Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone
I read a funny story recently and it sounded to me so much like my own story and, every other woman's/mother's, that I had to begin this post with it.
Here's the story:
Being a working woman can be tough, but holding a job and having children is even tougher. There's a story about a mother with three active boys who were playing cops and robbers in the back yard after dinner one summer evening. One of the boys “shot” his mother and yelled. “Bang, you're dead.” She slumped to the ground and when she didn't get up right away, a neighbor ran over to see if she had been hurt in the fall. When the neighbor bent over, the overworked mother opened one eye and said, “Shhh. Don't give me away. It's the only chance I get to rest.”
From the book – "Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul"
Behind the light hearted spirit in this story, what strikes to me (and I'm sure – to you all too) is the blunt reality of a mother's life. Between juggling umpteen roles and trying to be the best in each – child, family, home, career, the first casualty is our own health, well-being and well, sometimes – even our mental and emotional equanimity…
The woman/mother is the backbone of the family.
If we are fatigued and stressed and jaded, it doesn't serve anyone well, least of all – US and our kid/s. In a bid to not compromise, meet expectations and evade pangs of guilt – we tend to overlook the first (or even advanced) signs of ill health that may even be indicative of something more serious than we ever apprehended. The depression, the persistent back aches, the dark circles under our eyes, the creaking bones and joints, the irregular periods – are we being wise by not taking them seriously? Well, then, what is it we're waiting for – the ultimate fall or something similar for us to wake up and smell the coffee?
Well, you're not alone in your crime and misery.
I've done this to myself and still do – every once in a while. And, I've faced the consequences too. From low hemoglobin level to persistent back aches and from first signs of depression to breathlessness, I've seen it all. But, enough was enough. I had to take stock of the priorities, strike a balance and in that balance, show some respect to my own body. After all, no one was asking me to ignore my self-interests. On the contrary, my hubby was constantly irked due to my habit of putting everybody and everything else ahead of my own concerns and interests.
So, I adopted a three-pronged approach – diet, exercise and discipline.
Of these, diet planing was my forte. But, I had little will power when it came to regular exercise and sleeping on time. I'd been a night owl all my life. Avie, on the other hand, is an early riser and very disciplined with his morning walks, yoga and workout and even foods habits. For instance, he will never have tea or coffee after 6 in the evening as it interferes with his dinner time. Me, on the other hand, despite being a healthy eater, tend to give in to temptations such as these. Offer me a cup of ginger tea after dinner on an wintry evening, and I'll have a hard time saying no…. shie! Anyways, I digress…
Exercise and Timely Sleep – The two pillars of a healthy lifestyle
The hubby decided to practise some 'tough love' with me on these two fronts! No matter what time I slept at night, he would drag me along on his morning walks and made sure I came back home to do some Yoga. The day I had an excuse up my sleeve, he would shake his head in disgust in a way that the next moment I'd be seen tying my shoe laces. I confess, I have an evolved sense of 'dignity' that's good and bad for me. For occasions such as these, it's best.
A couple of weeks of his breathing down my neck was all I needed to change my outlook on early rising and regular exercise. The overwhelming freshness of the morning air, the competing with him on the jogging tracks, our 'alone-time' as a couple and the confidence that came from tightening muscles and shrinking belly fat. This heady potion was too tempting to not keep tasting. We were doing 40 minutes of brisk walking and jogging even in bone chilling Delhi winter. Now, to do the 40 minutes of jog and 20 minutes of Yoga, after I have packed off my 5 year old to school, I had no other option but to fall in line with timely sleeping pattern. So, I started sleeping no later than 11 Pm or maximum 11:30 PM. Now, you may wonder, this isn't early by any means. Yeah, it isn't early, but it's pretty early by my standards. I was used to sleeping at 1 or 2 Am or even late! Besides, the most important thing was to sleep at more or less the same time – everyday and get quality sleep. With this, you can happily function with even 6 hours of sleep.
The easier part (at least for me) was the diet.
Yes, honestly, exercise and sleep were the monsters that I had struggled to tame, for years. Diet – not so. I had always maintained a healthy diet. And over the last 5 years, with my growing passion for knowing more about natural foods, role of nutrition and interplay between different vitamins and minerals, I was already trying out different foods in our daily eating. From a diverse range of whole grains to seeds and nuts to natural super foods – it was exciting to study and implement them. And, well – write about them!
