The Healthcare Challenge


The biggest challenge any society faces today is how to keep its seniors productive and engaged, hoping to utilize their knowledge, expertise and experience while they still can work and contribute. This is especially true of economies such as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and several other developed nations where rates of birth have been on the decline for decades.

The key factor in ensuring that the seniors continue to work (at least part time) and contribute to society, is achieving a competitively priced (I would argue low cost) healthcare. The proportion of budget allocation for healthcare is on the increase in developed countries, but it is still lower than the budget allocation for national security/defence. A big share of the healthcare allocation should go towards the older generation, as they have worked hard in building the society to where it is today, and it should be any government’s priority to fund their healthcare costs.

Good healthcare provision need not necessarily be very expensive, as often portrayed in the media. Private healthcare has become purely a for-profit business and is often associated with high cost since it purportedly offers higher quality as compared to public hospitals. Not so, in my opinion. I have seen good quality healthcare of comparable levels, in both private and public hospitals, at least in Singapore. The impression that people have is that private hospitals should be providing high quality due to better resources, doctors and equipment – this is not necessarily true. Most of us operate on referrals from friends. Even general practitioners are puzzled if you tell them you prefer a public hospital, as they know you could avail of private healthcare either due to corporate coverage or your own personal private insurance coverage. Why not spend more money, if you can knowing that it does not come from your pocket?

However, if the “greed” factor can be managed appropriately, there is a distinct possibility that private healthcare providers can provide decent quality at reasonable or fair prices, though higher than public healthcare costs. There are good examples of private healthcare providers who are viewed as reasonable in almost all developed countries.

In my opinion, the issue on the table is two-fold: reasonable healthcare coverage for all citizens (like what Singapore provides) via an insurance scheme tied to provident fund, and the willingness of private providers to fall in line with market demands, rather than stay isolated with an exalted brand image associated with very high costs.

For seniors, the challenge of healthcare is multi-faceted: apart from health ailments often associated with advancing age, they also have to contend with lack of a sense of well-being and potential isolation from society. Folks who have just turned 58 have a long possibility of continued contribution to society in many, many ways. How can they deliver on that promise, and how can a government encourage them to do so in a very proactive manner?

Providing healthcare on demand is the key. Seniors should get priority in accessing healthcare at a lower cost, which would strongly encourage them to continue serving the society which is taking care of their needs. People in Western societies continue to work well past 65, and age discrimination has not stopped them from operating in service industries wherein unemployement is rather low. Similarly, at the high end of the wage spectrum, there is a strong need for mature guidance from senior executives who have left active corporate jobs.

The other big issue with seniors is the emergence of previously unheard of diseases which affect their functionality, such as dementia and Parkinsons’ – these can be avoided or delayed by continued active work engagement which instils a strong sense of purpose. Helping younger generation and mentoring them are strong reasons why older folks would like to continue serving, albeit at lower time commitments.

So, in an overall sense, the healthcare challenge is looming large for seniors in all societies, and they can help themselves by continuing their engagement from where they left off, while trying to ensure that they keep well from a healthcare perspective. Keeping fit is not an easy task for any age group. It assumes big importance for the older generation due to various ailments which could be kept at bay by an appropriate fitness regimen and addressing healthcare issues in a timely manner. Governments should support the seniors aggressively, especially the ones just leaving their jobs for good. Both physical and mental health issues need to be addressed in this effort.

The return on investment from such efforts will add significantly to the GDP growth rate. Smaller countries will benefit more and faster due to efficiency of policy executions.

It is critical to bring the healthcare providers in line with society’s expectations, instead of letting them run riot – healthcare is not a “normal” or “regular” business. This also applies to pharmaceutical companies and other innumerable support providers in the healthcare industry. We have seen egregious examples of super greed by pharma companies in the U.S. which are rather very bad examples of how such companies try to extort unhealthy profits from consumers, insurance companies and hospitals.

In a nutshell, seniors can be productive for economies to grow, and they are asking for better quality healthcare at lower costs. Societies need to support them.

Have a great week ahead,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

17th March 2019

Why the rich shun taxes


Anyone who has followed the World Economic Forum debates would have surely chanced upon the illuminating one in which Dutch Historian Rutger Bregman heavily criticised the rich for not paying their share of taxes.

