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

Millets have lately been hailed as superfood grains, which are great healthy alternatives to refined flours. Millets are a group of small-seeded grasses, which have widely been consumed as food grains since ancient times. In India, millets have always enjoyed a revered position, with a number of flatbreads, desserts and savouries made from them. Ragi or finger millet is one such millet that has been used abundantly to make healthy, fibre-rich and protein-rich recipes that may be especially beneficial for those suffering from high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Ragi is also replete with many vital minerals and vitamins. Ragi can be cooked in numerous ways, including in rotis or parathas, dosas and even desserts like ladoos, burfis and even cakes and muffins. But did you know that you can even drink ragi? A South-Indian favourite made from cooked sprouted ragi flour is the ambali or the savoury ragi malt.

Ambali or ragi malt is a vegetarian summer drink or porridge that is prepared in Karnataka. The drink is prepared by cooking ragi flour in water and then cooling it down and then adding diluted beaten curd or buttermilk to it, along with cumin powder, salt and chopped onions. The drink is topped with a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves.

Health Benefits Of Ragi Malt: Let's take a look at some of the ways that ragi ambali or ragi malt may benefit you-
1. Weight Loss: Ragi malt is filling due to the presence of the high-fibre and high-protein ragi or finger millets. It may keep you from craving unhealthy snacks.

2. Cooling for summers: The presence of the cooling buttermilk makes ambali a great summer drink.

3. Rich in calcium: Ragi grain is rich in calcium, which is essential for the health of the bones and teeth. The presence of buttermilk also makes this drink calcium-rich.

4. Fights blood cholesterol: Ragi, being rich in fibre or complex carbohydrates, may help in fighting cholesterol in blood, effectively offering heart-healthy benefits.

5. Fights Iron Deficiency: Sprouted ragi may help fight anaemia, because once ragi is allowed to sprout, its Vitamin C levels increase, which in turn may increase iron absorption.

How To Make Ragi Malt or Ambali At Home
Ragi malt may be sweet or savoury, depending on how you like it. You may also flavour sweet ragi malt with chocolate or vanilla protein powder to make it more interesting. But if you want to go the traditional way then you can simply cook the sprouted ragi flour in water until the colour of the flour darkens. Cool the cooked flour batter down and then add the buttermilk along with cumin, salt and onions. You can top it with a tempering of curry leaves and mustard seeds. You can simply add mustard seeds to a little oil until they begin to sputter and then add fresh, cleaned curry leaves. Pour this tempering over the ambali and enjoy. You can adjust the consistency of the drink, depending on how thick or runny it looks.

Banana is omnipresent in almost all households across the globe as a staple fruit. Its ubiquity can be put down to its great taste. It is one of the sweetest fruits available throughout the year. It can be eaten as is or can be used as a base for milkshakes, smoothies, desserts, pancakes and the list goes on. Banana has largely been stereotyped as a weight-gain-causing food while the fact is that this humble fruit may greatly help in weight loss. Bananas contain good carbohydrates in the form of resistant starch and are low in fats, which create an optimum environment for burning excessive calories. Banana is a great source of energy, which replenishes the body with energy that is lost during exercise, sports or other physical activity. According to the book, 'Healing Foods' by DK Publishing House, "The fruit contains both quick-release glucose and slow-release fructose, so it supplies energy in two ways."

Banana also has high fibre content that helps in smooth bowel movements and improves digestion. As fibre takes a longer time to digest, it keeps the body satiated for more time.

Banana Nutrition Facts
Dietician & Nutritionist, Dr. Sunali Sharma, informs, "A medium-sized banana contains 27 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams dietary fibre, 14 grams of natural sugar, just 105 calories, and many essential micro-nutrients. The fruit also increases the metabolism rate of the body and makes the stomach feel full for a longer time, preventing unhealthy snacking in between the meals."

Bananas are loaded with potassium, which controls water retention in the body and reduces bloating.

So how many bananas can be consumed per day?
To round it off, bananas can be beneficial for both weight loss and weight gain. What matters is the quantity you consume. As per the USDA guidelines, you should consume two cups of fruits per day, which amounts to two big bananas. Under normal circumstances, two bananas are safe to be consumed.

However, if you are on a weight loss diet, Dr. Sunali Sharma suggests eating only one medium-sized or 5" banana a day. Also, it should be ideally eaten as a pre or post-workout meal, as it will build up stamina and will help the body recover after a rigorous physical activity.

Nutritious foods are good for health but too much of a particular nutrient can prove to be just the opposite. Bananas are rich in carbohydrates, but too much of it will lead to digestion problems, which in turn can cause weight gain. Also, banana is a satiating food and too much of it will leave little room for other foods that are rich in nutrients that are lacking in banana; for instance, proteins. Proteins are an indispensable part of weight loss diet.

So if you want to lose weight in a healthy way, do not give up on bananas. Instead, limit its consumption to one, not-too-large piece a day and let its individual characteristics work its way to assist you in your fitness journey.

Low-carb diets are all the rage nowadays, promising a number of health benefits from weight loss to blood sugar control etc. A new study has now shown that low-carbohydrate diets may have benefits for people who are at risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, even if there is no weight loss. The study indicated that low-carb diets may help reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome, even if they don't lose any weight by following these diets. The study was conducted by researchers at the Ohio State University in the United States of America, with the purpose of knowing what happens to obese patients of metabolic syndrome, if they follow a diet that restricts consumption of carbohydrates.

The study titled, "Dietary carbohydrate restriction improves metabolic syndrome independent of weight loss" was published in JCI (Journal of Clinical Investigation). Metabolic syndrome patients are at elevated risk of diabetes and it is also linked with obesity and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. For the study, researchers looked at 16 men and women with metabolic syndrome- a cluster of factors which exposes people to higher risks of heart diseases and stroke. High BP, blood sugar and increased body fat, high levels of triglycerides and low levels of good cholesterol, are just some of the factors that may contribute to metabolic syndrome.

