YOUR BMI IS IMPORTANT AND MORE…

BMI POST

 

“…the leaner we are, the healthier we are. And of course, the more physically fit [we are], the better off we are when it comes to over all health.”

Dr David Lau,University of Calgary

A couple of days ago,to be specific on Tuesday I posted an article from the Independent on How Clean eating was having an effect on young women and had gone on to demonize certain food groups,you may want to read it,please do.

Thereafter followed a vibrant conversation from the people who read it and rearing its head very often were these 3 letters -BMI.

BMI or Body Mass Index as we know it has been  bandied around by health and medical professionals and we have scared people into thinking that it is the be all,end all and ultimate marker of good health.What scientist have found is that BMI scores vary among different groups and some like countries in South Asia have developed their own way of calculating BMI’s among their populations.

At its inception , the BMI was  a simple,easy tool to screen populations at a time when  Western populations were having to come to terms  with the increase in obesity in their populations that were becoming more prosperous and were seeing changes in dietary habits.

Health and medical professionals now  use the BMI  to determine “how much body fat ” you are carrying .Research however shows that the amount of body fat individuals carry varies across ethnic groups.

For most people in Kenya ,finding their BMI score is a scary thing , especially when they  find out that they score a higher  or lower than average score and fall on either of two extremes, severely underweight or morbidly obese.

As a guide a Body Mass Index  was developed thanks to a population of individuals who were all of European descent.Any  casual observer can l see  that as Africans our physiology is different from Europeans and since the BMI does not differentiate between body fat and muscles we will have different scores among different ethnic groups .

But what is the Body Mass Index really and how did it come about and is it really a good indicator of how healthy you are or of how much weight you should gain or lose?

To better understand what the Body Mass Index is,we have to go back in history ,more than 150 years ago to  the 1830’s  through to the 1850’S when the BMI was first developed by the Belgian Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet.

As a tool for studying population trends and giving a rough idea of the health status of groups to medical professionals it proved very useful .What it was not able to point out was the amount of visceral fat individuals carried with them.

Visceral fat you said…this is the fat that is around your abdomen and internal organs and is the dangerous kind of fat that will predispose you to conditions like diabetes Type 2,hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.

The amount of visceral fat we carry is more worrying  than the BMI score .

When you first get your BMI,remember it is the value got from the weight of an individual divided by their height squared and will give you kg/m squared. 

The resulting value is used to classify  individuals as underweight,normal weight,overweight or obese.As such when describing an individual’s BMI score,one often hears the description of the resulting value  being how far from the ideal  one’s weight is from what is desirable for their height.

Over the years there has been an increase in the concern of using a universal cut off point to determine the health of individuals and scientists have been calling for a more individualized approach to determine the health of individuals as Body Mass Index has been shown to differ among ethnic groups .

In a paper titled   Ethnicity and BMI ,that was published in the British Journal of Nutrition by Amy Luke a Professor from the University of Loyola’S Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology,she wrote:

“The WHO’s 2004 call for more research to be conducted in diverse populations seems quite important and necessary if the relationships between BMI,body fat and chronic disease are to be better defined.”

Individuals who are more athletic and have more muscle than fat may  also inadvertently find themselves in the overweight bracket and shorter people find themselves being classified as thinner than they really are.

As a result with the BMI ,  it does not differentiate between body fat and muscle and  people will sometimes find themselves in the wrong classification. Some scientists have argued that using a waist to height ratio would give a better and more specific evaluation of a person’s health .

Why a waist to height ratio ?

Because a waist to height ratio is a better indicator of abdominal fat  and abdominal fat has been shown to be a better predictor of  individuals predisposed to obesity related health conditions.

However,the jury is still out on this and the BMI remains king. .

To be clear, the Body Mass Index is a good tool for population studies but not for individualized health care.The World Health Organization has defined obesity as a condition in which excess body fat affects the health and well-being of an individual and it has used the Body Mass Index as a tool to classify individuals ,research however  has shown that Body Mass Index across ethnic ,cultural groups differs and genetics and environmental   factors also   affect  our well being.

When the BMI was developed humans were leaner and having mainly focused on Western societies where diets were different from lets say individuals in Africa and Asian countries,the Index was and is a guide and could be used with other more specific tests to determine the  health of  individuals .

In this paper published in the scientific journal  PLOS ONE ,scientist from Leeds Beckett University do say that Body Mass Index while  remaining a useful tool  for population screening is not able to identify individuals at risk of developing obesity related medical conditions.

Do we then get rid of the BMI and stop using it as a guide to screen individuals at risk of health complications ?

No,we should not, instead of chasing a number that determines how perfectly healthy we are,it will be more useful to adopt a healthier lifestyle by making healthier food choices and adopting  more active lifestyles .

Active lifestyles where we incorporate more exercise will ensure we burn more of the visceral fat we carry,making healthier food choices like cutting back on alcohol,cutting back on deep fried foods,eating more fiber rich foods are ways of ensuring that you can lose the abdominal fat you carry with you and reduce you waist to height body fat ratio.

My challenge to the great scientists and researchers in Africa  would be for us to adopt more multi pronged approaches to tackle the heath challenges of the continents population .Countries in South Asia have been able to do so.

We could  do more research on the increasing number of lifestyle conditions that are on the rise on the continent and share ideas of how we can help our populations adopt more healthy lifestyles.We should promote consumption of more indigenous foods,advocate for more active lifestyles and create policies that will advance healthier lifestyles.

For now do not just rely on your BMI,take a more active step towards living healthier by making more healthy food choices and becoming more active.

 

 

 

 

6 WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR SUGAR CRAVINGS

 

Eath produces the food your body needs! (1)

The last post I did on why sugar is not good for your body  elicited a lot of interest and questions from people on whether there are ways to manage sugar cravings in a healthy manner.

Before I explore ways of how to manage sugar cravings I thought I should mention a hard and cold truth about sugar .

Sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever,yes it does sweeten some foods and drinks  the craving for sugar is derived from the pleasure it triggers through the release of dopamine into our brain.

