Saturday, 30 December 2017

Bean there eaten that...

In 2012, when we eliminated gluten from our home- we were also left pondering on what food we could eat, given that rice and wheat formed a substantial part of what we ate. Out of necessity, we began experimenting with various grains, many of which we never had even heard of. Subsequently, we also felt that we should try and grow our own food- Organically.

On our rocky piece of plot, with a couple of inches of soil and lots of books on how to grow food, we began our journey of growing our food. Durig this journey one such seed we sowed was this ‘broad bean’, and when in six months, it did not yield any legumes we had all but three creepers removed.

Two years later, the three remaining creepers finally flowered and have given a bounty of ‘broad beans’. The creeper is doing extremely well and in its long life has never been infested with any pest or disease. Not just that, we have been negligent in maintaining our plot- for months we have not watered it or mulched it and many of our crops and plants died during these periods of neglect. However, many did survive and one such survivor was this ‘broad Bean’. The plant grows in perhaps less than a few inches of soil in our plot and is thriving. It has seen sporadic periods of care and neglect and we find it hard to believe that it is so full of flowers. The reason why we put this post is, it conveys a powerful message.

As we connect to farmers around the country we see a growing number of them cultivating exotic crops that are not endemic to our climate- the major reason being, people are willing to pay a higher price to these products. In turn, we are increasingly consuming pesticide-laced vegetables, facing an acute water crisis and rising food cost- one major reason being we have forgotten the local variety of good food. Their resistance to pest and vagaries of climate, all built over years of evolution is something that is getting lost on us as we are relying more and more on chemicals to do what nature has provided us on a platter.

 At House of Grains, we try our best to use such ethnic ingredients that are local, if not to the Konkan coast, at least to India. We hope, as days go by we can also make these items available to all those who visit us and hopefully restart an interest in local healthy food- they drop out of our memory.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Why do we need two days to make our gluten-free breads?

We always tell our clients, that we need at least two days’ notice to bake our breads. Why do we insist on this time period? It’s simple as this- that is how long it takes to bake our breads! Yes, it’s as slow as that- and today, we will explain our snail pace baking process.
All our breads are made of multiple grains or pulses- The first thing we do when we have to bake our bread is soak them. The grains or pulses, when harvested are dried and go into a dormant state and so do the bacteria and yeast that are naturally found in these grains. We soak these grains for at least 24 hours and by soaking we restart the cycle of life- the dormant seeds and microbes come alive again. We would ideally like to soak it longer than 24 hours and if we have a longer time schedule we indeed do it.
Next, these grains or pulses are strained, milled and begin the process of fermentation. Every grain has its own time period for fermenting- pulses are quick off the block, while millets and buckwheat take their own sweet time. The yeast we add and those present naturally, start breaking down the starch, releasing carbon-di-oxide and produce alcohol. The naturally present bacteria meanwhile breakdown the starch and produce aldehydes, ketones and organic acids albeit in a much smaller quantity.
The breads are then baked for nearly 2 hours at a lower temperature of about 140c - (most bakers bake their breads in 20 to 60 minutes at a high temperature)-the lower temperature degrades the least number of essential nutrients and prevents the natural fats and oil forming carcinogenic by-products (more about this in a later post). The breads then gently cool and are sliced- 48 hours after we started the process. Truly susegad style !
We could have made our breads much faster- but then we would not have been true to our philosophy of providing genuinely wholesome food.

P.S. The pizza base in the photograph, was made from green gram sprouts- the base takes 4 days to make.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Surprising Number of Conditions Linked to Celiac Disease.

We usually associate, only the celiac disease with wheat. In our earlier posts, we have mentioned various studies which show celiac disease to be associated with many other conditions.

Recently, at the World Congress of Gastroenterology 2017, Dr. Daniel Karb, stated, that he and his colleagues searched the Explorys database of electronic health record, an aggregate of about 35 million people and, found a significant association between celiac disease and 13 other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis. "Every autoimmune disease we looked at is associated with celiac disease, other than primary biliary cholangitis." Dr Karb reported.

From the image above, you will notice that the rate of celiac disease is almost 5 times higher in those suffering from migraine than in those without and, it is 20 times higher in those with Autism. So what does it indicate? We could certainly conclude - the unknown is more than the known and, a lot of further research is needed in order to identify why such a skewed co-relation exists between wheat and auto-immune diseases.

So, what does it mean for all of us? Does it mean if you have a migraine, you need to go off wheat? Well, most of us work towards identifying the root cause of any ailment that we or our loved one may be ailing from. If during this phase, you haven’t given thought to consuming foods which are free from gluten then perhaps, trying a gluten free diet for three to six months at the least will not be such a bad idea after all.

Original article at 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Grain Vs Human alter Ego.

Ever since we started writing this blog, we have shared many of our successes and all our stories had a happy ending. As we all know, life is not a bed of roses and success rarely comes without failure. So today’s post is about one such baking failure that we had today.

A few days ago, we posted an all pulse bread that we baked and we had made a lovely sandwich out of it. Before introducing it in our menu, we had to try making it again, and again and yes, yet again.  This was one of our repeated attempts and, it definitely hit an iceberg.

It’s not just with this bread, but with nearly every other product that we make- they are extremely demanding and very unforgiving on the baker. Aarina goes to great lengths to maintain the precision with measurements. Perhaps her training, on measuring with burettes and pipettes helps, but despite great precautions, incidents like these happen regularly. Sometimes, it’s more about the consistency than the measurement, given that, different batches of grains behave differently. Worse still, disaster strikes during our orders, however, we are very fortunate to have clients who have been very understanding and forgiving when it was their orders at stake.

We are constantly working on making our products more resilient to such baking idiosyncrasies, and our experiments, are forever on. But the one thing we choose not do- is to use binders, gums or any such additives. More often than not, our products may not seem presentable to the eye - but they will always be wholesome and nutritious.

Working with grains in such a fashion is indeed a tremendously humbling experience! Every kind of grain is different in its own way, making one grain mimic another grains property is an emotional experience. Oftentimes, Aarina breaks down crying during her experiments, “Don’t most of us live our lives doing just this - mimicking, cloning and being something that we are not!”

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Dal and Rice bread

Dal (Lentils) and Rice are generally associated with an everyday meal, however, we decided to use the same Dal and Rice and make it into a bread. Our gluten-free bread today was made from Goa rice (boiled rice) and Moong dal ( green gram lentil), and it makes a light flavoured bread, perfect for lightly flavoured sandwiches.

Our Sandwich filling was Beetroot, tomatoes, carrots and a spicy green chutney.

There comes a time when you realise that one can do bread with almost anything, and when that dawns on you wheat bread sounds so boring!

Friday, 8 December 2017

Goa’s Traditional Cake- Baath.

Across bakeries and homes in Goa, especially, during the Christmas season, it is a tradition to bake Baath or Batica. Baath is a traditional Goan cake, and unlike other cakes- Baath is different, for it uses Semolina and not flour. It has coconut in it and is allowed to sit overnight prior to baking.

