Good Gut: Happy Gut

Gut health is important, for the health of the body starts with the gut to help reduce the risk of conditions like bowel cancer, constipation. The food you consume is broken down to fats, proteins, and simple carbohydrates in the gut and it is obvious that gut should always be in good condition to function efficiently to process the food that is consumed.

The problems in the digestive tract could be the one that affects the rest of your body and indirectly contributing to the symptoms like, a feeling of unwell, bloating, wind, pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in appetite.

Dieting, avoiding entire food groups in the name of weight reduction will sabotage your gut health. Human gut often referred to as the “Second Brain.” When your gut is upset, your brain struggles, naturally!

When the gut health is affected, for example when the gut is unable to produce sufficient enzyme, the food will not be digested completely. The undigested food particles will then reach the bloodstream that causes inflammation.  Environmental toxins consumed through food will damage the villi, specialized for the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.

Craving for sweets can mean you have an imbalance of gut bacteria. Overgrowth of yeast in the system results when good bacteria are wiped of the intestine especially after a course or two of antibiotics.

When your gut is healthy, the rest of your organs will come into alignment better. So eating right will make sure that your gut is getting what it needs and function efficiently. It is true that the quality of food you eat affects your quality of life and energy production.

Tips to improve gut health

  • Healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients always begins with a simple act of chewing the food. Chewing is the preliminary process of proper digestion. If food is not chewed properly, the digestion process is going to be much harder, later in the gut.
  • A mix of raw and cooked vegetables will enhance the digestive health. Enzymes in the raw food plays major role in digestion of food and healing & detoxing of the intestine as well. Balanced food along with physical activity will help eliminate toxins from the body.
  • Drink enough water, which is essential for a normal bowel function. Think twice before grabbing fizzy drink or juice. Soda and too much coffee too, will lead to dehydration and sap out your energy, as well.
  • Fiber-rich foods keeps you full for longer and also help in digestion. Soluble fiber slows digestion and help absorb the nutrients efficiently. Cereal fibers resist digestion and retain water which act as highly effective laxative.
  • Gut microbiota contains trillion of microorganisms, both good and bad. Consuming foods with probiotic strains (lactobacillus and bifidobacteria) will help maintain a healthy gut.

Can you believe that gut imbalance of the microbiota triggers depressive symptom! You should always see that your gut eco system is in a balanced state because the harmful bacteria in the intestine will produce toxic by-products that lowers serotonin levels, causing depression. Serotonin, an important chemical neurotransmitter is produced in the brain and gut. About 80-90% of the serotonin is produced in the gut and it is the chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance.  The friendly bacteria will block the harmful microbes from setting up camp in the gut.

Gut- friendly bacteria regulates digestion and metabolism. They extract and produce vitamins and other nutrients through the food we eat, every day.  When you take probiotic, the amount of friendly bacteria increases in the intestine that help in boosting the body’s immune system. 

To balance the good and bad bacteria in the intestine it is crucial that you consume probiotic rich food every day. Fermented food like yogurt, kimchi, kefir, naturally contain probiotics that help maintain a healthy gut.

Pistachios, bananas, plantain, onions, garlic, oats, quinoa, millet and chia seeds are prebiotic foods that help increase the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Swap out refined foods for whole grains, plants, fruits, seeds and nuts for a good gut health.


Prunes are Plums

Prune is the dried version of any type of plum.   There are many types of plums. The dried version of the European plum (Prunus domestica), is the one that is commonly found in stores. There are other versions of plums like Prunus Americana and Prunus Salicina.

Prunes are concentrated source of:



Vitamin A, B, K









There is 7g of fiber per 100 of fruit.  A serving is 3-4 fruits that gives roughly 3g of fiber which is about 12% of daily value.  Dried plums retain both soluble and insoluble fiber and sorbitol. Soluble fiber helps slow down the absorption of glucose that stabilizes blood glucose level.  80% of the fiber in prunes is soluble fiber. Prunes have about 15% sorbitol when other fruits contains less than 5% of the same. The sorbitol, like fiber, absorbs more water and also increases the intestinal microorganisms that improves the guts’ health.

Prunes are rich sources of Glucose, fructose, sorbitol and sucrose. But prunes do not spike blood sugar because it is compact with natural fibers. So, consumption of prunes should be not more than 3-4 prunes.

Fresh plums are filled with water and so packed with water soluble vitamin C, too.  Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that help prevent the formation of free radicals in the body. But we should also keep in mind that plum fruits, during the process of drying will lose its water and vitamin C and ends as a source of concentrated sugar with other nutrients and fiber.  It is the high sugar content that helps dry this fruit without fermentation.  So, 3-4 prunes can be taken, twice or thrice a week but not every day.