Sugar has no proteins,vitamins or minerals that the human being would need in order to  be healthy .

The danger with the added sugar we take in  is that it plays havoc with our metabolism and it also contributes to a lot of the lifestyle diseases we see on the rise.Everything from obesity,heart disease,tooth decay are related to consuming more sugar than our body needs.

Sugar gives you nothing but empty calories and consuming foods high in sugar and fats leads to nutritional deficiencies  as well as it affects the consumption of other healthy foods.This deficiency on certain nutrients then leads to deficiencies that compromise our health and leave our immunity exposed.

The way to stave your sugar craving is to look for healthy alternatives to sugar that give you more than the sugar high and are high in nutritional value.

1.Take a fruit and leave out the sugar in your hot beverages.

Instead of having your tea with sugar,leave it out and instead have a fruit with your breakfast.Not a fruit smoothie because fruits have sugar in them in the form of fructose and over consumption of sugar in the form of fructose is unhealthy as all excess fructose will get turned by your body into fat.

2.Make your snack choices healthy ones.

To stave off the hunger pangs when you are feeling low on sugar at 3 pm Monday afternoon,take a fruit instead of the afternoon mug of tea.

Note:Intake of fruits should be limited to about 2-3 in a day.

Nuts and seeds also make very healthy snack choices nuts  provide essential vitamins from the B group,Vitamin E and minerals like potassium,calcium and magnesium and they will leave you fuller for longer as they slowly get broken down and sugar gets released into your body in amounts your body can use.

3.Take note of your calories

Take your calories from whole grains,starchy root vegetables like sweet potatoes,grains,cereals and not from baked foods .When you make healthier choices about where you will get your calories from,these sources of carbohydrates as highlighted are also sources of other micro nutrients  that your body needs.

As you grow older your body needs less calories and what your body needed when you were 20 will change as you head towards your 30’s and 40’s when you become less active and your body’s metabolism slows down.

4.Take water

Sometimes the hunger pangs we think we have that force us to reach out for something sweet may actually be a sign from our body  that we a dehydrated.Pick up that glass of water instead of a doughnut ,a cookie or a fruit drink.

5.Make your  food choices healthy choices.

Instead of eating three large meals during the day,stagger your meals through out the day in small portions and make sure they are made up of foods from all  the major food groups,cereals/grains,milk and dairy,fruits and vegetables,nuts and seeds.By taking your foods from the natural sources you are ensuring your body is able to metabolize the food in such a manner that stabilizes your blood sugars through out the day rather than experiencing the highs and the dramatic falls that come with consumption of processed foods which are high in sugar and fat.

6.Get to exercise

If you are struggling with your sugar craving,getting physically active will help you mange those cravings as it forces you make more healthier food choices,take in more water and you will definitely have to take in more than sugar for  your muscles to get working and to be physically fit.

Exercising will force you to be more conscious of your food choices and it will lead you to healthier ones.

 

Managing your sugar cravings is not easy but it can be done if you know how sugar affects your body and brain you will make healthier food choices.To find out how your body and brain are affected you may want to read the previous post.

If you find this information useful or you would like me to address something you are interested in knowing more of,please let us know in the comments section.

 

 

 

WHAT SUGAR DOES TO THE HUMAN BODY

The truth is that sugar is a drug and you can addicted to it.

By now you know  that sugar is not good for you,yet every time you seem to try to go cold turkey and stay off it you keep coming back unable to let go off what can only be described as an addiction.You cannot have tea or coffee without it and you prefer calling your addiction a sweet tooth.

But do you have a sweet tooth or what exactly is it about sugar that makes life so much sweeter (pun intended) ?

Yet everywhere we look there is something sugary and sweet calling out to us and tea,coffee does not really taste the same without a teaspoon or two or maybe three of sugar.

We cannot tell exactly why tea in our sugar or tea hits such a sweet spot and many people swear that they cannot take tea without sugar .If you have a cup in the morning another at 10 am and another at 4 pm and with each cup you take about 2 teaspoons of sugar that equals to about 6-9 teaspoons of sugar,depending on how much you put in per cup/mug.

If you are a woman a total of 6 teaspoons of sugar daily  is recommended.

Now imagine you take a soda during the day,it is hot ,then you decide to take with you a fruit smoothie of about 4 different fruits as you drive to work,meet a friend for coffee after work and you each order for a slice of the moist carrot cake you were  told  is fresh from the oven,how many teaspoons of sugar do you think that will total to

It will equal to a  lot of teaspoons of sugar.

Sugar occurring naturally in food are  an energy source for the body’s cells .When we consume carbohydrates they get broken down by the enzyme carbohydrase which breaks down the starch in foods into sugars.

It is not just carbohydrates that contain sugar ,fruits  also contain sugar made up of two simple sugars sucrose and fructose.It is why making a habit of drinking fruit smoothies made up of 3-4 fruits daily is not a good idea while trying to mange your wait is not a good idea as in the final end it will get converted to sugar and any extra sugar you do not use your body stores it in the form of fat.

“It is better to eat your fruit rather than drink it.”

When sugars are added to food it is because they play an important role ,they add texture taste and color to baked food products .Sugar is added to yoghurt,to tomato paste and sauce for added as well to  balance flavor, and to o dried fruits as a preservative,to bread  act as an energy source for yeast as well as in tea coffee to add taste to these drinks.

Naturally occurring sugars are beneficial to your body,it is the added sugars that pose are not good.The American Heart Association recommends that you get your sugars from complex carbohydrates starchy  vegetables,whole grain breads, and other cereals because these foods take longer to digest and the release of sugar into your blood gives steadier sugar levels as they take longer to digest.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends not more than 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and not more than 9 teaspoons for men daily.That is about 100 calories and 150 calories respectively for women and men respectively.

Sugar does play a role  in a healthy diet ,it is the the source of sugar and the over consumption of sugars from other sources that pose a problem to your health.When you over  consume a lot of sugary foods and drinks  your body experiences rapid spikes and falls in blood sugar levels.The rapid rises and falls of your blood sugars drives your pancreas crazy!

