• [3-Minute Blog] 5 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation

    The past two weeks we have looked at what inflammation is and what foods can trigger its onset.  

    This week I want to show you five natural ways to reduce inflammation. 

    Sleep at least 7 hours a night

    Sleep is a topic which we have discussed extensively on this blog. And for good reason too. There has been much research on the effects of losing sleep on the body, one of which is inflammation. Sleeping less even for a single night increases inflammation in your body. 

    A crucial routine that must be established in your sleeping routine is setting a specific time in which you go to sleep and wake up. This is so that you are in line with your circadian rhythm which is an important aspect of good health.

    The circadian rhythm is basically your 24-hour internal clock which is also known as your sleep/wake cycle. It works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day. When these routines are disrupted, it can cause a person to feel under the weather and makes it harder to pay attention. 

    In addition to that, the disruption of the circadian rhythm can also dysregulate your immune system and with it, your levels of inflammation can also go up too.   

    Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet

    There isn’t a specific anti-inflammatory diet per se. Rather it’s the choices you make. 

    In simple terms, an anti-inflammatory diet contains a lot of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, lean protein, whole grains and spices. Exactly the same “diet” that I encourage my clients to adapt. (Want to find out more about my Lean & Healthy Programme? Click here

    An anti-inflammatory diet also limits the consumption of sugar, processed foods, refined carbs and unhealthy fats. We discussed foods that can onset inflammation in the previous blog, you can read it here.

    But how does an anti-inflammatory diet combat inflammation? An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on foods which contain high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants can be found in a lot of fruit and vegetables and contain the key to fighting off harmful by-products in our bodies called free radicals which are dangerous as they can damage cells leading to inflammation. Other key foods to combat inflammation are omega-3 containing foods found in fish and nuts. 

    If you want a simple approach to an anti-inflammatory diet, then read about my simple nutrition philosophy.  

    Exercise regularly 

    Most people exercise to lose weight. But the fact is, exercise isn’t just a weight-loss tool, it is, more importantly, a well-being tool. This is one of the crucial first lessons I teach my clients. 

    Regular exercise is essential, regardless of your age and weight. Just like our body needs food, the body also needs movement. Nearly every single cell in the body’s well-being is connected with movement. What does it mean for us? The more we move, the better we feel.

    When we exercise, inflammation is brought down by the removal of waste by the lymphatic system. The fresh pump of blood and oxygen around the body allows the build-up of toxins in the body to be removed as well as gently restoring your digestive system. So whether or not you want to shed that fat, burning your calories will help you greatly in reducing inflammation. 

    As little as 20-minutes daily exercise is shown to reduce inflammation significantly. Also, there are many research studies confirming the beneficial effects of exercise on inflammation. 

    Maintain a healthy weight 

    Most people are unaware of the fact that their own excess body fat can cause dangerous implications to their health such as inflammation. If you want to know more about how being overweight is directly linked to inflammation, I would highly recommend reading this research study

    The link between obesity and increased inflammation is pretty much an established fact in science. So if you are overweight, you certainly need to start doing something to lose your excess weight. 

    If you need my help, I’m more than pleased to help you achieve that dream ( Find out more about my Lean & Healthy Programme here).

    Use spices and herbs

    Most people think superfoods are expensive and out of reach. But the truth is, every one of us has easy access to these superfoods and don’t even know it. These underappreciated superfoods are already lying in your kitchen closet. Yep, I’m talking about spices and herbs. Spices and herbs are extremely potent when compared to any other foods. Adding them to your food can increase the antioxidant power of your meal, and they also taste good too. 

    The top two spices that reduce inflammation are garlic and turmeric. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas shows that curcumin (an active substance in turmeric) is among the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds in the world.

    Spices and herbs like cayenne pepper, ginger, clove, cinnamon, rosemary and sage are also known for their powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. 

    So next time you cook, make sure to add those spices and herbs to increase the antioxidant power of your meal. 

    Three Take Away Lessons: 

    1. Sleep! Maintaining good sleep hygiene is an important part of regulating inflammation 
    2. Eat a balanced and anti-inflammatory diet. How? Pack in those antioxidants found in fruit & vegetables as well as spices & herbs
    3. Exercising regularly will help to reduce inflammatory factors and contribute to your overall well being
  • [3-Minute Blog] Can Certain Foods Increase Your Inflammation?

    Chronic inflammation can have a negative impact on your health. That much has already been established from my previous article.

    My goal with these 3-minute blogs is to give you simple but practical advice which you can begin to incorporate into your life in order to achieve a healthier lifestyle. When equipped with the correct knowledge, you can make the right choices when it comes to food. 

    On that note, our focus today is on reducing or eliminating foods that can cause inflammation. If you are motivated to live a healthier life, then reducing inflammation in your body is definitely the best way to start. 

    What you eat has a significant impact on the level of inflammation in your body. Without getting too scientifical, I would like to talk about three foods that no doubt trigger inflammation.


    Sugar is bad for us. That’s certainly not news for you. In 5 Dangers of Sugar No One Talks About I’ve already mentioned the disastrous effects of sugar. If you aren’t aware of the risks that sugar poses, I highly recommend you to read that article. 

    Most of the risks are directly linked to sugar’s ability to increase inflammation. 

    Moderation is good in all but sugar. Research from the University of Zurich confirms that just a can of soda containing 40 grams of sugar (equivalent to 8 spoonfuls) led to an increase in inflammatory markers. 

    A diet that is high in added sugar and refined carbohydrates increases inflammation like kerosine increases flames!  

    Reducing your daily intake of sugar is definitely the way to start reducing any inflammation. If you are looking for sugar alternatives, here is one of my most-read articles of all time: 6 Healthy Alternatives to Table Sugar.

    Refined Carbs

    Refined carbs are from grain products that have been processed. They are forms of sugars and starches that don’t exist in nature. They come from whole natural foods but have been altered in some way or another by processing, to “refine” them. An excellent example of a refined carb is white flour. White flour is refined to get that white and airy texture which is great for baking but has virtually zero nutrient value.

    Several studies suggest eating too many refined carbohydrates increases inflammation in your body. This Australian study suggests that even a single slice of white bread or pasta (50 grams) can elevate your inflammation level.

    It’s important to note that not all carbs are equal. In Why Carb’s Aren’t As Bad As You Think, I’ve explained the difference between the types of carbs. 

    Unhealthy Fat: Trans Fat & Vegetable Oil 

    Fat is healthy, and we should strive to get healthy fat in our daily diet. In The Fat Dilemma, I explain the healthy fats to eat as well as the right amounts. 