So, here I am, sharing the FIVE SUPER FOODS
…from my research, reading, hands-on learning and experience. I believe these are among the world's healthiest foods and can revolutionize your state of health, happiness and overall well-being. There are a few more that I'd want to discuss, but I'd rather not – in this single post. I definitely don't want to make this an epic reading.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
You may have heard this before, you may have read about it and you may even be practising it. And yet, I want to reiterate and reemphasize that Omega 3 fatty acids are the single most essential natural supplements that should be a part and parcel of our daily diet. Frankly, not just women and mothers but every individual irrespective of gender or age should be taking these. The kids need it as much as the pregnant and postpartum women.
Whether it is depression or dry skin; heart disease or cancer; gum disease or weak bones or even cancer – Omega 3 fatty acids are the panacea for all. It's your "open sim-sim" key to disease free health and age-less beauty. These are the essential oils that the body absolutely needs but cannot make. Hence, you have to get them through food. I would like to mention here about the importance of keeping a balance between Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids. The Omega 3s reduce inflamation thus alleviating pain. Omega 6s (all sources of animal fat) , on the other hand, aggravate inflamation.
Best Food Sources for Omega 3s: Nuts and seeds and the oil obtained from them are the richest sources. Flax seeds and flax oil in particular, are loaded with Omega 3 Fatty Acids. So are walnuts. Some herbs like dried and ground cloves and oregano are very good sources as well. Fish Oil is THE best source but you must ensure that it is absolutely the best quality with no mercury and other toxic elements.
- You can read my detailed post on Flax Seeds over here.
- You can read more about the health benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, here.
Veggie Juices – Green or Colourful
Who doesn't know that green veggies should form the most essential part of our diet. But, are we able to eat enough greens or other colourful veggies, everyday in our diet? That's why juicing the veggies is the best way to ensure you are having plenty of greens.
The resounding reason why I prefer having vegetables in juice form is that there is no cooking or heat involved in juicing. Which means, the rich and abundant antioxidants, the natural chlorophyll and the raw enzymes in the greens will not be destroyed. These three are the most unique content of green vegetables that will be altered or damaged – if heated. Besides, green juices detoxify the body like nothing else can.
It's an established fact that adding more colours to our food by means of having veggies and fruits can cure specific diseases.
- Green juices made from cruciferous vegetables like brocolli have anti-cancer properties
- Cabbage juice heals the stomach linings
- Cherry juice reduces inflmmation and pain
- Tomato juice lowers blood pressure.
Note: Be wary of fruit jucies as they are very high in sugar content. Also, people who are diabetic or are weight watchers should avoid veggies that are high in sugar – like beet, carrot. Canned juices are high in artificial sugar content.
Sprouts: Sprouting is an excellent way of enhancing the nutrition value of food.
They're also great for busy mommies to prepare and have – on the go. I usually sprout legumes to eat them raw, or add them to curd/yogurt or make a tangy 'chat' by adding chopped raw tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, and green chilies.
Interestingly enough, you can sprout seeds and grains too and even nuts! The endosperm of the seed is a repository of protein, carbohydrate and essential oils. When the seed germinates, these become predigested amino acids and natural sugars. They are required for the life, growth and maturity of the germinated seed. When used as food, we get all the vitality and vigour of this life-giving force. Here are the top reasons why we should switch to sprouts.
- All legumes are rich in protein and starch and are acid forming unless sprouted
- Wheat, in its cooked form, causes mucous, allergies and constipation to many. But when sprouted, all its nutrients – Vitamin C, B complex, E, Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Chlorophyll – get converted to a form that can be better assimilated by the body
- Seeds and nuts are powerhouse of nutrition – phosphorous (for mental alertness), Iron, Calcium, Protein, Amino acids. But all this goodness is useless if it cannot be assimilated by the body. This is where sprouting helps.
Amaranth – the super grain
Whole Grains and Multi Grains
As a family, we like to eat out once in a while. It gives me a break from the kitchen and some unique flavours for the taste buds for all of us. But, I really wish there were some genuinely healthy eating joints that cared for what goes into their cooking (refined flour, refined oil, artificial colours…..argh!).