Blood sugar levels are regulated by insulin which is released from your pancreas.Insulin is a hormone that prompts your body cells to absorb sugar that the cells need to use  for their cell functions and the excess then gets stored as fat.When your blood sugar falls the pancreas prompts the release of the hormone glucagon that has the liver releasing the stored sugar for use by the body cells.

We live at a time when there has been an increase in the number of people living with Type 2 Diabetes and the onset of diabetes in Type 2 keeps going lower.A major cause of these could be the foods we are taking in,especially  foods high in  added sugars.Type 2 develops over a period of time  when the body is unable to use the  insulin it producees in the correct way.The body then becomes unable to respond to the insulin it produces and this prompts the pancreas to release more  insulin.This over production of insulin wears the insulin producing cells out and eventually the body stops responding to the insulin it produces and that is when Type 2 Diabetes is diagonised.

Type 2 diabetes at the outset can be managed with a healthy diet and physical activity but with time one will need to take tablets and maybe have insulin injections as well.

The reason why the over  consumption of sugary foods is discouraged is mainly because sugar plays havoc with your body’s metabolism. Occasional indulgence in a cookie or a slice of cake is okay but it should not become a daily habit.Management of your weight is  important as excess weight makes your body unresponsive to insulin which will lead to over production of insulin and eventually your pancreas will lose  its insulin producing cells which will lead to pre diabetes,then diabetes type 2 as your body loses the capacity to be able to produce and respond to insulin which is needed to regulate your blood sugar levels.

While it is very easy to avoid soda,cake,cookies,ice cream and other foods where it is obvious sugar has been added,there are other places where we have hidden sugars.

A good habit to start practicing is reading food labels ,as sugar gets hidden in commercially produced foods and the names used may confuse most people .Sugar in the food you buy from the store will be hiding with names like corn syrup,fructose,dextrose,maple syrup,fruit concentrate,caramel,molasses and many other titles.

Having struggled with kicking off sugar in my teens,I finally did so in my early twenties and I know how hard it can be to keep off sugar . Sugar is actually a “drug” and its consumption from other sources other than the naturally occurring ones releases the feel good hormone dopamine into your brain making you cry out more,more ,more.It is why it is so hard to give up sugar because we have already created neural pathways for this  pleasure habit and the reason why it becomes hard to give up. Just like learning a new skill is hard,we have to  create new neural pathways in place of the old ones by replacing our cravings for sugar with healthy ones like eating more fruits,nuts,drinking more water and taking pleasure from these healthier habits.

It can be done,and you can take your tea without sugar and enjoy it,have your coffee without sugar and thoroughly enjoy it and yes even your cereals do not need the sugar as well and the plain yoghurt actually tastes better when you add  fruits real fruits to it.

If you found this  article useful or  helpful,please let us know in the comments section .

WHY THE DEMAND FOR ORGANIC FOODS IS GROWING

Organic Farmers are HEROES.
Peter Wendt

If you follow the Organic Farmers Market in Nairobi which I have for a couple of years,you may have noticed that  there are now more places where they have organized for Kenyans to buy organic food as well as more  vendors,  which means there has been an increase in the demand for organic food from the Kenyan market.

You must have wondered about what all the noise is  about Organic farming and why suddenly there has been a surge in the demand as well as consumption of organic produce. I thought this post would be  helpful in helping us appreciate organic farming  as well as  see why the demand for organic food has grown.

Organic farming is a system of agricultural production that involves the cultivation of crops and the rearing of animals using natural ways.

Conserve Energy defines it as a process that involves the use of biological materials,avoiding synthetic substances to maintain soil fertility and ecological balance thereby minimizing pollution and wastage.With a world population that is more than 7 billion and a land size that remains the same yet it is fighting with encroachment from human settlement,the demand for arable land is on the rise and people are looking for all manner of ways to make the most of the available land and animal resources.

One of the ways unscrupulous people have found to get more from their land and animals in order to make a few quick dollars is to pump it with chemicals,pesticides as well as speed up the maturity of farm animals like chicken by injecting them with growth hormones.

The bottom line in all of these endeavors is not a concern for the people who will eventually buy these foods from the supermarkets,it is profit  greed that is the only driver for such practices that puts the lives of other  human lives at risk.

It is true organic food costs more , because of the work involved as it is a very labor intensive exercise.It is also true that you expose yourself to less risk if you choose to go organic.

About 4 years back,I lived on a farm in Nakuru where we grew vegetables and other crops I also took up some organic farming on the side as an experiment project as well as to keep me busy.

My crops of choice were potatoes,zucchinis,carrots , to prepare I read widely and found that potatoes do very well especially if you mix dried manure into the soil and so I went about asking for dung from the farmers that owned cows around where we lived.I got a lot of it as well as a lot of curious looks as to what I needed cow dung it for.

But the venture came with a lot of challenges as well.The area where we lived was infested with moles ,how to get rid of them without using chemicals?

And we set about looking for a mole catcher,they do not exist anymore by the way and before we found we had a village of molehills on the farm as well as lost a lot of potatoes.

Up until the time we harvested the potatoes and carrots I never used a single drop of pesticide on them and they did fairly well.They potatoes and carrots came in all manner of sizes and we lost some as well to pests,but I had done it ,grown something without use of a single pesticide or chemical.

The need for organic farming is driven by the need for more sustainable methods of farming  that ensure we will still be able to produce enough food 50 years from now on when the world population is estimated will be at more than 10 billion.

For those that have tasted organically grown fruits and vegetables you  agree with me that they taste better than what you get from the supermarket shelves.Eggs from free range chicken are also more tastier ,have a yolk with the must delicious yellow color   and just a bit smaller than the eggs  that you get at the supermarket.

We consume a variety of pesticides and chemicals from foods like chicken,beef and other dairy products as well as from fruits and vegetables .The chemicals from pesticides and other  drugs  like antibiotics used to treat these animals have found their way  into our food and we have started seeing resistance to the  most widely available antibiotics used to treat very common infections.