    While healthy fat is a health enhancer, unhealthy fat can be a health destroyer. Most unhealthy fats will increase the level of inflammation in our body. 

    Of all the unhealthy fats, the worst one is an artificial fat called trans fat. This fat is produced through hydrogenation, which is a chemical process that converts liquid vegetable oil into solid fat. Artificial trans fats are mostly found in margarine, french fries, packaged cookies, pastries, and in all processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. 

    Vegetable oil such as that from canola, soybean, sunflower etc. contains omega-6. Omega-6 is beneficial when the intake is balanced with omega-3. However, when the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 goes up, the level of inflammation level goes up too. 

    So skip the trans fat and reduce the vegetable oil intake as much as you can. 

    Three Take Away Lessons:

    1. Skip the sugar or try alternatives 
    2. Limit your intake of refined carbs. When possible, swap it with healthier natural carbs. 
    3. Abandon unhealthy fats as they do more bad than good to your body. 
  • 10 Scientific Reasons Why Water is Absolutely Essential for Your Well-being

    There’s no doubt that drinking water’s important, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself why water’s so essential to your health? This article will unravel 10 reasons why you should be drinking water for a fit and lean body. Learn why all the fitness experts and skincare gurus tout the benefits of water for your health and body.

    We’ve all seen these people; you know, the ones that carry a gallon of water with them everywhere they go. But did you ever ask yourself why these so-called fitness gurus and skincare experts are just so obsessed with this liquid?

    Well… let’s first start with the big picture.

    Did you know that water was one of the first things that Allah (SWT) created? Allah says in the Quran:

    Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe? (Al-Quran, 21:30)

    After 1400 years, science confirms this Quranic ayah (verse), which means that water is essential to your being.

    As an adult, your body is composed of, close to, 60-70 per cent water. Your brains, lungs, heart, liver and kidney contain between 65-85 per cent water.

    What this composition of our bodies suggests is that water is so essential to our function that even just a just a 5 per cent drop in our body’s fluid levels can lead to a 25 to 35 per cent drop in energy levels.

    But that’s just the half of the story. For example, your body has a limit to the percentage of dehydration that it can tolerate, and when your body passes this mark, you start to even damage your DNA! So, not drinking enough water is a big blow to your body.

    And I’m here to tell you why. In this article, I give you 10 reasons why water is absolutely crucial for your wellbeing—physically and mentally.

    #1: Your entire health depends on water

    Your blood is over 90 per cent water. You might be thinking, “So what?”

    Your blood system is used to transfer oxygen, nutrients and antibodies to each and every cell. If there is less water available for your blood system, you are basically stripping your system’s ability to do its job well.

    It won’t matter how healthy you eat because if you don’t drink enough water, your eating won’t help your cells function effectively.

    That’s because mitochondria, the energy power plants of your cells, need water to keep you energised. Whenever you are dehydrated, your energy plummets (#RamadanLethargy).

    Hence, the quickest and easiest way to increase your energy is by drinking water!

    #2: Removal of waste materials

    Your cells produce a lot of waste. Just like you poo and pee to relieve your body’s waste, your cells also need to ‘relieve’ this waste, and that’s why there is a cellular waste management system in your body to help with this excretion. Like the garbage trucks that clear away the streets, your lymphatic fluid is responsible for the removal of the waste products from your cells.

    If your lymph fluid is too thin because you’re dehydrated, you’re just going to start to build up all of these metabolic waste products, aka toxins. When these waste products aren’t channelled out of your body properly, you are basically asking for a lot of trouble, such as the DNA damage I mentioned previously.

    #3. Your digestion depends on water

    Have your ever-experienced constipation? Most people get constipated because they aren’t drinking enough water.

    Along with fibre, water is essential for good digestion. Water helps dissolve waste particles and pass them smoothly through your digestive tract.

    If you’re dehydrated, your body absorbs all the water, leaving your bowel movements dry and more difficult to pass.

    So, the simple trick to “push down” the waste products is to drink more water!

    #4: Water regulates your body temperature

    Allah (SWT) created a built-in thermostat in your body. This does an amazing job of regulating your body temperature by warming up or cooling down your body. But in order for this “thermostat” to work, you need to drink plenty of water.

    By drinking water, your body naturally regulates its own temperature.

    #5: Water helps you to stay slim

    Here is the thing, even being mildly dehydrated can slow down your metabolism by as much as 3%! In other words, being hydrated is critical to your ability to burn fat!

    So, just by drinking more water, you’re helping to pump up your metabolism — especially if your water is cold (somewhere 20-220 Celsius). This is because your body must work to warm the water up, thereby burning a few extra calories in the process.

    #6: Nourish your skin with water

    Most women spend hundreds of dollars on beauty creams to look better. The key to great skin? Drink plenty of water because water is nature’s own beauty cream.

    Fine lines and wrinkles are deeper when you’re dehydrated. Drinking water hydrates skin cells and plumps them up, making your face look younger.

    It also flushes out impurities and improves circulation and blood flow, leaving your face clean, clear and glowing.

    #7: Lower your stress with water

    85 per cent of your brain tissue is water. If you’re dehydrated, both your body and your mind will be stressed. If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already a little dehydrated.

    To keep stress levels down, keep a glass of water at your desk or carry a sports bottle and sip regularly.

    #8: Water is your natural lubricant

    Just like machines need lubricants to work smoothly, your body also needs to be lubricated. The best lubricant for your body is water because it allows the smooth movement of your joints.

    Not just your joints, but water is essential for the proper function of your spinal cord, spinal disks, eyes, and brain.

    Did you know that about 70 – 80 per cent of your joint cartilage is made of water? So, when you’re well-hydrated, your joints work better and you can move easily.

    Conversely, dehydration leads to degeneration of your cartilages and severe pain in your joints.

    #9: Water improves your workout performance

    Do you experience cramps in your muscles when you’re working out? If you do, then you might want to see if you’re staying hydrated. Drinking water helps prevent muscle cramping and, as I mentioned before, lubricates joints in the body.

    When you’re well hydrated, you can exercise longer and stronger without “hitting the wall.” In other words, drinking water while working out is a great way of improving your performance.

    #10: Water improves your focus and cognitive functions

    Another benefit of drinking water is that it helps you with the ability to stay focused and with your ability to think and remember information.

    In a study, researchers found that being dehydrated by just 2% impairs performance in tasks that require memory, focus and other cognitive functions. However, by staying hydrated, researchers found that their subjects were more likely to perform better on work that was mentally strenuous.

    How Much Water Should You Drink?