So where did Goa get it’s Baath from? We are not entirely sure, however, the closest cake to Baath is the ‘Basbousa’, from the Middle East. Basbousa makes use of Semolina, has coconut and is very similar in preparation to Baath. In Egypt, it is specially made during the Christmas season. Food historians believe that Basbousa originated in Somalia, and considering Goa had historic maritime links with Somalia (even before the arrival of the Portuguese) it is possible that the ‘Basbousa’ from Somalia arrived in Goa, and somewhere during its historic journey- Basbousa became Batica, further shortened, to Baath.

It is interesting to note that the original Basbousa, unlike the one baked today, was made not from wheat Semolina, but from Sorghum! Yes, it was gluten free and like many other traditional recipes, the convenience of wheat made cooks adapt wheat to replace the traditional grains!

We have adapted this recipe and our Baath is made from Sorghum, rice and Yellow pea semolina- so now, wheat should not be a reason why you can’t eat Baath! Our Gluten-free Baath does not contain Vanilla essence, we use the vanilla bean and, just like all our other products, we do not use baking powder.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The House Of Grains Deli .

This blog has been silent for some months now- however behind the veil of silence, we have been working hard over our recipes and there is some good news that we would like to share with you! Great news for all those in Goa, who either want to enjoy wholesome eating options or need to eat nutritious, gluten-free food.

On 18th December, “House of Grains” will open a little, ethical “Deli” which will focus on using Gluten-free, ethnic, and mostly organic ingredients, to make and serve not just nutritious but conscious speciality food. 

We wish for our deli to be a homely space, reflecting not only the ethos of “home-cooked meals are made with love and are nutritious”, not to forget, our food is certainly just that, but also, the kind of persons that we are, homely and casual. Also, given that, garbage is such a massive issue, we are consciously working towards eliminating plastics, composting all our kitchen waste and thereby, eyeing to become a “zero waste deli”.

We are using recycled cane furniture, eco-friendly fans (power consumption 32 Watts as opposed to 65 plus watts in the regular fans) and LED lights. Our curtains are made from cotton Khadi while the cushion covers are made from cotton fabric, printed using vegetable dyes.

Although, we would have preferred using regular plates and bowls, water shortage in the area has forced us to consider disposable options. The plates and bowls we use are made from Bagasse (Sugarcane waste), which will then be composted in our garden.
At a later date, we plan on offering gluten-free, organic groceries and wish to keep all of it packaging free. We would love our patrons to bring in their own boxes/ bags to help each of us become garbage free.

Come 18th December, we look forward to chatting with you over a cup of freshly ground coffee. Having said that, we would like you to know that we have already begun taking orders for our breads and cakes.

P.S. Kindly find the menu on the menu page.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

A tale of two Breads

These two mini bread boules may appear similar but appearances are deceptive. Both are gluten free breads and are made from exactly the same ingredients- Barnyard millet, salt and a bit of grated carrot. However, they have one fundamental difference. The one on right- sitting on a pedestal of bread slices was slowly fermented with wild starters- it's a sourdough bread and the one on the right is fermented with yeast. The sourdough took about 8 hours to ferment, while its yeast sibling took one hour. Nutritionally, there is no significant difference between the two, neither in texture- But how about taste? Hmmm... we have been eating bread made by both these methods and this is what we felt:

Just like Theory of Relativity, which states that speed is relative to the frames of reference of an observer- taste too is relative to the palate of a taster. However, this is what our taste buds suggested- The sourdough bread combines best with, spicy curries, mild cheeses, chutneys, sunny-side-up eggs and peanut butter. The yeast bread goes best with jams, mild curries, sharp cheese and scrambled eggs. Sourdough bread goes nicely when dunked in coffee, while the yeast bread does will with tea. It feels much like how one would choose their wines- but unlike the connoisseurs, we were more than happy to have any bread with any dip- Its not just wholesome but healthy too. 

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Barnyard millet, Sourdough Pie

Our heads are reeling with ideas, but working on the technique, is what slows us down. We have been working on a sourdough pie crust for sometime and this morning it turned out just right. " Eureka was the word, echoing in our kitchen labs". There is some more tweaking that needs to be done, but for the moment we have a nice crunchy crust and a pillow soft crumb.

The gluten-free, pie  was made from, Organic, whole Barnyard millet only and was infused with herbs. We used our leftover bread dough from the previous day as a starter. The fermentation took about 8 hours and involved a slow one-hour baking. The filling for the pie was a mixture of all the veggies I could gather from the fridge and cooked it like, how one would make a Mangalorean masala dosa filling.

Millets make an amazing breakfast grain, they fill you up quite quickly, sustain you for a longer time and they come in a large verity. We work with nine different millets and we can do all that we want to do, in a much more healthy and sustainable way. 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Billion Dollar Idli,

 For reasons I have not tried to find out- Barnyard Millet is also called the 'Billion Dollar grass' hence the title of this post. For a large part of human history, millets were a staple and it sustained and helped flourish many a civilisation. However, in the last few decades, the convenience of wheat has replaced most of these millets in our diets and we, humans are essentially living on a diet of a single kind of grain and vitamin supplements!

Barnyard millet, from which these idlis were made, can be used exactly the way rice is used. For these idlis, we substituted the rice with whole, unpolished, organic barnyard millet and fermented it with the previous day's leftover sourdough bread dough as a starter. So, unlike a conventional idli, this one has neither rice nor black gram (urad dal) and yes it was stuffed too - with vegetables and spices. Small things that make life amazing! What say?

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Vada Paav

Our attempt to bring Mumbai's beloved street food- Vada Paav, home. When Aarina went off gluten, Vada paav was perhaps the biggest casualty. Not anymore- we made a much healthier version of the paav (bread) for breakfast. Made from Little millet and proso millet only, the bread was made with wild leavening and took 8 hours to ferment. The starter was the previous day's bread dough, which was only proso millet.  

The best part of millet bread is that they sustain one for much longer hours and their much lower glycemic index make them the best grain option for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Way better than wheat or rice.  

Monday, 17 April 2017

Eggxact Eggs

We make something special for most major festivities- it's fun to celebrate and even more, fun to eat!

Aarina, baked a gluten free Date and Walnut cake on Sunday. Made of Sorghum, water-chestnut, rice and tapioca, the cake other than being gluten free was also very low in sugar (20 grams of muscovado for 500 gram cake) since the dates provide enough sweetness and the flours the flavour.

Now, this is a post to share an interesting observation of ours. Since the last five years, Aarina has baked lots of gluten-free cakes, so many that we have lost count of them and even stopped making notes! (Yes, bad habits) However, there is something that we noticed in our kitchen lab during our trials.

We do not use any baking powder or yeast in our cakes, air is incorporated by long, patient beating of the mixture. It so happens that if we use eggs from mass farmed, layer hens, the cake inevitably falls flat or caves in. But it never happens with the traditional, free range hens- The cakes always have a wonderful rise and colour.  Since the day we noticed this, we have always used local, free range eggs in our cakes and we have been unable to find why such a difference. (The reason we tell ourselves is that it could be the difference in the strength of the albumins protein matrix- but it's just a speculation!)