Scientists are having to work very hard to keep up with the microbial mutations  are now resisting the currently available antibiotics.

These resistance is leaving scientists and researchers worried as it means the increased resistance by disease  causing bacteria to these drugs will expose us to infections which currently available  antibiotics will not be able to treat.

The discovery of the latest antibiotic was reported this April and it was done by Canadian scientists,it was the first in antibiotic  discovery in 3 decades 30 years  and the drug is still years away from being available to the public.

The increasing public awareness on what is going on,increasing incidences of disease  and the effects of environmentally unsustainable  decades of farming methods have pushed organic farming  front and centre.

If you are in Nairobi, follow the Organic Farmers Market on Facebook to see where the market  will be next and get to interact with the farmers working hard to ensure we produce food in a more sustainable ad environmentally friendly manner than we are d right now.

Why is organic farming important and why should you care,I have a few reasons  to think about why organic matters and who knows maybe you may take it up or talk to someone about it then we have a  new generation  of organic farmers.We may even meet at the Organic market.

1.Buying organic foods  creates a demand in the market and  will push farmers to be more responsible especially  over the use of pesticides and other chemicals as they grow crops or rear their animals.This is already happening in some countries where consumers are demanding more responsibility over the use of drugs and pesticides.

In this way we are promoting a more sustainable model that ensures the earth is able to feed the future generations that  come after us.

2.Buying organic foods means that you get the foods fresh,these foods have not been treated with any preservatives or had nay additives added to them to lengthen their shelf life.

The shelf life of organic foods is  very short because of their very minimal  journey from the farm to your plate  which is what has encouraged the farm to fork movement  globally and has had people support local farmers by buying local foods.

3.Buying organic has helped  promoted the growth of agriculture as a means of livelihood especially among young people. Across the globe young adults are taking up agriculture and providing us with food.It has  helped stem the increase in the number of the unemployed,helped increase food production as well as seen technology revolutionize farming.Europe has seen the number of its youthful population taking up farming,you may find this article from The Economist really interesting.

In Kenya as well we have several groups on social media platforms talking nothing but farming.See how dailies are falling over themselves to provide information on farming especially in the Saturday paper .

Young people are going back to the farms to ensure there is food for the more than 7 billion of us.

4.Buying organic and consuming organic ensures you know where your food comes from,how it gets produced and what goes into the production process.You are  reducing your exposure to  the  chemical toxins that could put you at risk of developing certain life threatening conditions through the ingestion of chemicals that may have been used in their production ,processing or packing.

5.By buying organic you get to interact  with the farmers that grow your food and there are benefits to that.There is nothing like meeting the person or people that put so much work to ensure you do not go hungry and appreciating the work they do.Human interaction especially in an age where technology is taking over  how we socialize with each other,a conversation with another human being is always  a great way to spend the weekend.I think one of the reasons people in big cities like Nairobi are always angry and stressed is because we speak so little to each to other,yet we know  healthy relationships are part of living a fulfilled and healthy lifestyle.

6.Taking your children with you to the organic market for  grocery shopping and let them feel,touch,sell and taste food.As I mentioned in an earlier post  taking your children grocery shopping is a  way of getting them  involved in meal planning and ensuring they adopt healthy eating habits early in life.

They will get to know how to choose fresh ingredients,how fresh food looks like and most important they will learn to value the hard work of the people like farmers who work behind the scenes to make sure we get fed.

And just in case your children  hardly ever get to travel upcountry,they will know food does not grow in the supermarket :-).

7.Buying organic is an opportunity to increase the awareness on more sustainable forms of agriculture and hopefully this will lead to legislation by governments as well as  push them to develop policies that can protect as well as promote organic farming.

Do you buy or grown organic food?would you love to be featured on our blog,please get in touch with us.

As always your feedback,comments and suggestions are welcome.See you in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

4 SIMPLE WAYS YOU CAN LIVE MORE HEALTHY

 

Good food

Having listened to a lot of people share the challenges that come with losing weight or making a healthier choice of what they put into their bodies,I do find that a lot of them have the mistaken belief that to live healthy is somehow more expensive.

It is not.

It is also interesting to see that most people choose to eat out rather than carry lunch or a snack to work which I think is healthier because then you know exactly what has gone into preparing that meal.

Carrying lunch or a snack to work  was something I did when was employed some time back and the greatest motivation for doing so was because I got to save some of the money I would have used for lunch on something else like shoes or a handbag.

And no,I really do not mean that you should not enjoy lunch with friends and colleagues every now and then, you can .

 

To live healthy and to lose weight is affordable because we live in a country blessed with an abundance of healthy food.

When writing down meal plans for people who either want to adopt a healthier lifestyle or lose weight or manage any condition my first rule of thumb is to always get to hear from them what it is that they like eating .

Some of the questions I ask is what foods  they enjoy eating and how using those choices I can help them make more healthier choices.Getting to know other foods then enjoy eating helps me show them how they can incorporate healthier choices from the foods that are available to them and that they can afford.

That is how I come up with a meal plan.

The first thing in being able to lose weight or adopt a healthier lifestyle is to take stock of where you are and how you got there and a great tool that will tell you exactly how you ended up there is by keeping a food diary.

A food diary is a record of everything you eat through out the day,how often and in what amounts.It includes keeping track of what you ate for breakfast,lunch,dinner and any snacks in between.You need also to have an idea of how many tablespoons of oil you use in preparing your meals,how much margarine/butter and the number of teaspoons of sugar you are taking in.

A food diary can surprise you and just by looking at it you will be surprised at how much you really take in.With a detailed food diary a Nutritionist is able to calculate exactly how many calories you are taking in.

Now,back to discussing living healthy is not expensive and I will show how you can do that in just 3 simple ways.

1.Know where to shop

In Kenya we are blessed with an abundance of food and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to what we can eat and are willing to spend.You just have to know where you need to be shopping.