    This is one of the most frequently asked questions in health forums, and you certainly have heard the reply that one should aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

    The fact is, there is no consensus among scientist about the average amount of water one needs daily. Yep, this 8-glasses theory is not necessarily science based. This is because the amount of water one needs differs on many different factors, like your size, where you live, how much exercise you do, what you eat and how much you eat.

    Having said that, 8-glasses a day seems to be a reasonable and safe recommendation. So, if you can stick to it, you surely can’t go wrong.

    You may need less than eight glasses of water if you drink other unsweetened no-calorie beverages such as green tea or black tea. And you may need more than eight glasses of water if you sweat a lot, exercise and/or do a lot of manual labour!

    In most western countries, the water from the tap is much better than the water from supermarket bottles. So, save your money and start using the water from the tap. If you are in doubt, boil the water before drinking or, even better, buy a water filter.

    Here are some other great tips:

    • Start your day with two glasses of water. This is one of the best things you could do for your health!
    • Drink at least one glass of water 30 min. before your meal. You’ll not only be less hungry, but you’ll also fulfil the Sunnah of eating, which is having your meal consist of 1/3 water, 1/3 food, and 1/3 air (Saheeh, ibn Maajah).

    Drinking a glass of water will not automatically transform your body into a lean and healthy one, but it, no doubt, bring you closer to your goal.

  • How The Food You Eat Affects Your Spirituality

    Your spiritual life has different dynamics. The ups and downs of your spiritual life depend a great deal on many things in life. In this article, we’ll explore how even the food you eat can affect your spirituality and what you can do about it.

    How often you had the best intention to pray with khushoo (humility in prayer), yet only noticed at the end of Salah that you weren’t focused at all?

    How often were you determined not to glare at the opposite gender and did end up doing precisely that?

    As you may have noticed, your conscious connection with Allah subuhanawuta’ala, (your spirituality) rises and falls. Many factors affect the ups and downs of your spirituality, such as your sins, lack of ‘ibadah, bad companions etc.

    In this article, I want to make my case that even the food you eat affects your overall spirituality. As a nutrition and exercise coach, I know this to be true because I coach Muslim clients in over 30 countries around the world to improve their health and to get into the best shape of their lives.

    Whenever my clients improve their food choices, they report to me how even their connection with Allah subuhanawuta’ala improves dramatically.

    Now, to understand how food affects your spirituality, you first need to know how the rest of your body interconnects with your spirituality.

    Come, let’s jump in!

    Holistic View of Health

    If I were to meet you in person and inquire you about your health, you might say that you are healthy, because your body is currently free from any diseases. That’s great, Alhamdulillah, but it’s a very narrow definition of health.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This statement is true. However, our religion takes a much broader and a more holistic approach to defining health.

    The Islamic definition of health isn’t just related to our physical, mental and social well-being; instead, it also includes our emotional and spiritual well-being too. And these two factors tend to be neglected in discussions and definitions of health. However, our real long-term health heavily depends on such a holistic view, because the synergy of these elements of health helps us to create an optimal life, bi’idnillah!

    Now, here is what you need to know. You are a highly sophisticated creation of Allah subuhanawuta’ala. Your body, mind, emotions and spirituality are all interconnected. Anything that affects your mind affects your body too.

    For instance, when you neglect the health of your body and get sick, it takes a toll on your spirituality too. Don’t you notice, how even a slight headache makes it challenging to focus in your ‘ibadah?

    Protecting Your Intellect

    One of the aims and purposes of our Sharia is to protect our intellect. Whatever negatively affects the mind is thus prohibited in Islam.

    That’s why Quran and Sunnah prohibit specific food and drink for us, such as alcohol, drugs, blood, the flesh of swine etc., because these foods not only harm our body, they harm our mind also and thus our spirituality too.

    While the list of prohibited (haram) foods is very clear to us, there are also foods that are in fact allowed (halal) but not necessarily good for our body, mind or spirituality.

    As Muslims, we always look for foods that are halal, but sometimes we forget to ask whether or not it’s good for us. However, the commandment of Allah subuhanawuta’ala is explicit:

    “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Shaytān. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.”  (Al-Quran 2:168)

    Lawful and Good Foods

    So, note the emphasis on “lawful and good”. Whatever you eat should be not only halal but also good. Islam encourages us to eat foods that are rich with the ‘good stuff’; vitamins, nutrients, etc. And it discourages us to eat food that has elements of harm to our body and mind.

    Generally speaking, foods that are least processed and closest to its natural state are good foods. I call them “green foods”. These are so-called whole foods or real foods, such as

    • vegetables,
    • fruits,
    • meat, fish
    • grains and legumes
    • nuts and seeds etc.

    So strive as much as you can to include “green foods” in your diet.

    Also, work to reduce the consumption of highly processed and refined foods that come from factories and labs. I call them “red foods”.

    Most of these foods are pretty easy to identify. Here are few guidelines to remember:

    • They come in fancy packages
    • Most of these foods come with glorious health claims on the package (“good for your heart”, “low-fat”, “high in fibre”, “100% natural”)
    • These foods are in fact produced in factories and labs, not in farms
    • They have a long list of ingredients

    In my 7-day free course, I talk about these foods in more detail. If you are interested, you can sign up here for free.

    How These Foods Affect Your Spirituality

    Though there are many mechanisms how the food you eat can affect your body, mind and spirituality, I regard the following three as the most crucial ones:

    #1. Energy

    Your spirituality can be significantly affected by the level of your energy. In fact, the lack of energy is one of the reasons for you to abandon good deeds or to engage in any beneficial things.

    When you are tired and have low energy, try doing anything meaningful. You’ll soon notice how difficult it is to focus on anything meaningful.

    That’s because your brain needs glucose (a form of energy) to think and focus. When you run low on energy, focusing is the last thing your brain wants to do.

    Maintaining a constant level of energy provides you with the focus you need. Here comes the role of those “green foods”. Not only do they give the endless energy you need but they provide nutrients to improve your overall health.

    A chocolate bar or a sugar-laden beverage does give you much-needed energy, but it’s only for a short period. Such an energy spike is promptly followed by a crash that leaves you feeling more depleted of energy, so it’s not a good long-term strategy to maintain your energy level.

    #2. Optimism

    You wonder what has optimism to do with your spirituality? A lot.

    First and foremost, being optimistic is, indeed, a prophetic Sunnah. Abu Hurayrah (RA) said that the Messenger of Allah liked optimism and detested pessimism. (Musnad Ahmad).

    There are so many other examples from the Quran and Sunnah that stresses the importance of being optimistic. I think the following two are indeed relevant to our topic.

