Health Tips
Stay healthy by reading wellness advice from our top specialists.

Peanuts have been enjoyed during winters along with jaggery or gur in India for ages now. Roasted groundnuts are cracked open from their shells and popped into our mouths as we happily snuggle next to our space heaters. Peanuts can, however, be enjoyed during any season as a snack. The delightful and delicious peanut is technically a legume, but is consumed like a nut. It is added to a number of dishes to make them crunchy, including poha, pulav and even desserts like halwa. But peanuts have become notoriously unpopular, after health freaks started shunning them for being fat-rich. It is believed that eating peanuts daily may lead to weight gain. Celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar recently attempted to bust this myth by posting about the humble peanut on her Instagram page.

Diwekar, who has an impressive list of clientele including Bollywood actors Kareena Kapoor and Varun Dhawan, has been a staunch advocate for all local and desi foods, which she firmly believes we should be eating more of. In her latest Instagram post, Diwekar addressed one of the most common dilemmas of modern nutrition- is peanut butter healthier than eating peanuts? Rujuta Diwekar lamented the fact that people are opting for peanut butter more than peanuts and claims that the common belief that the former is healthier than the latter is a misconception promoted by manufacturers.

She wrote, "The priceless peanuts. A friend for all seasons, the peanut can be turned into a chutney, eaten roasted or boiled with namak or powdered to garnish your bhaji and koshimbirs. And of course squeezed into oil too. It's rich in proteins, essential fats and fat soluble vitamins. Essentially, it's a power house of nutrients for anyone who wants a strong heart, flawless skin or a good vibe." (sic)

Rujuta Diwekar talked about how biscuits have replaced the desi peanuts as a chai-time snack and have been packaged as peanut butter that is being promoted as healthy and sold to us as for a profit. She said, "As long as you eat the peanut butter we sell you as a morning snack, or as a pre-workout meal. Don't eat the nut straight, that way the farmer and the small trader will make some money, that's no good, that's fattening. Buy from us, we will process and package it as the ultimate fat burning agent, because the one thing that must get fat is the food industry profit." She added by saying that we should turn back to eating peanuts to reap their benefits.

Talk about nutrition and carbs, proteins and fats come to the mind immediately. However, these are the macronutrients and are not the only group of nutrients. More important are the micronutrients, comprising of a group of very important substances known as minerals and vitamins.

Read on to know the most important vitamins and minerals that your body needs and the role they play:

- Vitamin A: Essential for healthy eyes, general growth and development and glowing skin. These are found in carrots, sweet potatoes and oranges.

- Vitamin B: These are essential for iron absorption, improved immunity and production of energy. Whole grains and unprocessed foods and vegetables like lentils, potatoes, bananas, yeast and molasses are good sources of these vitamins.

- Vitamin C: Required for iron absorption, blood clotting, elastic skin and antioxidant function. Found in good amounts in citrus fruits, guava, kiwi, grapefruits, strawberries, etc.

- Vitamin D: Extremely important for bone development, these are found in eggs, mushrooms and fish.

- Vitamin E: It improves blood circulation and reduces free radicals, which is essential for cancer protection. Almonds, nuts, tomatoes and sunflower seeds are good sources of vitamin E.

- Vitamin K: It is very essential for the process of blood coagulation. These are found in spinach, broccoli, kale and other green vegetables.

- Iron: Very essential ingredient for blood formation and muscle building. Clams, oysters, soybeans, lentils and spinach are great sources of iron.

- Calcium: Most important ingredient, as it helps in the formation of teeth and bones. Dairy products, tofu and cheese are very good sources.

- Zinc: A key ingredient essential for overall growth, immunity and fertility. Spinach, beans, oysters and dark chocolate carry a good amount of Zinc.

- Folic acid: Essential for iron absorption, cell regeneration, and in pregnancy for healthy development of the baby. Green leafy vegetables, asparagus, peas, seeds, nuts, lentils, beets, corn, etc. are good sources.

Trace minerals like iodine, manganese, copper, fluoride, selenium and chromium are also essential but in very small amounts. While these are not the only essential vitamins and minerals, these are the most important ones. The quantities of these substances required on a daily basis are very small, but critical for functions listed above. In addition, some of them also help in releasing free radicals, which provide protection against cancer and chronic inflammation. This helps prevent chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

An important point to consider is while there are multiple supplements available in the market today to make sure you get all of these nutrients, try to eat a wholesome meal and get these through natural sources to the maximum extent possible. The natural foods are the best source, and supplements should be used only when these cannot be obtained naturally.

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, which is essential for various functions and it is not produced or stored by the body, so it is important that the food contains adequate amount of it. It plays a vital role in heart, eyes, skin, and prenatal health and immunity. Long-term non-availability of vitamin C can lead to various symptoms, which though are not immediately threatening, can turn dangerous in the long run.

1. Bruised skin: Easy bruising is one of the early symptoms of vitamin C deficiency. There could be capillaries which appear superficial and have an increased tendency to bruise and bleed. There could also be unexplained reddish purple marks on the skin in people who have low levels of vitamin C.

2. Bleeding gums: Another major indicator of vitamin C deficiency is swollen gums that tend to bleed easily. This again is related to their role in collagen formation and if not identified and treated in the early phases, it can lead to severe gum inflammation, periodontal disease, and even loss of teeth.

3. Slow wound healing: Vitamin C has an important role to play in connective tissue formation, and if there is less of vitamin C in the body, collagen formation is delayed. This can lead to prolonged and delayed healing of wounds, even simple ones like cuts and bruises. The added role of vitamin C as an immune booster also leads to reduced healing when there is vitamin C deficiency.

4. Nosebleeds: Frequent unexplained nosebleeds is another sign of vitamin C deficiency. Reduced amounts of vitamin C make the capillaries fragile causing them to bleed easily.