Being off- sugar, we could just have a bite of the cake- but it was a delight to see the family enjoy a great gluten-free cake- that too nearly organic (except for the dates) and margarine free. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Germ of Life

Yesterday, we made a nine millet gluten-free sourdough bread- today's was a single millet gluten-free bread. Proso millet, it has lovely yellow colour and we love the light yellow hue that it lends to the bread. We added the seeds for the crunch, but as an afterthought, we also realised that the seeds add the precious phytic acid lost during milling and fermentation of the millet. Yes, we love phytic acid and feel its essential for our well being.

The starter used was yesterday's, nine grain left over dough and it took just 6 hours to ferment. We have noticed that among millets, Proso, is the quickest one to ferment and Sorghum the slowest.

The seeds comprising of Sunflower, Chia, Nigella, flax and sesame were lightly roasted along with Moringa and tamarind leaves cooled and added to the bread before baking. The baking took some time- 160c for 70 minutes and produced a 400 gram boule and it was completely organic.  

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Sourdough Buns

It is that time of the year when bakers are dishing out 'Hot Cross buns' and we tried our hand with the bun- and it was great fun!

We did a gluten free, nine millet, sourdough bun and scoured it with a cross. It was hot, it had a cross, so it should be a hot cross bun I told Aarina, No she said ! Grrr...

We made it from Red and Yellow sorghum, Proso, pearl, finger, barnyard, kodo, foxtail and little millet. Other than being gluten free, it was also sugar-free, salt-free, oil free, egg free and gum free. The slow fermentation took about 12 hours and the starter used was the leftover batter from our yesterday's Idli's.

The one complaint I have is, unlike yeast fermentation which has neutral flavours and lets one enjoy the flavourful grains that we use, Sourdough fermentation changes the flavours dramatically- Not that it tastes any less tasty, but I do miss the millet flavour.

The organic buns- were made from home milled grains and does not include anything other than water and millets! That's a two ingredient bun!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Jambul Idlis with stories

An ancient Indian breakfast! Not really but the ingredients are. The Jabul (Syzygium cumini ) or Indian blackberry tree in our yard is like a mini ecosystem of sorts. During March to May when the Jambul flowers bloom the tree buzzes with activity. This tree is a nesting place for weaver ants throughout the year, once the flowers bloom, bees, butterflies and sunbirds make regular forays to the tree. This attracts birds like the 'Paradise flycatchers' (featured below) and other insectivores aves.

As the fruit ripens and falls down, it attracts small rodents and hence becomes a favourite hunting ground for rat snakes, which in turn attracts peacocks. The tree also attracts apex predators like me (Yes, all the above-mentioned lifeforms are darn scared of me) and I use the fruit to make nourishing breakfast interesting.

Take for example today's breakfast, made from ancient Indian grains of Proso millet, little millet, rice and Sorghum. Fermented overnight with 4 tablespoons of the previous day's fermented batter as a starter. This organic batter itself is quite nutritious and is made from ingredients that Indians traditionally ate. To this, we added the pulp and skin of the Jambul fruit (Indian Blackberry or Malabar Plum) which gave the idlis a light purple colour, light sweetish taste and some interesting history.

Jambul, tree and fruits are mentioned many a time in ancient Indian texts, not just as ayurvedic remedies but as part of philosophies and stories. I, however, remember it best from my days when reading stories from Kannada literature. According to the puranic cosmography, the entire Cosmos is divided into seven concentric island continents. Each concentric island separated from the outer one by different bodies of liquid- sea-water, sugarcane juice, wine, ghee, curd, milk and water respectively. The innermost Island was called Jambudvipa and this is where ordinary humans lived. Dvipa meant island. and the Jambu is said to be derived from the jambul tree. Considering the tree is very beneficial, there is no doubt it would be given such an esteemed position in our past history.

For now, though, the pulp of the Jambul fruit will grace our breakfast, desserts and wines. 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Phytic Acid Myth

Our understanding of the natural world is changing very fast. Newer discoveries, aided by modern technology is helping us understand some of the many mysteries. One of the challenges that often pops up in this fast-changing scenario is accepting newer discoveries while letting go of past beliefs. Today’s post is about one such belief and we felt the need to write about it because we read some well-followed bloggers, who wrote about nutrition, suggesting to their readers to reduce grain, legume and seed consumption as they contain ‘Phytic acid’- informally termed as an ‘anti-nutrient'.

So does one need to fear Phytic acid? This is our take on it.

What is phytic acid? Phytic acid (or Phytate) is a major phosphorus storage compound of most seeds, legumes and cereal grains. It has a high affinity to phosphorus, and the seed stores the phosphorus reserve in phytic acid. When seed sprouts, the phytic acid degrades and releases the phosphorus, which nourishes the young plant. The structure of Phytic Acid is such, that it not only has a property to attract and lock in Phosphorus but also some other minerals, namely, iron, zinc and calcium. It was believed that because phytic acid locks these minerals, they are not available for us during digestion. For this reason, alone, it was termed as an ‘anti-nutrient’. Although no other nutrient is targeted, somehow the name stuck and became convenient to those who promote certain kinds of diets and food products.

So, do we need to shun Phytic acid? Contrary to those who call it a Pariah of the nutrition world - Science is actually asking us to smartly embrace Phytic acid and, we will tell you why and how.

1. Phytic acid is a powerful antioxidant: Phytic acid is shown to protect the liver from alcohol-related injury. It is also able to protect the DNA from free radicals, this protective action is enhanced in foods that are roasted (unfermented Chapati’s / flat breads). (1)

2. It reduces inflammation and its harmful effects: Phytic acid decreases the inflammatory cytokines IL-8  and IL-6, especially in the colon cells. (2)

3. Helps prevent certain types of cancers: Phytic acid was found to have anti-cancer properties against bone, prostate, ovarian, breast, liver, colorectal, leukaemia, sarcomas and skin cancers (3)

4. Helps repair DNA damage: Phytic acid can enter cells and aid the DNA repairs of breaks in its strands.  This has potential anti- cancer implications. (4)

5.  It can help prevent osteoporosis: Although it was implicated to inhibit calcium absorption, Phytate consumption has a protective effect against osteoporosis. Low phytate consumption, in fact, is a risk factor for osteoporosis.  Adequate consumption of phytate may play an important role in the prevention of bone mineral density loss in postmenopausal women (5)

6. Helps prevent Kidney stones: Phytic acid has shown to prevent calcification in the kidneys of rats, which suggest a potential for preventing kidney stones. Similar results were obtained in human cohort studies. (6)

7. Helps people suffering from Gout: By inhibiting the enzyme xanthine oxidase, phytic acid blocks the buildup of uric acid and can help prevent gout. (7)

These are just a few of the benefits of Phytic acid if included in our diet. Evidence from newer research showing more benefits like skin protection, gut protection and protection from heavy metals among others is also pouring in.

Now, the dilemma is how to enjoy the benefits of Phytic acid despite its inhibitory effects? The answer is simple - Eat a variety of food, encompassing a range of grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits.

How does this help? Firstly, contrary to what was believed, Phytic acid does not treat all iron and zinc equally. Absorption of iron and zinc from animal sources is not inhibited by phytic acid (8), so if your diet includes fish and meat - you do not have to bother.

