6 Body Cooling Foods to Beat the Heat This Summer

Summer can leave us dehydrated and feel deprived of energy. With the mercury levels soaring higher each day, it is important that we find ways to overcome the impact summer has on our bodies. Keeping your body heat in check can help prevent ailments such as stomach ulcers, rashes and boils on the skin, heat cramps, acidity and heartburn and excessive perspiration, among others. Incorporating body cooling foods in daily meal plans will not only balance our diets but also helps keep the body cool. Listed below are some cooling foods that can be included in our diet to fight the effects the sweltering weather has on our bodies:

Watermelon

Body cooling foods

Watermelon, a seasonal summer fruit, is 91.5% water. It’s a great way of fulfilling your body’s water requirement. The fruit also packs plenty of anti-oxidants. Make some freshly squeezed juice, fruit salads and chaats or just enjoy it by itself to keep your body well hydrated.

Coconut water

Coconut water

There is no better summer drink than coconut water. Available in abundance, this not-so-expensive drink is loaded with electrolytes, essential vitamins and minerals and other nutrients. Drinking coconut water regularly helps fight the hot weather and its negative impacts our bodies. Recent studies have also established that coconut water has cancer-fighting properties. Even more reasons to drink coconut water this summer!

Cucumber

cucumber

Rich in fibre, eating cucumber during the summer can work wonders in keeping any constipation troubles at bay. Use this water-rich vegetable in your salads or just eat them as a snack to stay as cool as a cucumber.

Curd/Yoghurt

Curd

Apart from being delicious, curd/yoghurt is a great coolant and has probiotic properties. It is a very versatile ingredient in the kitchen that can be used to prepare an array of dishes, both sweet and savoury. You can use curd to make spiced buttermilk, raita or sweet lassi. You can also add seasonal fruits to it and make a lip-smacking smoothie.

Mint

Mint

Mint is a cheap, easily available herb that you can find in most vegetable stores and markets. Adding mint in water, chai or curd is great for overall health. You can also use this herb to prepare mint chutneys and dips which make a great accompaniment to snacks. Including mint in your diet is a great way to stay cool and refreshed.

Onions

Onions

Who would have thought onions have cooling properties, right? Red onions especially are loaded with quercertin, a natural anti-allergen. Ranging from mild to pungent, the taste of raw onions may not appeal to everyone. You can chop them up and mix it with other vegetables to make salads. Yet another way to eat onions is to add it to your curries and raita. Adding onions to your food also helps protect you from sun strokes.

Apart from what’s mentioned above, you can also include loads of fruits and vegetables, especially the green leafy kind, in your diet to stay cool and healthy. What are your favourite foods to eat during summer? Let us know in the comments below.

Balancing the Protein Intake in Vegan and Vegetarian Diets

Getting the required amount of protein in your everyday diet without consuming too much meat can seem tough, maybe even impossible. It can appear especially difficult if you are vegan or vegetarian and are looking to consume vegetarian protein or plant protein. Getting all the required nutrients and minerals is just a matter of following a healthy, wholesome diet. Protein-rich meats can be substituted by simple, everyday ingredients to get all the protein your body requires.

Listed below are some of the most easy-to-source, simple-to-cook sources of vegetarian protein:

  •  Legumes
    Legumes

Legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, green peas, soybeans, kidney beans, etc. are some of the most common ingredients used in vegetarian, Indian dishes. They are a powerhouse of nutrients as they are rich in fiber, iron, phosphorous, potassium and B vitamins apart from protein. For instance, half a cup of cooked chickpeas contains about 7 grams of dietary protein. Dishes such as lentil curries and hummus are a great source of vegetarian protein and make a perfect substitute for meats. Legumes are often classified as incomplete proteins. However, when paired with rice, it makes a complete protein and can provide all the essential amino acids your body requires on a daily basis. Including dishes such as dal tadka, dal makhani, toor dal fry, channa masala, etc., are a simple, quick and delicious protein-fix.

  •  Tofu

    Vegetarian ProteinTofu, or bean curd, is a plant-based protein. It makes an excellent addition to several Indian dishes and is immensely popular as a vegan alternative for paneer (cottage cheese). Half a cup of tofu contains about 10 grams of dietary proteins. It is also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids including omega-3 fats, making it a heart-healthier alternative for high-fat meats that contain saturated fat. Curries, salads, noodles, etc. are some of the dishes that tofu can be incorporated into.

  • Heart-healthy Nuts

    Healthy Nuts

Including nuts such as cashews and almonds is a great way to incorporate plant-based protein into vegetarian and vegan diets. Furthermore, nuts are excellent sources of heart-healthy fats, dietary fibre and vitamin E besides being a vegetarian protein mine. About 23 whole almonds provide about 6 grams of protein, while around 17 cashews contain just over 4 grams of dietary protein.

  • Dairy Foods and Their Alternatives

Apart from the above, dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are also great sources of vegetarian protein. Paneer, a fresh cheese used widely in Indian cuisine, contains about 17 grams of protein per cup. Calcium-fortified non-dairy substitutes, such as soy milk and soy yoghurt, are also excellent sources of protein. A cup of milk or soy milk provides about 8 grams, and 1 cup of low-fat yoghurt contains about 13 grams of dietary protein.

These ingredients work great with Indian dishes and are easily available in almost all local stores. If you lack the time to prepare your own food, then you can choose to get a meal subscription plan that includes some or all of the above-mentioned vegetarian goodness in their meal plan. That way, you can still get that vegetarian protein and keep your protein game strong!