The traditional view of economics and politics has been that the rich would want to be taxed less, as they believe that they could directly contribute to nation-building in a more productive and efficient manner, instead of letting governments fritter away the increased taxes in an irresponsible and inefficient manner. After all, is it not true that business entrepreneurs are more adept in building functioning businesses and creating more jobs with the increased money that is available to them by way of reduced taxation?

Sounds good and appropriate?

May be not.

Our societies (in almost all countries) are characterised by income inequalities and non-inclusive growth benefitting few rather than the many. Inclusive growth remains a dream for many nations which aspire to equitable income distribution and growth benefits for all. Is it wise to just leave this most important objective of governments and societies to the whims and fancies of the richest people of the world? Of course, there have been good examples of the very rich people like Bill Gates, but there are also many, many bad or poor examples of rich folks who do not invest their less-taxed money on much-needed job creation or philanthropy.

Achieving a reasonable level of income equality is a very essential pre-requisite for national economic development. Such equality will then extend to education and healthcare for the citizens. As we know intuitively, any society will develop in a holistic manner if we address education, healthcare, infrastructure and systemic issues plaguing the society leading to crime and inner-city violence, etc., So, equitable income distribution is an absolute must for a society to develop faster without its attendant ills, and put it firmly on a path to economic and social growth.

But then, the rich do not want to pay more taxes. As the U.S. just demonstrated, the U.S. Congress successfully passed the tax reform bill which essentially reduced the tax rates for the wealthy (Republicans favour less taxes and less role for government in nation-building as core fundamental principles of their Party). When the wealthiest nation in the world is not playing ball to raise taxes on its most wealthy citizens, it means that the rest of the world is going to be disillusioned, thinking probably that they are on the wrong trajectory, based on what some academics state in their opinion pieces. Then the world would lose its battle against income inequality.

I quote here from the World Economic Forum 2019 event transcripts (I could not resist it!): “The ratio between executive pay and that of an average worker has grown from 30:1 in 1978 to 312:1 today. The top income tax rates in 1970 worldwide was 62%; that has been negotiated down to less than 38% in rich countries, and 28% in developing countries. In many countries, high tax rates on the rich have been abolished, while $170 billion every year is taken to tax havens.”

I am sure it is clear to my readers where the developed world is headed: less and less taxes for their wealthy (as their governments probably do not need the increased tax collections that are absolutely possible and needed for reducing their own countries’ income inequalities and providing for their homeless people sleeping on the streets). This is not a good thing even for the developed world.

What about developing countries? Many developing countries are unfortunately characterised by heavy levels of corruption, money laundering, stashing of illegal money, public bribing to win elections illegitimately, and weak systems of judiciary to counter the encroachment by the executive and the self-serving legislatures. This has become a never ending downward spiral of less and less money being devoted to national development and eliminating poverty. Of course, we can argue that pulling poor people above the line of poverty is a more urgent need in these countries than accomplishing income equality or reducing income inequality. But then, the poverty lines are set so low that it would take many generations before the poor folks could reach any semblance of equality in the society, while at the same time not having equal access to education and healthcare.

It is important for governments to realise that they cannot forsake the development of their countries by surrendering to blackmail by their rich people to take the business elsewhere, like what many tech companies did in the U.S. over the past couple of decades. Under pressure from President Trump’s administration, companies like Apple have finally agreed to bring their money back from low tax jurisdictions to the U.S. and invest in job creation in the U.S. [sorry folks, I have to give credit where it is absolutely due, and in this particular case, President Trump did the right thing to exert pressure that was much needed to make tech companies behave – after all, they should show some patriotism, not just driven by economic greed caused by low taxes elsewhere].

It is not at all surprising that the rich do not wish to pay more taxes, and are, in fact, working to persuade their governments to reduce not just their income taxes but even their inheritance taxes. They mostly think they are smarter (and most of them are) than the rest of us. They think that they are capable of strongly influencing their politicians and governments. They think that they can invest the extra money left in their hands in ways wiser than what their own governments can do.

