Issue - December 2008

December 2008

In this month"s issue Victoria Cowell took a trip and visit the amazing weavers project in Candelaria; Dental Health is important, John Arnos shows us an interesting initiative being taken by the City Hall on Dental Health; Healthy Living is something to think about, especially closer to the Christmas celebrations; a folk craftwork more...

December 2008

Healthy Living - Made Simple

Victoria Cowell
Projects Abroad volunteer
Coventry - United Kingdom

Too many sweets and heavy meals? Too much drinking and not enough walking? Losing the battle of the bulge? Here is how to start remedying the situation and applying Hippocrates´ 2000 year old wisdom “To let food be your medicine and your medicine your food!”

Everyone knows Christmas is coming and that can mean a whole festive season of overeating and too much alcohol. In fact doctors suggest, that for those well off enough among us, Christmas indulgences can add up to half a stone of weight. More importantly your health will suffer, you will find it harder to exercise and move around. You may even start to feel like you are ageing prematurely and getting sluggish throughout the day. Fatigue can be caused by vitamin deficiencies and poor diet but that can be helped by a healthy way of life. I have been exploring what that involves to give some new year suggestions after all the Christmas gluttony!

Most health care practitioners agree on three very basic points for a healthy lifestyle. These include drinking plenty of still water, at least 2-3 litres a day, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables - five portions or more a day; and taking regular physical activity. You do not need to exercise every day, but 30 to 45 minutes of exercise four or five times a week has been proven to reduce high blood pressure, cut the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and improve overall fitness.

The body needs water to function properly, 70 % of your body is water and it has been shown that increasing your water intake along with other suggestions aids weight loss. Fruits and vegetables are important for the vitamins, minerals and fibre they contain and because they are low in calories. They also provide what are known as antioxidants which disarm free radicals in the body, thus possibly helping to prevent cancer.

Different fruits and vegetables provide different vitamins and minerals. There are two types of vitamins –fat soluble and water soluble. The fat soluble vitamins the body needs on a daily basis are vitamins A, D, E and K. The water-soluble are the B vitamins –B6, B12, niacin, riboflavin, folate and vitamin C. Vitamin C is found in good quantities in citrus fruits and kiwis, also in strawberries. The body makes Vitamin A from carotenoids found in dried apricots, papaya and carrots.

Vitamin D is made by the action of sunlight on the skin and found in fortified cereals. Vitamin K is found in green peas and vegetables like broccoli and spinach. All of these vitamins can also be found in other sources. Vitamin E is found in avocado and is very good for the skin.

Many people worldwide have been put off avocados because of their high fat content but the fat in avocado is a type which is better for you and can actually help cut bad cholesterol.

For this reason fats can be slightly complicated. There are a few kinds of fat, including saturated fat found on meat and in dairy products and some vegetable products like coconut milk, and unsaturated fat found in oils, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados. Unsaturated fat can be further split up into polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.

Monounsaturated is the kind found in avocados and is used by the body for good cell functioning among other things. It is better to eat unsaturated or vegetable fats and fats found in nuts and seeds than to eat cream, cheese and animal fat. These fats can raise your bad cholesterol and in large amounts are very bad for the body. Trans fats are probably the worst kind, made from hydrogenating vegetable oils. They are found in many commercial biscuits and margarines and have been linked to some kinds of cancer.

However, it is a myth that fat makes you fat. Fat, it is true, is higher in calories than protein or carbohydrates so it can be a problem if you eat too much of it, but one of the main problems in weight gain is not the fat content of a diet but what that diet is doing to a persons blood sugar. When your blood sugar dips and spikes a lot you will gain weight because the body releases a hormone, insulin, which tells the body to store food as fat. Therefore it is important to watch sugar intake. Even potatoes can cause weight gain because they are a carbohydrate with a tremendous effect on blood sugar, equal to syrup. Every food has a particular effect on blood sugar measured by the glycemic index. Most carbohydrates, especially white bread score very highly and should be avoided. That is not to say that all carbohydrates should be cut out, by any means. Many are good for us, such as oats which help lower cholesterol or quinoa which, grown in the Bolivian highlands, is rich in protein and many nutrients.

The suggestion is to change the type of carbohydrates to whole grains, increasing the fibre content which minimizes the effect on blood sugar and keeps all the goodness of the food before processing. Eat wholegrain and seeded breads instead of white loaves, pure wholegrain cereals or porridge instead of sugary, processed corn flakes, brown rice instead of white rice…and you have got the idea. Sweet potatoes and squash are also bizarrely lower on the gycemic index than normal potatoes.

Most green vegetables, broccoli and spinach are very low and mixing a low glycemic food with a high one is better than eating a high one on its own. Stevia, one of the major exports of Bolivia, is a good sweetner instead of sugar and is not an artificial chemical like aspartame.

Another food worth adding regularly to the diet is classified as both a carbohydrate and a protein and generally contains a lot of nutrients and fibre. I´m talking beans or legumes. Beans are a great food, and versatile; they can be eaten in a variety of sauces, spicy, mild and everything in between. Then there are dips like hummus made from chick peas, garlic, lemon juice and a blend of sesame seeds called tahini or the classic burrito with ´frijoles refritos´ (refried beans.) The list of beans to try is virtually endless, butter bean, pinto bean, kidney bean, aduki bean, lentils, chick peas etc. Beans are a good source of vegetable protein, which many specialists are encouraging us to eat more of as too much animal protein can overtax the kidneys and cause colon problems.

So...there you have it. Some suggestions for a healthier diet and where to get those all important vitamins from. And do not forget to exercise and drink lots of water! The aim is to try to make long-lasting dietary changes, little by little, that you can stick to and incorporate easily. Try not to think of ´dieting´ anymore but of changing your eating habits. And it is still ok to have that treat now and then, just not every day!

And remember the advice included here is only informal, if you are considering making a substantial change then speak to a nutritionist or your health care practitioner. And pass the guacamole! Provecho!

Cultural Corner
Folk craftwork has a rich heritage in places almost unknown and forgotten in Cochabamba and Bolivia. In these areas, many people work in different fields, and are within reach of the materials to produce useful and beautiful objects which are usually for family use, adornment, rituals, games, parties and dances ...
read more ...

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