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It is my attempt to pull out best practices proven by science and my and other people’s experiences, to benefit all, who want to have a good lifespan, enjoying with their full energy till the last day of their life in this beautiful world.
Today at a glance
- Eating when sick
- Toolkit to help kids get the nutrients they need
- The Super Shake guide
- Know how food moves in the body
- Recipe of the week
- 100 Day challenge
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Feed a cold and starve a fever, goes the old saying. But how should you consider eating when sick?
The immune system: A primer
Intricate, complex, amazing: That’s the human immune system.
Standing guard throughout every part of our bodies, it protects us from the hordes of germs, fungi, and viruses that threaten to (literally) tear us apart.
In fact, when we eat, our immune systems get into the act from the very first moment we pop the food into our mouths.
Bet you didn’t know that your saliva contains powerful antimicrobials like lysozyme, alpha-amylase, and lactoferrin!
And these antimicrobials are only the basic, front line defense. Any germs, that sneak past, will confront a much more formidable barrier: our stomachs’ hydrochloric acid.
Corrosive enough to remove the rust from steel, hydrochloric acid will pulverize most invaders in our stomachs before they reach our intestines.
If our stomach acids lose the battle, we also have proteins and chemical compounds further down the digestive chain that can sense and fight any harmful bacteria that may have made it past.
Finally, our own personal bacterial population (those probiotics you hear so much about) help prevent harmful bacteria from entering our bloodstream or taking root in our small intestine and colon.
The foods we eat affect these bacteria and the complex compounds they release.
Nutrient-dense, fiber-rich whole foods tend to promote a healthy bacterial balance, whereas a diet rich in processed foods, fats and sugars can lead to dysbiosis — otherwise known as microbial imbalance.
That’s why a balanced whole foods diet is your best insurance against all kinds of viruses and infections.
In fact, our GI tract comprises over 70% of our immune system!
Eating and immunity
If your diet is lousy, you’ll get sick more often than someone who eats a healthier diet.
Viruses and bacterial infections will hit you harder and keep you out for longer. Meanwhile, eating poorly while you are sick will only make you sicker.
Good nutrition allows our bodies to respond to germy invaders quickly and efficiently.
And in order to function well, the cells of our immune system need plenty of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids.
Prebiotics and probiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics deserve special mention for helping to prevent illness. Both are essential to gut health. And gut health is essential to immunity.
Prebiotics (a.k.a. food for bacteria) help nourish our good microbial friends. Usually this is some form of semi-digestible fiber that our bacteria can chow down on, and/or that helps move food through the GI tract.
And probiotics (the bacteria themselves) have been shown to help us recover faster, once we get sick.
That’s why all of us should ensure that our systems are well colonized by these friendly critters.
The best whole food sources of prebiotics are:
- Vegetables: asparagus, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, and onions
- Carbs: barley, beans, oats, quinoa, rye, wheat, potatoes, and yams
- Fruit: apples, bananas, berries, citrus, kiwi
- Fats: flax seeds and chia seeds
And the best whole food sources of probiotics are:
- Dairy: yogurt, cheese, and kefir with live and active cultures
- Fermented vegetables: pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi
- Fermented soy: miso, tempeh
- Miscellaneous: soy sauce, wine
Getting probiotics from food
If you’re healthy, aim for 1-2 servings of probiotic-rich foods each day. If you’re hoping to prevent or alleviate a medical problem, you may need to increase the dose.
Getting prebiotics from food
If you’re healthy, aim for 2-3 servings of prebiotic-rich foods each day.
To eat or not to eat: That is the question
While a whole-foods diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics will go a long way towards protecting you from viruses and bacterial infections, even the healthiest diet can’t ward off every invader. And if you do get sick, of course you’ll want to recover faster.
Should you feed a cold and starve a fever, as the famous adage recommends?
One small study did find that eating helps combat a cold virus. And fasting allows the body to fight fever-related infections.
But the study is far from conclusive. Especially when the reasons for its findings remain unclear.
What we do know is that moderate calorie restriction can:
- improve cell-mediated immunity and
- offset chemotherapy-induced and aging-related changes in immune function by helping to replenish stem cells.
On the other hand, during periods of very low food intake:
- our defenses against specific pathogens are lower, and
- the immune system is suppressed.
In the most severe cases, the malnutrition-infection cycle can ultimately lead to kwashiorkor (a severe type of malnutrition).
Sounds like a bit of a toss-up, doesn’t it?
Appetite and illness
With something to be said theoretically both for eating and fasting while sick, practically speaking, it’s best to rely on your own body’s signals.
In fact, when it comes right down to it, our own appetite cues probably give us the clearest picture of what we should eat (or avoid eating) when we get sick.
