It’s not even half past seven and your teen is already inside his/her school campus. You have got a long day during schooldays as your day starts by 5 or 5.30 AM and goes on until 10 PM or so. As adults, we can manage and accommodate to these commitments but teenagers who are in their maximum growth stage need enough rest to develop into mature adults. Owing to several reasons adolescents today face one of the commonest chronic health problems-sleep deprivation.
Sleep Cycle of Adolescents
Research shows that teens require around 9 ¼ hours of sleep for optimal performance, good health and mind-body development. This has not been achieved by more than 90% teens during the past decades as these poor kids get less than 7 hours of sleep during schooldays which makes them feel tired and drained out by the end of each day. Common reasons for poor sleep schedules include busy school schedules, ample after-school activities and above all, a battle between early school hours and the biological changes that puts every teen on a late sleep-wake clock. The biological changes in circadian rhythm of the teen during puberty years prevents them from going to bed early to fulfill the required sleeping hours before school starts early. Such sleep deprivations creates a problem everywhere-at school where teenagers lack concentration, potential problem solving skills and succumb to stress, at home where they feel irritable and frustrated generally, may put on weight as they don’t engage in regular physical activity and there are also chances that these teens start relying on cigars and alcohol to cope up with these things in life. Circadian rhythm, discussed elaborately at www.firsteatright.com, can have life-altering effects on us in more ways than you can imagine.
Enforcing Natural Sleep by Altering School Hours
A group of concerned researchers wanted to find out if kids could sleep more peacefully if there were any changes made to the school timings. To experiment this, they involved 15,000 high school students in grades 6-11 who filled in online surveys during school hours both, before and after school timings were changed. Questioned mostly involved those on sleep such as weekday and weekend bed timings, wake up timings, total sleep hours, quality of sleep, issues with sleepiness and overall performance. While 46% reported sleepiness to study or finish their schoolwork, the ratio declined greatly to 35% after there was a delay in school start timings in middle school students. In high school students, the percentage reduced from 71% to 56% which is an excellent improvement in statistics with altered school timings. Many of the students were glad about this change as they reported getting an extra hour of sleep than previously. This extra 60 minutes brings about radical changes in their health, wellness, mood swings, academic performance and mindset, all for the positive. The researchers also made a similar kind of study on these schoolteachers too curious about the effect of altered school timings on their personal wellness-this was the first study to focus on the effects of altered school timings on the staff and teachers. These staff too reported improvements in their daytime performance as they got to sleep for longer comparatively.
Changes in school timings therefore not only help the children sleep more and perform better but also has positive effects on staff and teachers as well. Of course, altering school timings is not a simple thing as it involves an array of other people-parents, teachers, principal, healthcare workers, helpers, counselors and more people. More than the student as an individual the decision affects an entire community of people who need to pool in together and make the right decision.
Teens these days are ok with the lack of sleep accepting it as their lifestyle. By this, they are doing a big mistake-sleep is not an option but a need. Regulating school timings and postponing them by an hour or so (maybe from 7.30 am to 8.30 am) helps them sleep more and be more effective. If this doesn’t work out, they need to consciously make a decision to go to bed early to get their required hours of sleep every day. Main players in this involve parents who can be a teen’s role model by maintaining regular bedtime routines, banning the use of electronic gadgets into the bedroom before sleep timings and creating a comfortable environment with dim lights.
How long it’s been since you tossed a bottle of maple syrup, ketchup or some frozen foods right into the bin after the expiry date without even caring to look into them? Seriously, the ‘best before’ dates and ‘use by’ dates are not a benchmark to gauge your food but a rough estimate of how long the food can withstand up to. There’s even confusion existing over these dates which accounts for aplenty of food being discarded while they can still be used. So, if expiration dates are not going to be extremely helpful in analyzing food spoilage how are we going to know which foods to keep or throw away?
A stale smell, rotten items and presence of molds calls for no second opinion and the food needs to be immediately discarded. But there are various other subtle signs that the food has expired and you remain ignorant of it sometimes. Warning-such foods must never be used as it could result in serious consequences. The checkpoints here might help you pick out the expired food (without an expiration date) and consume healthy ones:
Potatoes: These are one of the longest-staying foods but there are some of us who are capable of even throwing these poor things into the bin as they have rotten. A greenish color appearing on the potatoes means that the vegetable is beginning to rot. It’s safer to throw them out but some do suggest chopping off the green part and consuming the rest. As days pass the potatoes might wrinkle, become less-firm and start growing sprouts at the eyes. Still they are usable when the sprouts are cut but when they rot and stink this is a point of no return.
Appearance of sprouts: Occasionally we see onions growing a small green sprout and funnily we’ve even heard our grandparents asking us to use it to grow onions in a pot. The general thumb rule is to get rid of vegetables (such as peppers, onions and potatoes) once they start sprouting.