At home, I really care for the flours and grains I use. I like to use whole grain flours and also use a variety of grains. Besides wheat, I use Amaranth, Finger Millet (Indian name – Raagi), Buckwheat, Oats, Barley, Brown Rice, Wild Rice. When making rotis (Indian bread), I always use multi-grain flour and add the bran to it. I am yet to find authentic whole wheat flour with the germ as well as the bran intact. Hence, I buy the packaged bran and germ separately.
For women (and for the whole family), whole grains can work wonders in many ways.
- The fibers from whole grains can protect against breast cancer
- Eating whole grains can keep you lean
- Whole grains reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes (van Dam RM, Hu FB, Diabetes Care)
- Whole wheat reduces chronic inflammation (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
- The insoluble fibre in whole wheat helps avoid gallstones (American Journal of Gastroenterology)
- Wheat bran has anti-cancer properties
- Whole grains have significant Cardiovascular benefits for postmenopausal women by slowing the build-up of plaque (American Heart Journal)
Note: The phytic acid in whole grains is known to hinder the absorption of nutrients. To nullify the effect of phytic acid, it's advisable to take organic Vitamin C from green leafy vegetables or green juices (read above).
You may be surprised to know that Amaranth, which was a forgotten grain until a few years back, is now being hailed as super grain. Amarath is the richest source of almost every single vitamin and nutrient. It beats wheat (or rice) hands down on every front – protein, iron, zinc, copper, calcium, folic acid, vitamin C. What more, it's even gluten free, unlike wheat, which may be the leading cause of gluten intolerance in many people across the world.
Finger Millet, or Raagi (Indian name) is a grain that is very high in iron and calcium and hence very good for women and children. I generally make raagi dosa or Idli. I also add it to wheat flour for making bread. When mixed with wheat flour, a ratio of 1 (raagi): 4 (wheat) will result in delicious and crispy bread.
Compared to wheat or other grains, white rice is not nutrient-dense. It's lower in protein, iron, fibre, calcium, zinc, folic acid and B Vitamins. It's mostly made up of carbohydrates and hence gives instant energy. But, rice is gluten-free and easy on intestines. Substituting white rice with brown rice or wild rice would be the best health decision. My hubby and daughter are avid rice lovers so I have to make sure that they are eating the right rice.
This page lists the top grains with their nutrition value – if you'd like to know more about your grains.
Garlic – the natural antibiotic
I dread taking antibiotics and whenever I have had to take (which was just recently), I've felt as if I'm victimizing my system. Honestly, antibiotics do lot of harm in ways that we are not told by the doctors. Well, yes, we have to take them when there's no way out, like it was for me recently when I had to down those pills after several weeks of tramuatic sinus that gave me exploding headache. But, we must do so only after we've tried out natural remedies. And Garlic is one such miraculous natural antibiotic.
For cold and cough, fever, chest congestion, bronchitis and asthma, strep throat and even for some chronic as well as critical diseases like arthritis, high blood pressure, heart diseases and high cholesterol, Garlic can be a blessing.
For cold, cough, fever, prepare a concoction of raw crushed garlic. You must expose the garlic to air for 10 minuutes after crushing it and then add to boiling water. I know as a mother, how our hearts ache when we have to give the nasty antibiotics to our little ones. If you face such a situation, opt for the Garlic infusion rather than the antibiotic.
All these natural super foods plus a regular dose of sunshine (read this detailed article on the importance of Vitamin D), workout and a good night's sleep will keep you fighting-fit and make you look and feel young and positive.
So, yes, go right ahead and show yourself the much-required self-love and care.
Create your "my time" to connect with yourself; do what pleases YOU. And while doing so, don't let the ugly clutches of 'guilt' suffocate your soul! Being women, and being mothers, you and I know all too well – how we let our small joys and pleasures get subjucated in the traps of guilt – despite our best efforts and intentions. Let's declare freedom from this hidden monster within us.
Mother's Day Special Announcement!
To celebrate Mother's Day, I will be hosting a worldwide giveaway on my blog for creative parenting – Mommy Labs. I will be giving away three gorgeous gifts to three of my readers – mothers/daughters/grandmothers. I heartily invite you, dear readers, to participate tomorrow – May 5, Friday – at Mommy Labs. Happy Mother's Day to all!
And, some beautiful thoughts on what a Mother is…
- Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother. ~Oprah Winfrey
- When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child. ~Sophia Loren, Women and Beauty
- Mother – that was the bank where we deposited all our hurts and worries. ~T. DeWitt Talmage