5 Food Additives You Should Avoid

Food additives are nothing but chemicals that are added to food products to ease the processing, enhance the flavours and improve their shelf life. However, unlike the term suggests, these chemicals don’t really “add” any value to the food. Some of these additives are said to be cancer-causing and have been linked to triggering several ailments.

Listed below are some of the most common additives to stay clear from:

Food Additives

  • Artificial sweeteners

Aspartame (E951) is a chemical compound that is most commonly used in “diet” and “sugar-free” foods. A neurotoxin and a carcinogenic, this compound is said to have drastic effects on intelligence and short-term memory. Brain tumour, diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, emotional disorders like depression and anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines and seizures are some of the ailments that artificial sweeteners are said to trigger. Some of the most commonly consumed food products that contain aspartame include sugar-free sodas, diet coke, coke zero, jello (and other gelatins), desserts, sugar-free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, tabletop sweeteners, cereal, breath mints, pudding, ice tea, chewable vitamins, toothpaste.

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is widely used as a flavour enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods. MSG is known as an excitotoxin – a substance that causes cells to get overexcited to the point of damage or death. Increased consumption of MSG can result in adverse side effects including depression, disorientation, eye damage, fatigue, headaches, and obesity. MSG is used as an additive in Chinese food, many snacks, chips, cookies, seasonings, frozen dinners and lunch meats.

  • Trans Fat

Trans fat is on the extreme end of the dangerous additives chart. It finds application in increasing the shelf-life of food products. Several studies show that trans fats increase LDL cholesterol levels while decreasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increases the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes, and contributes to increased inflammation, diabetes, and other health problems. Deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, baked goods, fast foods, chips and crackers are some examples of trans fat-containing foods.

  • Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite

Sodium nitrate (or sodium nitrite) is often used as a preservative, colouring, and flavouring in processed meats. This compound is highly carcinogenic once it enters the human digestive system. Once inside the digestive system, it forms a variety of nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc with a number of internal organs, the liver and pancreas in particular. Sodium nitrate is found commonly in food items such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, lunch meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats.

  • Soy Lecithin

Soy lecithin is used to give products a smooth, uniform appearance. Some of the more commonly recognized side effects associated are like bloating, diarrhoea, mild skin rashes, nausea and stomach pain. Used primarily as an emulsifier, you can find this compound in anything from salad dressing to tea bags, especially chocolates.

Fortunately, you will be able to avoid most of the above-mentioned additives by skipping restaurant meals. In fact, opting for home cooked meals is a simple and effective way to avoid these additives from your daily diet.

7 Easy Hacks for Staying Healthy, Especially If You Have a Busy Lifestyle

Making lifestyle improvements, exercising more and staying healthy are expected to emerge as some of the major trends this year. However, since most of us have day jobs followed by a multitude of house chores, we are all faced with one big problem – lack of time to invest towards maintaining that healthy lifestyle. We, at Masala Box, has compiled a list of simple, yet highly effective tips and trends that you can inculcate in your daily routine to stay healthy and fit without having to spend too much time.

Healthy Eating - Masala Box
Super Seeds
  1. Super seeds: Often deceptive because of their size, super seeds are a powerhouse of essential nutrients such as protein, fiber, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Super seeds – flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. – are easily accessible and available in most stores and supermarkets. Sprinkle a handful of these on salads and smoothies, maybe even rotis, dosas and just about anything to make your meal a power-packed one.
  2. Simple flavours: Maintaining simple, yet bold flavours is an upcoming trend in home kitchens. The rising popularity of culinary shows and books coupled with the use of equipment such as microwaves and grills are quickly transforming flavour preferences. Spicy, heavy-on-the-stomach curries are being replaced by stir-fried, grilled and boiled alternatives, whether it is a simple dinner at home or a family feast.
  3. East meets West: Fusion dishes are a huge hit in Indian kitchens currently. Dosa wraps, roti tacos, using Greek yoghurt or skyr instead of the more familiar, homemade dahi, incorporating superfoods such as seaweed, quinoa and amaranth in everyday meals are slowly becoming the norm in Indian food.
  4. Farm to table: This somewhat old trend is making a huge comeback, especially with the increasing popularity of organic food and preference for healthy eating. The use of farm-fresh vegetables and fruits instead of the mass-produced stuff not only makes the food healthier but also ensures that farmers get a better return for all their hard work.
  5. Veganism: With the rise in awareness about the health benefits of veganism, doing away with conventional staples such as milk and dairy products is no longer frowned upon (maybe with the exception of your grandmother!). More people are adopting a vegan lifestyle owing to the availability of alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk, peanut butter, almond butter, coconut cream, tofu, etc., which makes the transition not only easy, but also healthy.
  6. Gluten-free eating: Gluten-free eating is yet another upcoming trend in India, a country where the idea of wheat-less paranthas would be laughed at. As more people are learning about gluten-intolerance and the health benefits of gluten-free eating, the popularity of bhajra, millet and jowar, which are also easily available, is on the rise.
  7. Easy-to-carry alternatives and food makeovers: The preference for the consumption of home-made food is increasingly favoured as more people are focusing on lifestyle improvement and healthy eating. This shift in preference is transforming several Indian dishes, with strong and pungent flavours making way for subtle ones and deep fried items being replaced with roasted or grilled alternatives. Oats upma and kichdis, Indian-style sandwiches and innovative paranthas are some of the most popular alternatives that are currently finding their way inside office lunch boxes in India.