Life is wonderful

It has been a wonderful life and I’m grateful to God for all the blessings I’m fortunate to enjoy all these years.

I would like to share the wonderful discovery of healthy living with my readers.  Since February 2017, I have decided to eliminate sugar and reduce carbohydrates intake in my diet.  In the first few months, I have been strict with the restrictions I have imposed on myself.  I had eaten less rice and completely avoided cakes, ice-cream, bread and biscuits/cookies  (at present, I indulge myself now and then). When I made a commitment to eliminate sugar, I realised that it is present in many unhealthy food that I eat everyday.  So by just eliminating one item, such as sugar, I have prevented myself from eating lots of unhealthy food and replace them with healthier options such as fruits, fresh vegetables, root crops (abundant and cheap in Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines).  I have also saved a lot by not buying packaged food and reduced garbage in the form of plastic and cardboard boxes.

As a mother, the change in my diet has influenced my family.  My children have also become conscious with the choices that they make when they eat outside.

When I became conscious about what I eat, I also become more physically active.  I decided to take the public transportation and walked to the bus station for the month of February in 2017.  It took months before my change in lifestyle had a physical effect on my weight and figure but when it did, I was able to influence my siblings and friends around me to pay attention to what they are eating and be more physically active.

The biggest push into my change is wanting to regain back my being mentally alert which I fear has been diminished because of sugar.  A lot of articles have been written about the effect of sugar in our mental and physical health.  The first time I have encountered such article was many years ago written by Desi Anwar in the Opinion Section of Jakarta Post about Indonesians’ penchant for putting lots of sugar on their tea which her British landlady (if I remembered right) commented on.  I didn’t really mind it at that time.  But in the last few years, as I got older and the spelling of simple words would stump me, I’m drawn to articles  linking sugar to our fading memory.

It’s been more than a year in my change of diet and lifestyle (I have since semi-retired), I feel that I have regained my self back.  It was not instant though.  The proof is that I only can write about this after more than a year.

So I invite you to journey with me in my quest for a healthy and happy life.

Jason Mraz’s Life is Wonderful : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkXcNiWFB28

Arisan – A wonderful way of connecting with family and friends

Arisan is an Indonesian tradition which started out as a form of credit union where members contribute an equal amount of money and each member takes turns receiving the group’s contribution.  Unlike a credit union, no interest is charged and one of the benefits that the members could get is an opportunity to have a relatively abundant amount of money which they can use for a planned expenditure such as payment for children’s tuition fee or starting a small business at home and other needs.  In effect, it is a form of forced savings.

Arisan is popularly used as a way of gathering families around the neighborhood, which is subdivided into RTs ( Rumah Tangga– literally translated as household, but referred to here as neighborhood association).  RT is the smallest unit of society in Indonesia.

There would be an arisan for the women (wives and mothers) and another for the men (husbands and fathers).  Eventually, the practice has given rise to arisan among extended families, friends, and even among commuters (those taking the train everyday).

fullsizeoutput_2d8b
Lovely Jakarta ladies pose for a photo shoot during their monthly arisan

Our arisan with my siblings-in-law started when our father-in-law suggested to his children that we should start an arisan so that we will still see each other even when he has gone. True enough–this year is my father-in-law’s 10th death anniversary, and his Jakarta-based children and we, their spouses, together with the grandchildren still meet once every three months.

Our most recent gathering was hosted by Sony and Eni, both ardent conservationists.  Eni, a math teacher, is involved in her neighborhood’s Bank Sampah (Waste Bank) while Sony is the English-language-graduate-turned-“engineer” who set up their hydroponic greenhouse.  Since a lot of electricity is needed for water to flow continuously, he embarked on solar energy.  His family’s monthly electricity bill is down to a third of what they used to pay before.

We learned a lot from the visit and enjoyed the family gathering. We were nourished, both in mind and body.

The arisan is the only time most of us meet and it’s an opportunity to catch up with what the family members are up to. This quarter’s get-together was also an opportunity for me to share my blog posts and find an inspiration for a new one.  My sisters-in-law gamely posed for pictures too.

But the best part was that we got to bring home freshly picked herbs and extra food contributed by each member of the family.

 

How to eat healthy, according to my mom

My mom used to teach in an elementary school in the outskirts of the city, so she would leave the house early in the morning and only get to come home in the afternoon.  Since the school we attended was a short walk from our house, we children had lunch at home with our dad.  The most exciting part of the day for me was to meet my mom arriving in a tricycle (the public transportation in Dipolog City) to take a look at the fruit or vegetable she had in her bag.  If it’s soursop (sirsak in Indonesian, guyabano in Filipino, and labana in Visayan) I usually would have it all to myself.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but my sister recently told me that she never liked that fruit.

Fruits, in my childhood, were usually picked from our trees or brought by my mom from school or given by neighbors and relatives.  The only fruits we bought from the market were bananas, especially the latundan and lakatan (known as Pisang Barangan in Indonesia) varieties.   One bunch would usually be finished by the end of the meal.

