Tiny but potent, these two food ingredients in your diet can make you really strong

Move beyond macros like proteins and vitamins.

 |  Hello, Health  |  4-minute read |   10-07-2017
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Very often, the nutrition news we are fed is a smattering of facts: frivolous and half-baked. The truth, that is how good a food is for us, usually lies buried deep in some specific components that constitute the food.

So to really understand how to eat well, it’s important to go beyond the superfluous information floating about, get acquainted with the food elements good for us and learn how to score enough of them.

After all, our health depends on them far more than the food macros.

paneeer_071017035338.jpgGet the greens.

The first component to make friends with is quercetin as it leads to a longer life, healthier heart, improved immunity, enhanced energy and more — stuff that all of us seek. Recent research marks this antioxidant as anticancer and antitumour, plus it effectively fights free radical damage helping arrest the effects of stress-induced ageing and inflammation. According to some estimates, an average person scores between 5 and 40 milligrammes of quercetin a day. Even though there are no set RDAs (recommended dietary allowances) for this antioxidant, we can and must try to get in much more than that (in fact, more the merrier). And this is possible by consciously incorporating quercetin-rich foods in our diet.

For that to happen, we need to know which foods to target, so here’s an extensive list:

Right on top are tea leaves, both green and black, giving close to 255 and 200mg of quercetin respectively per 100grams of leaves. So a couple of cups a day of either or both is a good idea certainly. But the important thing to know is that quercetin is a delicate heat-labile nutrient and may not survive completely when subjected to boiling water.

So instead of boiling tea leaves, place them in a cup, add hot water (not boiling water) and drink as quickly as possible when the brew is ready.

chai-emb_071017035202.jpgDon't boil the leaves.

Come to think of it that’s probably why the Japanese do not boil tea leaves. Other liquids that help are cocoa, cranberry juice, lemon juice (all three are potent sources) and red wine (yes, a little bit of the tipple is good for us).

Raw red onions are a good bet too as 100gm of these will give you almost 20mg of quercetin, but the white, the sweeter variety, will give you only one-fourth of that. So plate more of the red ones. And also peel them lightly, as most of the antioxidant is concentrated near the peel. Plus, as the quercetin content is slightly diminished by cooking, raw is your best bet.

Next come the greens: kale and spinach, and the ubiquitous apple (yes, that’s why an apple a day!). Other foods to score are prunes, peppers, red grapes, dark cherries and berries, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, sprouts and citrus fruits.

Pick and choose at will from the list. It’s actually a no-brainer that the daily intake of quercetin will be higher in those who eat a lot of vegetables and produce.

kuttu_ki_puri_149111_071017034849.jpegKuttu ku atta is great for your diet.

Also add some buckwheat to your diet, as it seems to be the only grain with a healthy amount of quercetin. Those who designed the navratra fasting fare (which is usually heavy on buckwheat or kuttu ka atta) were really smart apparently!

Another interesting, though not so easily available, food loaded with quercetin is bee pollen. Good bet again, but like I said, not that easy to source.

Score this one too

Another hot tip is that when quercetin is combined with another food component, an anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain, the health benefits delivered by both multiply. There is only one known food source of this enzyme: pineapple! So it’s a good idea to have some every now and then. And the important thing to remember here is that the fibre-rich core of pineapple has the maximum concentration of bromelain. So pick the juiciest, ripest one you can find, so that you can eat some of the soft core too.

how-to-cut-up-pineap_071017034639.jpgDon't miss the fibre-rich core.

Now bromelain is really good for us. It specifically helps to digests proteins, and also helps our body absorb nutrients more efficiently, and make the most of what we eat. That’s precisely why it is a fabulous immunity booster. Plus it is one of the most effective natural antihistamine (anti-allergy agent) known and helps keep a lid on respiratory distress and inflammation associated with allergies. It also reduces discomfort and swelling associated with sinus problems. So for those with respiratory issues —pineapple can certainly be your saviour.

The bottom line is that it pays to focus on these tiny food components to ensure that we get and stay strong from inside.

So move beyond macros like protein, vitamins et al. Now remember these two terms — quercetin and bromelain — and make friends with them.

Also read: No, mangoes don't make you fat and diabetics can have them too


Kavita Devgan Kavita Devgan @kavitadevgan

The writer is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico).

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