For example, very few of us want to eat when we’re hit by influenza or by gastroenteritis.
That’s because flu-like bugs and bacterial infections lead to higher levels of circulating TNF-alpha (an inflammatory cytokine), which promotes appetite suppression.
Maybe this is the body’s way of guarding its resources? After all, digestion takes a fair amount of energy — energy that may be better used to fight off invaders when we’re sick.
It’s an interesting possibility, but at this point it’s pure speculation.
The role of inflammation
We do know that behavioral and metabolic factors can influence immunity. Signalling mechanisms that control energy metabolism and immune function seem to be intertwined.
For example, our hunger hormone, ghrelin, may inhibit the creation of pro-inflammatory compounds.
And this can be a good thing or a bad thing — depending on circumstances.
How so? Well, inflammation helps us fight off invading pathogens. But too much inflammation will make our symptoms worse.
For example, a fever will increase metabolism as well as body temperature. This in turn improves the body’s chances of fighting off a bug — speeding it through the system.
At the same time, a fever can also dehydrate us, which makes it harder to move a pathogen through the body and out.
Meanwhile, infection itself can increase our body’s nutrient needs, especially for fluid, protein, and several micro- and trace nutrients.
Moreover, specific nutrients can affect immune function. A particular nutrient might be a source of fuel for an immune system cell, or it might influence other tissues that regulate overall immune function.
All in all, we’re talking about a very complex set of relationships. No wonder scientists have yet to get to the bottom of it all.
That said, considering that colds often result from viral infections, and fevers often result from bacterial infections, the advice to eat when you have a cold and fast when you have a fever does rest on some plausible biological arguments, which is why, in cases of mild or moderate illness, it’s likely worth a try.
Especially if your own appetite agrees.
Whole foods and immunity
Let’s say you get sick despite all your precautions — and your appetite doesn’t entirely disappear. Are there any particular foods that could hasten recovery?
As a matter of fact, there are.
A few examples:
- Garlic. Acts as an antibiotic, and has consistently been found to lessen the severity of colds and other infections.
- Chicken soup. Commonly touted as a food for colds, chicken soup actually works! It provides fluids and electrolytes, is warm and soothing, and may also contain anti-inflammatory properties that decrease cold symptoms. You have to use real chicken soup though — the kind you make from simmering a chicken carcass — rather than stuff from a can or package.
- Green tea. Boosts the production of B cell antibodies, helping us rid ourselves of invading pathogens.
- Honey. Has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, and is an effective cough suppressant. In one study it was as effective as a cough-suppressing drug. A few teaspoons in a cup of green tea is all you need. (Plus, you’ll get the benefits of green tea at the same time.)
In general we use whole foods to improve our immunity. But under certain circumstances, you might want to supplement.
Nutrients that can support immunity and that are generally well tolerated include:
- Vitamin C supplements
- Elderberry extract
Quercetin may also assist in immune function (1,000 mg a day for 3 weeks). It’s found in onions, apples, red wine, broccoli, tea.
Beta-glucan (found in oats) might help immunity.
Stevia might enhance white blood cell activity.
Selenium also appears to play a role in infection and changes in viral virulence (but be mindful of excessive supplementation).
Consuming foods rich in vitamin E (such as nuts, olive oil or avocadoes) may also help. This may enhance T cell function. And might lead to less influenza and fewer respiratory infections.
What you can do right now
To prevent getting sick:
- avoid over- or under-exercising
- avoid over- or under-eating
- maintain a healthy body weight
- wash your hands
- get enough sleep, consistently
- manage stress
- eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods
- feed your healthy bacteria
For some, periodic fasting might also be useful.
Also, consider supplementing vitamin D, probiotics, and a wide-spectrum food-based vitamin/mineral supplement.
But recognize that if you’re not eating a balanced, whole food diet, supplementing with probiotics won’t do a lot of good. An isolated supplement can’t fix a broken diet. Address your diet first.
If you’re already feeling sick:
- drink lots of fluids (especially water and green tea)
- rest and recover
- focus on immune-boosting foods
- supplement with pre- and probiotics
- use immune-boosting supplements
And above all, listen to your body cues.
If you’re hungry, eat. If not, don’t.
In the end, no matter how well you manage your nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress, you will get sick sometimes. We all do.
Don’t be a hero and pretend you’re not sick. Instead, take the steps outlined here to get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
Ways to Take the Anxiety Out of Nutrition for Kids
If you’ve ever offered a low-key bribe to get your little ones to eat their vegetables (okay, or a trip to McDonalds) or have to play videos to distract them, you know the frustration and anxiety parents and caregivers face around kids’ nutrition. Be gently persistent, and take the long view.