Vegetables and fruits especially come cheap and we have no excuse to not eat more of them .Sources of carbohydrates like rice,maize flour,wheat flour,traditional grains like millet and sorghum are  very readily available.You can get them at the supermarket,neighborhood kiosk or in the numerous open air markets scattered throughout Nairobi.

Toi market that is located on Ngong Road is a great place to buy vegetables cheaply and City Market gives you fairer prices on beef,chicken and fish fillets.Ngara Market and City Market just opposite the Aga Khan hospital will also give you a wide variety of fresh vegetables to pick from.

There are also the organic markets organized at various venues around Nairobi by the Organic Farmers Market   as well as farmers around Nairobi who do deliveries of their produce every week.

It is the sources of protein that make mealtimes more expensive but you  do not have to have beef,chicken,fish fillets  to meet your nutritional requirements for protein.More affordable sources of protein are legumes like  various varieties of beans,dried peas,omena(Lake Victoria sardines) offer youd  the proteins your body needs without breaking the bank.

Omena can be bought for cheap at Toi Market.

“Yes,good food does not have to be eaten with a fork.It is all around us if we are willing to make the right choice.”

2.Carrying lunch or snacks to work

Which do you think is easier,carrying lunch to work or buying food 5 times a week  from a restaurant ?

When you carry lunch to work then you have more choice over what exactly is in your plate and especially if you are losing weight then you need to know what it is you are putting into your body.

Having watched how our food habits have been changing over the years,I am happy to see the opening of more restaurants that are serving real food as well as the demand from Kenyans for healthier food rather than the choice of fries, deep fried chicken and soda  that was available some years back.

This demand has seen restaurants that are serving traditional Kenyan foods as well as foods from other cultures find a home as well as  enthusiastic foodies in Nairobi.

There has been an increase as well in the number of entrepreneurs setting up companies giving the Kenyan consumer more healthy food choices.

3.Learn how to cook

Maybe after reading the first two you thought how can I eat healthy when I cannot cook and I do not have time to learn?

You can learn how to cook by enrolling for a cooking class,one of my favourite Chefs on Facebook is Chef Raphael,he offers cooking lessons for groups as well as individuals.

If you cannot enroll for a class,but a cookery book from any of the bookshops,follow food bloggers   or watch the food shows available on TV or YouTube as well.

A quick search of this blog will give you some recipes,easy ones I promise using local ingredients that you will enjoy.

When you cook for yourself you get to experiment and once you get cooking you will be surprised at what you can whip up with simple ingredients and a sense of creativity.

4.Exercise

Eating healthy is only one side of the healthy living coin,physical exercise is the second side.

One of the most affordable ways of exercising available to anyone on planet earth is walking.Physical exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and every human being of whatever age will thrive with physical activity.

Physical activity also helps  reduce the risk  of developing certain conditions that may come with weight gain and it also helps improve physical as well as psychological well-being.

As always I love hearing feedback from readers,how are you living healthy or making more healthy choices,what has helped and what do you think I have left out from my list that has helped you and would help someone else?

Please share your feedback in the comments section.

 

 

WHATS IN YOUR CUP OF TEA ?

Follow your dreams (1)

“Black or white?”is a question increasingly being asked when you walk into a restaurant and ask for tea.

Black is what it sounds like black tea while white is if you would like  a dash or two or three of milk.

Tea holds a special place in Kenyan households and hearts,it is the drink of choice that we give to welcome visitors into our homes and is a sign of the high esteem with which we hold them .

Tea is the preferred beverage o choice in most Kenyan households and many people will swear that their mothers way of preparing tea is the best.There have been broken hearts where tea was involved and it was brewed not quite up to perfection.

Some people do take their tea up a notch by adding spices like tea masala,cardamons,cinnamon or fresh ginger or rosemary.Al little while back I had a recipe for Chai Tea .

Tea drinking is embraced across many cultures in Africa,Europe,Asia the middle East and in the Americas.

Countries like China,Japan,Russia,England,India,Turkey,Egypt and Morocco have tea drinking traditions spanning hundreds of years.You have not really enjoyed tea until you have  attended a Chinese or Japanese tea ceremony where in both of  of these cultures  tea holds a special seat of honor .

The tradition of tea drinking as a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle goes back hundred of years .According to early Buddhist texts,tea was described as a potent medicine for promoting good health,aiding digestion and relieving the  symptoms that accompanied the common cold.

There are many varieties of tea available apart form the black tea,there is green ,white ,herbal  and more recently we have been hearing of purple tea and its benefits.

For a country of tea drinkers like Kenya as well as for anyone who enjoys their tea,are there any benefits to a daily cup of your favorite hot beverage?

Apart from the effects tea has of refreshing and restoring us (I am sure you know a few people who cannot function without their favorite hot beverage),science is just now discovering the health benefits that accompany tea drinking.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,the biggest evidence in support of tea drinking has been attributed to the antioxidants it contains that have been found to improve heart health.

These anti oxidants found in both green and black tea which are different from what we get from fruits have been attributed to have disease fighting capabilities.

The work of antioxidants is to look for free radicals roaming around your body and to get rid of them.These free radicals are the cause of many degenerative diseases and also occur as a result of aging.

Antioxidants work by  detoxifying the body of  these free agents so that they do not cause disease through the damage of body cells.

Countries like Japan and China that have a tea drinking culture reportedly have less incidences of heart disease and some cancers according to John Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y.

Caffeine is the stimulant found in tea as well as coffee is a mental booster ,elevates our moods and gets us started in the morning .Like all good things  to be able to enjoy the benefits of tea it should be taken in moderation.

Drinking more than 3 tea cups(not mugs) of tea is advisable and it should not be given to young children and adolescents as it hinders the absorption of iron which young and growing bodies need lots of in order to grow.

Just out of  curiosity I would love to know just how many cups anyone reading this takes of tea and how best they like it,brewed or instant though I must say instant tea has nothing on brewed tea(I might be biased).

As always we love reading your comments and suggestions,looking forward to seeing you in the comments later.