Well, well, now you get the overall picture – where the society is and where the rich at the top are. Don’t get me wrong – it is not illegal to be rich, but it is unconscionable not to be willing to pay fair share of taxes or avoid and evade taxes altogether. What happened to the people in the middle and bottom of the pyramid who helped the rich man’s enterprise to get to where it is today? Without them, can anything of value be produced in any industry or business? Did they get their due share of incomes? Did the rich even bother to find out if these folks got their fair access to education for their children, healthcare for their families, and so on and so forth. Did the governments bother at all? As long as democratically elected governments are subservient to purely economic interests, the situation on the ground is unlikely to change, and income inequalities will continue to persist.

Good to think about during a Sunday………..

Have a great week ahead, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

10th March 2019

The pro-life argument


On this one thing of life and death, I am proud to be termed as a “conservative”.

I know that I am liberal (in U.S. terminology I am “left of centre” or left-wing liberal – which I do not agree with as I believe I am a centrist on most issues) in my views (both political and social), as opposed to right-wing conservative views. Being a liberal or a conservative comes from personal experiences and an understanding of what is good for the society as a whole, not just for oneself. It takes some analysis of the environment, politics, and society. It is not easy to “assume” a pole position because that is how the world sees your position. Irrespective of what the world thinks of you, you do have an absolute independent right to think what you want and position yourself in philosophical terms as a thinker in your own right. Who can challenge that?

So, let us now analyze one thing on which I side with the so-called conservatives. We do not have this kind of discussion in Singapore or India, but unfortunately the world gets influenced by what happens in the U.S. on most things. Though both India and Singapore are more conservative on social issues than the U.S., I have not seen such matters discussed in public or court of law, thereby prudently avoiding social disputes which could be rather disruptive.

However, in the so-called first-world great power of the U.S. there are many things being discussed which depicts a society in constant conflict with itself, such as racism against blacks, hatred towards immigrants, vindictiveness against people who hold opposing views, and amongst many such issues, abortion.

Abortion is an extremely sensitive topic in the U.S. My readers would be aware of the landmark Roe vs Wade judgement of 1973 by the Supreme Court of the U.S. I am not going to delve into it, except to say that ruling legalized abortion rights of women. If you have been following U.S. politics of late, you would have witnessed the U.S. Congress members questioning judicial appointees if they support the above judgement. In general (though not always), the Democrats support the abortion rights of women, and the Republicans do not support. President Trump has indicated that he is pro-life, which is another way of saying that once conceived, women lose the right to a legal abortion.

As I said earlier, we do not discuss abortion in our part of the world. However, I felt compelled to write about this topic as it applies to the U.S., as I read about “late-term” abortion laws enacted by some states in the U.S. I personally believe that once you hear and record the foetal (fetal) heartbeats, then any abortion amounts to taking the life of the foetus away from this world without its consent. I am not going to be liked by the abortion proponents in the U.S., as this subject matter is close to the heart of the left-wing liberals as opposed to the right-wing conservatives. I do not wish to colour this matter as a religious topic on which the Church, for example, would have a say. That is not the case (though the Catholic Church opposes abortion, to be sure). In my mind, what matters is the decision-making power of the individual woman who has conceived, and is staring at the possibility of abortion.

This is a hot topic in the U.S. as you can imagine, especially in the light of the change in the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court towards the addition of more conservative judges by President Trump over the past couple of years. Both Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavenaugh are ambiguous on the Roe vs Wade judgement which is acting as precedence for the Supreme Court – given a strong case, they could tilt the court towards an anti-abortion judgement. The liberals are mortally scared of that possibility.

Notwithstanding that possibility, my contention is simple: does a human have the right to take away the life of an unborn (or going to be born) human, once it is unambiguously proved that the would be new-born is having heartbeats, and breathing like any other human? do we misconstrue this issue as the “inviolable right of a woman over her body” rather than a life & death matter, which needs to be investigated further? This is not about legal precedence or religious opinion. It is about making the right decision when that decision involves a new life. How can we compartmentalize this issue as women’s constitutional right only? What about the rights of the unborn baby?

There are ongoing multiple challenges to Roe vs Wade in various state courts in the U.S., such as in Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, Florida, etc., While these challenges would be vehemently opposed by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union, various womens’ and medical associations, the point is that this is not about securing or re-securing a constitutional right, this is not about liberals vs conservatives, and this is not about the Democrats vs the Republicans.

This issue is much larger.