I was not fond of vegetables when I was growing up, but my mom and dad—both good cooks!–never gave up preparing for us different kinds of vegetables cooked in various ways.  Filipinos generally like condiments, and at home we often enjoyed something easily put together like eggplant-onion-tomato or cucumber relish flavored with vinegar, usually made from fermented coconut water. Occasionally, my mom would bake glazed squash and told us to eat it because it’s good for our eyes.  To make us eat more greens, she also told us often that string beans or water spinach (kangkong in Filipino and kangkung in Indonesian) stalks were like brooms that cleaned the insides of our tummies.

I would like to thank my mom, especially on this Mother’s Day (Western Calendar) for sharing with us her love of healthy food.

♥♥♥Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!♥♥♥

Frozen-Banana Ice Cream — A Healthier Option to Sugar-laden Es Kepal Milo

Jakarta is bracing itself for the Es Kepal Milo fever which started from the neighboring country, Malaysia. LINE news feed reported on the long queue that customers have to endure just to get a taste of this shaved ice which is cone-shaped with syrup topping made of Milo and chocolate power with condensed milk.

Please click on this link to read a related article published in The Jakarta Post http://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2018/05/09/what-es-kepal-milo-shows-us-about-consumers-and-marketing-in-indonesia.html

The fasting month is just around the corner and this drink/dessert might become the favorite entree to break the fast.  Unfortunately, you can just imagine the amount of sugar contained in each serving.  Milo and condensed milk are already sweet and most would add toppings such as cookies.

There is a healthier option that you can easily prepare for your family.  There are many varieties of bananas in Indonesia and it is the most affordable fruit because of its abundance all around us.  Plus it bears fruit all year round.  Also, the best bananas to use for this healthy dessert are the ones that are already very ripe.  Usually, there are more bananas that we can finish so instead of throwing away these almost rotten bananas, you can put them inside the freezer. When you are ready for homemade ice cream, just blend a couple of peeled frozen bananas with yogurt or milk in a food processor.  Then you can immediately enjoy a refreshing serving of banana ice cream.

fullsizeoutput_2911
fullsizeoutput_2913 Frozen and Cut-up Cavendish  Bananas or Pisang Ambon

Frozen strawberries can also be added for a more pinkish/reddish color, although some children might find the ice cream a little bit sour.  Adults might like it better so the ice cream will not be too sweet.  Frozen bananas tend to be very sweet.

Be different.  Make your own healthy ice cream!

♥Thank you to my sister, Pinky, for editing and providing important suggestions♥

Juice first thing in the morning

One good habit that we can start is drinking juice first thing in the morning.

For busy moms and dads, you may pare and/or cut up fruits in small pieces, then store them in the refrigerator the night before you need to drink your juice. If you want to prepare for a week, you may freeze them in small containers.  Then, put the cut-up pieces in your food processor for blending in the morning.

For my favorite fruits such as guava and terong belanda (tamarillo), I have to add water to the fruit pieces before blending.  Then I strain to remove the seeds before enjoying the juice…  Hahaha, I know this is simply common sense but after being exposed to technospeak, I realize I have to write down everything. ♥♥♥
fullsizeoutput_281d

Have fun preparing and drinking your juice!

♥♥♥Thanks to my sister, Pinky, for editing this write up ♥♥♥

 

Exercise and VCO for physical and mental health

If you remember, the first blog I shared on this website was my turning point on eliminating sugar from my diet and I also started to be more active, like walking to the bus station and taking the public transportation.

Actually, I have already started my regular exercise on cross trainer and have been pulling weights on Precor Glide Functional Training System but I still don’t feel heathy enough.  Also, there was no drastic effect on my weight and my waistline.  It was only when I changed my lifestyle and diet that I felt better and increased my strength that I could even manage to do sit ups.

I’m privileged to have been permitted to share with you a before-and-after picture of the effect of a weight training for three months.  I have seen a lot of these on social media but since I don’t personally know the ones uploading the pictures, I have no way of knowing their authenticity.  Below is a picture of my niece, Maria Isabela Aurellado, who is finishing her Master of Science in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from the Texas Tech University College of Human Sciences.  She is a Graduate Teaching Assistant and in her latest weight training class, she joined the before-and-after photo challenge she required her students to do.  Look at this!

IMG_2004

Visualizing by taking photos of ourselves, according to Isay (as we fondly call her) will help us be more motivated and is a positive way of reaching our physique and health goals.  She also added that aside from taking pictures,  we should also jot down all workout activities and food intake on a regular basis to be more effective.

Now, take a look again at the shape of her stomach.  In just three months, with regular weight training and the right intake of food,  the stomach can reach its ideal size.  Of course, it might take us longer than her.  Isay used to be a varsity basketball player and when I vacationed with her family, if I walked on treadmill for 30 minutes, she would run on treadmill for an hour.  Mmmm, I still have a long way to go.

