Good health starts in the kitchen. A peek into your kitchen cupboard, the utensils you use and the kind of food you eat are all pointers to the state of your health and your approach to wellness. Let’s have a glance at some of the kitchen items that can lead you to a wellness journey.
- Utensils: Being healthy is not just about the food you eat, but also the vessels you cook it in. They should be toxin free and if possible contribute to the nutritive value of the food you eat. Clay pots are ideal for healthy cooking, but take double the time. Cooking in brass vessels helps retain 93% of the nutrients while aluminium vessels retain only 13%, but then brass vessels need extra care when washing. Cast iron is the safest option and they distribute heat evenly but they are prone to rust and you need to maintain them carefully. Cooking in rusted vessels is dangerous. Stainless steel vessels are durable, low maintenance and easy to use. They retain about 65-78% nutrients. They are sometimes coated with nickel or chromium for a better finish and if they leach into food, that is dangerous. Non-stick pans come with a coating that has carcinogenic elements and are best avoided. Aluminium vessels also can cause many health hazards. Ceramic vessels are good but they should be fully made of ceramic and should not just have a coating of ceramic.
- Beans and lentils: Beans and lentils are not only cheap, but also serve as a great source of protein and fibre. Pulses are rich in vitamins A, B, C and E. They are also a good source of minerals like zinc, potassium, iron and calcium. For vegetarians, they serve as an excellent source of protein. Our rajma, dal and moong are perennial staples in the Indian kitchen while chickpeas are used for hummus and other popular foods in Middle eastern cuisine. Fibre is not digested by our body but plays a key role in digestive health. It adds bulk to food and keeps food moving through the digestive tract, making bowel movements soft and regular. Fibre also serves as a source of food for the beneficial bacteria in our gut thus minimising chances of chronic gut inflammation.
Beans and lentils can be easily added to your diet in the form of dips like hummus, salads, soups and curries. Being low GI foods, pulses release energy slowly and reduce risk of heart disease.
- Millets: Instead of always resorting to staples like rice and wheat, we should have more millets like jowar, bajra, ragi and buckwheat. They are a powerhouse of nutrients and being gluten-free and are ideal for those with food sensitivities. They offer many health benefits as they aid weight loss, boost immunity, reduce risk of heart disease, serve as a rich source of fibre and have antioxidant properties to fight inflammation. They are rich in minerals like selenium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron as well as B vitamins.
- Eggs: Eggs are an excellent source of protein and can be cooked in many ways. They can be boiled, fried, scrambled or added to curries. Though one egg has only 70 calories, it offers 6 grams of protein. Eggs contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need. They are high in cholesterol but do not raise your blood cholesterol levels. What they do increase is your “good” cholesterol or HDL cholesterol. Eggs are an excellent source of the very important nutrient choline that is used to build cell membranes and plays a key role in producing neurotransmitters. They have important antioxidants like Lutein and Zeaxanthin which are essential for eye health. As they are quite filling and have less calorific value, they can help you in your weight loss journey.
- Yoghurt and other fermented foods: Fermented foods like yoghurt are important in terms of gut health. They are a good source of probiotics or healthy gut bacteria. Yoghurt also has large amounts of calcium, potassium and vitamin B. Consuming yoghurt on a regular basis can boost your immune system and gut health to help reduce disease risk.
- Bananas: Bananas are a good source of potassium which contributes to better heart health and reduces the strain on the cardiovascular system. They are full of antioxidants including flavonoids, amines and offset the damage to our health caused by free radicals. For their size, they are low in calories but make you feel full and are rich in fibre. When unripe, bananas can help improve insulin sensitivity as they contain resistant starch and can reduce risk of diabetes.The potassium in bananas play a vital role in healthy kidney function.
- Leafy vegetables:
Green leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage are universally considered to be healthy foods. They are rich in iron, vitamin K and essential minerals and nutrients which can help you in your fight against disease by lowering cholesterol, producing energy and boosting bone health and eye health. However, there are some situations like when you have hypothyroidism when you might be advised to avoid foods like cabbage.
A microbiome gut test like the one from Bione can accurately tell you which foods you need to increase, decrease and stop consuming in order to achieve optimal health.
- Spices: Spices are a key component of Indian cuisine and many other cuisines globally like Italian and Mexican cuisine. Spices like turmeric are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Cinnamon and cardamom are well known for boosting metabolism and can help you lose weight. Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar levels as well. Spices and herbs add flavour to food and promote digestion.
- Garlic: The antibacterial and antifungal effects of garlic are well established. Garlic breath will not make you popular, but the active compound in garlic called allicin and its organosulphur compounds make it an invaluable asset in the fight against heart disease. Regular intake of garlic can help lower blood pressure by stimulating the synthesis of nitric oxide. It offsets inflammation which can cause heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Allicin in garlic has antibacterial properties, thus boosting immunity. One added bonus is the flavour it adds to food. Can you imagine Indian cuisine without ginger garlic paste or pasta dishes without garlic?
- Ginger: Ginger is used in many forms including fresh, powdered, dried and as a juice. Gingerol in ginger offers many health benefits like reducing nausea, aiding digestion and increasing the body’s ability to fight cold and flu. From ancient times, ginger has been known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Thanks to these properties, it is effective in mitigating the effects of arthritis, chronic indigestion, menstrual pain and can retard ageing while sharpening cognitive function.
In addition to using healthy ingredients, we need to pay close attention to our gut health. Any imbalance in thegut microbiome resulting in inflammation can lead to many diseases like diabetes and cardiac disease.
We should do our best to ensure our gut is always in good shape with regular gut health checks. The Microbiome test from Bione serves as a good start as it is a simple test that can give you a comprehensive overview of your gut flora and can warn of any imbalance.
In the event of any imbalance, the earlier you take corrective action, the brighter your chances of enjoying better health in the long run. Here are 10 easy hacks to improve gut health and enjoy a longer life free of disease.