The tea series: How to brew a perfect cup of tea?

Preparing tea is an exercise in simplicity that, consists of nothing but boiling water, making the tea, and serving. While these words indeed capture the spirit of tea, preparing any of the hundreds of teas available requires attention and knowledge. Making a delicious cup of tea is a play of tea leaves, the amount of water used, water temperature, the time of infusion, and the vessel the tea is brewed in.

Pay attention to the following factors-

Water
Always use freshly drawn, cold water to prepare tea. Purified and spring water are best because they are relatively free from pollutants and other substances that can dramatically alter tea’s taste. On the other hand, it is preferable for the water to have some natural minerals content, as they may enhance the tea’s flavor. For this reason, distilled water should be avoided since the lack of minerals will leave the tea tasting flat.

The water should be heated until a steady stream of air bubbles gently rise to the surface. At this point, the water is sufficiently heated and also has a preferable oxygen content. In contrast, using water that has been held at a fierce, rolling boil can leave tea tasting dull and flat.

Temperature
Temperature is critical in making good tea. The popular conception that boiling water can be used on any kind of tea is actually incorrect. In fact, each variety of tea,
from green to black, needs to prepared at a different range of temperature. Because of its more delicate processing, green tea often needs a cooler temperature to bring out the right flavor. Conversely, black tea, which has been fully oxidized, needs much hotter water to bring out its characteristic baked sweetness.

Duration Of Infusion
Similar to water temperature, different kinds of tea need to brewed for different lengths of time. Generally, delicate teas such as green tea need to be brewed for shorter
times, while heartier black teas benefit from longer infusions.

Material of Teapot
While seemingly unimportant at first, the material of the teapot being used also affects the quality of the infusion. When considering a teapot, it is important to consider
the variety of tea and the temperature at which it is prepared. Materials like iron or Chinese yixing ware are excellent at retaining heat over long periods of time, while
glass or porcelain are more likely to release that heat. Therefore, iron and similarly heavy materials are better for teas that need to be prepared at high temperatures, such as black tea Green and white teas, on the other hand, needs a vessel that stays cooler, such as porcelain.

Step By Step 101-

1. Bring freshly drawn, cold water to a boil in a kettle
2. When water is at a gentle boil, remove heat.
3. Pour hot water into teapot and teacups and pour off. By warming the cups in this way, the water temperature will be more consistent.
4. Add the proper amount of tea leaves per person to the pot.
5. Allow water to cool to the proper temperature, if necessary, and pour over the tea leaves.
6. Steep for the proper length of time.
7. Strain completely into another teapot or directly into the serving cups

Wishing you a Happy Cup!

Is India Shining Despite Vitamin D Deficiencies?

The human body can make its own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight unlike other vitamins. This vitamin is essential for overall good health and strong bones and also plays an important role in the functioning of your muscles, brain, lungs and heart and ensures that your body fights infection.

This is why the results of a recent study are particularly alarming for health experts. The study revealed that a whopping 69 per cent of Indians suffer from vitamin D deficiency, while a further 15 per cent were found to be vitamin D insufficient.

A drop in vitamin D levels can make your bones weak, and make you susceptible to fractures. It also causes osteomalacia, resulting in muscle weakness, and contributes to osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Typical problems include bowed legs, rickets and deformed spine. Recent research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for heart disease, too.

Causes of Vitamin D deficiency

‪#‎Indoor‬ activities: It seems working from dawn to dusk in air-conditioned offices and time spent indoors have starved the supply of vitamin D in the body
‪#‎Shunning‬ the sun: People are reluctant to go out in the sun. Those who stay indoors a lot or cover their body when outside are most likely to suffer from the deficiency. Glass windows don’t help either, so you don’t generate vitamin D when sitting in your car or while at home.
‪#‎Indian‬ skin tone: Melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D. People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20-30 times more exposure to sunlight as compared to fair-skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D
‪#‎Use‬ of sunscreen: Sunscreen lotions fight the sun and prevent vitamin D synthesis. Sunscreen use can potentially lead to vitamin D deficiency, particularly if high sun protection factor (SPF) creams (factor 15 or above) are used. However, don’t abandon sunscreen altogether, because humans, especially children, still need protection from the harmful effect of the sun’s rays, especially at midday.
‪#‎Vegetarian‬ diet: Your body may lack the sunshine vitamin if you eat a largely vegetarian diet. Vitamin D is found primarily in animal products such as dairy foods, liver, eggs, fish and fish oils. However, diet alone cannot provide an adequate amount of vitamin D. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to generate it.
‪#‎Obesity‬: Being overweight also adds to the problem. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release in the body. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D

Recovery/Prevention

‪#‎Vitamin‬ supplements
If you’re taking a multivitamin, eating vitamin D-enriched foods, and regularly spending time in the sun, you’re probably covered.

‪#‎Sun‬ Bathing
15-20 minutes in the sun with your arms and legs uncovered is just about enough for a few days.