Wrinkles & More: Any fruit or vegetable with a thin skin that develops wrinkles or the skin starts to peel off is a sign that the produce is no longer edible. Produce have a beautiful reproduction cycle by means of decomposition wherein the seeds go back to the soil and produce new produce. Appearance of moisture is the first sign of mold growth.
Texture change: Crisp vegetables such as zucchini, carrots and celery will start becoming rubbery losing their original crispness when they start becoming stale.
Smells Fishy: Fish can only smell like a fish but a distinct ‘fishy’ smell indicates that the seafood has gone bad. One can always understand from the smell of the fish whether its fresh out of water or a little outdated. Right out of the sea fresh fish has a sweet, ocean smell. If you are purchasing an entire fish with its eyes intact see to that the eyes are clear and not glassy. Sometimes, the fish develops a slimy texture indicating that it’s gone stale.
Slimy meat: Not only fish but meat also can become slimy/sticky indicating bacterial growth on them. Any individual who consumes it is at a high risk of falling sick. Food poisoning is also possible and for more details on it please visit the website www.firsteatright.com.
A dent or a bend: Canned goods have a long shelf life but take care to ensure that they are not bent, dented, corroded or swollen. That’s how you check on how good the inside food is from outside. The dent could have the smallest of the hole which serves as an environment for bacteria to thrive. A bloated or swollen can that looks like having moisture or if there are traces of air getting off the can when opened it is a sure sign of expiry. This is especially true for milk.
Ice crystals: Frozen foods are kept under controlled chillness and the appearance of ice crystals or frost is never taken as a sign of decay. On the contrary, ice crystals on the food is a clear sign that the food is no longer good to consume. Presence of frozen foods with ice crystals is a sign that the food came up the freezing point and then was re-frozen.
Missing fizz: For the fluffy rice cakes or pancakes you never fail to use the baking soda-a must-have ingredient in most pantries. Though quite difficult to find out whether it has gone stale by looking at it there is a simple way to test it. Add a teaspoon of baking soda to a bowl and add some white vinegar to it. If it fizzes rapidly you can use it without doubt but if there is no fizz its time to discard it off.
Scent changes: How is your sense of smell? It can determine your effectiveness in finding out if a food is good or bad. Your nose is a great tool to keep you from eating rotten or expired foods. Some foods might look fine but the presence of a strange smell or the absence of the necessary smell guides you. For example, spices and herbs should smell aromatic, fish should smell of ocean water and tomatoes should not smell rotten.
Plastic is a sweet sorrow! Indeed, a wonderful creation of mankind I’ts brought us to a stage of no-return from the environmental degradation happening worldwide. Not a day passes by without the entry of plastic into our lovely homes. Simply because it is malleable, ductile, resists wear and tear, cheaply available and extremely useful we cannot imagine a world without plastics bur ironically, the world is never going to be the same with such a steady flow of plastic-based goods and products dominating our lives. Dominating every domain right from medical supplies to food industry, bottles to bags how do you think we are going to find a replacement for this versatile material?
Refurbishing Our Kitchen
Our day starts with a dose of coffee/tea that’s made from milk that’s delivered to our house in a neatly packed plastic pouch! Every single day sees a new initiate for replacing plastic with better eco-friendly materials but there hasn’t been a replacement found for milk packets in plastic pouches until now. We do have our tetra packs and slim milk pouches but how about considering the common man’s affordability whose staple includes the humble milk! Our kitchens suffocate with aplenty plastic wares and bags that predominantly serve various purposes-storing groceries, packaging veggies into the refrigerator, using small plastic containers for storing left-over meals, sending our loved one’s meals and so on. Even the garbage container is covered with a plastic bag every day for easy throwaway of our thrash!
Outside our homes too plastics play an integral role in helping vendors and even big shot markets sell their products. Many of the veggies such as cucumbers and carrots come in plastic wrapping, fruits such as cherries, strawberries and kiwis are neatly packed in plastic boxes and styrofoam packaging is used basically to pack away any food sold as a takeaway-instant noodles, raw meats to pizzas. Restaurants and eateries too use these styrofoam packaging trays and plates for easy and safe delivery of their foods and beverages. In 2015 alone more than 320 million tons of plastic was produced globally. At such a stage, is it practically possible to eliminate plastic from our life altogether and move over to a better alternative? Recycling is an option but, is the effort of using alternatives for plastic actually worth the time, money and labor that goes into them and are they better on the environment from every perspective? That’s something that needs to be considered in elaboration!