 

IF YOU REALLY HAVE TO DRINK……

 

 

BEFORE YOU DRINK,EAT (2)

After having been to a couple of places where people take  adult beverages and where I spend a lot of time people watching I have been  struck by a few things.

There are more people drink than are consuming food.

And women are drinking nearly as much or more than men are (sometimes not always).

Drinking on an empty stomach does you no good whether you are a man or a woman  and women are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than men.

First let start with what alcohol does to your body  and let us start by watching this short video.

In many developed countries there are guidelines as to how much alcohol a woman or a man can take in a single sitting.The rest of this article is based on those guidelines.

I borrowed the guidelines from the Center for Addiction and mental health because there are many other guidelines supplied by other bodies and they recommend the same amounts of alcohol for both men and women.Research however has shown that women and men absorb and metabolize alcohol very differently.

If you are going to choose to drink the recommended amounts for women and men are as follows;

Not more than 2 drinks a day for women,10 in a week is the maximum amount.

For men,not more than 4 drinks in a single sitting and not more than 14 in a week.

Women have less water in their bodies than men therefore their absorption rate for alcohol is higher  than men with whom they may be taking a similar amount.

Research has also shown that women suffer more organ damage than men from the effects of too much alcohol intake.You may want to read this report that was done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

When you take alcohol, about 20% of it gets absorbed in the stomach but most of it will get absorbed in  your small intestines .Your body will absorb alcohol faster than it absorbs nutrients and all of this action of absorption of nutrients from food happens in the small intestines.

In the ratio of preference for what your liver will metabolize whether nutrients from food or alcohol,your body will pick alcohol.(Me thinks its because alcohol is a foreign substance and so the body wants to get it out of the system fast,very fast.)

Your liver is where alcohol gets metabolized and it takes an hour for the liver  to process one standard drink of alcohol.A standard drink of alcohol   is equal to a can of beer(5% alcohol),a glass of wine or a shot of liquor or spirit.

It is recommended  not to take more than a drink in the space of an hour, more than this and  your body gets saturated with alcohol and cannot absorb any nutrients from food you take as it is busy metabolizing alcohol.(A good reason to be alternating each drink with water).

What alcohol then does is that it interferes with the way nutrients from food get  absorbed by the body.We have already seen that when taken together with food ,the metabolism of alcohol takes first place before anything else and interferes with how other nutrients from food  get metabolized and absorbed and interferes with an individuals nutritional status.

When alcohol is being metabolized by the body it produces  toxic substances that interfere with  vital body organs like the liver.It is the reason why over consumption of alcohol leads to liver damage which can  affect  metabolism,blood clotting,drug metabolism and other body functions.

Alcohol has no nutritional value whatsoever as it consists  of (mostly)water,pure alcohol(ethanol) and sugars in variable amounts which depends on type of alcoholic beverage.

Alcohol will interfere with your nutrition in two ways.

1.Through insufficient intake of nutrients.

2.Through intake of high fat diet and reduced physical activity it will lead to obesity.

Two nutrients of which alcohol intake affects their absorption and metabolism are proteins and nutrients.

Proteins are used by the body to build and repair tissues and are a major component of every cell in your body  and vitamins play a very major role in your bodily functions-functions such as digestion,metabolism and immunity.

Part of managing alcohol intake as well as its  effects  is drinking responsibly.

1.Eating before drinking and avoiding drinking on an empty stomach.Having a high protein meal at least an hour before drinking is a good idea as well as snacking on something while drinking.

2.Not drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol depending on your gender.

3.Alternating your drinking with water.

4.Keeping track of how much you are drinking.

5.Not drinking alcohol while on medication.

6.Not driving after drinking.

Having heard as well as seen the effects of having people’s drinks spiked I thought I should add these two as well.

7.Do not just sit there drinking fro 5 hours,move around,dance take a walk and do not leave your drink unattended .

8.Go out and drink  with people you know well and trust.

Has this post been helpful,we would love to hear back from you.We love and appreciate feedback.

 

 

YOUR CHILD’S NUTRITION:THE BUILDING BLOCKS

 

monday inspiration (1)

If you were to ask my children what would make a perfect way of spending the weekend if left to themselves,it would be to sit in front of the TV for most of the day .

Do you know other children that are like mine ?

Being a parent,I get my greatest joy by telling them what is good for them in  very few words and more action like switching off the TV and asking them,ordering them outside to go and play.

It would be easier to let them watch TV all day but what fun would there be in that  and what childhood memories am I creating when I am letting them spend the whole day in front of the TV.

I was thinking about the fights we have over the TV over the weekend when I  read in the Saturday Nation that among the top 2 ailments that children over the age of 5 years in Nairobi have is malnutrition.

It took me aback because Nairobi being the capital city should be doing better than that,we seem to live in apparent affluence and food seems to be readily available for most residents of the capital city ,that should result in an above average nutrition status for most children but it does not.

What should we do to stem the rise in the incidences of malnutrition,be it over-nutrition or under nutrition ?

What can we do to stop the increasing number of children weighing in at more than they should?

I hope that this is the start of a conversation of how many more mothers and father can ensure that their children are having more of the right foods and less of the foods that come in cartons and tins.

1.Making healthy eating a lifestyle choice

Over some weekends I accompany the medics team at my church for medical missions around our neighborhood and as a nutritionist  I spend time listening as well as  talking to mothers about nutrition.

Apart from the normal complaint about how fast children get bored with certain foods,it is apparent that most mothers in the capital city no matter their economic status know what is good for their children.They know what their children should be eating and what their bodies need.

The challenge comes in turning the information that we have into  life long lifestyle habits that our children can carry through out their lives .

No matter what stage children are in we can help them form healthier eating habits and we start at home with what we serve.

Start them on healthy eating habits while they are still very young.Let them know the joys of eating food made from fresh ingredients.

Start taking them grocery shopping as early as you possibly can.Let them know how to choose the freshest fruits and vegetables and let them have a feel and look at how fresh really looks like.

“To create really great food,you do not have to make complicated meals,the tastiest foods are the ones made from fresh ingredients.”

