In a family, the mom might be blessed with a fit body, the dad might suffer from occasional health problems and your little bro is a health champ but you are the odd one out-repeatedly being a victim of cold, indigestion or even frequent pain in your hands and legs. You all eat the same diet and follow the same lifestyle but what makes you different from others. Have you ever wondered? It’s your immune system maybe that’s making you suffer relentlessly! A healthy immune system is not a ticket to only good health but it increases every chance that your body is safe and protected against health problems. The idea sounds superb but practically it has not been very successful to achieve mainly because the immune system is after all a ‘system’ and not a single entity. It needs excellent coordination but researchers are still not completely aware of the interconnectedness of the immune system. We talk about lifestyle changes that could better your immunity but there have not been direct scientific evidences linking both. Researchers are also focusing on other factors such as diet, exercise, age and other factors that could improve immunity which makes us believe that enhancing our overall general health is a good way to start.
Nourish your Life with a Disciplined Lifestyle
Protect your health by preventing the intrusion of health problems by following a disciplined lifestyle. Maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, sleep well, minimize stress, drink alcohol in moderation, avoid smoking, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and stay hygienic to promote better functioning of your body which includes the immune system as well. For helping you with nutrient intakes we have listed some of the highly reliable foods that help in protecting your body by playing an imminent role in your immunity.
Vitamins: Vitamins are great among which vitamin C, B6 and E work wonders on the body. Vitamin C is special in the sense that besides being one of the biggest immunity boosters, absence of it can make you prone to getting sick. Besides the ever-popular oranges vitamin C is available aplenty in foods such as broccoli, kale, spinach, bell peppers, strawberries, tangerines and grapefruit that you might never need a supplement to fulfil vitamin C requirements when you ensure regular intake of vitamin C-rich foods. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant present in foods such as nuts, seeds and spinach that helps the body to fight off infection. Vitamin B6 facilitates biochemical reactions in the immune system. It is present in foods such as chicken and cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, etc.) and also found in green vegetables and chickpeas.
Proteins that include both plant- and animal-based proteins such as eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, chicken, nuts, seafood, beans and lentils.
Probiotics that have become popular in recent times for their major role in promoting the growth of good bacteria in the gut to promote immunity and overall health. Fermented foods such as kimchi and dairy products such as yogurt are rich in these probiotics. The demand for fermented foods is growing and for a list of all the different types of these foods and their role in body health please visit www.firsteatright.com.
Zinc found in both plant (wheatgerm, beans, nuts and tofu) and animal source as non-heme and heme respectively but the ones found in animal sources (beef and seafood) are more readily absorbed.
Beta carotene that’s found in plant sources such as carrots, spinach broccoli, mango, tomatoes and sweet potatoes
Eat a well-balanced diet composed of nutrients, include at least 5-7 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet, lead a disciplined lifestyle that involves optimal activity, get adequate sleep and minimize stress for a healthy immune system. Stress can damage your health so badly and it all starts with disruption of your immune system. Curb stress from spoiling your life by engaging in meditation, listening to songs, dancing, doing physical activity or even shopping (occasionally, otherwise the expenses incurred would make you stressed too :D). Above all, sleep well refraining from technology and gadgets at least an hour before going to bed. Adults are required to sleep between 7-9 hours a day and kids between 8-14 hours a day depending on their age. Ageing decreases our immunity power. People tend to eat less and include less variety of foods that can lead to micronutrient malnutrition and it still remains questionable whether supplements can compensate for the deficiency. Supplements might be useful in providing your body with the essential nutrients but they might also lead to side effects. The best way to stay healthy is to replenish nutrient requirements with nourishing food items.
You’ve been looking forward to this birthday treat since a month-it’s happening in your favorite eatery that offers a variety of cuisines and delicacies. Choosing a la carte items at such places is a challenge as you are tempted to choose many varieties but when you go for a buffet its beyond imagination. Overloaded with choices we fill our tummies with as much food as possible to satisfy our taste buds and have the money’s worth! Once back home, all the happiness vanishes and we feel miserable after the meal with all the fats, sugars, salt and carbs making fun of us. Our body feels heavy and the stomach makes its presence felt very much by causing discomfort. The same experience could be possible by eating a bagful of your favorite potato wafers sitting in front of the television or devouring creamy pasta at the café. ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’ so, it is indeed necessary that you need to face the consequences of eating too much food in the form of bloating.
Often you feel that your tummy has swollen and you even joke that it might burst anytime due to overindulgence in tasty food-that’s bloating and it can cause ample discomfort to your body. We all know that overeating is one major cause for this but there are also other reasons such as sleeping late, eating too much junk, drinking soda or eating too much salt that can lead to this discomfort.