    The Prophet (PBUH) told us that Allah says: ‘I am as My servant thinks of Me…’ (Sahih al-Bukhari). In another hadith, ‘None of [us] should die except while assuming the best about Allah’ (Sahih Muslim).

    Al-Hasan al-Basri rahimahullah explained this hadith in a very succinct manner; he said: “The believer assumes the best about his Lord, so he does the best deeds. The sinner assumes the worst about his Lord, so he does evil deeds.”

    So positive thoughts about your Lord leads you to positive actions and thus impacts your spirituality positively. And negative thoughts about your Lord leads you towards negative actions and that in turn affects your spirituality negatively.

    And here comes the role of foods again. For you to keep your thoughts positive, your diet does play a humongous role.

    Among many research studies, the study that was published in the American Journal of Psychology really caught my attention. The researchers wanted to find out whether depression and anxiety have any association with the food people eat. So they compared the traditional diet with the western diet, which is a diet of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products etc. (a diet that consists mostly of those “red foods”).

    The result was astounding. A “traditional” dietary pattern characterised by vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and whole grains (a diet that consists mostly of “green foods”) was associated with lower odds for major depression or dysthymia and anxiety disorders.

    So the food you eat affects your thoughts and in turn, affects your spirituality.

    #3. Sleep

    In the past, whenever I was pressed for time, the very first thing I used to do was cut my sleep. I thought it was the most logical thing to do to increase my productivity.

    But I was wrong! Every time I cut my sleeping hours, I felt more irritated and had a hard time focusing on anything meaningful. So while I had more hours to work, I got less useful things done. I was feeling miserable and least productive.

    You see, getting not enough sleep is not only a bad idea, but it is also a sure-fire way to increase your risk of many serious health problems, including jeopardising your mental and spiritual health.

    Research studies show that getting less than 7 hours of sleep impacts our memory and learning ability negatively. Those who had less than 7 hours of sleep recalled more negative things than positive ones during the day.  And that’s scary because this is correlated with depression. Depressed people remember negative things more frequently.

    So getting adequate sleep is one of the pillars of a healthy, meaningful and productive life. The Quran and the Sunnah highlight the importance of sufficient sleep in many places:

    “And we made your sleep as a thing for rest” (Al-Quran, 78.9)

    The Prophet (PBUH) told one of his companions who was praying the whole night “Offer prayers and also sleep at night, as your body has a right on you” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

    The food we eat plays a vital role in determining the quality and quantity of our sleep. Here are few food-related things you can do to improve your sleep:

    • Eat at least 2 hours before your bedtime. A small snack before bed is ok, but not a large meal.
    • Avoid fatty, fried, or spicy foods just before your bedtime. They are known to disrupt your sleep
    • Avoid caffeine (that is found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate etc.) after 2 PM.
    • Quit smoking. Research studies link nicotine with insomnia.

    So the takeaway message is this: Getting adequate sleep at night helps you to improve your mood, productivity, health and overall well-being. And maintaining that balance is crucial to enhancing your connection with Allah subuhanawuta’ala.

    How Much You Eat Trumps What You Eat

    Listen, here is a little secret :-). Overindulging in good foods isn’t a good strategy to improving your relationship with Allah. The quantity of food is as important as the quality of food.

    In a hadith, narrated in At-Tirmidhi, Prophet (PBUH) said, “The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is enough for the son of Adam to eat a few mouthfuls to keep him going, but if he must (fill his stomach), then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for air.”

    In Zaad Al-Maad, Imam ibn al-Qayyim gave a beautiful commentary on this hadith. He said:

    “This is one of the most beneficial practices in both physical and spiritual terms because if the stomach is filled with food, there is no room for a drink. Then if that food is followed by a drink, there will be no room for air, and he will become tired like one who carries a heavy load.

    This is in addition to what results from that of spiritual damage, as it will make one too lazy to do acts of worship, and it will stir up physical desires as a result of eating one’s fill. Therefore filling the stomach with food is harmful in both spiritual and physical terms.”

    Healthy Eating Enhances Your Spirituality

    For you to improve your connection with Allah subuhanawuta’ala, you want to make it really easy to do the good things and really hard to do the bad things. That’s easier said than done, but from my experience and the experience of many of my clients, this is what I know:

    When you eat healthily and eat only until you are slightly full, your mood, your energy, your thinking pattern and even your sleep improves. And all these improvements help you to enhance your spirituality.

    So here is what I ask you to do. Try to eat as healthily as possible for next two weeks and see whether or not you notice these changes in your life.

    If you need help to eat healthily, I’ve created a free 7-day course for you. Even if you don’t have any weight to lose, this course will help you to improve your health and overall well-being.

    Want to be on board?

    (This is a guest post I’ve written for https://quranacademy.io and reposting it for my readers)

  • 5 Dangers of Sugar No One Talks About

    There’s no doubt that sugar’s sweet and triggers great memories. That’s because sugar is the constant ingredient in many of our beautiful celebrations and functions. Yet, this sweetness disguises many dangers of this substance too. In this article, I am exploring some of the real risks of eating sugar.

    I can vividly recall the moments of my childhood where I would chew on sugar canes with my buddies. Unlike the sugar candies, the sugar canes are full of beneficial stuff. It contains a pretty rich amount of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and fibre.

    And chewing the sugar canes is even good for your teeth.

    Now looking at the benefits of sugar cane, you may think that the sugar that comes from it must also be good for you too, right?

    Sugar Facts

    When sugar canes are highly processed and refined, you get white (or brown) sugar. Through this processing, all the beneficial stuff I mentioned are lost. So the end product of sugar is just plain sugar. There is almost no nutrient attached to it. Here is a quick view of sugar nutrition facts:

    sugar nutrition facts

    Before I delve deeper into this topic, here’s what you need to know about sugar:

    Sugar doesn’t nourish you, nor is it a health food

    • Sugar doesn’t add any nutritional value to your body
    • Sugar doesn’t add any value to your mind
    • Sugar doesn’t make your body stronger, healthier, better or more functional.

    So, what does sugar really do to your body?

    Danger #1: Sugar Can Be Addictive

    In a study on rats, the researchers at Princeton University demonstrated that sugar can be an addictive substance. The lead researcher Professor Bart Hoebel suggests, “rats eating large amounts of sugar when hungry, undergo neurochemical changes in the brain that appear to mimic those produced by substances of abuse, including cocaine, morphine and nicotine.

