Losing weight: The (super easy) Japanese way

Last month, I was introduced to a super-special lose-weight-as-you-eat dish in New York. Called konjac, it’s a Japanese root vegetable that’s incredibly low  in calories – 3 calories per 100 grams (considering 100 grams of cucumber have 10 calories, this is really, really low).

It’s completely gluten and wheat-free. And when you mix it with a little water, konjac transforms into a gel-like substance that traps fats, sugars and other toxins. Plus, it’s the highest natural source of natural dietary fiber, which makes it quite filling. It’s for all these reasons that konjac has long been known as a ‘broom for the stomach’ in its native Japan.

What does this all add up to? The best 1-2-3 diet punch one could ask for!

How to have konjac for weight loss

Konjac is available in several different forms, including a tofu-like block, flour, jelly and supplements. However, the most popular (and easiest) form of konjac is shirataki or konnyaku noodles – clear, thin noodles that have a rubbery texture.

Unlike regular dried noodles, they come packaged in a watery liquid. All you need to do is drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water. Then blanch them in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes; drain well and you’re all set!

But what I like best is that konjac is pretty tasteless, so you can mix in an assortment of flavorings and really make the dish your own without worrying about the calories. I prefer to have the konnyaku noodles in a soup, where they acquire the broth’s own flavour and mix in seamlessly. Just make sure to cook them in the soup’s stock for some time (I add them in right at the beginning), so that the flavours mingle perfectly.

Have you ever tried konjac? In what form? And what’s your lose-the-excess-pounds food? Spill!

Why you should eat beans to curb a pizza craving (and nuts for chocolate… !)

Craving a scrumptious, delectable, sinful pizza absolutely dripping with cheese or constantly find yourself reaching for that box of Godiva chocolates, shutting up the part of your brain that’s blabbering on about killing your skin and destroying the hard won waistline? I am all for every kind of unhealthy food, especially when one is tucked into bed, late on a Sunday evening, watching the latest episode of The Good Wife.

But for the slightly more sane, it might be interesting to know that these cravings are usually our body’s  way of SOS-ing the need for replenishing its store of vital nutrients. And that most of the cravings can actually be tackled by a healthier alternative, thereby satisfying the urge without the calories and other skin-destroying stuff. Here’s the 101 on decoding the signals.

food cravingsYou are craving: Cheese, pizza, pasta
Your body needs: Carbs, proteins
Try: Lean chicken, whole grain cereals or bread, bean salad, bean chili, baked potatoes, brazil nuts, oily fish, avocados, broccoli

You are craving: Chocolate
Your body needs: Magnesium
Try: High energy foods like nuts, seeds, wholegrain bread or crackers, berries etc.

You are craving: Candy
Your body needs: Chromium, sulphur, trypt0fan, carbon
Try: Beans, kale, broccoli, cabbage, cranberries, grapes

You are craving: Chips
Your body needs: Calcium and protein
Try: Meat, fish, chicken, eggs or pulses

You are craving: Bread, pasta
Your body needs: Nitrogen
Try: Nuts, fish, meat, beans

You are craving: Greasy fries, burgers or fry-ups
Your body needs: Salt
Try: Sushi, almonds, grilled bacon, lemon juice, salad tossed with unrefined sea salt, roasted sunflower seeds

You are craving: Deep fried snacks
Your body needs: Calcium
Try: Sesame, string cheese, legumes, mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, kale

You are craving: Soda, soft drinks
Your body needs: Calcium
Try: Leafy green veggies, sesame seeds, yoghurt, milk

Indonesian Jamu: A simple recipe to make your own healing detox tonic

There’s something about a brand new year that brings out the detox lover in me. I don’t know why. It’s not like any diet that’s started on January 1st is going to be in the least bit more effective than one that kicks in on, say, May 17th. But still, new year and new beginnings and all that, I guess.

So, after 6 days of almost non stop partying with friends and family (we all met up in Singapore to welcome 2016!), I’m calling upon Jamu – a healing drink from Indonesia – to clean up my insides. In the hope it will tackle the new crop of spots and lacklustre skin on the outside as well.

