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M. P. Ravindra Nathan


Editor's Note: This series is designed to give you heads up on healthy living and graceful aging.

Now let us get down to specifics. What are the foods that will increase your longevity? Researchers have concluded that "a low-risk diet typically characterized by a high intake of whole grains, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes may help ward off heart woes." They may improve your brain function and help to prevent cancer (soon to be the No. 1 killer in USA) as well. You can make the necessary changes to suit your palate, especially when cooking Indian and other ethnic foods.

Whole grains: Pasta, bread and flour made out of whole grains are freely available in supermarkets and health food stores. Ethnic foods such as chapathi, puri, etc., can be easily made with whole grain flour. For rice eaters, wild rice is the best and white rice the worst, when it comes to glycemic index, especially relevant to diabetics and prediabetics.

Vegetables: Vegetables are rich in fiber and vitamins. Include plenty of greens such as spinach, collards and kale, besides asparagus, lettuce, broccoli, squash and cabbage. Also, tomatoes, avocados and sweet potatoes (skip the regular white potato when possible). Use a rainbow of colors when you pick your veggies.

Fruits: Fruits have great credentials. They are low in fat, high in fiber and full of Vitamin C; most (banana, papaya, pineapple, cantaloupe, water melon, fig) contain a lot of potassium, which keeps your blood pressure down. Five helpings or more per day would be ideal. Include all berries especially blueberries and cherries. Apples have more fiber and fewer calories. Those which are red, purple or blue are packed with antioxidants, which help ease inflammation, eliminate free radicals and improve chronic illnesses. This explains why eating cherries may help reduce pain in arthritis and gout sufferers.

Nuts: They are the best snacks foods. Walnuts, almonds and peanuts are the healthiest; pistachios are OK. You can toss some into your breakfast cereals as well. They reduce heart disease risk by 39 percent, and lower your cancer and diabetes risk as well. Cashews and macadamia nuts have a lot of saturated fat, so go easy on them.

Legumes: Lentils, beans and peas are rich in proteins. These are essential in a vegetarian diet.

Spices: Some of the spices used in the Indian curries certainly seem to promote health - such as cinnamon, garlic, coriander, turmeric. etc. Not all herbs and spices have been scientifically proven to be beneficial, contrary to the claims from Holistic Health Practitioners.

Non-Vegetarian Foods: Fish, skinless low fat poultry and white meat turkey, ideally broiled or baked. The best fish are salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines. Saut�ing in olive or canola oil is OK. These fish are full of 'Almighty Omegas' (Omega-3 fatty acids), good for the heart and eyesight, prevent Alzheimer's disease and reduce blood pressure.

Fish Oil Supplements: Fish oil supplements are good fish substitutes, especially for vegetarians. Please check with your doctor before you take them.

Cooking Oils: Canola and olive oils are at the top. Corn, sunflower, safflower, flaxseed and soy bean oils are good too. Please try not to reuse the many times used leftover oil.

Two recent international studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids lower serum triglycerides, slow the atherosclerosis of the arteries, lower the blood pressure, and reduce heart attacks and strokes. So, eat fish or use fish oil supplements and choose your oil from among those rich in Omega-3 or Omega-6. Even non-hydrogenated coconut oil is making a comeback since some believe that the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil may help prevent or improve Alzheimer's disease, though it has not been recommended for those with hyperlipidemia and heart disease.

Alcohol: And for those who love their evening cocktails, the good news is that moderate alcohol consumption, ideally no more than 8 ounces of red wine for men and 4 ounces for women, is OK. They seem to improve HDL, the good cholesterol.

Fluids: Don't forget to drink plenty of fluids, ideally water, the main constituent of your body. Japanese and Chinese green tea, pomegranate and purple grape juices are good too. Stay away from the carbonated or sweetened beverages.

Salt: Make your diet low salt as well, since salt contributes to high blood pressure and worsens heart failure.

Finally, let me recommend some good diet books to help you eat better. "The Healthy Heart South Asian Diet," by Prof. Lalita Kaul (reviewed in this publication before) will enable you to enjoy our delicious and healthy ethnic cuisine. Another one is "Indian Foods: AAPI's Guide to Nutrition, Health and Diabetes (2002)." "South Beach Diet" and the new "South Beach Diet Super charged Work out" by the famous Miami cardiologist Arthur Agastaton are excellent books to help you on your quest for longevity.

Cardiologist Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan, director of Hernando Heart Clinic in Brooksville, lives in Brooksville.



My goal is to get everyone to be active and healthy. Many people can't go to a gym on a regular basis. Or most people cannot build a gym at home. And truly speaking, having all gym-size equipment is not necessary to perform 30 minutes to a one-hour exercise a day. You do not need all different types of cardio exercise machine for a daily 30-minute cardio exercise. Here is some useful equipment that everyone should have in their home:

Steps: You can buy step between $20 and $ 80. Steps help you to get full body moving and exercise all your leg muscles. Twenty minutes on steps or between 100 and 200 steps are equal to doing exercise 20 minutes on stare master in gym.

Exercise mat: There is nothing fancy about exercise mat other than a motivational tool. If you use your blanket or any other types of mat, it does not inspire you to work out. Once you put the exercise mat on the floor, it sets your mind to a work out and that's where you start your stretching exercise.