For the study, the participants followed a low carb diet, which was designed in a way to reduce carb intake, while keeping the number of calories consistent, so as to not affect the participants' weights. After four weeks of following a low-carb diet, the researchers observed a reduction in symptoms of metabolic syndrome in half the participants. The journal study report said, "Despite maintaining body mass, low-carbohydrate (LC) intake enhanced fat oxidation and was more effective in reversing MetS, especially high triglycerides, low HDL-C, and the small LDL subclass phenotype.

Carbohydrate restriction also improved abnormal fatty acid composition, an emerging MetS feature. Despite containing 2.5 times more saturated fat than the high-carbohydrate diet, an LC diet decreased plasma total saturated fat and palmitoleate and increased arachidonate."

Losing weight isn't as easy as it seems, especially if you want to maintain a healthy mind and body, while doing so. There are no short cuts in a healthy lifestyle, which is why health experts have always warned against following fad diets that are extremely calorie-restrictive in nature. These fads may harm your health in the long term and this is why healthy weight loss may be difficult to achieve, but it is worth investing your time and energy in. Bringing your body weight down to a healthy level has a number of health benefits that have been proven by researchers time and again. From better heart health to reduction in risks of lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes and even reduced risk of mortality- healthy weight loss may improve the quality of your life in a number of ways.

To achieve weight loss in a healthy manner, you need to follow a balanced diet, which is a fact repeated ad nauseam by health experts and nutrition scientists around the world. Research has time and again pointed at certain dietary habit, which can get you the results you're looking for and help you achieve weight loss, albeit slowly but effectively.

Here are some diet-related weight loss facts that are also backed by science:
1. Diet May Be More Important Than Exercise
If you want to lose weight, exercise alone cannot help you. You will have to follow a strict diet as well. Eating a healthy diet is important to make sure you're getting enough nutrients to work out properly. These include proteins, good carbs, healthy fats as well as minerals and vitamins, which are important for boosting your exercising abilities as well as help muscle recovery.

2. Fruits and Vegetables Are Crucial
A number of health agencies have defined the portions of fruits and vegetables that one should consume per day, in order to lead a healthy life. Fruits and vegetables are important for weight loss as well- they deliver a powerful punch of fibre and nutrition in very few calories. Fruits and vegetables are filling, due to the high-fibre content and keep you from snacking more often or eating unhealthy food. Swapping your favourite junk foods with veggies can also leave you feeling more energetic for workouts.

3. Cutting Back On Processed Sugar Works
When it comes to losing weight, sugar can be a hindrance. Added sugar in your diet can sneak in through dips and ketchup, packaged fruit juices, cold drinks, cakes and cookies etc. This can set your weight loss goals back and multiple studies have shown that these are associated with higher risks of obesity, diabetes etc.

4. Not All Carbs Are Bad
People often think that cutting out carbs is a weight loss solution, and although low-carb diets may give you results, following them may not always be a good idea. Some studies have shown that while low-carb diets can help in weight loss, they may also increase risks of several health complications. Including high quality or complex carbs in your diet is not just good for your weight, but is also important to maintain a healthy mind and body.

5. Drink Water
Drinking water at certain times during the day and in adequate amounts daily, can give your weight loss goals a boost. Drinking water before meals, for example, can make you eat lesser. Keeping yourself hydrated can boost metabolism, helping your body burn calories more effectively.

It's important to set realistic goals for yourself and remember that only if you give your body enough time and follow a healthy diet persistently, you will be rewarded with a healthy and fit body.

Nuts are highly nutritious and are replete with countless health-benefiting properties. They are rich in healthy fats and fibre and are a powerhouse of energy. Having a handful of nuts everyday can boost bodily health in a number of ways. Walnuts, for their nutrient-rich profile, could be beneficial for you, especially if you are looking to lose some weight. But how can walnuts, which contain fats in large quantities, be helpful in shedding fat? You may ask. The fats present in walnuts are good fats that aid in weight loss rather than wrecking it.

Apart from various other benefits, walnuts are advised to be eaten if you are watching your waistline. Let's see how walnuts can help in shedding off excessive kilos.

Why Walnuts Are Good For Weight Loss?

1. Unlike other nuts with monounsaturated fats, walnuts contain high levels of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), which are healthy fats that keep cholesterol in check and promote overall wellness of the body.

2. Alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA (a form of omega-3 fatty acids) present in walnuts are known to promote heart health and prompts the body to burn fat quickly.

3. It is believed that walnuts stimulate the right insula - a region in the brain - that regulates appetite and controls food cravings.

4. A study published in the journal Nutrients claims that people can manage their weight in a better way if they eat around 300 calories of walnuts regularly.

5. The same study suggests that a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) lowers down the level of a hormone called ghrelin, which signals the body to feel hungry.

6. Eating walnuts gives rise to the quantity of peptide YY (PYY), a hormone that increases satiety and makes the stomach feel full for a longer time.

7. An antioxidant compound called ellagic acid reduces inflammation and keeps the gut healthy and running smoothly. This leads to improved metabolism rate, which in turn, eliminates extra calories and fat faster.

The combination of powerful nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, omega-3 fats, proteins, antioxidants, plant sterols, manganese and copper, found in walnuts, fuels the body with sufficient nourishment and keeps hunger pangs away. All in all, walnut is an all-encompassing food and consuming a bunch of walnuts every day may help you meet your weight loss goals.

MS/MD - Ayurveda, Infertility Specialist Spinal Pain Specialist, 3 yrs, Pune
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Dr. Amar Kamble
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