    In another research compiled by scientists at the University of Bordeaux in France concluded that sugar and sweet rewards cannot only be a substitute for addictive drugs like cocaine but can even be more rewarding and attractive than those drugs!

    I do need to stress the point that these studies have been done on rats in a laboratory setup. More human-based studies are needed to confirm these findings in humans.

    However, Robert Lustig, a world-renowned professor of paediatrics at the University of California argues that sugar is in fact the alcohol of the child”. Based on research he argues that “dietary sugar fries your kid’s liver and brain; just like alcohol.” 

    Furthermore, he elaborates “fructose is metabolised in the liver in exactly the same way as alcohol. And that’s why, when consumed chronically and at a high dose, fructose is similarly toxic and abused, unrelated to its calories or effects on weight. And that’s why our children now get the diseases of alcohol (type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease), without alcohol”.

    If you are a parent, I highly recommend you to read the above-quoted article.

    Danger #2: Sugar Makes You Look Older

    You always have the drive to look younger, regardless of your age, right? Here is bad news for you!

    Consuming sugar make you look older than you really are. The reason for this is a process called ‘glycation’, in which the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs).

    The more sugar you eat, the more harmful AGEs you develop. These AGEs damage surrounding proteins like collagen and elastin, which help to keep your skin firm and elastic. Once damaged, springy and resilient collagen and elastin become dry and brittle, which makes your skin wrinkle and sag.

    According to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, these ageing effects (catalysed by AGEs molecules) start when you hit the age of 35 and increase rapidly after that.

    So reduce sugar from your life, if you want to stay and look young!

    Danger #3: Excessive Consumption of Sugar Can Be the Doorway For Diseases

    Sugar is a contributing factor in over 35 million deaths worldwide, every year. These deaths are a result of obesity and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. There is no denying the fact that sugar is one of the worst ingredients added to foods, in the modern history of humankind.

    Excessive consumption of sugar is linked to

    • changes in metabolism,
    • increased blood pressure,
    • liver damage,
    • interference with hormone signalling,
    • high blood sugar levels, caused by health conditions like diabetes, cancer of the pancreas, skin, uterus, urinary tract and breast.

    Scientists at the University of California argue that many of the health effects caused by drinking too much alcohol are, in fact, also caused by eating too much sugar.

    For instance, too much sugar is associated with an increase in the risk of heart disease. One study found that those who got 25 percent or more of their daily calories from sugar had double the risk of having low HDL (good) cholesterol compared to those who consumed less than 5 percent of their calories as sugar.

    Those who ate the most sugar also had the highest triglyceride levels. Now if you wonder, what it means to your health, here is what you need to know: Low HDL and high triglycerides are two of the primary risk factors for heart disease.

    Danger #4: Sugar and Your Hormones

    According to a study in Journal of Clinical Investigation, high intake of fructose and glucose (aka sugar) can even affect the levels of active sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen in your body.

    Now in common language, here is what happens when the levels of these hormones are affected:

    When the testosterone levels decline in men, these are the consequences:

    • infertility
    • reduced desire for sex
    • fewer erections

    When oestrogen levels decline in women, these are the consequences:

    • decreased sex drive
    • vaginal dryness (oestrogen helps the vagina by keeping its walls moist and elastic)

    That’s basically bad news for your reproductive health!

    Danger #5: Sugar Rewires Your Brain

    In an interesting study, researchers from Cardiff University in the UK found that higher rates of sugar consumption as children can lead to higher rates of violence as adults.

    The researchers suggest, “sweet-eating children don’t learn to defer gratification and carry impulsive behaviours into adulthood. They also speculate that big candy eaters are also more likely to eat additive-laden food–which some researchers claim has adverse behavioural effects throughout life.”

    So, the next time you want to add more sugar or have a sugar-laden food, think about how your choices will impact your brain and behaviour. Train yourself to make good choices rather than choices based on whims and fancies!

    Key Message: Reduce Your Sugar Intake

    When it comes to consuming table sugar, you may not consume a large amount of sugar off the spoon. Most of the sugar you consume comes from hidden sources, such as from highly processed food or soft drinks.  So, first focus on reducing your sugar intake from such sources.

    Here is a quick guideline to follow:

    Women: No more than six teaspoons of added sugar (An important note: A can of your favourite soda has more than that)

    Men: No more than nine teaspoons of sugar (An important note: Your favourite chocolate bar has more than that)

    Take control of your life by kicking sugar to the curb!

  • How to Improve Your Health while Eating Rice

    With the increase in popularity of low-carb diets, rice is getting a bad rep. It has been vilified and associated with causing type-2 diabetes. But is rice really bad for your health? In this article, I want to show how you can improve your health while eating rice.

    Rice is a global food. It’s the primary dietary staple for more than half the global population. A whopping 6 out of 10 people in the world eat rice every day!

    And with more than 40’000 (yep, 40k!) rice varieties and its prominence in almost all world cuisines, there’s hardly any other food that can match the variety and the taste of rice.

    Yet, it’s also one of the most vilified foods among low-carb dieters.

    Is this vilification justified? What’s the truth behind the accusation? And can we eat rice and also improve our health?

    Time to uncover the facts.

    Sifting Through Classical Texts: Rice as Medicine

    The Yellow Emperor’s Classic is the oldest medical text in the world. This 3’000 year old book is the fundamental Chinese medical guide.

    This classic text holds that food therapy is key to treating any disease and it prescribes a ten-day rice gruel fast as the first remedy for disease.

    Wait, before you run to the supermarket to buy bags of rice to use it as medicine, you first need to know what type of rice they used as medicine. It wasn’t the low quality, nutrient-poor, low fibre white rice you eat. Rather, the rice they used in medicine was indigenous, whole-grain, and unpolished brown (and red) rice.

    And that’s may be the best place to start our conversation.

    White Rice vs. Brown (or any other colour) Rice

    Now, is all rice created equal? Nope. That’s because the processing of rice plays a major role in defining its healthfulness.

    When the outermost layer, called hull, of a whole grain of rice is removed, you get beneficial brown (or red) rice.

    The white rice you get in the marker is a result of further processing this brown rice. Two of the most important parts of whole grains are removed through processing:

    1. The bran of the grain is removed, where most of the fibre, minerals and vitamin B are found
    2. The germ is removed, where healthy fats and other vitamins and minerals are found

    So the white rice you eat is high in starchy carb, but low in quality, nutrients and fibre.

    Source: Harvard.edu

    But the story doesn’t end with the lack of fibre and nutrients in white rice. When you eat this highly processed white rice, it’s digested and absorbed quickly, causing your blood sugar levels to rise rapidly and to spike your insulin level. And that in return leads to hunger spikes and could put you at risk of weight gain as well.