When kids have some choice and control, a basic understanding of why nutrition matters, and a safe, low-stress environment to try some food experiments… a lot can change( for the better).
Be a role model. Eat slowly. Eat meals at the table. Undistracted. Be curious about the food. Focus on the foods that are nutritious and make you feel good. Stop eating when satisfied or full, not stuffed.
Know what’s your role and what’s the kid’s. As a parent, you shop for food, prepare the food, provide food at set times. Make eating times enjoyable. Kids decide which of the available food to eat. They’d decide how much to eat.
Explore food feelings. Make sure kids feel safe to communicate worries and anxiety around food. Common reasons for uncomfortable food feelings – being teased at school for unhealthy or too healthy choices, family members pressuring kids to eat a certain ways.
Connect food to superpowers. Educate kids about how the right food will turn them into a super kid eg. Protein rich food helps your muscles get stronger. Healthy Carbs give energy to play hard. Vegetables help to protect from getting sick.
Ask for input. Sometimes picky eating is less about food than control. Make them part of decision making. Give them a chance to feel in charge. Like when you are going to buy grocery, ask them if they would like to add anything to the list.
Offer customisable meals. Appetites and preferences differ, so plates can too. Present a variety of healthy options to let the kids confidently build their own meals. Like if making a Pizza, ask them for their choice of toppings.
Avoid moralising food choices. Talking about food in terms of good or bad can lead to shame or approval seeking. This overcomplicates relationship with food. It is normal to eat for pleasure as it is normal to eat for a strong, healthy body. It’s ok to over eat occasionally, a really tasty meal. It’s ok not to eat certain foods.
Take the pressure off. It’s understandable to want perfection like ‘eat on the dining table’ or ‘don’t eat in front of TV’. But generally that’s not realistic. Life is busy for them also. Sometimes tantrums happen. It’s ok to let your kids win.
Here’s one of the secrets to good nutrition: not all of your meals have to be whole food meals.
Step 1- Pick a liquid
- Almond milk (unsweetened)
- Cow’s milk
- Soy milk (unsweetened)
- Hemp milk (unsweetened)
- Iced green tea
Less liquid = thick shakes. More liquid = thin shakes.
Step 2- Pick a protein powder
- Whey protein
- Casein protein
- Pea protein
- Rice protein
- Hemp protein
- Other proteins or protein blends
Some protein powders contain thickeners, which will increase the thickness of your shake. Find the protein supplement that you like best.
Step 3- Pick a veggie
- Dark leafy greens: Spinach / Swiss chard / kale
- Pumpkin / sweet potato
- Beets / beet greens
- Cucumber / celery
- Powdered greens supplement
Spinach is usually your best bet, as it is virtually flavorless in your Super Shake. Canned pumpkin is great too. It goes well with vanilla. When using beets, try roasting them and removing the skin first. Beets pair well with chocolate. If you add celery or cucumber, you’ll need to use less liquid in your shake.
Step 4- Pick a fruit
- Pineapple / mango
- Powdered fruit supplement
Toss in a banana to give the shake an excellent consistency. Dates go a long way, as they’re very sweet (and make sure to get rid of the pit first!). Apples are easy — simply remove the core and slice into wedges.
Step 5- Pick a healthy fat
- Flax, hemp, chia seeds
- Peanut and nut butters
When blended well, nuts and seeds give the shake a nice, rich consistency.
Step 6 – Pick a topper
- Cacao nibs / dark chocolate
- Oats / granola
- Ice cubes (if using fresh fruit)
Cinnamon is good with vanilla and pumpkin. Add oats if you need extra carbs, yogurt if you want a smoother consistency, and ice if you used fresh fruit.
The digestive process is divided into stages.
The first stage, the cephalic phase, occurs in the mouth. When we see food, think about food, or are accustomed to eating at a certain time, our mouth begins to produce saliva that is rich in enzymes, making it easier for the stomach to do its job. The mouth produces even more saliva as soon as we start chewing, while the brain instructs the stomach to release digestive acids. Nearly one-third of the acid needed for digestion is released in this stage. Saliva secretion is circadian. It is most productive during the day, up to 10 times greater than it is when we sleep. The nighttime drop in saliva production helps us stay asleep, although it is another reason we wake up with dry mouth. Daytime saliva secretion neutralizes stomach acid that may come up through our esophagus into our mouth, but reduced saliva at night is not sufficient to carry out this task. Eating late at night can produce excess stomach acid, and if that acid comes back up the esophagus and into the mouth, there is not enough saliva to neutralize it. As a result, late-night eating can trigger acid reflux, causing inflammation of the esophagus and permanent damage to the esophagus, stomach, and teeth if left unchecked.