An Important Mission in the Kitchen
We make a compost to make our kitchen a better place and we have replaced our plastic straws with paper straws. Supermarkets too have paper bags that are available to weigh your produce and pack them into your carts and your groceries are delivered in paper bags. But do you know that it takes four times the energy to produce a paper bag compared to a plastic bag (https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/plastic_free_kitchen)? Weight-wise too, paper bags are heavier than plastic ones adding more burden on transportation emission. All these efforts become useful only if we reuse paper bags at least thrice after they reach our homes to combat environmental degradation caused by plastic bags that are used once. But sadly, these paper bags aren’t reused-either they tear away not withstanding total weight or are thrown away into the bin immediately after reaching home. Contrarily, many have started producing low-density polyethylene bags of lower microns that are better on our planet. Cotton bags are a better option as they are long-lasting but mind you, these need to be used for more than 100 times to reduce plastic pollution.
Its cool to recommend replacements but cucumbers, bananas and potatoes stay for longer days when wrapped in plastic; rice, wheat and dhal are sold wrapped in plastic and when this becomes off limits there always exists the dangers of spoilage by water or damage. All these remind us of our early golden days where milk was fetched in containers from the milk booths, dhal, rice and pulses were available mostly from government-owned subsidies that delivered these products in home-brought containers and there was no concept of supermarkets-people directly bought from local vendors or farmers and used them fresh daily. Transportation of exotic produce, storing produce for months together and reaping harvests and hiding them away for selling them in sky rocketed prices never existed back then. Recreating such a scenario is next to impossible but all we can do is to bring about effective changes for a better and sustainable future.
Introducing Kitchen Sustainability
Start small, buildup on your ideologies and achieve your goal.
We have started recycling but we now have to focus on reducing the consumption of plastic. Plastics have become a part of our lives due to their versatile use and it could take a lot more time than we wish to eliminate them from our day-to-day lives. But until them, each of us can take every single step possible to stay away from this ‘sweet sorrow’ materials.
Cut Your Use of Plastic: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/cut-your-use-of-plastic-plastic-plastic-36321324/
5 Weird Materials that Could Replace Plastic: https://theweek.com/articles/705421/5-weird-materials-that-could-replace-plastic
Can you Really Have a Plastic-Free Kitchen? https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/plastic_free_kitchen
Morning chores include a visit to the restroom to empty our bowels but individuals rather come face-to-face with this visit anytime of the day or even skip passing stools for a few days continuously. There isn’t anything strange about this as normal bowel movements include passing stools anywhere between thrice a day to thrice a week. Don’t be surprised, shocked or relaxed either. Many of us including doctors are doubtful about the exact symptoms of constipation that people normally don’t sought advise or treatment before it turns out to be extremely painful or bad.
Outgrow Your Shyness
Constipation might be an odd topic for discussion but its better to be aware that this problem exists in one in seven people who are potentially healthy individuals. While common symptoms of constipation include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, loss of appetite and stomach cramps physicians believe that infrequent bowel movements are a concrete sign of the problem and this doesn’t go well with a significant number of people.
To put an end to the dilemma surrounding the symptoms of constipation a research team surveyed more than 3000 people that included the common man, physicians and gastroenterology specialists to get their outlook on the symptoms that they believe are indications of constipation. What surprised these researchers was the fact that some of the symptoms quoted were nowhere even near to the official symptoms listed down as a part of the diagnosis criteria. These symptoms include straining to pass stools, using laxatives and spending more time in the toilet trying to empty your bowels.
While constipation refers to a condition where the individual has hard feces that are difficult to pass the researchers from the study have come up with certain other conditions that might add more meaning to the definition. They include:
Clash between Doctors & Patients
While physicians treat infrequent bowel moment as a symptom of constipation many patients don’t agree with this classification. Even in the study group, there were only around 50% candidates who reported having infrequent bowel movements as a symptom of constipation. Such differences in official classification and public understanding has brought us to a situation where individuals who finally seek help with constipation problems find trouble diagnosing or recognizing them. Another cause why constipation goes mostly ignored is that we are embarrassed to report some trouble with our bowel movements. We think it as a shame, keep it to ourselves and create more trouble in the end. Flatulence and passing stools are not an embarrassment-they are a part of our normal life cycle. Any disruption to this is what is troublesome and something to be concerned about. How to fart? The website www.firsteatright.com has more details about farting, why its required and how to deal with it.
Also, while we have always had different opinions regarding normal bowel movements people involved in the study who did not have constipation reported having seven bowel movements a week. But officially its anything between three bowel movements a day to three in a week. So, again it depends on your body to understand what’s normal and seek help when there are changes to it.
While constipation is generally due to insufficient fiber or fluid intakes it could also be an indication of other health problems such as bowel cancer, diverticular cancer and celiac disease. When individuals find out about constipation, they generally try to solve it on their own by drinking more fluids and eating more of fruits, nuts, wholegrain foods and cereals that are enriched with fiber. Some even use laxatives but it is better to get it checked by a physician when your problem remains unsolved.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.