    So, it’s not surprising why higher intake of white rice is associated with increased type-2 diabetes. In this meta-analysis, researchers found that “higher white rice intake is associated with a significantly elevated risk of type 2 diabetes, especially among Asian populations”.

    And on the other hand, researchers found in an observational study that “replacing white rice and other refined grains with whole grains, including brown rice, would help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

    And this makes sense. In His Ultimate Wisdom, Allah subuhanawuta’la created whole grains with lots of fibre, because fibre does work as an antidote to simple starchy carbs. While starchy carbs increase your insulin level rapidly, it’s the fibre in the whole grain that lessons the insulin response. (As a general rule, too often, too long excess insulin secretion could lead to obesity)

    Apart from fibre, brown rice is rich in nutrients and minerals your body needs. Check this short comparison between these two rice varieties and see why brown rice (or any other whole grain rice) is superior:

    comparison chart, white rice, brown rice

    How to Make Eating Rice Healthy for You

    Now, does it mean, you should abandon white rice for the rest of your life? No, not at all.

    White Rice, with all its variety and taste, isn’t inherently bad for you. It all depends on your health goal (e.g. lose weight and gaining weight), the serving size and your lifestyle.

    • If you are in the process of getting bigger (and building more muscle), white rice can be helpful.
    • On the other hand, if you are trying to lose weight, eating too much of it will hamper your progress of getting lean.
    • So, if most of your calories come solely from white rice, then eating this type of rice is a health problem.
    • And, if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic patient, then white rice isn’t ideal food for you.

    So most foods aren’t good or bad; it all depends on what your goal and lifestyle is.

    Here are some steps, from easiest to most challenging, that you can take to modify your rice intake.

    Step 1: If you are eating white rice every day, choose whole-grain varieties of rice (such as brown, red, black or even wild rice) at least 3-4 times a week

    Step 2: Drink 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar diluted in 4 tablespoons of water, 5 minutes before your rice (or any other starchy carb-rich) meal. As mentioned in this article, vinegar helps to lower blood sugar level up to 34%.

    Step 3: Eat white rice in moderation. That’s around ½ to 1 cup (i.e. 250 ml cup) of cooked rice. Again, it all depends on the body size, gender, your health goal and your lifestyle.

    Step 4: Eat your rice (white or whole grain) with protein, some healthy fats and lots of vegetables. This will blunt the blood sugar response much better than if you sat down to a lonely, huge plate of rice.

    Step 5: Eat rice and any other starchy carbs only in the hour or two after intense exercise. Even this small shift in your diet will help you lose some fat and gain some muscle.

    Step 6: Eliminate rice and starchy carbs entirely, especially if you are obese and have a dangerous level of belly fat. Instead, replace rice and starchy carbs with lots of vegetables, and make sure you have a good intake of lean protein and healthy fats.

    If you are already in step 1, work towards step 2 and if you are already practising step 2, work towards step 3. It’s about bringing small lifestyle changes one step at a time.

    Small Steps Lead to Major Changes

    Attempting to overhaul your life all at once will only lead you to throw in the towel and worsen your health. So, start strong by slowly incorporating these steps into your lifestyle.

  • Coffee: Good or Bad?

    Coffee. For some, just the word coffee makes them feel alive. Yet for some others, this drink is their biggest nemesis, as it makes them jittery and even a bit anxious. In this article, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of coffee.

    Coffee is the second most popular beverage in the world after water. It’s also the world’s second most traded commodity trumped only by petroleum. And believe it or not, worldwide, a whopping 400 billion cups of coffee is consumed each year.

    A Short History of Coffee

    The term coffee has Arabic origins. It comes from the Arabic word “qahwa” (which is also what coffee is called in Arabic). Besides this origin, there is substantial evidence that suggests that Muslims in Yemen first drank coffee and introduced it to the rest of world.

    So, just as the countless of other inventions and discoveries made by early Muslims, coffee continues to shape our modern world and has an incredible presence as a drink and stimulant.

    Never-ending Coffee Controversy

    It’s estimated that almost half of the earth’s population drink coffee. While this drink is very popular, there are also loads of controversies surrounding it.

    100s of studies toot its benefits while 100 others raise a red flag! For example, while studies show that coffee is protective against heart diseases, other studies show that drinking coffee increases the risk of getting this disease.

    The Truth Revealed

    As a coffee lover and a moderate consumer of coffee, I felt like there was more to coffee than these studies claimed. So I decided to dig deeper into coffee and what I found next blew my mind.

    That’s because the latest research in nutrigenomics (the study of how genes and nutrients interact) shows that your genes play a vital role in whether coffee will be good or bad for your health.

    A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that certain individuals processed or metabolised caffeine much faster than others. Some of us are “fast metabolizers”, meaning that we process caffeine effectively and it doesn’t cause us health problems. Others are “slow metabolizers”, which means that in excess, caffeine can increase our risk of certain diseases.

    Fast metabolizers, who carry normal CYP1A2 genes, showed no increased risk of heart attacks from caffeinated coffee consumption. However, the opposite was true for slow metabolizers, who carry CYP1A2 gene variations. A study of this latter group found that drinking more coffee increased their risk. Drinking two to three cups daily increased the risk by 36%; drinking more than four cups daily cranked that risk to 65%.

    And this genetic variation doesn’t stop at heart disease. It also explains why some people can guzzle a pot of coffee just before bed and sleep well, while others find difficult to fall asleep at night with the last cup of coffee at lunch!

    Why Your Genes Matter: Fast and Slow Metabolizers

    It’s estimated that around 40 percent of people are fast metabolizers and around 15 percent are slow metabolizers. About 45 percent of the population have both a slow and a fast copy of this gene.

    According to Dr Ahmed El-Sohemy, one of the world’s foremost nutrigenomics researchers, DNA testing is the most reliable way to find out how quickly or slowly you metabolise this drink. There are many online services that provide this service, with 23andme.com being, perhaps, the most popular out there.

    But before you dismiss the likelihood of finding out your metabolism because you don’t want (or can’t afford) a DNA test, here is the next best thing to test how quickly you metabolise your caffeine: listen to your body.

    Yep, if you are a fast metabolizer, you may experience an immediate spike in alertness followed by a quick dip in energy after a cup of coffee. On the other hand, a slow metabolizer may find him or herself jittery after drinking coffee, and they may also crave some sugar an hour or two later.

    Another indicator of your caffeine metabolism is your sleeping pattern. If your evening cup of coffee disrupts your sleep, you most probably have a slow metabolising gene.