Dumbbells: All men want big arms. Hey! Have 5- to 20-pound dumbbells at home. While you are watching game or any TV program, perform three sets of biceps curls with 8 to 10 repetitions. All women want to shape their Hamstring muscles (thing and hip). Well, take those dumbbells and perform the 3 sets of lunges while watching your favorite TV program with 8 to 10 repetitions. There are many types of dumbbells available in the market. You can buy weight-adjustable dumbbells if your family members' exercise times are different. Also, get 1- or 2-pound dumbbells for kids and get them to exercise with you from now on.

Exercise bar: Triceps curl, triceps pull and bench press (perform on exercise mat) can be done at home with an exercise bar. You can buy a 9- or 12-pound bar or an adjustable bar. People who do not like sit- ups can perform abdominal exercise while standing to work up the belly.

Monkey bar: Monkey bar is the greatest tool to have in home that has kids. Now, you all remember how much we used hang and jump when we were growing up. Kids can easily perform pull-ups and you want them to improve that strength and flexibility of hanging and pulling. It helps children grow taller, and build their shoulder and arm strength. Similarly, a monkey bar is just a $30 equipment you can fix between door walls and let your kids hang as they enter and exit the room.

Medicine ball: Medicine ball helps to create resistance in your sit-ups. Also, take the same weight medicine ball in both hands and perform exercises to work up your fat. Again, the ball is a great tool to have in home. For kids and seniors, it is a better way to get biceps and triceps exercises than dumbbells because holding the ball with two hands creates better balance, which minimizes the injuries while also working up the muscles.

People with more space at home for larger exercise equipments should have an exercise bench, one of the cardio machines (treadmill, elliptical or bicycle). People more than 50 years of age should have a bicycle, which helps with cardio exercise. Treadmill is a good tool, yet I believe it takes space. My favorite is elliptical because it gives you a full body cardio exercise.

Last but not least, exercise books and DVDs can be useful for varied ideas about exercising. Also, have a professional trainer come to your home once a week to show you new exercises with your home equipments. Trainers also help you improve your positioning, strength and duration along with tips to minimize injuries with exercise.

Start today to make your life active right at your home!

Achut Mashruwala of Fitness Guru Inc. can be reached at (813) 857-5103 or e-mail [email protected]

Payal Patel

I get a lot of parents in the office who are proud to say how well their child is learning and focusing because of TV and videogames. Nowadays, kids are plopped in front of a TV even before they can sit up because the caregiver observes that they seem interested in the TV and seem to like it, without realizing the consequences.

Television has a tremendous influence on our kids. It does have positive influence because the kids are smarter and learn a variety of new things, but because of the excessive time spent in front of a TV, computer or playing videogames, it does have a lot of negative affects.

Many children spend more time in front of a TV than in school. Also, these days we don't see a lot of children playing outside or interacting with their peers like before, leading to a lack of communication and social interaction. This also is true for siblings and parents.

Most kids are not reading at grade level nowadays because TV, videogames, etc., are taking away from valuable reading time, which would enhance their vocabulary and thinking capacity. It leads to a decrease in school performance as they are hurried in homework time, and watching TV when they should be going to sleep at an appropriate time.

TV and videogames also lead to a more aggressive behavior because of the numbing effect watching violent cartoons and playing violent videogames has on a child. Because a child is unable to reason the amount or extent of aggression they see, they may think it is normal for them to behave the same way as portrayed on TV, etc.

To prevent such behavior, it is important to encourage other activity. The most important intervention is limiting TV watching and videogame time to 1-2 hours per day depending on the age of the child. A 4- to 5-year-old should have no more than 30 minutes to one hour in front of the TV, while an 8-year-old may watch or play videogames 1-2 hours.

n weekends, you may allow them 30 minutes to an hour more depending on family values and age of the child. Setting a time limit helps your child focus his time elsewhere such as interacting with the family or friends, playing outside, reading, sports, music, etc.

Introducing interest in books early on promotes reading and vocabulary enhancement as they grow up. Parents should read to their child even before they are a year old as valuable time spent together, and to boost interest in books.

TV or videogames should never be used as a distraction or a babysitter because this form of entertainment becomes unsupervised, leading to younger children watching violent or inappropriate shows. TV videogames should never interfere with bedtime. Setting a routine for the child as to when it is a good time to watch shows is a good habit that will last through the years.

A good time is right after school, when they want to relax for an hour before starting their homework. This way it does not interfere with learning, family time at the dinner table, and scheduled bed time.

Talking to your child about what is considered an appropriate show also is important so they realize the reasons mom and dad don't allow certain TV watching. Buy videogames that are age appropriate and do not contain violence.

Also, make sure you set a good example by not watching too much TV yourself or inappropriate shows in front of them. Always enforce that the TV be turned off once their time is over, giving more value to family-based interaction.

Although TV and videogames can teach focus, attention to details, enhance their imagination, etc, excessive and inappropriate TV and videogames has a negative impact on our kids. Therefore, setting and maintaining routines for TV and videogames is important for a child's intellectual development.

Happy holidays and a Happy New Year.

Dr. Payal Patel is a board-certified pediatrician at Sunshine Pediatrics, 18928 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Suite 102, Lutz. For information, call (813) 948-2679.

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