After hosting a week of live sessions on health with experts on Instagram, here’s what we learnt that might make the journey to well-being easier
1. The market isn’t your only source of veggies; try foraging
If you want a greater variety of vegetables in your diet, you may not find everything you need at the local market. Farmers will naturally only grow and sell the varieties that see a demand, leading you to a weekly cycle of potatoes, cauliflower, beans, capsicum and so on. Chennai-based Akash Muralidharan who went on a 100-day cooking project to rediscover forgotten native vegetables says, “Some vegetables were extremely difficult to find within the city, like the thumattikkai, or the country cucumber.”
He began looking more closely at the trees growing in his friends’ and relatives’ gardens, and even on the roads. “There is a moringa tree in front of my apartment, and until my mother told me, I was not aware that moringa flowers are edible,” he says. Flowers of zucchini and pumpkin, and leaves that cover cabbages and cauliflowers are also edible and good for garnishing. Meanwhile, keep asking your grocers for local varieties of vegetables — they might just put you in touch with a farmer they know who grows them.
Akash Muralidharan, who completed the 100-day native vegetable project.
2. It’s best to sip, not guzzle water
Imagine a drip irrigation system and one where you flood a plant with water. The body’s cells will absorb water better, keeping the body in balance, when you sip water, says Krushmi Chheda, a Mumbai-based sports scientist and nutritionist. If you are drinking alcohol, drink one-and-a-half times of what you have had between every unit you consume. So that’s 45 ml of water for every 30 ml of wine/whisky/rum. Not so hard. If you are drinking green tea through the day (not more than six cups is advisable), again sip water in between because you may stain your teeth and it does contain caffeine, a diuretic.
3. There’s a formula for water intake
Since we all have different body compositions, one of the best ways to calculate how much water you should drink is to divide your weight in pounds by half, which will give you the number of ounces you should consume in the day, says Krushmi. This is how much the body needs at rest — at base level. And if you are training or in humid and high temperature zones, take it up. While plain soda does not add to calories, you don’t really want to put carbon dioxide that’s dissolved in it, into your body.
4. Cooking can be an adventure
The main reason people are reluctant to try new vegetables is because they aren’t sure how to cook them, says Chindi Varadarajulu, chef at Pumpkin Tales, Chennai. With greens, the best guess is to stir fry them with garlic and other aromatics. “Toss them into a high fire and cook lightly. It works for most vegetables, as it brings out their flavours as opposed to overcooking them in a sauce and losing their nutrients,” she says. On the other hand, vegetables like ash gourd that are mushy inside, work better as a soup. Or try nibbling on them to see if they can be eaten raw. “I make a salad out of roselle leaves, and of vallarai keerai (used primarily as a medicinal plant). In my pasta, I add kovvakaya (scarlet gourd),” she offers as examples.
5. Fitness-based goals are better than weight-loss based ones
What happens when the weighing machine remains stuck on one number? You will probably feel disheartened, and may even stop exercising. Now imagine focussing on a fitness-based goal, like performing a full squat. It’s a process to get there, and once you do, you can get on to other fun exercises. There is always progress. “This process should be about loving yourself and not punishing yourself,” says Sohrab Khushrushani, a Mumbai-based movement and mobility specialist.
6. There’s a science to rehydrating during and after a workout
Coconut water is best in the morning after a workout, because it does make some people feel a little bloated. If you are working out, a minimum of half a lime in 300 ml water with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of honey or jaggery works. It’s best to avoid sugarcane juice, unless you’re doing physical work for about six hours in the day, says Krushmi.
7. Certain foods are bad for your mental health
Most of us know that junk and processed and ultra-processed foods are not good for our bodies, but not many of us know they are not good for our mental health either. “Sugar (there are about 250 different names used for sugar on food labels) has been associated with worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression,” says Dr Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, and author of The Food Mood Connection.
Fast food (like French fries), she says, have added sugar, which makes it “hyperpalatable” leading it to a food that is hard to stop eating, because our tastebuds crave them. Ketchup and store bought salad dressings and fruit juices also have a lot of added sugars. Processed vegetable oils can also set up the body for inflammation, while MSG-based foods are best avoided by those who have OCD.
8. Fitness doesn’t mean going into a gym and lifting weights
“Clean your house; it’s a great full body exercise,” says Sohrab. A squat is a basic, functional body movement exercise that everyone should be able to do. Push-ups are something you don’t need weights for, and it really helps build your upper body strength. Then there is skipping. It is such a simple exercise we learnt as kids in school. “Fitness is something as simple as playing a sport you love,” he says.
9. The gut and brain are connected
Both start from the same cells in the embryo. Also, they are connected by the vagus nerve that connects the gut to the brain. “It’s a two way superhighway, sending messages from one to the other,” says Dr Naidoo. More than 90% of serotonin receptors are in the gut, so what you eat is going to impact the environment of the gut and could therefore impact your mental wellbeing.
10. Just move
Michael Ajay wanted to be a professional basketball player, and as he was headed towards that goal single-mindedly, he met with a motorcycle accident and had to undergo major surgery. The setback meant he put on a lot of weight and was plunged into despair. He read a lot during this time and found that “you could combat mental health issues through physical exercise.” “That became the foundation of my training,” says Michael, who is today a model and fitness trainer. “Whenever you take action, you get results, and those results fuel more action.”
For the full series, head over to @thehindumetroplus IGTV.
Compiled by Sunalini Mathew, Sweta Akundi, Pradeep Kumar and Jeshi K.