    Caffeine Content in Other Food Sources

    As you probably know, caffeine is found in other dietary sources too. The infographic below shows you these sources and their caffeine content:

    If you are slow metabolizer, make sure you don’t exceed more than 300 mg of caffeine a day. And avoid having this stimulant late in the evening.

    The Middle Path and Taking Our Prophet’s Advice

    After digging through countless journals, books and studies, it clearly shows that having a moderate amount of caffeine is the best advice to follow.

    As a Muslim, we know that our salvation in both worlds depends very much on moderation. The Prophet (PBUH) said:

    “Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately. Always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course, whereby you will reach your target (of paradise).” – Sahih Al-Bukhari

    Though this hadith speaks volumes, the simple take away message is this: moderation in all our affairs is the key to success.

    Moderate Caffeine Intake and Your Health

    Ok, now begs the question, what is a moderate amount in consuming coffee?

    It seems, one (250 ml) to three cups of coffee is fine for most of us. Exceeding more than three cups a day doesn’t seem to be beneficial even for the fast metabolizers.

    On the other hand, drinking a cup per day is not associated with a harmful effect even for slow metabolizers. It all depends on when you drink it.

    In a double-blind placebo-controlled design, a cup of early morning coffee significantly enhanced alertness in subjects.

    In another study, doses of 20-200 mg of caffeine caused subjective reports of increased energy, improved powers of imagination, increased efficiency, and improved self-confidence.

    So, regardless of how quickly you metabolise your caffeine, a cup of coffee may help you to kick start your morning.

    And if you need a shot of energy and alertness before an important event, you may again put the coffee to use to your advantage. Remember, it’s all about moderation and timing!

  • 6 Reasons Why You Should Stop Counting Your Calories

    Counting your calories seems easy and effective, right? Wrong. In this article, I give you 6 reasons why counting calories is bad for your health and weight loss goals. Learn how you can take control of not only what you eat, but your life.

    If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, then chances are you’ve come across the idea of counting calories. Tons of weight loss programmes have an underlining strategy that’s based on counting calories (think of Weight Watchers).

    These diets promote calorie counting because of how weight loss works: when the calories you take in are lower than what you expend, you lose weight. Counting calories, in addition to other methods, is perhaps one of the most prevalent ways to achieve this “negative energy balance.”

    However, many weight loss newbies (or even some advanced weight loss “experts”) assume that counting calories is an exact science. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not.

    Knowing the pitfalls of counting calories and how calorie-counting is detrimental to your mind and body will help you to create a healthy relationship with your food. And yes, you’ll still lose weight while not counting your calories.

    Now, let’s look at some of these pitfalls. You’ll understand why counting calories isn’t a sustainable solution for your weight loss goals.

    #1. Not All the Calories That You’re Having Are Equal

    At Lean & Healthy, we coach Muslims around the world to become lean and healthy for life. We also teach our clients why the quality of a certain food is more important than the quantity. As part of this method, we teach our clients that not all calories are equal.

    When counting calories, people usually don’t take the quality of their food into consideration. They just want to make sure that they don’t exceed their pre-calculated “2000 calories a day.

    But that’s totally dangerous. Just think about it. If you had the choice of eating a 200 calories banana or 200 calories candy bar, which do you think is better for your health? You know the correct answer.

    Though both are equal in calories, the banana has all the beneficial nutrients that your body needs, whereas a candy bar has almost zero nutritional value.

    So, you need to be aware of the fact that not all calories are equal.

    #2. You Look at Life through a Restrictive Lens

    Research is clear about this: counting calories creates a mindset programmed to think only of restrictions.

    It puts your brain into counting mode and, therefore, restricts you to numbers. As soon as your brain perceives deprivation, it’ll start to rebel and want more of what it is being deprived of. So, that’s when you’ll start to notice issues such as binge eating!

    In this case, you achieve exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve. Yep, it’s totally counterproductive.

    #3. You Start to Obsess About Food

    Research shows that people who count calories think more often about food than those who aren’t counting.

    We surely have more things to do than always be thinking about food, agreed?

    Of course, obsessing about food also leads to a bad relationship with your food. You start to demarcate the food that you eat into “good” and “bad” foods. And all of these issues are destructive to your mind and body.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t foods that you should avoid (e.g. candy bars), but eliminating entire food groups or depriving yourself of certain foods is very risky to your health. Variety was created by Allah (SWT) for a reason.

    #4. The Way You’re Calorie Counting Is Largely Inaccurate

    The calorie counts on food labels can differ wildly from the calories you actually extract, which means that counting calories is very inaccurate. What do I mean by this?

    Well, researchers estimate that even meticulously counting your calories can lead your count being up to 25% off. This means, that while you’re trying to maintain a designed 2000 calories diet, you may be eating anywhere between 1500 and 2500 calories. That’s a whopping 500 calories that haven’t been accounted for!

    To give you few examples:

    • A calorie content of a medium-sized apple can be anywhere from 80 – 115 calories
    • A calorie content of a cup of carrot can be anywhere from 40 – 60 calories
    • A calorie content of a serving of steak (around 225g) can be anywhere from 350 – 500 calories

    This is due to the simple reason that foods in nature exhibit variations in composition, size and other factors. These differences show the wide gaps in caloric content.

    #5. How You Prepare Your Food Impacts its Caloric Load

    Let’s say for the argument sake, that you know exactly how many calories this piece of steak has. You used a scale and you know that it’s exactly 225g and has 400 calories.

    You certainly don’t eat the steak raw, right? I assume you most probably barbeque it. This simple way of cooking impacts the calorie load of your steak. Yep, your 400 calorie steak is now 500 calories (its calories has increased by 25%) just because you’ve cooked it. This is before you’ve even added anything else.

    So, here is what you need to know: cooking, blending or even chopping your food generally makes more of the calories available for absorption.

    Which leads to my next point…

    #6. How You Absorb Your Food Matters

    Ok, let’s say you’ve somehow created a super complex excel sheet and found out exactly how many calories your cooked steak has. You think the problem is solved, right? Nope!

    Here’s the problem, up to 10% of what you eat doesn’t get absorbed in your body. And just for the record, carbs are better absorbed than protein.

    So, if you want to figure out how many calories of this steak is absorbed to your body, then you need to know that your body and your digestive process are far too chaotic to accurately churn out neat calorific numbers. Even if two people eat the same steak, cooked the same way, they will not get the same number of calories out of it.

    Depending on what type of bacteria your gut has, you could absorb up to 150 more calories than your own sibling.