I have been fascinated with Jamu for quite a while now. It dates back almost 1,200 years to ancient Java and has often been likened to Ayurveda. In Indonesia, Jamu is used to address everything from weight gain and a sluggish metabolism to acne, insomnia, fatigue and cough or colds.

And it’s delicious.

The most fabulous part? An all-purpose Jamu recipe needs the simplest of ingredients and can be brewed at home, anywhere in the world.

jamuHere’s what you’ll need to get started

2-4 fresh turmeric roots (or 1-2 teaspoons organic turmeric powder)
1 small galangal root (or knob of ginger)
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
1 litre drinking water
Honey to taste

How to make

1. Peel and grate the turmeric, galangal (or ginger)

2. Boil the turmeric, galangal (or ginger) in water for approximately half an hour, till it becomes slightly creamy; add more water if the concoction starts looking a bit dry

3. Cool for a few minutes, then pour it into a blender, add the tamarind and honey; blend until frothy

4. Strain and serve warm; or refrigerate in an airtight bottle

How to drink the Jamu

Jamu is pretty potent and you need just a little bit everyday. I normally make enough for 3-4 days and store it in the refrigerator – simply lightly reheating and drinking a shot glass worth before breakfast and after dinner, every day.

Why it works

First of all, there is turmeric – one of the most powerful healing herbs. Besides being a natural liver detoxifier and kidney cleanser, it also speeds up metabolism, helps in weight loss, is anti-inflammatory, heals damaged skin, busts infections and so much more.

Then there are the twin forces of galangal and ginger. Also anti-inflammatory, they contain a host of anti-oxidants to minimise the damage caused by free radicals and other toxins (created by, say, those barrels of alcohol and larders of meat!). Additional benefits: Galangal and ginger both calm down the stomach, curb indigestion and acidity, and replenish the body’s stores of iron, sodium, vitamins A and C, flavonoids and phytonutrients.

Tamarind is a rich source of dietary fibre, which binds to toxins, bile salts and excessive cholesterol, flushing them out of the body safely and cleanly. It also contains hefty doses of hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which inhibits an enzyme that helps the body hold on to fat (hello, weigh loss!). Other scientifically verified health benefits include the ability to reduce inflammation, heal the digestive system, step up blood circulation, maintain nerve function and soothe a whole range of skin issues. Finally, tamarind is also rich in many vital nutrients, including vitamins A, B and C, and iron, all of which get sorely depleted when you’ve been living it up a bit much.

Have you ever tried the Jamu? What’s been your experience with this cure-all drink?

How to bust belly fat in 10 minutes. At home.

Want to wriggle into a curve-hugging dress (or skintight jeans, for that matter!) but despair at your pudgy belly? Or you’re bloated to the point of discomfort? And need to lose it all right NOW?

Dr. Oz – the legendary cardiothoracic surgeon and author – has a super-simple solution. Which you can make at home, with ingredients straight from the refrigerator. For mere pennies. Take two-and-a-half cups of lemon juice and 15 peppermint leaves. Freeze the peppermint leaves and lemon juice together in an ice cube tray. Add three cubes to a glass of water and have at least three glasses of this icy water through the day.

Could anything be simpler? Or more inexpensive?

If you want a more permanent way to banish excessive body fat, Dr. Oz also recommends Kim Lyon’s Fat Flush Water recipe. For this, simply combine the following in a large pitcher: one grapefruit (sliced; can be substitutes with a lemon), one tangerine (can substitute with an orange), one large cucumber (sliced), 10-20 mint leaves, water and ice cubes. Make a big pitcher of this Fat Flush Water every morning and drink at least eight ounces thrice a day, before each meal. For maximum effect, do this ritual for 10 days straight.

How does it work?

It’s all in the chemistry of the ingredients. Both grapefruit and lemons are loaded with vitamin C to help your body turn fat into fuel; tangerine and oranges increase your sensitivity to insulin, stabilise blood sugar and stimulates genes to burn fat; cucumber helps you feel full and acts as a natural diuretic, which means less bloating and water retention; and peppermint is not only refreshing but also promotes better digestion and calms the stomach.

Will you be trying this recipe? What’s YOUR secret bust-the-bloat remedy? Do share in the comments section below – we can all use the help