What about Vegans then? If you are consuming fruits, vegetables and leaves along with the grains and seeds, then Vitamin C and other organic acids which are found in fruits and vegetables can enhance iron absorption and help reduce the effects of phytic acid. Vegetarian food is naturally high in Zinc and generally exceeds the RDAphytate may actually help control excess zinc absorption.

Finally, when it comes to calcium, Phytic acid has a lesser affinity to Calcium as compared to phosphorus and zinc. Moreover, proteins and vitamin D improves calcium absorption from Phytic acid. (9)

So what about Phosphorus? Phytic acid reduces phosphorus and other minerals absorption only when meals containing foods that have phytic acid are consumed, but does not have any effect on subsequent meals which do not contain foods having phytic acid. Not just that, phytic acid is easily degraded during cooking. Fermentation (like making idlis, Dosas and breads) degrades nearly 100 % of the phytic acid and makes phosphorus available and, so does sprouting. Also milling, boiling and chewing food degrades a large amount of phytates, all of which, release phosphorus, which our digestive system can then absorb (9).

So Phytic acid (or phytate) is a friend and not a foe. It is something we need to embrace and not fear. A varied diet is certainly nutritionally wholesome in more ways than one, and we need to embrace it. So the next time, if someone tells you to give up a certain kind of wholesome food because it contains phytic acid - it will help to realise that such advocates have a lot of catching up to do.

Meanwhile, Aarina, made a lovely gluten-free nine-grain millet bread. We made a sandwich with lots of fresh vegetables and salad leaves. A great way to start a day with a wonderful whole grain bread.


1. , ,

Friday, 7 April 2017

Virus that can cause Celiac disease

The latest issue of the journal Science (1) has an interesting research paper published. Researchers Bouziat et al. have discovered that the seemingly innocuous and common gut infecting reovirus has the potential to cause Celiac disease in people. People who develop celiac disease will have a life-long intolerance to wheat, rye and barley.

The researchers discovered that a reovirus infection (which is quite common) triggers an immune response in people (that's the job of the immune system) and when this immune response happens in the presence of gluten, the immune system loses its tolerance to gluten. Once tolerance to gluten is lost, the presence of gluten in our food can keep the immune system activated, every time a person consumes products containing gluten.

So what does it means to us? In a previous post, we had told you that herbicide used in agriculture can cause celiac disease (2), similarly, reovirus is a newly discovered trigger for celiac disease. Celiac disease can happen at any age and many times people do not realise it until a substantial damage is done. Discoveries like these are adding to mounting evidence that it is time we relook what we are eating and make an earnest change in it, for the better of our own long-term health.

Meanwhile, we had some amazing Paddu's for breakfast. Made from Little Millet and fermented overnight, we just loved the crunchy crust and the springy crumb.


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Gluten free Samosa's

The choice that we made to not use wheat in our Samosas has turned out to be a great learning experience! We have come to realise that we can use more than 10 different types of grains to make samosas with every grain lending its own unique character to the dough. Different combination of flours lends a different flavour, texture and colour.

The samosas in the above picture have a thin crunchy crust and a chewy overall texture, made from a combination of six different flours. We are in the process of figuring out the best combination and ratio of flours and it is so hard because every combination is so special.

We also made two different types of fillings - one, a Punjabi samosa filling and the other, with Talinum leaves.

Hopefully, someday, we will end-up with a menu, that is unique enough for 'House of Grains' to hold a special place in the hearts of many! And we hope to continue learning and growing in this journey of ours! 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Why is there sugar in your cigarette ?

Image source 

Many people believe sugar is all about calories- and hence the idea that one can eat sweets and burn it off in a gym! So in an earlier post (1) we spoke about glycation and how sugar damages proteins in our bodies- this perhaps is sugars greatest danger.

Today's post is a little different and we hope you enjoy reading it- Today we share with you, how sugar has made smoking additive, what few realise is that without sugar, perhaps you would have never picked up smoking.

Tobacco has been smoked for thousands of years- however, addiction to smoking or illness due to smoking was a rare occurrence until the 1900's. Then something happened that changed it all- In 1914, R. J. Reynolds introduced Camels, the first cigarettes to be made of blended tobacco- ever since then, people have been hooked on to smoking like never before. So what did Camel do to get people hooked on to smoking?

To know that first let's tell you about two tobacco varieties that constitute 90% of the cigarettes smoked. The first is the air-cured “Burley” tobacco, and the other is the 'flue-cured' Virginia tobacco.

When tobacco is flue-cured, the harvested tobacco leaves are suspended over hot iron flues. The heat first fixes the colour of the tobacco leaves and then dries them. The heat also breaks down the enzymes in the leaves that would otherwise break down the sugars they contain. So tobacco that begins with a relatively high carbohydrate content (up to 50 percent of dry weight) but is low in sugar (3 percent) ends up as much as 22 percent sugar, sucrose specifically. This higher sugar content of the flue-cured tobacco leaves is the key to inhalation. The high sugar content results in tobacco smoke that is acidic rather than alkaline. Alkaline smoke irritates the mucous membranes and stimulates the coughing response. Acidic smoke can be inhaled without doing either. Most people are unable to inhale the alkaline smoke from pipe and cigar tobaccos, but they can inhale the acidic smoke from the sugar-rich, flue-cured tobacco in cigarettes.

The air-cured burley tobacco has virtually no sugar in it and this makes it relatively nicotine-rich, and the nicotine is easier to absorb than it is in flue-cured tobacco, but the smoke itself is alkaline and thus difficult to inhale.

So until Camel came on the market, cigarettes were made almost exclusively from flue-cured tobacco. Though they could be inhaled, they had a relatively low nicotine content, and the nicotine was not easily absorbed by the lungs. The more sugar naturally occurring in the tobacco, the lower the nicotine content, and the less absorbable the nicotine is. So the satisfaction to be derived from the experience of smoking cigarettes prior to Camel was also low, and so was a novice smoker’s urge to keep smoking.

In the early 1910's farmers in Missouri and Kentucky realised that Burley leaves were highly porous and could easily absorb sugar. So they began sweetening their tobacco by marinating them. in a concentrated sugar solution.

This is where Camel stepped in. In 1914, Camel blended this high nicotine and candied Burley tobacco in its smokable low nicotine flue-cured tobacco. The higher nicotine content made Camel's much more desirable and soon a nation was hooked on to them.

By 1929, U.S. tobacco growers were sweetening Burley tobacco with fifty million pounds of sugar a year and using it in over 120 billion cigarettes. The sugar balanced out the tobacco’s naturally alkaline smoke, maximising its inhalability and delivering higher nicotine into the lungs. The sugars in the tobacco also “caramelise” as they burn and the caramelization of the smoke provides a sweet flavour and an agreeable smell that made cigarette attractive to women smokers and to adolescents as well.