It also sounds good that prunes have lower GI when compared to other common dry fruits like raisins, figs and dates.  This low GI number is because of the fiber it is packed with. Fiber keeps you full for longer and helps relieve constipation, too!

Prunes are rich in antioxidants (polyphenols), lutein, cryptoxanthin, chlorogenic acid, coumaric acid that prevents cell mutation and reduce cancer cell formation.

Potassium, an essential mineral found in prunes helps maintain a healthy blood pressure level.

Vitamin A promotes strong vision and prevents macular degeneration and cataracts.

Small children’s digestive system in not fully developed and their requirements are much lesser than adults. Seek doctor’s advice before adding prunes to your child’s favorite food because excess amount will show the symptoms of diarrhea.

It is easy to incorporate prunes to our daily meal. Prunes can be added to oats cereal, porridge that requires no extra added sugar. Prunes are very sweet and can be taken alone or with mixed nuts or salads. Oats porridge with prunes, a delicious and colorful breakfast!

Regular exercise and right portion of meals, every day, will help maintain your weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol.



Super food


Bananas are one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world and fresh bananas are available year-round. Adding sliced banana to your morning cereal or oatmeal sounds great for breakfast. Bananas are packed with flavonoids, beta carotene a powerful antioxidant that gobbles free radical. In addition, it is a good source of potassium important for controlling the heart rate and blood pressure. Vitamin B6 in banana, help prevent anemia.

Increase happiness

Bananas help to overcome depression by releasing mood regulating substance called tryptophan, which is converted to serotonin in the brain that elevates mood and makes you happier!


Bananas, a pack of energy punch, good supplier of carbohydrate necessary to replace the muscle glycogen after your heavy work out. Before a strenuous workout, it help sustain your blood sugar. Blend a banana with a cup of soy milk and a teaspoon of honey and refrigerate. Enjoy a chill smoothie after workout!

Bowel health

Bananas are high in soluble fiber that acts as prebiotic, stimulating the growth of friendly bacteria in the bowel that helps relieve constipation and restore regular bowel function.


Bananas are high in potassium that helps lower blood pressure and protect against heart diseases and help the body’s circulatory system, deliver oxygen to the brain. Potassium help transport more oxygen to your brain, that keeps your brain do its job better. If you are taking beta-blockers, prescribed for heart disease, consult with your doctor if potassium level become a concern, for this medication have the potential to increase in the potassium levels.


Bananas are rich in iron that help individuals with anemia. It help stimulation of production of hemoglobin that aids in oxygen transport.


Bananas are rich in pectin, aiding digestion and detoxification process in the body. It soothes the digestive tract and help restore lost electrolytes after diarrhea. Banana Smoothie, a wonderful energy punch.

A sliced banana mixed with sliced strawberries, mandarin orange and a teaspoon of honey and chopped mint leaves, makes a great dessert.  Enjoy with your family!



Women over 50: Beautiful and Fit!

Menopause is a natural biological process and in brief terms it is the time when a woman stops menstruating.  The hormones estrogens and progesterone production will be low and the ovaries no longer produces eggs. In women estrogen is mainly produced in the ovaries. It is also produced in fat cells and adrenal glands.

Most women approaching menopause will have hot flashes, a feeling of warmth spreading over the entire body resulting in profuse sweating.  The hot flashes varies from mild to severe, among women.  Mood swing, irritability, insomnia, headache are also common symptoms during this period.  No worries! Regular aerobic activities will help control all these symptoms.

Post-Menopause is tied to long-term health problems if healthy food intake and regular physical activity is not practiced. The loss of estrogens along with unhealthy food habits and sedentary lifestyle might lead to the following complications:

Drop in estrogen levels has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The hormone estrogen help protect the inner layer of the artery wall, thereby keeping the blood vessel flexible.  Which means they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow. So, Menopause does not cause the heart disease. It is the decline in the hormone estrogen that is considered one among the causes of heart diseases. As per American heart association, women should do 150 mins of physical activity each week to prevent the heart diseases. Walking, dancing, cycling and swimming are good aerobic activities women can enjoy to keep themselves fit. Regular consumption of omega rich fish like-salmon, tuna, mackerel, nuts like almonds and walnuts are considered good for heart health along with whole grains, lean protein meats, fruits and vegetables.

