It’s fascinating and scary thinking that the center of our bodies can contemplate its own demise. Our brains can study, research, and fear ailments like cancer and Alzheimer’s. And finding a healthy combination of these reactions might be our best chance at avoiding these terrible conditions. Dr. Shantha Kumar’s Functional Nutrients for Brain Health: A Vegetarian Perspective seeks to help readers find that balance.
Dr. Kumar undertakes a noble, yet challenging, task: helping the mind keep pace with a body that continues to live longer and longer. To do this, she applies her knowledge and experience to a full body type of medicine. In other words, the book’s advice goes beyond nutrition and includes commentary on exercise, sleep, and stress. In our current hashtag nutrition culture, where foods are elevated to savior status with little to no explanation, Dr. Kumar’s words become particularly refreshing. Take this passage for instance, “Olive oil is an Omega-9 monounsaturated fat which is a healthy option for the brain, although it is more cholesterol genetic (increasing blood cholesterol) than other unsaturated fats” (12). Rather than just uplift olive oil as a cure-all superfood, she takes the time to explain how some substances that increase brain health can simultaneously put other parts of the body under duress.
Additionally, the book provides a wealth of nutritional information that though aimed at vegetarians can apply to anyone. I particularly liked the section on fruits – which she lists hierarchically to indicate that not all fruits contribute to the same level of brain health. Just as useful was what food to avoid. I’ve heard a lot about why I shouldn’t eat artificial sweeteners or food coloring, but only now do I know it’s because they “increase free radical formation” and can “trigger generalized allergic reactions” (24).
Unfortunately, this fantastic information is buried in technical jargon. It’s not unusual to come across passages like, “the major apolipoprotein constituent of HDL-like particles in the CNS is ApoE which transports cholesterol and other lipids made by astrocytes and microglial cells to neurons” (14). Passages like the one above, as well as charts that occasionally stretch on for multiple pages, can discourage the average reader. In fact, one might think the book is intended for a professional audience were it not for the lack of sources backing up the information. Dr. Kumar is upfront about this approach. But this combination of medical terms and missing sources leaves the book in a weird middle ground: too complicated for average readers; too simple for medical experts.
Yet, discouraged readers should commit to reaching chapter four’s “Menu Planning Criteria and Strategies.” Here Dr. Kumar breaks away from the medical jargon and dives into specific dos and don’ts of brain health. This chapter transitions into recipes – which again prove more useful than the early sections of the book: even this meat loving reviewer admits that the bean salsa sounds delicious. People motivated to improve their brain health can trust they’ve found a worthwhile guide.
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The Vegetarian Diet Guru is a guide that provides strategies to design diets for specific nutritional needs. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Diet plays a central role in determining the structural and functional basis of our living and is basic to our sustenance and productivity. Modern medicine has relegated the role of nutrition in our well being, and I wrote this book mainly to bring its importance to the fore and also provide individuals with the knowledge and means to be in charge of their dietary planning. Nature has provided us with a bounty of options to fulfill our nutritional needs but it is up to us to make the right choices for good health. I wanted to outline recipes that use natural, time-tested ingredients and combinations that utilize the latest scientific principles that enhance the value of food, while providing flavor, nutritional balance and variety.
In normal body homeostasis, all parameters fall within normal ranges and the body is on autopilot mode, with the various systems working in unison to provide robust energy, growth and vitality. However, in disease conditions, the body is off balance and requires additional monitoring, medications and diet therapy to function effectively. While the recipes in this book are based on vegetarian selections, they can substitute or supplement non-vegetarian diets as well, as the nutrients and their actions are very similar.
This book has more than 150 recipes. My favorite recipe was the Green Chilies Curry. What is your favorite recipe from the book?
My favorite dish from this book is Masala Okra Curry. Okra is a valuable vegetable in vegetarian diets due to its multiple benefits. Okra is high in fiber, being a rich source of soluble pectins and gums that lower cholesterol, insoluble fibers that aid digestion, and mucilage containing polysaccharides and glycoproteins that lower blood sugar. Other carbohydrates include low glycemic neutral sugars galactose and rhamnose. Okra seeds have 20-40% essential unsaturated fats, and also, rare in vegetables, high amounts of protein, made up of amino acids lysine and tryptophan which are usually lacking in cereal-based vegetarian diets. Okra is also rich in polyphenols and catechins, which provide exogenous anti-oxidant defense against lipid peroxidation and increase endogenous glutathione peroxidase for stabilizing intracellular redox status. This powerhouse of nutrition in this recipe is combined with tomatoes, onions and spices which add to its value. This curry can be a side dish to accompany rice, rotis or complement other menus.
What is a common misconception you find people have about dieting and how they can overcome it?
The common misconception about diet is “one size fits all”; however, people are very unique with respect to their dietary needs, tastes, cultural preferences and health status. Thus, menus have to be customized taking individual factors into consideration. Often, it is difficult to find the right solution for dietary problems and information sources can be confusing or misleading, sometimes even dangerous. In addition, there are plentiful natural, prepared and commercial foods to tempt our palate. In these cases, it may be best to follow safe or tested alternatives that are proven to be effective.
Another common aspect of diets is their content and how the combination of foods affects their assimilation. That is why knowledge of nutrient values helps to precisely target the recipes and menus towards meeting the requirements as closely as possible. Often, with diets and nutritional health, a holistic approach works best rather than an isolated, symptom-based approach. The dieter should aim at harmonizing various body systems in the most optimal way, gearing towards maintaining equilibrium and normal function. Diet should be the first line of action in preventing disease and always have a supportive role in curing and ameliorating abnormal conditions.