Even today most cigarettes we smoke are sweetened, hooking on newer customers using the addictive properties of Nicotine and Sugar- delivering ever increasing toxic smoke into our lungs and in the hundred years since its invention has killed more people than gunpowder and nuclear weapons combined

To end it up- this sweetening of tobacco with sugar has another deleterious effect. The acidity of the smoke increases as the cigarette burns closer to the butt, which in turn decreases the absorbability of the nicotine. This means that as the cigarette burns down, the nicotine satisfaction decreases and the smoker tends to draw longer and harder to compensate. As a result, the urge to inhale most deeply is greatest when the tar-and-carcinogen content of the smoke is also greatest.

So if you are a smoker- do bear in mind- without sugar, you would not have been hooked onto that stick in the first place- just like we would have so much lesser incidents of lifestyle induced diabetes.


Based on the book : 'The case against sugar' by Gary Taubes

Friday, 31 March 2017


Soft at the centre and crispy thin lace at the edges is what characterises any 'Appam'. Made from rice, fermented with coconut palm toddy and flavoured with coconut milk, these appams evoke a kind of nostalgia in many.

Although many add sugar or eggs to appams we feel this practice smothers the distinctively sweet, rich aroma of coconut. This distinctive aroma of the coconut is created by derivatives of saturated fatty acids called lactones (octa-, deca-, dodeca-, tetradeca- lactones) — The same lactones that also flavours Mangoes. You would not add eggs to mangoes, would you?

Lauric acid, found in large quantities in both coconut and in mother's milk, has strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties. This fatty acid has protected tropical populations from bacteria and fungus for centuries.

Aarina, had the appams with sardine curry, while I enjoyed it with potato and herb baji. Lip- smacking!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Celiac disease in fish ?

Not just the west, but even India is showing a steep rise in people diagnosed with celiac disease and it's associated companion diseases (1, 2).
Increasing Celiac Disease in India.

Although numerous reasons are proposed as to the cause of this increase, nothing conclusive has turned up yet (3). Some of the leading reasons proposed for an increased number of people suffering from Celiac disease are: Increased gluten consumption. (About 90% of the  food that we eat today has gluten in some or the other form),  Rotavirus infection during childhood, Poor gut biome and some more.
Another reason that is gaining increasing traction as a probable reason for increasing celiac disease is a herbicide called Glyphosate and that is what today's post is about.
 Glyphosate is the world's best-selling herbicide- it kills any plant that comes in contact with it. So farmers spray it in their fields before sowing crops to kill all weeds. Not just that, some farmers even spray it on mature crops, because it dries up the plants and makes harvesting and subsequent processing easy (4).
In India, Monsanto is the biggest supplier of Glyphosate and they sell it under the brand name 'Roundup'. Today traces of Roundup are found in nearly all processed food- especially the ones that contain wheat and sugar- Most possible because wheat, sugar and cotton cultivation are the biggest consumers of Glyphosate (5). Not just that, domesticated animals that feed on this dried grass, will have glyphosate residue, which eventually ends up in people who consume their meat. Glyphosate is not present on the surface if the plants, it has to enter the cells of the plant to work- so even washing or any other processing will not take Glyphosate away (6).
New studies have shown that Glyphosate can actually cause Celiac disease. Not just that, when tested in fish (because glyphosate ends up in our rivers) even fish developed symptoms similar to Celiac disease(8, 9).  

Other than Celiac disease, Glyphosate is also accused of causing- Attention deficit disorder (ADHD),  Alzheimer's disease, autism, birth defects, various types of cancers, kidney disease, colitis, depression, diabetes, heart disease, hypothyroidism, liver disease, MS, ALS, Parkinsons and many more (Read this link and the associated studies 10).

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has banned Roundup and UN has declared it a probable carcinogen- but many of us continue consuming it via products made of wheat and sugar and remain oblivious to its hazards. India consumed 35,000 tonnes of Glyphosate in 2015, and the figure is expected to hit 75,000 tonnes in 2024 (11). It seems like gluten is least of wheat's problems- Monsanto meanwhile is awaiting approval for Glyphosate-resistant GMO wheat. Roundup can then be sprayed as the wheat plant grows and cost saved on manual weeding. When this happens imagine the amount of Glyphosate that will end up in our food!


Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Talinum on our Plate

We came across Talinum ( Talinum fruticosum ) two years ago, when we got seeds of " Dal Spinach".

We had no idea, what to do with it and since it was called "Dal Spinach" we added it to all our dal dishes (Lentil curries). The plant turned out to be resilient and was self-seeding and we never ran out of it and it is always there when we need it.

We started getting a bit adventurous with Talinum and started using it in our stir fry dishes, where it added a bit of tang and crunch. Although it can also be eaten raw as a salad- the palate at our home is not the greatest fan of leafy salads and leaves have to be hidden in food!

So Talinum managed to reach our breakfast table this week. Pearl millet fermented idlis, laced with the faithful Talinum. The steaming changes the flavour of the leaves, making it subtly sweet.

The pearl millet was fermented overnight, from the previous day's leftover batter and the Talinum blends very well with the millet.

Can't imagine the sheer variety of food that we can make today- since we decided to chuck wheat out of our lives.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Barnyard Millet Cake.

Although, the title of this post calls this a cake- it is nothing but an oversized Idli steamed in a cake mould.
The giant Idli was made of Barnyard millet and was fermented overnight. The orange colour was because of mashed carrots and the green hue came from ground coriander leaves. I added the carrot and coriander leaves to the batter and layered it just before steaming. The white portion, of course, is the uncoloured Barnyard millet batter.
This idli, that does look like a cake- is however very nutritious. Barnyard millet, from which it is made has a good amount of macronutrients and dietary fibre.  12% of barnyard millet is fibres. 4% of which are soluble ones.  Barnyard millets, in addition, also have a low glycemic index (41 - 45) since they are low in carbohydrates.  In a study (1) published in 2014, it was noticed that people who consumed barnyard millets for 28 days showed a significant reduction in blood- glucose. cholesterol and triglyceride levels making it an ideal grain for people with type II diabetes. Despite being nutritionally one of the most superior cereals, its use in everyday cooking remains abysmally poor, just because of the lack of awareness.
 Barnyard millet is also a hardy crop and grows on hilly slopes where nothing else grows and needs very little water too . 
The idli additionally had whole carrots and coriander which gave it a lovely subtle taste and a fascinating colour. 


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Organic Chunna Idli's !

On a rocky patch in our backyard, a thorny bush, disguised as a creeper comes to life every summer. Under the scorching heat of the India summer, it produces an abundant of berries. In Goa, they are called 'Chunna', and they have different names in different parts of the world. 'Ziziphus rugosa' is a hardy plant, that loves a tough life. In Africa, there is a saying, which roughly translates to; 'when there is nothing to eat- there is always these berries'. They are green when raw and slowly turn translucent as they ripen, they are not very sweet and neither very flavorful, but studies indicate an abundance of nutrients.