The influence of estrogen on osteoporosis

In women bones are protected by the hormone estrogen. During post–menopause there is no production of estrogen through ovaries and the body depends only on fat cells as a source of this bone protecting hormone. During the first half of the life, there is a balance between the bone formation and the bone loss. But in the first few years after menopause, a woman may lose bone density rapidly.   That is, more bone being broken down than formed. The lower a person’s bone density, the higher the risk of developing osteoporosis, a progressive disease that makes the bones get weaker and increases the risk of sudden and unexpected fractures

Weight – bearing exercises, 3-4 times a week will help prevent osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, climbing stairs, dancing are all good weight-bearing exercises. Women should consume foods rich in calcium & vitamin D. Along with regular weight-bearing activities, foods like, milk and dairy products (low-fat), seafood like salmon, sardines, egg, dry beans, vitamin C rich fruits and green leafy vegetables will help build bones throughout your life.

During the menopausal transition, women are more prone to overweight / obesity.

When women go through menopause, their metabolism declines.  If the diet and the daily calorie requirement is not controlled, the excess amount of calories consumed will be stored as fat.

Consuming a balanced meals that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unsaturated fats, fibre and complex carbohydrates along with regular moderate activities 30 mins every day, will help maintain the weight.

After menopause, obese women are at higher risk of breast cancer.

Estrogens created by fat cells have been linked to breast cancer formation in obese women. Estrogens are essential for women, but higher the estrogens, the greater the driving force behind breast cancer. Fat cells are very active cells that creates estrogen. Excess amount of body fat cells will produce more estrogen which in turn increases the insulin production. Insulin, a hormone, delivers glucose into the cells where it will be stored as fat.  Excess the fat you have, higher the levels of estrogen and eventually higher the insulin production.  The more the insulin in the blood, higher the storage of glucose to fat. And the cycle goes on and on.

“Excess” fat: the main culprit.

Regular exercise will help reduce the body fat which eventually decreases the risk of developing breast cancer with no side effects. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, watercress, and mustard greens will in addition help protect the cells against cancer.

Regular exercise and food rich in wholegrains, fruits & green leafy vegetables, low-fat dairy products, nuts, fish, lean meat, dry beans will help you stay healthy after menopause.


Mindful Eating

The food you eat provides the vital nutrients like carbohydrate, protein, fat, fibers, vitamins, minerals and water that keeps your body cells running.

Good nutrition combined with physical activity help maintain a healthy weight that reduces the risk of chronic diseases.  Even for people with healthy weight, a poor diet will lead to major health risks! By making smart food choices you can always protect yourself from getting chronic diseases

Eating something high in sugar, fat and salt will stimulate your desire to eat, more!  Once you pop, you can’t stop!  So, it is apparent that mindfulness, while eating, is crucial.

Mindfulness is an ability we all possess. Mindful eating is deliberately paying attention and be aware of what we are eating. It involves all the senses and engross us in colors, textures, flavors, tastes and sounds of drinking or eating.


Notice your food

You are three times as likely to eat the first you see on the table.  It is wise to place your most healthful food where you will notice it first.  Start your meal with salads or thin soups that prevents you from overdoing the high-calorie entrees.

Scout out your food during party.

Scanning the buffet before scooping up will help you to pick more nutritious food, first.  It helps you make smart decisions like going for light starters to start with. Seating yourself 40 feet farther from the buffet will help qualify your decision to go back, for a second or third servings.

Pick a small plate

Smaller plate will help you to dish up smaller amounts of food. Take smaller bites and chew the food at least 15 times. The longer you chew, the more time you take to finish the meal. Chewing your food longer will also help control your portion size that makes you eat less and prevent weight gain.  Longer you chew your food, easier the digestion in your stomach and intestine. The slower you eat, higher you savor the flavor!

2014-11-01 14.36.02

Observe the texture of food.

The texture of what you eat greatly affects your enjoyment of food. While dining enjoy the texture of food like: soft-yogurt and soups, Chewy-meat, crunchy-nuts, carrots, apples, and lettuce. You will discover the secret of how to become content, once you are able to fully appreciate the basic activities of eating. Each sip of liquid and the bite of food will be fresh and delicious! After a long hike, even if you drink the plain water, you will understand how wonderful it is.

Note the variety of food

Eat with your eyes. It is important to enjoy the colors of the foods in the plate like brown rice, red, orange or yellow fruits and green leafy vegetables. A little goes a long way, when you enjoy something, especially colorful. Mindful eating is a good way to help you enjoy your food, wholeheartedly.

Feb 2013 004Feb 2013 016

Watch out environmental and emotional triggers.

Before you start eating just take few seconds to rate your hunger.  Your goal is to eat between levels 4 and 6 in the hunger-satiety rating scale.  It is like you are eating when you are hungry and stop eating when you are satisfied. When you are hungry, you may experience few of the following symptoms like stomach pangs, emptiness of the stomach, low energy, difficult in concentrating.  Try not to hold your hunger until the level of 1 or 2, which leads to overeating. Catching the hunger early will naturally prevent you from overeating and at the same time you can concentrate on picking up nutritious food.


Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale
Full 10  =  Stuffed to the point of feeling sick
   9   =  Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen your belt
   8   =  Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed
   7   =  Very full, feel as if you have overeaten
   6   =  Comfortably full, satisfied
Neutral  5   =  Comfortable, neither hungry nor full
   4   =  Beginning signs and symptoms of hunger
   3   =  Hungry with several hunger symptoms, ready to eat
   2   =  Very hungry, unable to concentrate
Hungry  1   =  Starving, dizzy, irritable


Physical hunger builds gradually several hours after each meal. Emotional eating and craving, in contrast, will arise unexpectedly. Emotional eating will enhance grabbing more food than you need.  If you have recently eaten and still find yourself craving for food, watch out the emotional triggers like angry, lonely, worried, stress, bored, frustrated. Find out which emotion triggers you to eat and reach out for help. Call your friend or go for a walk, or do some stretching that relieves your stress.  

Track your food and your physical activity

Most people do not realize how much they are eating every day. Tracking the food will help you to understand where the extra calorie is coming from. It helps you to focus on varieties of food and control the portion size, as well. Tracking will help you to understand the composition of foods you eat and the nutrients you get from them. Once you start tracking your food you will be surprised to learn how many calories are hiding in the little treats like- candies and beverages you are enjoying every day. It also helps you to identify and incorporate the missing food groups like dairy, vegetables and nuts. Similarly tracking your physical activity will help you to understand how often you are physically active. It motivates you to add all four types of activities-endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Recording activities will help you see your progress over time that impels you to add more activity to your daily routine.


Eating is a natural and pleasurable activity for satisfying your hunger. Through mindful eating you will learn what food best fuels your exercise and work. You will also realize that unhealthy food is not as tasty and healthy as you thought before.  You will not get fat as long as you are mindful while eating.

Mindful eating replaces self-criticism with self-nurturing.


Chicken quesadillas



Chicken quesadillas


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each 4 ounces
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup smoky or hot salsa
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 flour tortillas, each 8 inches in diameter
1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Chicken quesadillas

Dietitian’s Tip: Quesadillas can be filled with cheese, cooked meat, refried beans or veggies — or any combination of these ingredients. This version uses chicken and cheddar.

Heat oven to 425 F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut each chicken breast into cubes. In a large, nonstick frying pan, add the chicken and onions and saute until the onions are tender and the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the salsa, tomatoes and cilantro.

To assemble, lay a tortilla flat and rub the outside edge with water. Spread about 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture onto the tortilla, leaving about 1/2 inch free around the outer rim. Sprinkle with a spoonful of shredded cheese. Fold tortilla in half and seal. Place on a cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Lightly coat the top of the tortillas with cooking spray. Bake until the quesadillas are lightly browned and crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Cut in half and serve immediately.

Nutritional Analysis (per serving)

Calories 298

Protein 27 g

Carbohydrate 25 g

Total fat 10 g

Saturated fat 5 g

Monounsaturated fat 3 g

Cholesterol 70 mg

Sodium 524 mg

Dietary fiber 6 g

Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid Servings
Vegetables 1

Carbohydrates 1

Protein and dairy 2


Teen: Nutrition

Growth and development are in high-speed during teenage years and the demands for calories during this period in early adolescence is more than at any other time of life.  A number of physiological, physical and behavioral changes occurs and these changes requires an increase in the amount of nutrients.  The taller kids and those who involve in sports activity will still need increased amounts of energy into late adolescence.

Though it is obvious that adolescents need sufficient energy and nutrients for their growth and development, some are inactive and eat more than they need and become overweight. If they don’t show interest to reduce their weight by controlling their intake, obesity will take over them.  Lifestyle changes will improve their weight in the long-term.


Protein is an essential micro nutrient for growth, and tissue repair. An athlete performance depends on muscle strength and these muscles are made of protein. It is not just the protein consumed in one sitting aid in muscle strength.  Regular exercise along with high biological value proteins that is spread all throughout the day will help build up muscles. Young people should do regular exercise at least for 60 mins of moderate intensity activity (walking, cycling, dancing) every day.  Protein recommendation per day for 11-13yrs is 34g and 14-18yrs is 46g. Athletes require a higher amount of protein than recommended, which is calculated by a sports physiologist/nutritionist, based on the intensity of the activity.