A secret to the question as to “how to know  what is fresh ?” is that fresh is always  what is on season and fresh is always cheaper.

Kenya is blessed with an abundance of food,vegetables ,fruits are in plenty and we have no reason not to ensure children are eating at least 2 servings  of fruits and  3 servings of vegetables every day.

Fruits and vegetables are the source of micro nutrients which are essential for the proper functioning of a growing body’s functions.Children with the demands that growth puts on their bodies,we need to make sure they are meeting their dietary requirements.

For many parents who have a problem getting their children to eat fruits and vegetables,a few ideas to try in order to get them to eat more of these foods are .

  • Making fruits are easily available at home,get a bowl which you ensure is always filled with some fruit of some kind.
  • Let the children go shopping with you and let them choose the fruits and vegetables themselves.They are more likely to eat the fruits and vegetables they enjoy .
  • Get creative in how you serve your fruits and vegetables.For vegetables apart from cooking them for short period of time under high heat,try grilling them,serving them in salads sliced or grated.
  • Include fruits and vegetables as a part of every meal. Vegetables come in  such colorful colors hat there would be no excuse not to have them on your plate,they add such lovely color to a meal.
  • Add chopped or blended  fruits to plain yoghurt .
  • Eat fruits rather than blending them to make juice as fruits contain natural sugars and drinking large amounts of juice is likely to lead to a child being overweight because of all the sugar it contains.

2.Letting children play

Children need play as much as they need food.

Play helps children develop physical strength and it is also important as part of healthy brain development.Play is how children learn to interact with the world around them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics in a 2007 paper titled The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds by Kenneth R. Ginsburg had this to say :

Pediatricians should emphasize the advantages of active play and discourage parents from the overuse of passive entertainment (eg, television and computer games)

 

With access to internet connectivity we are seeing fewer children venturing out to play,they are  spending more time on their mobile devices than outside  with other children or even their parents.It is now becoming more common to see children especially those in urban centers who weigh more than they should for their age and height.

Kids need to be more  physically engaged ,this will reduce the incidences of child obesity that are on the rise.Children with a healthy weight have been shown to be healthier,more socially competent as well as more able to concentrate in school.

3.A parent is the best role model

A parent is the best role model of what healthy living should be like.

Children are not very good at following instructions but they are great at being perfect imitators.

When we make healthier choices with what we put on our plates,what we stock in our kitchens our children carry these habits they have watched us practice with them when they grow up and in turn they will influence their own children.

We can change the future of generations to come just by the simple decision we make of what we eat.

Make sure it is the right one.

Was this article helpful,we would love to hear from you.Head over to the comments section with comments or questions about what we just talked about.

 

DO YOU KNOW YOUR GAP?IT’S WHERE EVERYTHING HAPPENS

Life is lived .IN THE GAP (1)

What do you do when you have tried every diet on the planet,even your friends diets and still have not lost weight?

What do you do when the diet and lifestyle you started in January does not work in February?

What do you do when going to the gym becomes a drag and you have stopped trying?

What do you do when you are stuck in the gap between where you are and where you want to be ?

You move forward.

Because life is lived in the gap,where the  challenges and battles to eat healthier every day is a battle between what you feel you want and what your body really needs.

It is lived in the gap where being faithful to your daily exercises is a battle.

You may want to read:WHY YOU ARE NOT LOSING WEIGHT

But let’s go back to the beginning shall we and allow me to tell you about myself.

In order to keep writing,even when I do not post a daily bog post I have to write,in my journal or on a slip of paper or somewhere.Whenever I have kept off writing I have seen my creativity take a slump and it becomes harder each day to write the more I keep off it.

Same thing applies to keeping and staying faithful to the decision to eat healthier as well as exercise,it is hard and it is a choice you have to make every day.

And everyday you wake up to that gap that exists between where you are and where you want to be.That GAP is not an easy thing to wake up to everyday but it is a reminder that there exists within it the opportunity to grow as well as challenge yourself.

Even if you have  tried everything under the sun and you feel  you are  not there yet,do not give up.

That gap you see is a friend,an ally and a  source of  the  energy as well as the motivation to keep going at it,towards your goal.

Now,you may be asking,since you know what your goal is,how do you start towards making this goal a reality,a reality you are aware of everyday and one that keeps you motivated enough to stay the course ?

1.Knowing how you got there.

Real change is achieved when we know where we are and how we got there.

When we understand where we are then we are better prepared to start the journey towards creating the kind of future we would like for ourselves.

Maybe we started having pizza for lunch as well as dinner once too often or it could be that we started  neglecting a regular exercise regime or gave up on the second week of going to the gym when we thought we would die from the muscle aches(muscle aches are actually  a good sign that your muscles  are working as they should).

2.Know what is on your plate every day.

Keeping a food diary for a week of what you eat is a good way of tracking your eating habits.

A food diary will help you see what you are eating more or less off and what you should cut out altogether.You may just find that it is the 4 cups of coffee or tea with sugar that are contributing to all the extra calories your body is storing up as fat.

Maybe it is the extra glasses of wine every weekend that are making it hard to lose the weight .

A food diary is a good way of tracking whatever it is you eat and will give you an idea of how much you are consuming versus what your body really needs.

You will be surprised by what you see after keeping it for at least 2 weeks.

Sharing the details of your food diary with a nutritionist or dietitian will help them create a meal plan that will cater to the kind of lifestyle you are living.Each and every person is different and what diet  works for one person may give very different results to someone else.

By having a diet personalized for you,then you are more likely to stick to it as it incorporates food you can actually eat and not gag over.

Any weight loss program will only be sustainable when you eat food that you enjoy.

3.Knowing what your body needs

In school children are taught the basics of good nutrition ,most people actually know how a good meal should look like. It just seems easier to ignore all the good advice that we know and just eat the food we feel like eating at that particular time.

Every individual is different and a construction worker will not require the same kind of food as someone sitting in the office the whole day.

A woman needs her  food intake  to meet some dietary requirements that a mans body does not require.

