Bring On The Sunshine!

Dr. Danesh D. Chinoy is a leading Health and Wellness Coach, Sports Physiotherapist and Psychologist. He is also a prominent Facilitator, Educator and Administrator, Physiotherapist (Sports & Manual Therapy), Corporate Trainer and Psychologist. He is dedicated to guiding clients to succeed while inspiring an insatiable passion for learning and helping all to heal holistically and remain fighting fit for life. With a Doctorate in Sports Physiotherapy and a Masters in Psychology, Dr. Chinoy’s two-decades’ rich expertise has won him innumerable awards, nationally and globally. He is on a mission to serve society by empowering all to reach their peak performance.

Providing eye-opening and ground-breaking insights into Wellness, this week, Dr. Chinoy presents…

‘Bring On The Sunshine!’

One goes through school, college, medical school and one’s internship, learning a good deal about success but little or nothing about goodness! I once had a patient visit our OPD, complaining of getting hurt. With the enthusiasm of a young intern, I was quick to ask her where she was hurt. Her prompt reply – “Churchgate!” It took me a while and a smile to reframe my question. That day, she definitely gave me a crucial insight into communication. Conveying a message to others clearly might sound simple, but it’s a process that is often fraught with errors at our end.

Thanks to you readers, the last two weeks were very different from the routine lockdown boredom. There were many interesting queries regarding my previous article on the health aspects of milk consumption. I was very happy to note that so many of you are so enthusiastic and eagerly looking forward to the Dairy-Free Challenge! Indeed, our community is blessed with intelligent people who are ready to learn and adapt their lifestyles towards a healthier future. There were a few pertinent questions asked by some, and I think it’s best I answer these here, in the interest of the majority.

The most common question asked was on Plant-based alternatives to Dairy. People were surprised as to why there was no mention of the popular soy milk and almond milk. Honestly, I would not recommend any alternatives to dairy; and certainly not those which are commercially available in tetra packs. In my opinion, it defeats the very purpose of shifting towards a more holistic and natural lifestyle. May I be pardoned to generalize and say that almost all of these products would prove more harmful to your wallets than be good for your health. If I have to choose the best and most healthy alternative to milk, my vote would go in favour of our humble, homemade coconut milk. Almonds certainly are nutritious but I strongly suggest to eat your soaked almonds rather than milk them. Soya products should not be part of your daily meal plan. The two beverages where all Indians need milk the most would be tea and coffee. If you are not very fond of black tea with lemon or simple black coffee, try adding coconut milk and have a kick start to your day!

Now let’s help the fence sitters who are planning to go dairy free and have been busy preparing charts and plans to gradually taper down the dairy. I suggest, go cold turkey. Leave it all at once. Trust yourself for an initial period of twenty-one days and ask yourself after that, if you really want to go back to your old self. It isn’t as difficult as you assume. You win the battle first in your mind and then in the real world. The best thing is when you quit dairy, you will almost automatically avoid the other white poisons (refined sugar and refined flour) even without any major efforts as these white poisons hunt together like a pack of wolves!

A few readers were ready to give up on dairy completely but were concerned about Calcium and Bone health. Let me remind you about the myth of milk and dairy products as the best choices for calcium that would benefit your bone health. Bone is a living tissue that is always in a flux. Throughout life, bones are constantly being broken down and built up in a process known as remodeling. Bone cells, called osteoblasts build bone, while other bone cells, called osteoclasts break down bone, if calcium is needed. In healthy individuals who get enough calcium and physical activity, bone production exceeds bone destruction up to about age 30. After that, destruction typically exceeds production. Bio-available dietary Calcium, weight bearing exercises and Vitamin D are the three pillars of good bone health. I have always wondered why the other two have been given a step motherly treatment with all spot-light on Calcium alone.

There’s a whole lot of other healthy foods that contain copious amounts of calcium, even more than a glass of milk. So, if you have been unwillingly chugging a glass of milk every day to get your calcium dose, you can try turning to these foods instead. You won’t be disappointed. A regular glass of milk (250 ml) contains roughly about 300 mg of calcium – if you believe you are having pure, organic, farm milk. 

Let’s look at foods which provide your body with more calcium than a glass of milk (300 mg calcium):