Once food is properly chewed and swallowed, it travels down the esophagus and passes into the stomach, beginning the gastric phase of digestion. The acidic environment of the stomach is like a brewing vat, further breaking down food into microscopic particles. The acid is contained in the stomach by the sphincter muscle that is at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach. This acid is so strong that it can even kill bacteria found in raw food like salad. Excess acid production, even at the right time of the day, causes acid reflux. Diminished acid production is also bad, because it promotes the growth of dangerous bacteria that cause diarrhea. It also allows for incompletely digested food particles, which can trigger inflammation by the immune cells present in the gut lining. This is referred to as a leaky gut. Stomach acid production is typically high during the hours before bedtime, roughly 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. If morning stomach acid is produced at an arbitrary unit of 1, at night it reaches 5. However, when food is consumed during the day, your stomach acid production may go up to 50; eating the same amount at night may increase production up to 100. This means if we eat a modest meal in the evening, the stomach will produce a larger amount of acid than if the food was consumed at noon. Our food sits in the stomach for 2 to 5 hours, depending on how much we eat.
Then it passes from the stomach to the intestines, where further enzymatic and chemical digestion continues. This marks the beginning of the intestinal phase. The intestines are not designed to handle the high acidity that is present in the stomach, so once the food enters the intestines, acid secretion is reduced and neutralized. Once food enters the intestines, it does not move by itself. Rather, it is squeezed along the digestive tract by muscles that surround the tube. This is called gut motility or gut contractility. An electrical signal from the gut’s nerve cells triggers the muscles to expand and contract. This produces a wavelike motion that pushes food through the tube. Once food is fully digested and the nutrients absorbed, the waste by-product reaches the colon, the last part of the gut, and exits the body as stool, a full 24 to 48 hours later.
Green Goddess Smoothie
by Chef Abhilasha Chandak
350 calories ● 25g protein ● 40g carb ● 12g fat
- 1.5 cup spinach (can try a mix of kale + spinach too)
- ½ avocado
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- ¾ banana for creaminess
- 1 tsp original cacao powder
- 1 tsp walnuts/almonds
- 1 serving protein powder
- optional – add small portion of seasonal berries
· Throw everything together in a smoothie maker / blender along with some ice cubes and relish a lovely power packed breakfast.
Abhilasha Chandak is a celebrity chef and food consultant. She has bee a finalist in Masterchef India 2016 and winner of Hyatt Culinary Challenge 2015. Her show on Prime and Youtube Swad Anusaar with Abhilasha is well received. A marathoner and cyclist, she is passionate about her fitness and health. She is currently exploring plant based diet and sustainable lifestyle. She is reachable on Instagram @abhilasha.chandak
LEADERSHIP BOARD – As per audited data on 4th Feb.
TOP 50 – AGE GROUP 40 & ABOVE
TOP 50 – AGE GROUP BELOW 40
Note: Size of the font is not an indicator of any ranking. Step counts when entered on 20th Feb can dramatically alter the rankings.
Gentle reminder to all participants: The Wildcard Challenge is on till February 10 – a fun way to add bonus 10 points to your dashboard. Record a video of you doing jumping jacks – in 30 seconds – 40 jumping jacks for participants under 40 and 35 for those who are 40 years old and above. Share the video on Twitter/Instgram with hashtag #AdmireYourself and email us the link of your post. If you do not use social media, please email the video to email@example.com. Please do not send the video if the count is less than defined and/or duration is less or more than 30 seconds. Do not share more than one video.
Go, grab 10 easy points! Stay tuned for fun wild card challenges every 15 days!
Don’t forget to use #AdmireYourself in all your tweets about the Challenge.
A Judge by profession (District Judiciary, Haryana, since 2012), Sandeep Jakhar is averse to comfort zones and is always raring to go. The inspiring stories of fellow participants give him a robust boost to do better while the connect with like minded fitness enthusiasts brings him joy!
Speaking about the impact of the Challenge, Jakhar says, “I went out of my comfort zone, did multiple activities, and gained immense confidence. After the first challenge, I did an ultra run of 45 km with ease, got into the habit of exercising regularly and gained efficiency and focus at work. Moreover, I became more emotionally stable due to regular exercising.”
Sandeep Jakhar aspires for a painless life. Exercising for him, is as cerebral as it is physical. He believes in connecting the mind with the body while exercising, results in less exhaustion.
Inspirations abound in Jakhar’s family where all members are as super fit. He is also mighty impressed and inspired by Sandeep Mall’s holistic thought on health, especially his idea of Deep-health.
For the fellow fitness ninjas, Jakhar leaves a riveting message, “In whatever fitness condition you are in, it is you who are responsible for it. Steps to improve can be taken at the very moment you decide to do so. Remember, what does not challenge you cannot change you.”