Both groups gained weight,but it was interesting to note that the group that took the fructose beverages gained fat on their belly,whereas the glucose group gained fat under the skin.
It is a well known fact that abdominal fat is linked to higher risk for heart attacks and strokes. In addition to this,the fructose group also had higher cholesterol and became less sensitive to the insulin released in the body.
This does not mean that you can gorge on table sugar(you still have to keep a watch on the AMOUNT you consume),it only means that fructose sweeteners are worse than glucose sweetners!
The bottom line: limit sugar consumption on the whole,and avoid foods containing High Fructose Corn Syrups (HFCS)as far as possible.
Read more:
  1. Times Of India: Fructose Worse Than Glucose for Human Health
  2. The Journal Of Clinical Investigation: Fructose VS Glucose

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swine Flu Alert

After Mad Cow disease and the dreaded 'Bird Flu', now we have 'Swine Flu'! The WHO has stated that cases have been reported from Mexico,US(San Antonio,Texas and San Diego) and Europe,has called the situation as 'serious' but not yet declared it to be a 'pandemic'.
Read more:
  1. WebMD: Swine Flu FAQ's
  2. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention(CDC): Swine Influenza
  3. CNN Health: Swine Flu Concerns Around The Globe
  4. WebMD:What Parent's Need To Know

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sweet Mango Dosa

Mango Dosa
It's mango season,and I just had to try something different.I tweaked this traditional Manglorean(a small seaside town in South India that my side of the family is originally from)Sweet Dosa recipe and added mangoes instead of cucumbers.As a kid,I grew up watching my mom and gran starting the next day's breakfast preparations a day in advance.We always woke up smelling the wonderful aromas wafting from the kitchen. This recipe too is no exception,I had to soak the rice once we were done with breakfast,grind it in the evening and let it ferment overnight,and voila the batter for the next day's breakfast was ready.
Traditionally it's made with either Southekai(Kannada for cucumber) or with watermelon. Otherwise it has all the original ingredients like:Beaten/Flattened Rice: 'Poha' is rice that is dehusked and then flattened into light flakes. Traditionally flattened with iron rods,it used to contain more iron than regular rice.
Jaggery: or 'gur',is a traditional non-refined sugar(made from either cane sugar or from date palm) which is rich in non-heme iron and other mineral salts.
Fenugreek seeds: 'Methi' seeds as it's commonly known in India, is a known galactagogue and recent studies have shown that it has cholesterol and serum glucose lowering properties as well.
  • Rice: 1 cup
  • Flattened rice/Poha: 1/2 cup
  • Jaggery(scraped): 3/4th cup (or sugar-1/2 cup)
  • Yogurt(preferably homemade)-1/2 cup
  • Fenugreek/Methi seeds-1/2 teaspoon
  • Ripe Mango:1 big or 2 small
  • Salt:1/2 teaspoon
  1. Wash the rice and the fenugreek seeds,then soak it in water for at least 6-7 hours.
  2. Wash and drain the flattened rice and let it stand for about 10-15 mins.
  3. Grind all ingredients(except the mango) till you get a fine batter.Let it ferment for at least 8-9 hours or overnight(works well in warm weather). The batter will double in volume.
  4. Make a puree of the mango pulp(when sugar is added to this pulp,it's called 'aamras').If using cucumber instead of mangoes,then grate half (a big) cucumber and mix with the batter.
  5. Mix this puree with the batter and pour a ladle of the batter onto a hot non-stick pan and spread.
  6. Cover with a lid and cook on medium flame for two or three minutes. Then cook uncovered till the dosa is done.
  7. Serve hot(you can serve it with cut mangoes or even with some 'aamras').
  1. If the weather is not warm enough(as was the case when I made it),the batter will not ferment and the dosa will not get tiny little holes on it( the dosa will be flat as seen in the snap).
  2. The jaggery tends to add a brownish colour to the dosa(if you add sugar,the dosa will turn out a lovely yellow colour) but the dosas are more nutritious when made with jaggery.
  3. Traditionally the dosa is eaten hot with a little ghee spread on top. Since the dosas are sweet, you can eat it as it is.
  4. I used the Scarlet Sweet mango for this recipe,you could use any of the sweet mangoes available.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Let's all do our bit to preserve the natural resources for the future generations to enjoy,and I mean not just today but throughout our lives. This day has been ear marked to remind us to do our bit,but don't stop after the day is over. The mantra is "Reuse,Reduce and Recycle" all round the year!!
Read more:
  1. 8 Ways to Protect Your Health-and the Planet
  2. WebMD: 10 Easy Ways To Eat "Green" Earth Day and Everyday!