  1. Chickpeas: One and a half cup of chickpeas contains about 315 mg of calcium, along with fiber and protein. You can roast and eat these as a snack with lime, onions and tomatoes or cook these into a wholesome soup/dip. 
  2. Dark leafy greens: There’s a reason why Popeye loved his spinach. Dark leafy green vegetables like spinach, Chinese cabbage, mustard leaves and turnip greens are all great calcium boosters. Two cups of turnip greens contain about 394 mg of calcium. Use them in your daily meals, mix them in salads, spread them in sandwiches or if you’d like to experiment try a green smoothie with nuts and coconut milk.
  3. Almonds: Almonds are great brain boosters but did you know that they are packed with calcium too? A ¾ cup of almonds can give you about 320 mg of calcium, as well as fiber and Vitamin E. I suggest soaked almonds over raw ones.
  4. Dried Figs: These pack a whole lot of calcium along with powerful antioxidants. 1½ cup of dried figs contain about 320 mg calcium. 
  5. Chia Seeds: They are very often confused with our humble ‘tukmuria na bia’, but they are different and now very easily available at our local Mumbai grocery stores. 100 grams of chia seeds contain a whopping 631 mg of calcium. Let’s make this simpler for you – about three tablespoons of chia seeds will have more calcium than a glass of milk. So, don’t shy away from these tiny wonders. Simply soak them in water for a few minutes till they swell up and then add them to your vegetables, dals, salads, soups etc.
  6. Ragi Flour: Ragi flour is one of the best non-dairy sources of calcium. 100 grams of Ragi contains 344 mg calcium. It is extremely beneficial for growing kids and can be given in the form of Ragi porridge instead of forceful milk glass or sugar-laden cereal bowl.
  7. Amla with Dates: Amla or Indian gooseberry, along with dates, are full of essential antioxidants, vitamins and minerals including good amounts of calcium. Prepare a desert or ‘murabbo’ of the same and to give your kids to build robust immunity and strong bones. 

All the above food stuffs are not only very rich in their bio-available Calcium but also filled with other vitamins and minerals that are much needed for your over all good health. We have devoted so much time and effort for Calcium, I would fail in my duty if I were not to mention about Vitamin D today.

The ‘Sunshine vitamin’ is beneficial for several health conditions, including bone health, immune health and fertility. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. It enhances the absorption of calcium, thus helping to build and maintain strong bones. Without adequate vitamin D, bones become thin, brittle or soft. Parsis should be more concerned about vitamin D deficiency which lurks around like an unnoticed killer. Its deficiency is prevalent across all age groups in epidemic proportions, particularly amongst us Parsis. Did you know Vitamin D prevents and combats depression? It is an essential vitamin for brain health, mood, skin and immune function.

 A simple blood test can determine your vitamin D levels (a healthy range is between 50 and 80). Be careful if you choose the package deals so popular with pathology labs today as they do not provide vitamin D3 levels. Beyond the blood test, there are no major symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in adults. This is one of the major reasons why this can be so dangerous – you may not even know you have this deficiency! Having said that, a few people can suffer from any of the following symptoms that research supports and I’ve seen in my clients.

  • Frequent bouts of colds and viruses
  • Depressing or feeling low in mood 
  • Junk Food cravings
  • Low on energy
  • Muscle pain
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Always tired and needing more sleep
  • Osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones)

If you can relate to any or all of these symptoms, you could benefit from a vitamin D blood test. If you find your levels in the low or insufficient range, please consult your family physician and get Vitamin D3 supplementation that would be a tablet once a week for three months, depending on the levels. As a matter of fact, this is the only supplementation and at times of Vitamin B12 that I ever recommend my clients to purchase from a pharmacy. I am a staunch supporter of ‘Food be thy medicine’, rather than the other way round.

So, how does one improve their intake of this important vitamin D? Did you know that mushrooms are the only plants that can give you Vitamin D? Just like human beings, mushrooms also make this vitamin when they are exposed to the sun. A 100-gram serving of mushrooms can give you 2,300 IU of vitamin D. As the best source of vitamin D is the sun, you can ensure that certain work-related activities can be conducted outside, so that you get more exposure to sunlight. Some of the things you can do to improve your Vitamin D intake naturally are:

  1. Make sure the ‘farajiyat’ prayers of ‘Khorshed-Meher Niyaeshs’ is done daily under the sun. There was a reason why they were prescribed as ‘farajiyat’ in the first place.
  2. Exercise outside before going to work – wake up a little early and enjoy a pleasant morning walk before going to the office. The sun will help you gain vitamin D while the walk will wake you up and make you feel more active. If early morning walk is not possible, shift your mode of transport from own vehicle to our BEST buses and local trains, you will avoid the traffic rage and get some exercise too.
  3. Schedule team meetings in open spaces: Apart from helping you get more Vitamin D, these meetings can be more interesting just because of the change in the venue.
  4. Eat lunch outside: Carry your tiffin to an open terrace or any space outside to enjoy yourself and soak up some vitamin D.
  5. Take your work calls outdoors: if you have a long call to make, take it outdoors. It will help you increase your vitamin D intake and provide the added benefit of light exercise if you walk around.
  6. Take a walk during office hours: Take walks outside in the sun whenever you need a small break from your work.
  7. Enjoy team building sessions and sports at least on the weekends under the sun  – why else do you think our Baugs are blessed with play areas and grounds?

Health often becomes a lower priority as one climbs the corporate ladder with lot of deadlines and stress on their mind. Do not let this be the case with you. Taking care of your health can boost your performance in the workplace too, apart from helping your body and mind feel great. So, make sure that you are mindful of your diet and exercise.

Keep writing in with your questions and feedback till we meet again next fortnight with something beyond food for our lifelong wellness. Tandorasti to you and yours!! Email: WhatsApp 8454800869 

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