Some diets can give results for a short time, but may not be practical for the long term, but here the diet plays a timely role to correct deficiencies or excesses and normalize after which, one can switch to a maintenance diet. Also, some degree of experimentation or trial and error can be allowed with diets and individuals can tailor their diets according to how their body reacts to foods. In the final analysis, a good diet is one that makes you feel happy, energetic and healthy.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
In this book, I have explained basic principles of Nutrition and Diet Planning in health and some abnormal conditions. In my next book, I would like to provide further details, better understanding and additional resources for healthy diet planning. Dietary practices are very personal and it takes time for people to commit to change. Diet should be habit forming and in tune with our lifestyle and modifying them according to our needs is a lifelong process. I would like to provide convincing arguments for food choices, simplified menu planning and food preparation strategies, dietary guidelines for other specific conditions and equip people with knowledge, freedom and practices to plan and use their diets optimally for the health and well-being of their family. As we delve deeper into our knowledge about what, how and why our body works, we realize that we have to reclassify foods and nutrients further into sub-categories that work in a coordinated manner. Although all this information may not fit in a book, I would like to popularize these ideas and publish at appropriate times to reach a larger audience.
“The Vegetarian Diet Guru” is a nutrients-based menu planning guidebook that explains and provides strategies to design diets that meet nutritional specifications according to individual requirements. There are low-calorie recipes for weight loss; low-glycemic carbohydrates based recipes for blood sugar control in pre-diabetes and diabetes; rice, millets and oats-based recipes that can be used for individuals with wheat gluten hypersensitivity; high fiber vegan and vegetarian recipes for gastro-intestinal health; high protein dishes using lentil bean and dairy proteins to lower BMI (Body Mass Index) and increase muscle mass for vegetarians.
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There are many reasons to go on diet but person who is looking to lose weight would not be on the same diet as one who is diabetic. They have different nutritional needs. The same applies to one who is also on an exercise regimen because a person who undergoes rigorous physical activity requires protein. Their diet would therefore need to have a bit more protein than the regular diet. There is need for knowledge of all these considerations before going on a diet otherwise it will be unsuccessful. Or, you will end up malnutritioned.
This book seeks to provide a roadmap for proper diets. Diets based on nutritional needs and requirements rather than fads. A guideline for formulating personalized diets and menus. With hundreds of recipes to choose from, this book is the perfect companion to find and enjoy a new diet. It will even be possible to sustain the diet plan all through. It takes the hard work out of diets.
Dr. Shantha Kumar has done extensive research on the subject. She has vast knowledge of nutritional needs and diets. She uses all of that in ensuring this book applies across the board. She provides information that caters to different tastes and preferences while always being informative and useful. What I really liked about this book was that her ingredients were always easy to find, and did not require going to a specialty store. She uses easy to find ingredients, most of which are not prone to causing allergic reactions. All this greatness with a splash of Asian sizzle.
In this day and age when there are a lot of diets and recipes online promising to do great things, one needs something reliable and practical. Material whose sole purpose is not to trend but to actually help people achieve their wellness goals. This is what I think The Vegetarian Diet Guru accomplishes. She does not lecture or order the reader around. She explains her reasons for having different ingredients with a table of meal equivalents of nutrients among other resources. She explains everything about metabolism and its role in diets. Reading through the recipes gives you the feeling of being in a kitchen with a close relative. You just want to hang on to every word and master every single movement.
The recipes do not require top-notch culinary prowess and the directions are always clear and concise. I enjoyed how the recipes were laid out for anyone of any skill level. She gives precise instructions. You will enjoy cooking just as much as you will enjoy the foods. This book provides multiple useful tables that are meant to help the reader understand the choices and why everything is important. The book even provides some menu planning templates and samples.
The author strikes a balance between delicious, nutritious, useful, and interesting while also encouraging a personal touch in every recipe. This is an essential resource for every vegetarian diet.
Pages: 390 | ASIN: B079QHR4YY
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“The Vegetarian Diet Planner” is a nutrients-based menu planning guidebook that explains and provides strategies to design diets that meet nutritional specifications according to individual requirements. There are low-calorie recipes for weight loss; low-glycemic carbohydrates based recipes for blood sugar control in pre-diabetes and diabetes; rice, millets and oats-based recipes that can be used for individuals with wheat gluten hypersensitivity; high fiber vegan and vegetarian recipes for gastro-intestinal health; high protein dishes using lentil bean and dairy proteins to lower BMI (Body Mass Index) and increase muscle mass for vegetarians. The unique feature of this book is providing relevant nutrition factors for each recipe like total calories, carbohydrate, fat and protein per serving. Using Food exchange groups for balanced nutrition and Carbohydrate counts for diabetics is also explained in detail with corresponding information charts. The 150+ recipes in this book are planned with healthy and nutritious ingredients, and sample menus with calculated nutrient values are provided for 1200 to 2800 calorie diets. Several Menu planning Templates and options are outlined in the book to select from based on personal choices. Dietary management using a scientific and precise approach will greatly help to control and maintain a normal and healthy lifestyle and promote well-being. Whether planning a fully vegetarian meal or using dishes to supplement non-vegetarian food choices, this book is a valuable resource for health-conscious food lovers.
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