    Now, go and calculate that 🙂

    Habits-Based Coaching: The Solution to Your Problem

    I can see you scratching your head. You’re thinking, “but Rushdhi, how do I then lose weight and maintain it for a lifetime?”

    To maintain a life-long lean and healthy body, don’t search for shortcuts such as calorie counting. Focus on building healthy habits. Results don’t come from how much you know, they come from how much you do consistently!

    And if you are wondering how to change your habits, join Lean and Healthy’s Premium Coaching Programme. This Programme will help you:

    • Learn the tried and well-researched methods to losing weight
    • Create and sustain healthy habits, and the most important…
    • Lose weight and stay healthy for life without counting calories!

    Don’t let your life be controlled by weight-loss methods that don’t work. Sign up for our Pre-Sale list and join the countless people who’ve lost weight and seen major transformations in their lives.

  • Turmeric: The Super Spice with Amazing Benefits

    Most of the foods that are beneficial to us are easily available and accessible. And that indeed is a great blessing from Allah subuhanawuta’la! In today’s article, I’m going to discuss one of the super spices— that is, turmeric. This spice is excellent for our health and well-being and I’ll tell you why!

    Enter: Turmeric!

    Turmeric is one of the most widely used spices in South-east Asian cuisine. If you’ve ever had an Indian dish, then you have certainly had at least some traces of turmeric!

    Turmeric has been used in many cultures for 1000s of years. This spice is not only used to cook but also for its healing properties. It’s still widely used in Ayurvedic medicine; on the other hand, traditional medicine is just opening its doors to explore this amazing spice. Scientists are interested in turmeric particularly due to its powerful primary active substance known as curcumin, which is also responsible for turmeric’s vibrant yellow colour.

    The benefits of turmeric and all its powerful compounds such as curcumin are simply too many to list. When I was writing this article, I was originally going to title it “10 Amazing Benefits of Turmeric”, but that would have been a disservice to turmeric because the last time I checked the research articles, I found 10’043 peer-reviewed published article that proves the benefits of turmeric and, specifically, curcumin.

    These studies suggest that turmeric is the most powerful spice on the planet in combating and potentially reversing, many modern diseases known to human.

    Here are a few crucial benefits of this amazing super spice:

    Turmeric Fights Inflammation

    While short-term inflammation in our body has very important benefits including fighting foreign invaders and repairing damages in our body, chronic (long-term) inflammation is very harmful to our body.

    The causes of many modern diseases such as cancer, heart diseases etc. are attributed to the chronic inflammation in our body. That’s why fighting this chronic inflammation is crucial not only in curing these diseases but also in preventing them.

    Turmeric, particularly its active substance curcumin, is extremely well known for its ability to control inflammation in our body. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas shows that curcumin is among the most effective anti-inflammatory compounds in the world. The study also cited that aspirin and ibuprofen are the least effective in fighting inflammation.

    So, turmeric certainly trumps these medications when it comes to anti-inflammation. Compared to these medications, this spice also has almost no side effects.

    Turmeric Is a Powerful Antioxidant

    Just like inflammation, free radicals are also necessary to our well-being. However, excessive amounts of free radicals are detrimental to our health. The oxidative damage caused by free radicals is thought to be one of the mechanisms behind cancer, autoimmune diseases, heart diseases and ageing.

    Antioxidants that are also found in vegetables and fruits protect us from the damages of free radicals. A balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary for proper physiological function.

    Curcumin is known to neutralises those free radicals. Nevertheless, the biggest advantage of curcumin is that it boosts the activity of our body’s own antioxidant enzymes. This, in turn, helps our body to create its own antioxidants!

    Other Health Benefits of Turmeric

    Turmeric as an antioxidant and inflammation-fighting powerhouse provides loads of health benefits. Some research studies point towards the following health benefits:

    • Curcumin in turmeric plays a protective role in cardiovascular diseases. These studies suggest that it may help ward off heart attacks
    • Many studies on animals have shown that curcumin can reduce the growth of cancerous cells. So, based on these studies, curcumin may prevent and, perhaps, treat cancer. However, as for now, the studies are preliminary to make any definitive conclusion
    • Preliminary studies also show that curcumin could help rheumatoid arthritis patients. This substance was shown to be even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug
    • Curcumin has the ability to boost our brain. Research shows that curcumin can increase the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in our brains. BDNF plays an important role in keeping our brain healthy. It is known to propel the growth of “good for you” new neurones. It also fertilises brain cells to keep them functioning and growing. So, an increased level of BDNF means that your brain is protected from many brain diseases. An increase also means a delay in the decrease in brain function associated with ageing. The more BDNF in your brain, the better it works! (By the way, regular exercise is an incredibly powerful way to increase these BDNF in your brain)

    The truth is, turmeric and, in particular, its active compound curcumin provides 100s of health benefits from delaying diabetes to digestive disorders! And it’s impossible to list them all here.

    What You Need to Know

    In order to benefit from the benefits of turmeric, you will need a certain amount of turmeric per day. But since scientific studies are quite messy at times, it’s not easy to find an amount that can help us to improve most of our health challenges.

    However, if you are looking for a way to optimise your health, along with the usual recommendations of proper nutrition and exercise, then adding a teaspoon or two a day of this super spice will certainly help you towards your goal.

    According to the University of Maryland, 1.5-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder is absolutely fine to consume on a daily basis. After extensive research, I would also say this is a good amount to stick to.

    In general, turmeric is very safe and rarely has side effects. Side effects can occur only when extremely high turmeric doses are taken for very long periods of time.

    How to Include Turmeric In Your Daily Routine

    In order to increase the absorption of curcumin, add a pinch of black pepper whenever you use turmeric. Funnily, grandmas all around the world used to do this without even knowing the scientific wisdom behind it 🙂

    Here are few ways how I use turmeric daily:

    • I add a teaspoon of turmeric to my morning omelette. Turmeric reduces the oxidation of oil while heating, thereby making the process of cooking with oil a bit healthier!
    • I use it in curries
    • At times, I add a little turmeric to cook rice or lentils.
    • I make turmeric tea, either with turmeric powder or turmeric root.
      • Here’s how to make turmeric tea using the root: Add ¼ teaspoon of pepper to 1 teaspoon of freshly grated turmeric root. Pour boiling water and let it steep with the lid on for 5 minutes. You can serve it with honey (important point: I don’t use honey)
      • Here’s how to make turmeric tea using powder: Add ¼ teaspoon of pepper to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder to boiling water. Let it simmer it for 5-10 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

    Enjoy this super spice while improving your health, bi’idnillah!