Friday, April 17, 2009

"Sweet" Dreams!

Sweet Dreams-that's the name of this awesome video I found on Sybil Hebert(a Dietitian from Cananda's)blog called "Nutrition Nibbles".
It's really cute-do check it out,it also subtly sells the idea that fruits and veggies are the "real" food,while sweets and candies are just "fake" foods!!
There are two versions:
  1. The 10 minute version- on Sybils' blog,
  2. The full film-on Pangea Day

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cholesterol Quiz!

It's quiz time again.!!It's been sometime since we had a quiz and I found two related to cholesterol on WebMD.
  1. High Risk Cholesterol-Myths Vs Facts
  2. Do you know how to lower your cholesterol?
These are short quizzes(7 and 5 questions respectively),but quite an eye-opener.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tomatillo chutney

No,it's not the 'salsa verde' with an Indian name.It's tomatillo used instead of red tomatoes in a chutney recipe that I learnt from my neighbour back in Bangalore.The use of roasted bengal gram and of course the tempering at the end gives this dish the Indian touch. It's a little rich(I had to add two teaspoons of oil+the roasted bengal gram and peanuts),but I did substitute oil instead of 'ghee' for the tempering. The 'ghee' is supposed to reduce the heat of the green chillies,so do let me know if it does!Tomatillo Chutney
  • Tomatillos:4 nos.(chopped)
  • Green chillies/Serrano:1 or 2(depending on how much fire you can take)
  • Garlic:4 cloves chopped(+ 2 to be added raw-optional)
  • Ginger:1/2" piece
  • Oil: 2 teaspoon
  • Roasted bengal gram:2 teaspoons
  • Roasted peanuts: 2 teaspoons
  • Mustard seeds: 1/2 teaspoon
  • Zeera/Cumin seeds:1/2 teaspoon
  • Sesame seeds:1/2 teaspoon
  • Asafoetida/Hing: a pinch(optional)
  • Jaggery: 1 teaspoon(or 1/4 teaspoon sugar)
  • Salt: to taste
  1. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a non-stick pan,add chopped ginger and garlic.
  2. When the garlic turns slightly brown,add the pinch of asafoetida(optional),chopped green chillies and fry for a minute.
  3. Add the chopped tomatillos,salt,jaggery(or sugar) and stir.Cook till the tomatillos are soft.
  4. Once it has cooled,add the mixture, the raw garlic(optional),roasted bengal gram and peanuts into a blender and blend till you get a fine paste. Pour the chutney into a bowl/airtight box.
  5. Heat the remaining oil,add the mustard,cumin,sesame seeds.
  6. Once the mustard starts to splutter, pour the tempering over the chutney and mix well.
  7. Serve with dosas or idlis or as a spread on your sandwich(or mix with yogurt and use as a spicy dip).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Banana Raitha

Banana Raitha
Banana Raitha used to be a hot fave when I was a kid.Made along with a festive lunch [I always wondered why they wouldn't make a festive spread daily ;-)],with all the other yummy stuff that the festival calls for,I would have a hard time deciding what to eat first! Whenever mom made Banana Raitha on regular days,I would polish it off with hot 'phulkas' without touching the other curry's! This year on 'Ugadi' I made banana raitha and again for lunch on Easter. It's a subtle mingling of all tastes (sweet,salty,sour and a touch of spicy) and can be eaten as such or with phulkas.
  • Yogurt/curd-1 cup(preferably homemade)
  • Low fat milk-1 cup
  • Bananas- 2 very ripe
  • Sugar-6 teaspoons
  • Salt-1/2 teaspoon(or to taste)
  • Mustard seeds-1/2 teaspoon
  • Zeera/Cumin seeds-1 teaspoon
  • Dry red chillies-1-2(broken)
  • Curry leaves-2-3nos.
  • Oil-1 teaspoon
  1. Blend half cup yogurt/curd and half cup milk along with one banana,sugar and salt.
  2. Pour into a bowl.Add the rest of the yogurt and milk and mix well.
  3. Chop the other banana and add to the raitha.
  4. Heat the oil,add the mustard and cumin seeds.When the mustard splutters,add the broken dry red chillies and then the curry leaves.
  5. Pour this over the banana raitha and mix.
  6. Serve the banana raitha chilled with hot phulkas (or eat as a snack).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter!!