I am not going to conclude on this matter here with my own prescription to solve the problem, I am just positioning the same in my own light, as I felt strongly about foetal heartbeats occurring in general six weeks into a pregnancy. So, now we are faced with a huge human challenge, which only humans can address and resolve. Not the politicians, not the courts, not any religion. May be Roe vs Wade will go unchallenged. May be women will continue to enjoy their constitutional right to aborting their foetuses anytime irrespective of the heartbeats. But one thing is for sure, Americans need more education on this topic than what has been offered to them in schools.

I know that abortion is a very sensitive topic – an extremely touchy subject to most women. I am not against their legal rights. I am just wondering if we have missed the pro-life argument posed by a heart-beating foetus, if it had a chance to present its case in a court of law?

Some critical thing to think about, right?

Of course, I welcome brickbats and strong retaliation from my women readers. As a generally neutral centrist, I welcome their feedback – positive or very negative, no problem with that. If I have to change my views, then there has to be an extremely strong rebuttal, for sure.

Cheers, and have a great week ahead, folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

3rd February 2019


The Health Nut


I keep coming back to one of my favourite topics since I find that people who I know well splurge on unhealthy food constantly. I keep highlighting to them at every possible opportunity that such food is not going to help them from the tentacles of diseases at the cost of alienation. I believe it is my duty to inform folks around me and I keep doing that repeatedly, and I also send a strong message by refusing to partake in such food habits. I think at some point in their lives they are going to start wondering about what I have been talking about.

Not that I am going to live longer, or others eating unhealthy food are going to die earlier than me. The key point that people have to understand is the pain that they have to go through at later stages in their lives as a result of health complications resulting from the constant pursuit of rather unhealthy food not suited to the human constitution. But, in general, people do not get it. Not only that, they are not happy that I am not eating their choice food items, they are mildly annoyed that they have to provide some food options for my sake if I am invited to their homes – which is not easy, I totally agree.

My personal food choices are tough to follow, but my regimen is not necessary for most folks. I follow a tougher regime as I need to balance my pre-disposition towards wine with my food, which means I have to eat less to compensate for the increased calories flowing into my being three times a week! And, ofcourse I wish to ward off any potential lifestyle diseases!!

Now let us look at my food menu from which you can choose to downgrade (meaning you can enhance the choices towards more calories or proteins as the case may be from my benchmark levels). I designed my own menu with slight variations based on availability of ingredients and my business / personal travels. Here it comes:

Breakfast at 6:45 AM: 2 Egg Whites from boiled eggs, sprinkled with Raw Organic Ceylon Cinnamon Powder plus some fruits such as Green Apples, Kiwi, Blue Berries and Guava; the Egg Whites are replaced with PEMA Rye Organic Bread on alternate days, keeping fruits constant

Nuts at 9:00 AM: 8 pieces each of Almonds, Walnuts, Pistachios, and Cashews

Coffee at 9:30 AM – more black less skim milk

Lunch at 12:30 PM: Half portion of brown rice with three vegetables one of which has to be greens such as spinach or kailan, OR grilled chicken with sauteed veggies OR green salad

3:30 PM Coffee

6:00 PM Some peanuts or any other nuts OR one sugar-free biscuit

Dinner at 7:30 PM: generally Kale based salad with Khus Khus or Millet and few more veggies such as brocolli, zucchini, capsicum, brussel sprout, cherry tomatoes, mushroom, etc., which is topped with apple cider vinegar, garlic and squeezed lemon juice

Nothing to go in after 8 PM and I have to deal with constant temptations to open the fridge!

I have deliberately missed out my favourite glass of red wine!! I am now nursing a beautiful purplish inky blue Malbec from the Mendoza Region of Argentina (GAUCHEZCO Reserve 2016), which is an amazing wine that I strongly recommend to my readers!!

I am trying to cut the coffees out of my menu but it is proving to be rather difficult given my South Indian heritage!

So, while my menu is difficult to adopt for most people, I wish to console them by stating that I do occasionally replace my breakfast with a thick omelette or dosa, and my lunch with a mini meal or something that has more carbs than my usual take.

So guys and gals, I can only suggest that you all need to follow some nutty regimen instead of always eating unhealthy quantities of white rice, naan, red meat, heavy sabzis, salty snacks, and carbonated drinks. Eat more nuts to keep yourself healthy and your brains active! There are hundreds if reasons why you should eat plant nuts, greens, veggies and green fruits.