Our breakfast today were Idli's ( fermented- steamed millet cakes) laced with a generous quantity of 'Chunna pulp'. The Idli's were not made from rice, but from 'pearl millet' (Bajra) fermented overnight. I used the previous day's left-over batter as a starter (about 3 tablespoons of fermented finger millet) and in the morning, added a generous serving of 'Chunna'. It so happens, using Chunna in breakfast is not new- traditionally it has been used in dosa's in certain area's of southern India- I, however, used them in the idli's and this is where an amazing transformation happens. The slightly sweet berries actually become much sweeter and when we ate the idli- it felt as if raisins were added to the idlis. Chunna had acquired a new flavour- Eureka ! what an amazing discovery!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Stuffed Proso Millet Idli's (steamed breads)

Today idli's are generally made from rice. However, that was not the case a hundred years ago. Depending on the region, idli's were made not just of rice, but also from millets. This is a tradition that is getting lost today. Polished rice, devoid of nearly most nutrition is the staple in today's idlis.
We can easily change our eating habits and get back to eating nutritious food again- for our own well-being. Our breakfast was an attempt in that direction and was made of whole proso millet, which was fermented with a little of the previous day's leftover batter. ( That batter was made of finger millet and black gram). The overnight fermentation also changed the colour of the batter from yellow to white.
The twist, however, was when we stuffed the idlis with a mixture of vegetables and fresh herbs. An enjoyable start to a lovely day. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

It's Water day- Multi Millet Flatbreads

Today is World water day, The UN decided March 22, 1993, would be the first World Water Day, and it has been held annually since. This year's theme is 'Wastewater'.
In India, 90% of the water used goes towards farming and most of it is used inefficiently. Over and above this- crops that are water guzzlers have the greatest demand. It takes 2100 litres of water to make a kilo of sugar (something that we can live without) and about 4000 litres to make a kilo of wheat.
Compare this to millets India traditionally grew- it takes just 300 litres of water for a kilogram of millets.
Now imagine if we as consumers try and make a dietary change by increasing our consumption of water efficient crops (which by the way are more healthy), won't that be a huge reduction in water that is used for the purpose of irrigation?
Could we as a society give this a thought?
Our breakfast, these millet flatbreads were made from a mixture of millets- they required less than 1/10th of the water their wheat counterparts require.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Proso Millet - Cone Dosa.

'Proso millet Cone Dosa' - Woke up to an amazing sight today- the vessel in which this proso millet batter was fermenting had overflown and messed up the kitchen platform! But I was delighted, the batter had fermented so well- I was fermenting proso millet for the first time and I was left wondering whether it was the millet or the warm night, that helped the fermentation. The dosa had a lovely flavour and was so crisp that I could actually make a cone out of it.

After food some gyan: Here is a question for you.

Will gymming or even strenuous exercising undo these effects of sugar?

Have you ever undergone a HbA1C (Haemoglobin A1C) test in order to monitor your blood sugar levels? Well, if you have heard about this test, then most likely, you were told that it measures the average three-month blood glucose level. What very few people realise about this test is that other than revealing your three-month average blood glucose level, the test also reveals something more sinister - that something, is what we would like to share with you today.

First, a gist about how the HbA1C test works. Sugar molecules have a nasty habit of binding to proteins and fats - This spontaneous binding of sugar to proteins and fats is called ‘glycation’. In fact, we even observe this property of sugar in our very own kitchens while cooking - the browning of French fries, bread etc. When a sugar molecule attaches itself to a protein - it pretty much remains attached to it for the rest of the protein’s life. Haemoglobin, a protein, responsible for transporting oxygen from lungs to the cells of our body, similarly undergoes glycation by the sugar present in our blood. The HbA1C actually measures this ‘’glycated Haemoglobin’’ - and since an increase in blood sugar increases the amount of glycated haemoglobin, it becomes extremely useful as an indicator of the “average” blood sugar over the past ninety days or so (the life span of the Haemoglobin).

Now coming to the sinister part. When proteins become glycated, two important things happen. First, they struggle to carry out their functions as they become damaged by this process. Second, they tend to attach themselves to similarly damaged proteins which only further inhibits their ability to function. Proteins are the most critical component of our body- we are what we are, majorly, because of proteins. Life on earth started because of proteins. Fortunately, proteins like Haemoglobin are replaced by our body regularly, however, there are many proteins that are never replaced or have a very long lifespan. When such proteins like those found in the eye, kidney, heart, nerves, etc are glycated, their functioning is impaired, a major reason why diabetes-related complications are associated with these organs.

What then can glycation do to our body? Well, some of the effects are obvious - like cataract and wrinkles. But, greater damage occurs within our body. High levels of glycation have been associated with cognitive decline, kidney disease, diabetes, vascular disease (blood vessel related) etc. Glycated proteins end up on the walls of our blood vessels, gradually clogging them making sugar one of the leading causes of arteriosclerosis. (1)

One must remember, that any protein in the body is subject to be damaged by glycation. Glycation of proteins is also a normal part of our metabolism and is an unavoidable part of our life. However, what we can do to drastically reduce the level of glycation that occurs in our body is ‘’reduce the availability of sugar’’ in the first place. (2) To do this, we only have to cut down or stop our intake of sugar - as simple as that.

Having said that, one must realise that all sugars do not behave in a similar fashion in our bodies - Fructose has ten times more glycation activity than glucose, which means, it can damage 10 times more proteins than what glucose in the blood can do. The most disturbing fact of table sugar (sucrose) - it is a combination of fructose and glucose. So, each time, we consume this sugar- think of what the fructose can do to your precious proteins. Let’s make our life sweet - not our food 😊

This then is food for thought – most of us gorge on sugary foods, consoling and allowing ourselves the freedom to do so, with the thought - we will just burn it off in the gym or on long walks or simply by using the stairs etc. But what about the damage that is happening on the inside? We as a society being conscious only about our external body image (weight, skin, athletic look) rarely even consider our personal internal health. We are willing to spend endlessly, to maintain an external image but not turn to saving simply by refusing to spend on ‘’Sugar’’.

P.S.: Fructose is also the sugar present in fruits and vegetables- however, the quantity is negligible, unlike the processed sugars that we consume.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Jai Hind Dosa !

Let's begin today's post with a question. Which of the following has a higher Glycemic Index: 1. A slice of whole-wheat bread from a bakery 2. A teaspoon of pure white sugar 3. Jai Hind Dosa (the one featured today and made of Foxtail millet)

Glycemic Index (GI) is a numerical rating that indicates how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular of food- A food with higher GI produces a surge in blood sugar compared to the one with lower blood sugar. Food with 55 or less is classified as Low GI and the ones above 70 are classified as high GI. People with diabetes and those intending to lose weight are recommended to stick to foods that have a lower GI. So what's the answer to our question?

Counter-intuitive as it may sound, the correct answer is whole-wheat bread from a bakery (GI of 71!), sugar stands at 68 and the ground foxtail millet is 47 (The cheese and carrot reduce the GI some more, but let's stick to the higher value).  It has been known for a long time that wheat (and also white rice) produces a faster blood glucose surge than sugar ( that does not mean one can gorge on sugar. Sugar is perhaps the most harmful of the foods that we eat) but somehow very few people realise this! and this is where millets are such a gift from nature.