Optimizing Sodium Intake to Avoid Gastrointestinal Complaints
Too much sodium intake leads to water retention in the body resulting in bloating. Our present lifestyle promotes the excess intake of sodium in the form of processed foods that are overloaded with sodium-there are even some foods that are not salty but are full of sodium. Bloating is one of the leading gastrointestinal complaints worldwide which could become worse when people follow a high-fibre diet. A build-up of excess gas in the gut is because of gas-producing gut bacteria breaking down fibre. But fibre is good for health and lowering fibre levels are not recommended. What’s possible is to decrease sodium intakes without compromising on fibre. We have moderate research on this and the study by Mueller et al. was the first to examine sodium as a cause of bloating in both, low-fibre and high-fibre diets.
A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology shows that high-fibre DASH diet increased bloating among study participants in comparison to a low-fibre control diet. Re-analysing data from a clinical trial conducted more than 2 decades ago it was evident that high sodium intake increased bloating among trial participants. The DASH diet was tested against a low-fibre control diet against three levels of sodium. DASH diet includes intake of fruits, vegetables and nuts-for more details about this diet please visit www.firsteatright.com. All the 412 participants in the trial had high BP at the start of the trial of which 36.7% of them suffered from bloating. After consuming the high-fibre DASH diet the risk of bloating increased by 41% compared to the low-fibre control diet-the effect was pronounced in men compared to women. Comparison of sodium intake between the two diets (highest level of sodium vs lowest) showed that high-sodium version of the diet increased risk of bloating by about 27% compared to the low-sodium version. This shows that reducing sodium consumption in foods might help people reduce bloating and also serve to be useful in maintaining a high-fibre diet.
Besides, too much sodium also leads to couple of other health problems such as hypertension but cutting down the consumption of salt completely is also not advisable as we need salt to maintain water balance in the body. Also, food doesn’t taste good and cannot be eaten without any salt. So, eliminate excess consumption and maintain moderate levels by choosing the right foods and exercising (sweat contains sodium and exercise brings upon sweat).
We get a glimpse of only the end product and the actual chances of seeing and learning what goes in between are almost negligible. But right from sowing and harvesting to packing and transporting food safety is extremely integral to avoid impending dangers or food-related risks. This is ensured with the help of different processes such as canning, freezing, drying, irradiation and pasteurization. All of these methods strive in their own way to safeguard the food and protect it from bacteria that might cause food poisoning. Each of the methods are explained in detail below:
This is one of the best ways to preserve shelf life until the container is sealed and intact without any hampering. Canned veggies, fruits, tuna or fish are sure occupants of our kitchen cabinets whose nutrients are preserved as good as the fresh ones until the can is in good condition. Before any food is canned it is washed and peeled to remove pesticide residues, the can is sterilized and the food is finally cooked at a high temperature to destroy bacteria and stored inside the can. There are minimum chances that nutrients might be lost while cooking at high temperature and the nutritive value of the canned food depends on how you choose them-don’t go for veggies that are canned using salt or fruits that are dipped in sugar syrup.
While freezing is a great option for storing veggies, meat and fish its highly disruptive to freeze eggs encased in shells and canned foods. Freezing is a way of storing food for as long as you want when the only downside is the quality of the food that gets impacted. This is a method which stores food at a temperature which doesn’t make way for the growth of harmful microorganisms, between 40˚F and 140˚F. Both, the nutrients and the quality of the foods remain intact for a longer time period in freezing than in any other processing method.
We have seen our grandmothers dry many foods in our verandas and I believe this is the oldest method of preserving food. Here, the moisture content is removed and the food is stored safely without the need for any refrigeration. Fruits, veggies, fish, meat, nuts and beans are mostly stored using this process. Bacteria thrive on water and when moisture is removed from these foods there is no scope for the bacteria to grow or exist. Once dried, these foods stay good at room temperature. Sometimes, we use preservatives such as salt to safeguard the foods depending on the type of food that we dry.
The very word brings to our mind a glass of pure white milk. Pasteurization is a process that’s used to heat milk (predominantly), juice and eggs to a high enough temperature such that all the harmful bacteria and enzymes that can spoil the food are killed outright. While unpasteurized foods are not good for any of us some people like pregnant women, young children, older adults and those with a weakened immune system must never ever consume any of it as this increases the risk of food poisoning.
Foods such as fruits, vegetables, spices, eggs, seafood and meats use radiant energy to prevent spoiling of food and kill any pathogens that might cause food poisoning.
All these methods are sure-shot ways to keep our food safe but we should never compromise on our way of cooking and handling the foods. The methods to keep food safe while cooking too are equally important to avoid food poisoning issues. For a detailed list of these methods and how to implement them please visit www.firsteatright.com.