Research for yourself and decide your own menu. Never fall for the lure of fast food. Never go for that quick cold soft drink full of sugar. Never go for red meat. Use your own brain analytics on this matter more than on anything else. It is your health, dudes. You cannot control what happens in later life, but you can choose to do the right thing today! I am offering my health consultation to you as an unqualified and untrained Nutritionist!!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

27th January 2019

How to keep and feel young


Probably, there is a grammatical error in the title, I think so. However, it is an interesting and relevant topic I guess. There is lot of material on the web and several books which explain the possibilities and promises of aging gracefully. It is always good to learn what others are doing, and try to adopt some of the tried and tested techniques. As always, I thought it would be appropriate to share one’s own experiences arising from personal experimentation.

The #1 approach towards keeping oneself young is to work with youngsters. I always find that they are brimming with new ideas and new things to do. Slowly and very gradually they morph into mature people wherein caution steps in, but before that point in time we can leverage their idea factory. Just by talking to a teenager, I believe we can achieve “freshness” of mind and thinking, because we do not think along the same lines as they do. Youngsters today are adaptable and innovative, with no constraints to their thinking. This means they have no baggage of any sort, and are not coloured by other adults’ thinking or approach towards a life or business problem. Our mind starts to race and work much faster than it normally does, while working with youngsters, and this is all goodness for our own self-development and improvement in thought and operational behaviour.

The #2 approach towards keeping oneself young is to follow an exercise regimen. Again, let me share from my own personal experience. I was doing exercises incorrectly and in my own random fashion, and that too not regularly. This would mean that I might pass one whole week without doing any exercise at the gym, or I might work out just once a week. My wife observed my randomness, inconsistencies, and loss of muscle strength, and enrolled me compulsorily into a physical training program at a local gym. I protested, but she was firm, pointing out all my foibles and lack of consistent commitment. She also (much to my dislike I should say) pointed out that I am getting older and I am looking old already. I thought I have kept myself rather well, and do not look my age, but she strongly differed. So I started a tough exercise regimen under a rather tough trainer, and after one year of hard work (2 sessions per week), I can state that my wife was right (as she always is). I started gathering some muscle strength.

The #3 approach towards keeping oneself young is to adopt a diet regimen in the strictest manner possible, and reduce the intake of alcohol. Easier said than done. Now I am almost into my 8th month of low-carb dieting program which I devised for myself (not a keto diet). I do not eat rice, naan, or much of any high-carb foods. I do not touch sugar, though I am weak on my knees when it comes to dark bitter chocolate which I allow myself once in a while and I cherish those moments (!). I have written about my diet program in one of my earlier posts. I am eating more of egg whites, kale salad, vegetables, green fruits, millet and proteins. I located pumpernickel and whole rye bread varieties from Germany which are available at very decent prices in Singapore. I eat lots of plant nuts every day.

The #4 approach towards keeping oneself young is to go after social networking – both of the personal friendship variety as well as company friends variety. We need friends – nothing can bring back our youth and school / college days irrespective of whatever wealth one has, but old school friends can recreate the magic of our school days. When we have a strong network or networks of close friends from the past, our brains work hard in recreating the neural network to support the memories and expansion of our friends’ networks. And, this in turn, keeps us away from mental atrophy and dreadful diseases such as Alzheimer’s. More we feel young by experiencing the old friendships, the more we are rejuvenating our brain cells, and the more we become younger.

The #5 approach towards keeping oneself young is to follow one’s passion for something – anything will do. In my case, it is blogging, and you see the result of the same here! I also love selecting and drinking good wine, but I have reduced the intake of alcohol considerably, keeping in line with my dieting program. When I write (like this blog piece), I find that my creative juice is spurting in full spring, and my English keeps improving (though several readers have complained that my posts are full of grammatical errors), and my ideas are flowing non-stop (till I finish writing the piece). Once that translation of passion into something concrete happens (it happens twice per weekend for me as my readers know), then there is adrenalin release and a sense of consummation. I enjoy that feeling and savour the same twice every weekend.