Here's wishing everyone a very Happy Easter!! We all need a break every once in a while to unwind-and this is most welcome.A great time to spend time with your family and friends and loads of fun for the kids.
On a healthier note,try to make some of the Easter goodies at home instead of buying them. Make your own Easter eggs and fillings instead. Take a look at the best to worst Easter treats on WebMD, it'll definitely make you pull out all your grandmother's recipes this Easter(but enjoy the treats in moderation)!!
Check out: The Best To Worst Easter Basket Treats!
and also this video on: Healthy Easter Basket

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sports drinks = eroded teeth?

What's the relation between sports drinks and teeth-plenty it seems, according to a recent study conducted by the International Association For Dental Research.
Earlier,I had read about the Queensland (Australia) Netball controlling body banning the consumption of oranges during the breaks on Glenn Cardwell's blog.The theory being that oranges are acidic and could erode teeth enamel as there isn't enough saliva when exercising to wash the acid away.The solution he had mentioned was simple-drink water after eating the orange!
Now,what does one do when using a sports drink to quench your thirst and replace the electrolytes lost by sweating?According to the report:
  1. Don't sip the drink throughout the day,
  2. Try using a straw,
  3. Drink plenty of water to flush the mouth.
Read the whole article at CNN Sports Drinks May Be Bad For Your Teeth

Monday, April 6, 2009

Green Apple Chutney

Green Apple Chutney
I had picked up 3 Granny Smith apples in the hope of turning it into a chutney that a friend had made.Well,the recipe involved some cooking and since I was feeling too lazy for that, thought I'd make it like raw mango chutney.So,I peeked into the fridge and got out all the stuff that goes into a regular chutney-mint leaves,cilantro,ginger,lemon,green chillies and put them all in the blender with the cored and peeled apples. The resulting Green Apple Chutney which came out of the blender reminded me of the "chaat" taste and so I blended some sugar and a little roasted cumin seeds,and the result was great. The Green Apple Chutney can be eaten with meals,mixed with yogurt and used as a dip, or used as a spread in a sandwich.Here's what I blended together for the Green Apple Chutney:
  • Granny Smith apples/tart cooking apples-2 nos.(peeled,cored and chopped)
  • Mint leaves-10 numbers
  • Coriander leaves/Cilantro-2 tablespoons
  • Green chilly/Serrano-1 no.
  • Ginger-1/2"piece
  • Lemon juice-2 tablespoons
  • Jeera/Cumin seeds-1 tsp(roasted)
  • Sugar-2 tsp/to taste
  • Salt-to taste
  1. Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend till you get a fine paste.
  2. Adjust salt and sugar according to your taste.
  3. Serve the Green Apple Chutney with sandwiches, as a dip or as a salad dressing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

How to Read Food Labels

I just heard that the Union Health and Family Ministry(India) will make it mandatory for food manufacturers to put up Nutritional information on products-way to go Dr Ramadoss!! This move(albeit a little late)comes close on the heels of his attack on junk food consumption among Indians and it's impact on health. Food labellings will make consumers aware of ingredients, calories and the amount of fat(among other nutrients) that they consume.
All this is great,but one also has the educate the general public about "How to read,understand and use food labels".So,could the Ministry please put out a website/public service message to help educate people?
Until then,take a look at the US Food and Drug Administration info on reading food labels that I found on a blog called 'Words Of A Foodie' by Jamel Drake:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My Introduction to Rhubarb.

Rhubarb Compote
I tried a lot of new vegetables and fruits (Asparagus,Bosc pears, Apple pears,etc)for the first time only after coming to the U.S. I had always seen these reddish stalks called "Rhubarb" in the grocery stores,but never bought them as I had no clue what to do with them. Then a big coincidence-two of my favourite bloggers(Natasha of 5 Star Foodie-Culinary Adventures and Rebecca of Rebecca's Insight's)happened to feature two Rhubarb dishes on the very same day. Was this a sign from above??I had to try it out-and so I did.

I bought these two lovely red stalks of Rhubarb (that too Organic,mind you) and decided that the Rhubarb Compote posted by 5 Star Foodie was the easiest to make. I may have over cooked it or maybe added a little too much water and hence the result was a mushy compote,but nevertheless tasty. It's got a slightly sour(khatta) taste and that with the vanilla yogurt was just out of this world!! I used the remaining syrup in some black tea and that was amazing too!
Thanks a ton Natasha and Rebecca for introducing me to this new vegetable.
So all those of you intrigued by this vegetable and want to try it out,check out the Rhubarb Compote recipe on 5 Star Foodie's blog and let her know how it turned out!