Today's breakfast was a dosa made of foxtail millet and was fermented overnight. Topped with grated carrots, capsicum and cheese- the moment Aari saw it, she called it 'Jai hind dosa' and the name stuck.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Ragi Masala Dosa (Finger millet)

Although breakfast items like masala dosa are made from gluten free ingredients- eating it in a restaurant always comes with a great concern- that of contamination by products containing gluten. For quite some time we had been wanting to eat this crunchy and delicious item and that day finally arrived. We had Masala dosa for breakfast today- ah! the delight. For a change, however, we replaced the 'dosa rice' with whole 'Finger millet' (Ragi) and it tasted just as good.

This post also gives me an opportunity to share a very interesting article that appeared in this months 'Pediatrics' journal (Published by American Academy of Pediatrics). The article should be of interest not just to paediatricians, but also to parents with young children. Do read the fascinating write-up, however, this is the summary.

 TEDDY,  is an international study investigating the environmental factors associated with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease in Children. Children with genetic risk for diabetes and celiac disease are followed from birth up to 15 years of age with an extensive array of biologic, psychological, and environmental measures. The article shares with us one of the conclusions of the study, which involved more than 8000 children.

When parents are unaware that their children have celiac disease, they report more behavioural problems such as anxiety, depression, aggressive behaviours and sleep problems compared to parents whose children did not have celiac disease. The findings are fascinating since rarely do people consider a child’s anxiety or depression or even sleep disorder could be related to the gut. The study also confirms previous studies that have linked celiac disease to depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.

Meanwhile, it's dinner time already !

Friday, 10 March 2017

Can any method of fermentation or baking remove gluten from bread? (Recipe included)

A question that we are frequently asked is, “Can long fermentation of wheat remove gluten and thereby make wheat bread safe?” The answer - Practically no, theoretically yes and remember, theoretically one can even build a time machine!

So, why then on a practical basis, in a home kitchen, fermentation is unable to remove gluten and how is it done in a laboratory?

A) Structure: Gluten is critical in bread making because it provides bread with strength, structure and spring (1). Without gluten, a bread does not have strength to hold itself or to create those holes, that are so much a part of most bread loaves that we eat. One of the reason, bakers put in a lot of effort kneading the dough and/or allow the dough to rest for long periods of time is to develop the gluten, which then makes the bread soft. Now imagine, that by some magic this gluten was to disappear - A wheat bread then will have no strength, texture or spring that is associated with it - neither will it be soft. The question one needs to reflect on is - if I want a bread without gluten why do I not use so many gluten free flours that are easily available?

 B) The fermenters:  Two of the most commonly used microbes for fermentation are Yeast and Lactic acid bacteria. Leavening that is done with commercial yeast generally uses Saccharomyces cerevisiae, while natural fermentation relies on a combination of many species of both, Lactic acid bacteria and Yeast. Irrespective of what method is used, these microbes feed on carbohydrates like sugars and starches during the fermentation process. Gluten is a protein - not a carbohydrate, so can these microbes then degrade it?  Yeast cannot break down proteins or fats and, requires only carbohydrates (2).

Bacteria, however, are more versatile and can survive on a large variety of food. So, can Lactic acid bacteria break down gluten? In a study, conducted in 2006, 42 Lactic acid bacteria were studied for their ability to breakdown gluten - only 13 of them could do so! (3). Scientists who experimented on wheat mixtures to reduce gluten in them used only these specific strains of Lactic acid bacteria and not just any culture. Moreover, none of these 13 Lactic acid bacteria were able to completely degrade gluten, even after 24 hours of fermentation (They require a much longer time). Lactic acid bacteria too, prefer carbohydrates over protein and keep utilising carbohydrates as their primary source of energy.

C) Bacteria need to move around a bread dough in order to break down every gluten molecule. However, that can only happen if the batter is near fluid, and is regularly stirred. Bread dough is rarely of such a texture.

So, how do scientists who remove gluten from wheat by fermentation do it? The following is one such recipe from a laboratory (4). This is what these Scientists call as the ‘’Sourdough method’’. This technique and its variations are used in all laboratories when dealing with gluten degradation.

1. To 80-gram wheat flour, add 320 grams of water (Reason C)
2. Use the following strains of bacteria as starters; Lactobacillus alimentarius 15M, L. brevis 14G, L. higardii 51B and a bunch of other specific strains only (Check the report for the complete list (4)). (Reason B)
3. Use fungal proteases, Aspergillus oryzae and A. niger to aid the Lactic acid bacteria.
4. Ferment this for 48 hours at 37c (reason B). During Fermentation, stir it continuously at 200 rpm (for this, one will need to use a machine) (Reason C)
5. Since this is a very liquid batter, not suitable to make bread - use a spray drier to dry this mass. The dry flour thus obtained will hopefully be free of gluten. (Test it)
6. To 125 grams of this spray-dried wheat, add 100 ml of water (with 1.5% Baker’s yeast), 6% cornstarch, and 3% Xanthan gum (Reason A). Xanthan gum is used to substitute for gluten in the bread.
7. Ferment it for 2 hours and bake it for 15 mins at 250c.

Viola! Gluten free ‘’Sourdough bread’ made using wheat is ready!

As you may have noticed, this technique is a far cry from what we employ in a kitchen or a bakery. B However, unknowingly, many bakers continue capitalizing on this myth - without realising that the method used was very different from what is commonly known as Sourdough methods to us. In US, some bakers, are openly selling sourdough bread, claiming it to be safe for the gluten intolerant based on this false premise. (5)

There is evidence emerging that such sourdough bread can be more harmful than quickly fermented bread for a celiac (6). When gluten is partly broken down during long fermentation, more binding sites are made available for an enzyme called TG2. It is this TG2, that plays a crucial role in the initiation of Celiac disease!

Sadly, in today’s age, scientific studies are extrapolated and stretched by tabloids that provide us our dietary advice - does anyone even read beyond the headline?  (

1. The structure and properties of gluten: an elastic protein from wheat grain P. R. Shewry, N. G. Halford, P. S. Belton, A. S. Tatham


3. Gluten breakdown by lactobacilli and pediococci strains isolated from sourdough.


Thursday, 9 March 2017

Little Millet Idlis

These are not rice idlis- they are made of 'Little millet' and that is what we had for our breakfast today. We made them exactly like how one would make rice idlis- however, we replaced the rice with 'little millet'. Fermented overnight and garnished with grated carrots they were as soft and much more flavourful than their rice-based cousin.

For accompaniment, we had a chutney made from Red chillies, Coconut and Carrots- Gentle spice, subtle sweetness and creamy texture were the hallmarks of our morning today. 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Dibba roti with little millet.

Dibba Roti- is a typical breakfast item from Andhra Pradesh and perhaps its closest well-known relative is the Uttapam. We took inspiration from the Dibba roti- but replaced the rice and black gram (Urad dal) with 'Little millet'.

Rest of the embellishment that goes with the Dibba Roti, like;  grated carrots, Coriander leaves, Onions, Green chillies and whole spices were retained and it made for a lovely gluten-free and wholesome breakfast. A delightful way to start a day.

This is an unfermented dosa-roti hybrid and can be quickly cooked, especially when you wake up in the morning to realise that you forgot to keep anything for fermentation the previous day. 

Monday, 6 March 2017

Happy Mind in a Healthy Body- Really ?