The #6 approach towards keeping oneself young is to read a lot of unconnected materials. I personally read all kinds of random stuff on my iPhone and laptop (whenever I can). I have so many news apps on my phone that I have lost track. I also have consolidator apps which puts stuff together for me based on my areas of interest. The advent of really powerful smartphones has changed our lives, and surely it has enhanced my knowledge. When I read materials on every conceivable topic, in a seemingly random manner, I tend to forget the same after a few hours or a couple of days, and that is normal. However, when I start writing on a specific topic, my brain automatically searches my own mind on the topic, much like a Google search, so that if I had come across certain relevant information about the topic I am writing about, it comes to me in a flash. This essentially means I am using my brain as a database or a data warehouse wherein the links happen with disconnected data elements based on a search request. Such actions keep the neural network strong and very much active, constantly working on something, which is what you need to remain mentally young and sharp.

The #7 approach towards keeping oneself young is to nurture your already strong family relationships, and potentially form new relationships with people that you meet and tend to like. This means that you spend more time (not less time!) with your wife and children, and with your parents / parents-in-law / siblings and others who are closely related to you. The more you spend time sharing your thoughts and experiences in a manner that could benefit the others, specifically the youngsters in the family, the more you will gain a “sense of purpose” as you age. Your purposeful life will appear to be more productive and more fruitful. Others in your family circles will respect you more and seek your guidance and mentorship. It is easy to be discarded as a loud mouth who keeps repeating the same old things which do not matter anymore in life – I was in this category (sometimes, I still am!). However, it is critical to become adaptable with an assessment of current and future priorities and challenges of family members, and provide useful advice which they might not easily get from elsewhere. Our experience should play a strong role here with empathy and a beneficial mind set which will be of significant use to others. Make yourself useful to others with a strong sense of purpose!!! Old friends from yesteryears, and new friends that you have made on the way, contribute towards enhancing your mental and social wellbeing. Invest in your friendships and see the difference! Everyone needs emotional support and a sense of purpose, right?

The #8 approach towards keeping oneself young well into old age, is to keep working. Working on anything in which you are obviously competent, keeps you going with a strong sense of purpose and achievement. Your business and social contacts remain strongly connected to you if you continue working – they do not see the difference or feel your advancing age. And, you will feel energized every day with new vigour and commitment to pursue your work. This is the best which can happen to anyone – keep working as long as you physically can. You are mentally strong anyway, if you are following all my above suggestions! You will never feel retired, you will see that others actually need your services, and this acknowledgement from others who know you well will be a huge morale booster for your age-defying young mind!!!

I can go on and on, but the idea is not to reach #10 in my list. It is for you to think more and add to my list above. I am sure all of you would have your own valuable ideas on how to age gracefully and keep yourself young all the time – both in mind and body. Please share your ideas with me, by commenting on this blog post.

Have a wonderful week ahead folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

6th January 2019

Some useful snacks


I come back to one of my favourite topics: healthy food. How to keep ourselves satiated with good snacks without the extra sugar and bad elements which affect our health?

I hope you have read my post on “Kale”. While it is not a snack, it should form part of your primary meal – either lunch or dinner, at least 2 to 3 times a week. Today, being Sunday, I had the pleasure of having a Kale salad – mostly kale, but with cherry tomatoes, avocado, beetroot, etc., mixed with millet (which has become my favourite grain) and balsamic vinegar. On top of these ingredients, I added pomegranate seeds and sprinkled cinnamon powder. It was quite a filling lunch.

Now, back to snacks. Usually mid-morning, I have some tea without milk and put together a melange of my nuts (pistachios, walnut, almonds, cashews, hazel nuts – 8 pieces each) and also add a little bit of sunflower seeds & pumpkin seeds. This is quite a filling snack and goes down well with some flavoured tea (my choice today was peach tea).

I thought it would be appropriate to share the results of some of my additional experiments on snack foods. It is hard not to be careful while selecting snacks, as mostly the pre-packaged snacks available widely in supermarkets have undesirable ingredients. I am very discerning in rejecting most of these snacks without mercy, and consistently put most of them on my “snack black-list”, so that I do not keep wasting time again and again.