The body’s nutritional needs are determined by age, gender,genes,occupation and any medical conditions we may be having.

This is where I would like to challenge anyone reading this to know how your body works and  what your body needs.

When you  know how your body works,what it needs you will know what to give it as fuel in the form of the food you eat.

In case of any medical conditions you may be having with,please see a qualified medical doctor.

4.Know who to seek advice from

The nutrition sector in the country is pretty much unregulated and one should be careful about whom they take advice about weight loss,a change in diet and living healthy from.

Mot public and private hospitals do have resident nutritionists and there are nutritionists like myself who give counselling services to individuals.It is prudent to do some research as well as background checks of people who claim to give out advice on what you should and should not be eating.

And read up as much as you can before you make a visit to your nutritionist or any medical provider.

5.Remember the gap

This gap,this seemingly huge gap that we seem to see before us, that is between where we are and where we want to be is all a matter of perspective.

Always remember that.

That gap can either be the source of a lot of frustration or the starting point towards real change.

Be easy on yourself and celebrate each milestone,even those that seem little,like eating an extra serving of vegetables or fruit or spending an extra half an hour at the gym.

 

When you are grateful for how far you have come ,you are giving yourself the energy and push to keep on running towards the goal of where you want to be.

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We would love to hear your comments and any questions you may have as well.

TURN UP THE HEAT ON YOUR METABOLISM

Metabolism

“What do you do when you metabolism is slow and you want to increase it ?”

One of the surest way to increase your metabolism is through exercise.

Burn more calories by burning  (pun intended) the soles off your gym shoes is a sure fire way to lose weight.

A slow metabolism may be due to lack of physical activity,genes or hyperthyroidism  which is when your thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone and your metabolism slows down.

The thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck and produces the thyroid hormone which helps regulate your metabolism which is the way your body uses energy.

Th thyroid gland uses iodine from your diet to produce its two main hormones that are important for some very important bodily functions like;

  • Body temperature
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Breathing
  • Body temperature
  • Body weight
  • Menstrual cycle …

The two hormones produced by the thyroid are T3 (Triiodothyronineand) T4 (Thyroxine).

The levels of these two hormones in your body should neither be too high nor too low as they regulate how fast or slow your metabolism is.

These two hormones also work together with insulin which is the hormone that tells the body cells to take up the glucose to be used as energy fuel.

See how a slow metabolism affects your weight ?

If you have no underlying medical conditions, becoming more physically active is a great way to boost your metabolism and now thanks to science there are foods that together with regular physical exercise can help increase your metabolism.

Increasing your metabolism means that you burn more calories as you turn your food into energy that keeps your heart beating, your breathing constant ,your body temperature just right   as well as making sure your body functions as it should.All these things are using up energy which comes from the food you eat.

Thanks to one of the blog’s readers Susan,  who asked about how she could increase her metabolism.I thought about all the other readers who without any underlying medical reason may be having the same question and are wondering how to speed up their metabolism.then I should mention and here.

Exercise should be the first point of callas a means to increasing your metabolism but mother nature does provide means and ways with which we can help her along .

It is worth repeating that while our metabolism is affected by our genes and gender , exercising and eating right will go some way in helping us burn some extra more and who would not want that.

1.Do eat Breakfast

Sounds like a no brainer but you will be surprised by the number of people who do not take breakfast because they do not think it is important or even necessary.

By not eating breakfast you set your body into starvation mode and your metabolism slows and starts crawling at a snails pace to conserve energy.

(Yes,your body is that intelligent)

For breakfast try having foods that are slower to digest and leave you feeling fuller for longer so that you are not craving sugary things.

Try whole wheat bread with a vegetable omelette and a cup of tea or coffee with a fruit as a mid morning snack.

2.Do eat iron rich foods

Every month women  lose some amount of blood through their periods and blood contains the red blood cells that are  responsible for carrying oxygen into your body cells.

Remember the class 6 science lessons on the components of blood?

The red blood cells in your body contain Hemoglobin which  carry 70% of the iron in your body and hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen from your lungs to your tissues.n.

If the levels of iron in your body are low,your muscles do not have enough oxygen,you start feeling lethargic and your  body activity slows down.

What to do ?

Eat foods that will  boost the level of iron in your body and aid in its functions.

Great sources of iron are of course  dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli , spinach,kales,peas and beans as well as lean cuts of meat and poultry.

3.Do take dairy

Dairy products like milk and yoghurt are great sources of calcium ,an adult needs about 1000mgs of calcium daily,pregnant and lactating women as well as those over 50 will need more .You can meet your daily requirement of calcium with your breakfast,having a serving of yoghurt and with your tea or coffee.

A glass of milk is equal to 300 mgs of calcium.

Calcium helps metabolize your fat more efficiently and if you are wary of dairy because of the fat it contains there are now brands of milk with a skim version that will give you the calcium without the fat.

4.Do cut back on alcohol

If you drink at least two glasses of wine in a sitting or 2 beers you slow down the process of fat burning by your body as much as 70 %.Instead of having the liver ,the organ in your body at the center of metabolism  turning  the food you take into nutrients that the body can use it instead turns to the  acetate in alcohol as a fuel source.

5.Do take more protein

When paired with exercise  intake of  protein as part of your daily meals will help increase your muscles and muscles burn more calories than fat.

Having protein in your meals will help curb hunger as well as help you maintain a healthy weight and your body does burn more calories by digesting it.

Great sources of protein are beans,eggs,milk,chicken,fish and peanut butter.

6.Do sleep for at least 8 hours

Sleep deprivation slows down your metabolism and makes your body more sluggish which means you are less likely to engage in any physical activity.A sluggish body equals a slowed metabolism.

Make sure you get at least 7- hours sleep daily and you will wake up hale and hearty ready to tackle the challenges of the day .You will see and find that you are more active after a good nights sleep than otherwise.

Lack of sleep has also been linked to the hunger hormone ghrelin which stimulates appetite,an increased food intake and fat storage.

 

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