#Vitamin enriched diet
Very few foods contain vitamin D, and those that do don’t offer nearly enough. The exception is fatty fish like salmon, which serves up about 450 IU per 3-ounce serving. Fortified milk and orange juice have about 115-135 IU per cup; egg yolks contain roughly 40. Include foods like salmon, sardines, eggs and meat, breakfast cereals, soy products, dairy products, and low-fat spreads in your diet

‪#‎Go‬ easy on the sunblock
It makes no sense to try to boost your vitamin D levels through prolonged sun exposure. You’ll just be trading one health problem for another—namely sunburn or even skin cancer Keep in mind the vitamin D you get from sitting in the sun lasts 2-3 times longer in your bloodstream than vitamin D from food, so a little goes a long way.

‪#‎Get‬ Moving
The Indian Council of Medical Research recommends outdoor physical activity to achieve adequate vitamin D levels and to control obesity. This applies to all age groups.

Rice is Very Nice

Rice is Nice!

So Carbs are bad? The roti/chawal/aaloo that you have been eating since you were born are suddenly big bad boys which need to be avoided like the plague. Right!

Wrong! The fact that you are vegetating on the couch watching TV, getting no exercise, not eating right and working long hours
and are constantly hooked to your pc/tab/phone is the culprit. If you think just avoiding rice will make u fitter than Serena Williams, then you are plain delusional.

Our culture has been eating rice since forever and there are hundreds of rice types that are specific to India. Fresh and locally grown rice cannot be bad for us.

The tony dieticians and doctors who hand us the ‘bad-rice’ reports and forbid us from eating rice do not pay attention to how it is eaten in our homes and communities. The dal-chawal, rajma/kadhi/chana-chawal combinations that we have been eating at home is the best possible nutrient combo. It is a complete food which aids digestions and absorption of amino acids and vitamins.

Replacing rice isn’t a great idea since it means moving away from amino acids and vitamin B which are important for cellular growth and repair. Moving away from white to brown is also partially sensible because too much fiber eventually cases indigestion and bloating so stick to white rice with brown/red stains. These are very easily available in the market and are cheaper as well. We have to start looking beyond our brown rice mentality to look for an optimal option.

Foods that your ancestors and grandparents have eaten are best assimilated by your DNA. Don’t give up on them.Enjoy them ,eat them and take pride in them.

And now that you can eat more good rice, for God’s sake, please move off that couch and go for a walk!

Strength Training Vs. Cardio

Working out right!

Most people think that running on the treadmill for an hour each day and then moving on to other cardiovascular exercises that make them breathlessly sweaty will actually help them lose weight. Its time to bust the myth and turn inwards towards ‘yog’ and strength training.

Here’s why. Through cardiovascular workouts you are training the two strongest organs in the body, the heart and the lungs. These involuntary organs are programmed to function automatically and they are actually capable of handling much more work that our other bodily organs.

On the other hand, our bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments are infinitely more fragile and need to be strengthened and conditioned with strength training. Unless these are strong, running long distances will plague you with back problems, injuries and knee pain, etc. In fact, the resultant fatigue can actually be attributed to weak upper bodies; a weak spine and chest ensures that you collapse on your chest in long distance runs (depriving the working muscle of enough oxygen). Such top body weakness also leaves you more vulnerable to injuries and sprains.

Regular Yog can save you from injuries by using your own body weight as resistance and then the asanas are gentler on the bones, internal organs and the heart/lung duo for sure. This is why yog is prescribed to all new moms and patients recovering from illnesses or surgeries

You can only gain the ability to stabilize your spin through strength training and it is only when you achieve that, should you indulge in long haul runs.

Do a little social experiment, change your workouts for a month and see the stamina changes that it gives you.

Eat, Pray, Live!

Choose the Gold Standard in Food
Five things we can change in 2016 when it comes to food (and these are valid for everyone, inclu¬ding diabetics, the obese and heart patients).
1. Don’t buy food items that are not in season. This also implies getting more in touch with agricultural practices so that we know what grows when.
2. Patronize NUS foods. NUS is ‘Neglected and underutilized species’ and is a UNFAO term for healthy/ therapeutic local foods which have fallen out of favor because they have an image of being ‘poor man’s food’—jackfruit, jamun, ber, mungphali etc. Buying them will give poor farmers a reason to grow them before they go extinct.
3. Chose the right oils: Coconut/ groundnut/ mustard are the original cooking oils of India. Just because they are not marketed as ‘heart healthy’ or ‘a certain nutr¬ient rich’ doesn’t mean they are not. In fact, they are excellent for health and blend well with our cooking style. Of course, the gold standard when it comes to a cooking medium is ghee—as all true desis know.
4. Put rice on your plate: Eat rice, especially for dinner. Easy on your stomach, rice promotes the growth of gut-friendly bacteria, has fat-burning and anti-anxiety properties and also allows for better assimilation of Vitamin D. And remember, we need ‘optimum fibre’, not ‘high fibre’, so choose hand-pounded or single-polished white rice over brown rice.
5. Consume plant protein: According to nutrition scientists, future food that will help the world ease the double burden of undernourishment (the obese rich and malnourished poor) is plant protein. These are foods which combine legumes and grains. In simpler words, foods like our very own dal-khichdi. When eaten with a serving of ghee, it makes for a complete meal.
Become a pukka desi ! You have nothing to lose but bad skin, poor digestion and poor bone/heart health!