5. Dry skin: While weather does determine if the skin is dry or normal, vitamin C also does. The decreased levels of collagen can lead to an unhealthy skin which can turn red and can be dry and can also lead to keratosis pilaris, which is an accumulation of melanin pigments in the skin. Good amounts of vitamin D helps as a good anti-ageing agent and reduces wrinkles and retains moisture. It also has sun protective effects and antioxidant properties.

6. Unexplained weight gain: Vitamin C plays a vital role in fat metabolism and therefore deficiency leads to weight accumulation, especially around the waist. It helps oxidise fat and so helps in weight regulation.

7. Lowered immunity: Vitamin C deficiency affects the body’s susceptibility to infections, making it prone to more severe and frequent infections. People catching a common cold very frequently could be suffering from vitamin C deficiency.

8. Emotional health: Vitamin C is also a mood regulator, so inadequate amount can lead to depression. Try eating a juicy orange and see yourself feeling better!

While we all believe that green leafy vegetables are to be included as part of our regime, not all of us know in detail the amount of goodness that comes packed in these. The first thing that comes to mind at the thought of leafy green vegetable is the tender, green, luscious looking spinach. However, not all of us know the amount of goodness and nutrition it stores within in. Spinach, though appears to be delicate and light, puts up a strong fight against inflammatory problems, stress-related problems, cardiovascular issues, bone diseases and various types of cancers.

1) Minerals and vitamins - Fresh green spinach is loaded with a multitude of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C and K. Major minerals contained in spinach include manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, phosphorus and selenium.

2) Anti-cancer benefits - The antioxidant properties in spinach come from carotenoids and flavonoids, and it is loaded with about a dozen flavonoid compounds, thereby getting a strong anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. Spinach helps in reducing inflammation in the stomach lining and other areas, thereby reducing the chances of intestinal cancer. It also provides significant protection against prostate cancer. The incidence of skin papilloma is also reduced with increased consumption of spinach.

3) Anti-inflammatory benefits - The good amounts of vitamin C, E, A, zinc, manganese, selenium are beneficial for reducing stress and thereby reduce incidence of heart attacks and high blood pressure. Spinach also is rich in protein and contains some peptides (small protein units) which inhibit angiotensin-converting enzyme that is responsible for increasing blood pressure. This is another way how spinach helps lower blood pressure.

4) Eyes - Lutein and zeaxanthin are two carotenoids which protect the eyes against cataracts and macular degeneration.

5) Bones - The bacteria in the stomach convert vitamin K1 in spinach to vitamin K2. While Vitamin K1 supports the bones by reducing the number of osteoclasts (cells that break down bones), vitamin K2 activates osteocalcin, which promotes bone formation. The high levels of calcium and magnesium only make it even better for the bones.

6) Digestive system - With the good fiber content it has, there are reduced instances of constipation. The anti-inflammatory property helps keep the stomach lining healthy and less prone to ulcers. It also helps flush out toxins and keeps the body alkaline, which helps beat stress.

7) Skin - The various minerals and vitamins in spinach reduce the chances of skin infections and also add to the glow of the skin. The itchiness and dryness of the skin also are reduced with regular use of spinach.

So, the next time you are thinking which is one thing you should pick up when you go to the market - think spinach. Popeye did, and it sure did help him!!

Whenever you peruse through snack options in a store, looking for a fulfilling yet healthy option often turns out to be really challenging. This is where you might consider nuts, such as almonds or walnuts. They are healthy snacking options with rich reserves of protein, fibre, and energy.

However, even in the choice between almonds and walnuts, there are certain things which need to be kept in mind.

Energy content: Almonds contain 14 grams worth of fat, and 164 calories whereas walnuts contain approximately 18 grams of fat but give 185 calories. Thus, we find that walnuts contain a slightly higher amount of fat than almonds, but provide more energy in the form of calories.

Protein content: Almonds and walnuts are both protein powerhouses - containing 13% and 9% of protein content respectively. Thus, both these nuts are great sources of protein.

Mineral content: Both almonds and walnuts are rich in various kinds of minerals. When it comes to Iron, which is essential for muscle health and blood formation, both nuts contain very similar amounts (approx 5%). Almonds pack 19% magnesium - essential for strong bones, compared to the 11% in walnuts. Walnuts, however, have very high amounts of copper (50%) and manganese (54%) which prove to be useful in reducing symptoms of PMS as compared to almonds.

Fibre content: Fiber,which plays a vital role in completing the process of digestion, is another component that these nuts pack healthy amounts of. Almonds contain 16% fiber whereas walnuts have 8%.

Vitamin content: While walnuts contain 12% Vitamin B6, compared to the 3% in almonds, the real point of difference between these two highly healthy nuts is in their content of Vitamin E - essential for healthy skin and eyes. Almonds contain almost 48% of it, whereas walnuts contain only about 2% of the same.

Thus, we get a fair idea about the high nutritional content for both these nuts. They are both essential, especially if they can be incorporated into our diets in the correct proportions.

Dr. Kshitija Kulkarni
Dr. Kshitija Kulkarni
MS/MD - Ayurveda, Yoga and Ayurveda Panchakarma, 4 yrs, Pune
Dr. Devyani S. Ahire
Dr. Devyani S. Ahire
BDS, Dentist, 4 yrs, Pune
Dr. Akash Grampurohit
Dr. Akash Grampurohit
MS - Allopathy, ENT Specialist, Dharwad
Dr. Pramod Thombare
Dr. Pramod Thombare
BAMS, Ayurveda Yoga and Ayurveda, 7 yrs, Pune
Dr. Bhushan Khedkar
Dr. Bhushan Khedkar
Specialist, Dietitian dietetics, 8 yrs, Pune
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