50% of parents are dads but still 99% of research on parenting focuses solely on the mothers! This is indeed frustrating and depressing for the dads who are trying to engage themselves in as much childcare as possible to the extent that many of them are even ready to become stay-at-home fathers to devote their entire attention to the child. Gone are the days when mothers held sole responsibility for bringing up children, teaching them good behaviour, attending to their educational needs and tracking their progress in life while a dad’s primary aim was to provide strong monetary support to ensure that his family’s needs are met. How many of you remember the days when 80s and 90s kids roamed around the streets wearing t-shirts with a caption stating “MY DAD IS MY ATM”? Now, the situation has progressed or even been reversed such that moms love providing kids with money while dads take pleasure in keeping their young ones happy and content showering them with love and affection. The idea of a ‘good father’ has seen a stupendous change over the decades and dads these days are supported for being sensitive, caring and attached. Researchers have now started showing genuine interest in the role played by a dad in his child’s life and how he can contribute towards well-being of the kid.
Celebrating the Birth of the Kid: Society’s Clause on Male Gender
Maternity leaves and the politics behind them have been unending and it has been only during recent years that some blessed women have started enjoying increased maternity leaves. Paternity leaves have never been a topic of concern and dads were never expected to take leave and stay at home with the wife and child. That’s how the male gender has been groomed by their parents! Guys availing paternity leaves might be looked down as being too emotional or it is even seen as a sign of emasculation. In Australia, only one dad of every 500 moms avail this leave, in the UK 40% dads choose not to avail the leave and in the US 76% men take lesser than a week’s time off after the baby is born. But if you are curious on what’s so important about the paternity leave then you are in for a surprise!
Research tells us that fathers are happier around their kids when it comes to childcare and that’s mainly because of the different roles played by both the mum and dad in the child’s development. We might be happy that dads these days come forward to offer childcare but we don’t see many of them changing their kid’s nappies or putting them to bed. It’s mostly the mums who do such work while dads enjoy playing outside with kids or taking them around. Paternity leaves help mums take some time off their stressful routine, help the dad establish an emotional connect with the child, learn all aspects of childcare including changing nappies and also gives the woman much more strength and a positive feel to return to work and excel. Dads who take paternity leaves experience more satisfaction as they get more time to spend with their kids.
The Fruits of Increased Father-Child Time
“Daddy only” time has a significant positive impact on the baby as the child connects emotionally well with the dad and dads too experience a hormonal boost when caring for their child. Research shows that babies with emotionally engaged dads show better mental development as toddlers and are less likely to suffer from mental problems later in life compared to other babies. In older kids too, those whose fathers display emotional support are more satisfied in life and also express better relationships with teachers and other kids at school.
Kids whose dads are involved right from birth display better cognitive skills and experienced fewer behavioral difficulties. Dads who take up paternity leave develop parenting instincts as good as the mums (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/10/want-better-dads-happier-mums-and-healthier-kids-make-men-take-paternity-leave). Its even been shown that the more time working fathers spend time with children likelier they are to get more satisfaction on the job and less desire they have to shift to another organization. Men spending more time with their kids feel better about their jobs (https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2015/01/12/the-more-time-dads-spend-with-their-kids-the-happier-they-are-at-work/#37311db1cc3b).
Its also been observed that parenthood brings about increased well-being of dads compared to moms. Fathers experience elevated levels of well-being, satisfaction, competence, autonomy and uplift compared to mothers and other men without children. Men also were found to be happy caring for their kids compared to performing other daily activities. Parental leave helps dads take up more childcare activity and this helps improve the well-being of the mother too who always has the notion that there is an uneven allocation of labour between the two genders and this is in fact true. It is time that men around the world start taking Finland as an example, the only country where fathers spend more time (an average of 8 minutes more daily) with kids than mothers.
Every dad today wishes to spend more time with his kids, is ready to opt for flexi work timings, work from home jobs and even compromise on work time to be happy with his baby. By doing this, he is offering more scope for the mother to focus on her job that gives her satisfaction and a sense of completeness. There are few fathers who still believe that it’s a mother’s job to take care of the kids! Parents are looking out for a work-life balance that needs to be understood by the employer as well to reap greater benefits from his employees.
Dds, you are heading towards the right path by wanting to spend more time with your newborn and young kids which makes you happier and satisfied in life. Cheers to all the dads who love parenting and are supportive to their spouses sharing childcare jobs. It doesn’t stop with providing financial support but has to be extended to emotional support and physical presence as well.
Parenting is More Likely to Make you Happy if You’re a Man: https://psmag.com/social-justice/parenthood-more-likely-to-make-you-happy-if-youre-a-man
Finland: The Only country Where Fathers Spend More Time with Kids than Mothers: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/dec/04/finland-only-country-world-dad-more-time-kids-moms
Children Make Parents Happy, After All: https://www.economist.com/international/2019/07/10/children-make-parents-happy-after-all
The Secret of Being a Good Father: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190606-how-to-be-a-good-father-to-a-newborn-son-or-daughter
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.