Teens needs carbohydrates that is vital to their health for various reasons. Carbohydrates are main source of energy. They help fuel the brain, kidneys, heart, muscles and central nervous system. It is the main fuel source of energy. But not all carbohydrates are equal.  Eating breakfast made with “slow-release” of carbohydrates, like oatmeal 3 hours before exercise will help burn more fat efficiently.

  • Whole grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates that takes longer time to digest and are high in fiber, selenium, magnesium and potassium than refined grains and products.
  • Whole fruits and vegetables add water, fiber and bulk that are packed with fewer calories and at the same time it helps to feel fuller.

2014-03-27 14.38.57

In order to maximize the amount of nutrients you take in, consume nutrient dense foods that is naturally  lean and low in solid fats, sugars, refined starches and sodium.  Beverages account for almost 40-50% percentage of added sugars consumed by teenagers. Desserts like cakes, pies, cookies, doughnuts, pastries, ice cream, frozen desserts and puddings, candies, syrups makes more than 75% of intake of all added sugars. Shift to reduce sugars consumption to less than 10 percent of calories per day. Choose beverages with no added sugars in place of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Mixed dishes (made of cheese, meat or both and sodium) like burgers, sandwiches, pizza, tacos, rice, pasta are major source of saturated fats. Shift to reduce saturated fats intake less than 10 percent of calories per day. Shift from high saturated fats to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Read the food labels and choose lower fat forms of foods. Best option is to change ingredients of the mixed dishes to healthier choices like vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat cheese, in place of fatty meat and cheese.

Most sodium consumed by teens comes from salts added during commercial food processing and preparation. Commercially processed or prepared mixed dishes and soups account for almost half of their sodium consumption.  Reading food labels to compare sodium content of the product will help choose the product with less sodium. Limiting sauces, mixes and instant products like flavored rice, instant-noodles, ready to eat pasta will help reduce the sodium consumption.  Garnishing the food with herbs and spices is another better option that curbs the salty desire.  High sodium intake will increase blood pressure and cause calcium losses that leads to bone demineralization that increases the risk of osteoporosis causing fragility and breakages even in young people.

Calcium rich foods like low-fat dairy products, green vegetables like watercress, broccoli, almonds, fish with bones will help to increase the bone mass in young people.  A combination of protein, calcium and vitamin C together help form collagen. So, balancing the meal is the key.

Aviary Photo_130298963354301541

Aviary Photo_130298991663309787

Iron requirements increase during adolescence to help with growth and muscle development. Girls need more iron to replace their menstrual losses.  So, teens should focus more on iron rich foods. Iron from meat sources are readily absorbed by the human body. Though meat is a good source of iron, teens should go for lean protein that is low in saturated fat.  Nuts, wholegrains, dark green leafy vegetables, figs are also loaded with iron. Iron in egg and vegetarian sources are not easily absorbed by the body. Vitamin C from fruits will help absorb the iron from these sources. So, it is wise to take fruits rich in vitamin C along with these foods. For example spinach and egg salad garnished with orange slices and lemon & mint dressing is a good, colorful and natural shot of iron. In addition it is also loaded with vitamins & minerals and fibers.

Aviary Photo_130279416386388766


Adolescents should focus on fiber too. Fiber is a carbohydrate that aids in digestion and keeps cholesterol in control. Fiber latches onto your food and chauffeurs it through your body. Fiber is a natural laxative that promotes the movement of material through the digestive system and benefits those struggles with constipation.  Teens should aim to have 25-30g of fiber every day.

Eating disorders are seen in many teen girls, particularly those aged between 12-18yrs. During middle and late adolescence, girls eat roughly 20-30% fewer calories per day than boys. Anorexia nervosa is an illness where girls tend to keep their body weight low either by consuming less,  Some vomit after eating and some refuse to eat!  Some girls use laxatives or overdo the exercise to keep their body weight low. Bulimia nervosa is another illness where the sufferers are obsessed with the fear of gaining weight. They lack self-control and have a recurring pattern of eating large food, followed by self-induced vomiting. Some have emotional overeating like eating large quantities of food in response to negative emotions. Few teenagers are binge eaters where they eat large quantities of food in faster pace than normal.

IMG_5351 (2)

They are more likely to have vitamins & minerals in a scant amount. Lesser the amount of food consumed than recommended, lower the availability of vitamin A, zinc, iodine, and folate in some girls. Unless a doctor evaluation states a specific deficiency, it’s preferable to obtain nutrients from food instead from dietary supplements. Some teen boys too have eating disorders!

Awareness of food & exercise will help teens to avoid mistaken attitudes about food, weight and body shape. “A balanced meal” is the key to prevent eating disorders and regular exercise will help improve their moods!