Why is the shape of the stomach a concern for us?  As I grasp the bulge of my stomach while writing this blog, a Harvard Medical School article refer to this bulge as the subcutaneous fat. That would be the fat (if you call that fat because compared to mine that is not fat at all) that Isay successfully trimmed off in three months. The more dangerous belly fat is the visceral fat which we couldn’t grasp with our bare hands.  It is present in overweight people and is associated with cardiovascular disease. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/abdominal-fat-and-what-to-do-about-it

Isay also shared with us a photo shoot of a page on her book that shows that regular physical activities will improve memory. So not only does exercising make me physically fit, it will also make me more mentally alert.

Speaking of cardiovascular disease, Dr. Fabian (Toby) M. Dayrit, shared with us the latest research on the effectiveness of virgin coconut oil in lowering high blood pressure. A research was conducted in Brazil which proved that coconut oil is effective in lowering blood pressure.

In the study, there were four groups of rats:
1. Sedentary fed with coconut oil in their diets
2. Dieted without coconut oil but exercised
3. Fed with coconut oil in their diets and exercised
4. The control group where there was no change in diets and exercise

The researchers were not surprise to find out there was drop-in blood pressure on rats in the 2nd group. They also found out that there was drop-in blood pressure in inactive rats in the 1st group. But what surprised them the most is that the 3rd group of rats with coconut oil in their diets and exercised found the biggest drop-in blood pressure and cure.

As quoted from the article: “The effects of coconut oil were twofold, and scientists believe it’s because of the medium chain fatty acids in the oil. These act as extremely powerful antioxidants, eliminating the oxidative stress of free radicals attacking heart and blood vessel tissue.” http://blueheronhealthnews.com/site/2018/04/28/this-oil-cures-high-blood-pressure-and-its-not-olive-oil-2/

Virgin coconut oil (VCO) is a big thing in the Philippines, thanks to Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit.  He was a medical doctor and wrote the bestselling book in 2005. His son, Dr. Toby Dayrit, a chemistry professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, wrote the 2nd edition in 2013 focusing on the chemical aspects of coconut oil and VCO. What has interested me the most is  that  VCO does not only lower blood pressure but that the antioxidants present in the oil help improve our memory.

book cover
You may read preview of this book here 

I have taken VCO off and on few years ago but since February this year, I have taken two spoonfuls a day.

Now my lifestyle on my quest for sharpening my memory is complete: avoid sugar; increase physical activity; increase intake of vegetables and fruits; and regular intake of VCO.

Full disclosure:  Dr. Toby Dayrit is my brother-in-law and I get my regular supply of VCO from my sister, who is married to him.

Rainbow-colored meals

Sharing with you some pictures of colorful food you can prepare for yourself or your family.

IMG_1997
Cut up pieces of fruits and vegetables

I just visited Jacob Olesen’s website, Color-Meanings.com, and got the following information regarding the benefits that we can get from eating colorful fruits and vegetables.

Red fruits and vegetables contain lycopene and it’s a powerful antioxidant being investigated for cancer and heart attack prevention. One fruit that stands out with the color red is the dragon fruit, which is now abundantly available in Jakarta and a lot more affordable. Just few years ago, the fruit was only available in few modern supermarkets and there were two versions, white and red. Now, only the red ones prevailed. This is true for guava too. Guava with red flesh became popular when it was known to help patients with dengue fever recover faster because the fruit is rich in calcium and minerals (hellosehat.com)

Green vegetables are rich in chlorophyll and isothiocyanate known to reduce carcinogenic agents from the liver.  My favorite green vegetables is kenikir (Cosmos caudatus Kunth), which is also known as Ulam raja in Melayu or Malaysia   (circ.farmasi.ugm.ac.id) .  I eat it raw or dip it in boiling water for few minutes.  It is easy to grow.  The discarded stems can be planted and small leaves would appear after few days. It has beautiful flowers too.

IMG_1976
Kenikir with lovely flowers

Yellow-orange vegetables are rich in beta carotene, which is abundant in Vitamin A and retinol to keep you young (prevent wrinkles and acne).  When I was a child, my mom used to tell me that if I eat my squash and carrots I will have good vision.  In a way this is true.  I only started wearing reading glasses in my late 30s or early 40s.

Blue and purple vegetables and fruits get their colors from anthocyanin.  It is an  antioxidant that is beneficial for our heart.  My favorite vegetable in this category is eggplant.  I just fry small slices of  two or three eggplants in coconut oil and then add a spoonful each of soy sauce and vinegar.  I also steam purple and yellow sweet potatoes as shown in the picture below.

IMG_2001

Green-yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in lutein which is good for our eyes.  Avocado and spinach fall under this category.  They are abundant in Indonesia.  Avocado is also known to increase good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL) (www.verywell.com).

I use home-made dressing (to be shared in my next blog) or Gado-gado paste (brand:  Enak Eco) for my mixed vegetables and fruits.

Let’s have fun feeding our bodies with colorful meals of fruits and vegetables provided by nature.  There is now greater supply of organic vegetables and fruits in season so being healthy is within reach of everyone.