For quite long, I have been sharing with you research papers and articles that deal with the effects of gluten on our overall health. While perusing these research papers (which number in the hundreds), I came across a few very interesting studies, that perhaps would be of interest to many of us, but since they do not concern gluten, I did not follow up with them. However, since all of us intend to live a healthy life - I felt it would be appropriate to share a couple of them with you now and in my future posts. So here is one of them -

How our mind controls Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

RA is an autoimmune (caused by our own immune system) disease which involves painful joints among other issues. The immune system of people suffering from RA makes antibodies* not only against microbes or specific organs but against other antibodies that are present in one’s own body! These “aggressor” antibodies, i.e. the Rheumatoid Factor, bind to the innocent bystander antibodies in the blood and form large antibody complexes.  Normally, such complexes are cleared by the scavengers of our immune system - the macrophages. However, when the number of such complexes becomes humungous enough, so as to dwarf the ability of the macrophages to clear them; these complexes, then deposit on the insides of our blood vessels and joints. An inflammatory reaction follows - the T-Cells and B-Cells (other components of our bodies defence) enters the joints attempting to clear these antibody complexes. It is during this process, that the tissues which provide lubrication to the joints are gradually destroyed. This condition is not only painful but also physically damaging as it gradually leads to deformity of the joints – This is what we know as Arthritis.
For a long time, there have been reports in the RA literature stating that patients with RA were “tense”, “moody” and “high-strung”; showed tendencies of setting high standards for themselves and others, and reacted negatively when faced with falling standards. However, there was no study conducted until 1964.

Dr’s. George Solomon and Rudolph Moos of Stanford were intrigued by a case of two genetically identical female twins, only one of whom was diagnosed with RA. They carried out an extensive study on women affected by RA (1). What they discovered was that the sister with RA showed tendencies of being more nervous, more depressed and quicker to anger to both, real and imagined situations as compared to their symptom-free sibling. Close questioning of the patients and their family members, showed, that these traits were not brought on by the disease itself but were personality characteristics of these patients even before the disease set in.

In almost every case, an emotional conflict started or worsened the disease. In a follow-up study (2), the researchers were surprised to find that the generally happy twin, who avoided stressful situations (and had personality traits opposite to that of the suffering twin) who although had a genetic disposition to acquire RA, did not suffer from it. In some cases, the RA levels of such patients were in the range of the suffering patients but they never developed the disease.

Today, it is generally accepted that autoimmune diseases such as RA, lupus and multiple sclerosis may not always represent the failure of the immune system but rather could be the result of a combination of many factors, exacerbated by emotional stress.

In another study (3), which shows how the mind controls the immune system, 394 healthy volunteers were exposed to a series of cold viruses. Prior to their exposure, a series of tests were conducted to determine their stress levels.  This study showed that only 27% of the volunteers who were stress-free developed cold as compared to more than 50% of those under stress - there was no other co-relation other than stress. Studies like these, have resulted in a creation of a new branch in immunology called – psychoneuroimmunology.

So, to sum it up - a quote from Charles Raison from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University “People who have rich social lives and, warm, open relationships don’t get sick and live longer”.

(* Antibody is a protein found in blood, produced in response to an invasion of the body by a microbe or other foreign entity, capable of recognising that entity and promoting its elimination.)




Monday, 20 February 2017

Gluten free Sandwich

This is what we had for breakfast. Vegan sandwich- Flavoured with green chutney and a sweet and sour chutney. Potato slices, marinated in a spicy marinade and grilled and finally an assortment of fresh vegetables and herbs.

We used a Herb Bread, that has six herbs in it and is made of five organic whole grains. One of our all time favourite.

Meanwhile here is another story with a happy ending. Jennifer Esposito was misdiagnosed for 25 years- MS, IBS, hormonal problems, stress, recurring sinus infections, stomach problems, extreme exhaustion, neuropathy, debilitating panic attacks to depression and even mental imbalance she had it all and one can imagine the medications that go with it- All it finally took was a doctor to tell her to check for Celiac Disease. Read her story in her own words

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Gluten Free Breakfast.

Pooris, Samosa's and Kachori's are typical Indian breakfast or snack items made of wheat. We had a more wholesome take on these snacks for today's breakfast.

We managed to no only make them gluten free- but also organic and used 100% whole grain flour. The flour was a mixture of Sorghum and Amaranth, freshly milled at home. The Samosa's had an elaborate stuffing though- Chia seeds, flax seed, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, moringa and tamarind leaves, dates, raisins, figs and apricots all seasoned with curry leaves and peri-peri chillies.

The Kachori's were stuffed with spiced and seasoned peanut powder- all grown at home and made at home.

Breakfast was accompanied by date and tamarind- sweet and tangy chutney.

Meanwhile a small note on why we use amaranth in many of our recipes:  Amaranth is a versatile plant since it adapts itself to a large number of environments, grows with vigor, produces large amounts of biomass, and resists drought, heat, and pests. It's an environmentally conscious consumers dream crop.
When it comes to nutrition, Amaranth is very rich in essential amino acids and is particularly high in those amino acids which are deficient in other cereals (like wheat, rice, millets, and oats). Hence when amaranth is added to any other flour it enhances the nutritional profile of the mixture. Two such essential amino acids (which cannot be produced by the body) are Lysine and Tryptophan.
Other than building proteins, lysine is essential for the production of a compound called carnitine. Almost every cell in our body depends on carnitine to transport fats into the cells. Lysine also helps our body absorb calcium and make collagen.

Our bodies convert Tryptophan into serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter.
According to a study published in the July 2006 issue of the “Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.” a deficiency in tryptophan and the subsequent lack of serotonin is also associated with general irritability and depression. Tryptophan can also affect your sleep cycle because we use serotonin to synthesize the hormone melatonin. When we produce high levels of melatonin at night, it can help us relax and sleep. Other than these two hormones our bodies can also convert tryptophan into the B vitamin niacin.

In tests carried out in rats, Amaranth has the ability to reduce triglycerides and LDL and increase HDL levels (1).

So isn't Amaranth cool grain to have in our diets- do you have it?

Monday, 13 February 2017


Among fish, Sardines are considered to be one of the most nutritious of the lot. "The New York Times" once called them as one of the “best foods you aren’t eating.”
Sardines deliver more calcium per serving than virtually any other food, largely because they’re full of soft, edible bones. Moreover, they’re also rich in vitamin D, a nutrient that helps you absorb and use calcium. Being at the bottom of the food chain, they also have the smallest bioaccumulation potential.
Aarina made two unique dishes with Sardines. Both perhaps needing quite some patience in handling the small fish.
The fist one was stuffed sardines- deftly sliced and stuffed with all that we could find in our garden- Peanuts, Bilimbi, chillies and garnished the mixture with aromatic herbs. The sardines were then stuffed with the mixture and fried. I prefer my fish juicy while Aarina likes it crisp.
The second dish required Aarina to carefully open up the sardines and make fillet out of them (without removing the bones). They were then marinated and fried with a choice of spices and herbs. Garnished with tomatoes, cheese, and mint leaves.
What a lovely lunch.