My new list of some excellent snacks as follows:

  • Goji Berries (also known as Wolfberries) – the variety I like is “Dried Tibetan Goji Berries” from Nature Super Foods in Singapore – just 1 or 2 tablespoons
  • Blueberries – we know this for a long time, but I am now consciously having this great nutritious fruit – available in most supermarkets: take just 15 to 20 pieces
  • Whole Grain Rye Bread / Pumpernickel Bread from PEMA Germany – just one thin slice, topped either with hummus or gouda / feta cheese – have this at around 6 PM; if this particular brand is not available, you should be able to find some equivalent easily: this is a very light snack but you will feel “good”
  • Pomegranates – amazing fruit with incredible properties – just one small cup or may be 4 tablespoons
  • Dark grapes – black in colour and really luscious: take just 10 or so – again grapes have amazing properties

There are many more, but then we cannot confuse our body mechanisms by putting in too many of these good things as well. The key thing is to drop the bad stuff – do not eat fried snacks for instance.

Apart from snacks, I have come to depend on key addition to my food habits – just before going to bed, I either have 4 teaspoons of Apple Cider Vinegar (about which I have written earlier), or a cup of unsweetened almond milk of the organic type. There are several brands available from Australia mostly. I alternate between the Australian variety or the U.S. made almond milk – please note that the sugar content should be zero. Almond milk provides protein which is necessary for my food mix. You may or may not need it, but then it cannot be harmful to anyone.

While I used to snack at odd times in the past (6 months ago), I have conditioned myself to expect snacks at scheduled times through the day. This conditioning helps, but it gets affected while travelling, which in  my case, is quite often. I try to adhere to the schedule most of the days, and very firmly avoid the food that I have put in black-list. And, that list includes long-standing favourites such as pasta, bread (not the ones mentioned above), rice, naan, chappathi, and other high-carbs foods – these are completely out.

With this approach, I am finally gaining some control on my body. I think it is essential, and sometimes I ruminate on the lost opportunities in my life so far to do such things which are effective from the perspective of one’s own healthcare. I recall that I hardly looked at any info’ on diets and their effects on health. I would say that it was stupid to have dropped the ball on this aspect of healthcare for a long time, as what goes in affects your health for sure.

I am encouraging you to do your own research before changing your long-established food patterns, which are also dominated by culture and habit. I could make the changes that I determined would be necessary for my own good, implement the same rigorously, and track the results on a weekly basis. I am now only on my 14th week of such tough food regimen, and I can tell you that the results are there – without any medications whatsoever. You can drop all your medicines if you control what goes inside your body, and also understand the implications. Of course, this applies only to those folks who are more or less fine with some struggle in terms of arresting some of the “curves” – I mean graphs not body curves!

Make your own decisions and choices.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post, have a wonderful week ahead.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

30th September 2018

Kale – a superfood


I have become a fan of Kale, having known it only for the past couple of months! I was ashamed that I did not come to know of it much earlier in life. It is an amazing superfood that every one should have almost every day. Why almost? That’s because it is expensive compared to the usual greens that you get at your usual supermarket. Kai-lan, a derivative of Kale is much cheaper, and is a preferred veggie for Chinese food, along with garlic. Both Kai-lan and garlic combine to give a nutritious and delicious veggie, and I like to order it whenever I visit a Chinese restaurant.

I have come to like the taste of Kale as part of my salad preparation, though I did not like the Kale juice which I made a mistake of buying in the Organic Foods section of my supermarket of choice – which is Fairprice in Singapore, where I shop almost every weekend, along with my wife. It is almost a regimen, much like most people of Singapore. Coming back to Kale juice, it was horrible – the taste was something that I could not stomach. So, I abandoned Kale juice, and chose the greens for direct contribution to my salad.

Kale is one of the most “nutrient dense” food in the entire planet, packed with vitamins and minerals. It is high in fiber, potassium, calcium, antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, beta-carotene,  manganese, copper, etc., Consuming Kale is good for almost fixing any health problem! Please do your own research before you start on your Kale regime, but I am very well into it. It handles all kinds of major health issues such as diabetes, cancer, cholesterol problems, vision-related problems, bone mass issue, liver function problems, heart disease, and so on. The health benefits of Kale are far too many to be listed out in one blog post.

In one single word to define Kale, it simply boosts your immunity and well-being. Very few veggies offer such huge range of health benefits as Kale does, and it is now an integral part of my (almost) daily food routine.

The other veggies with similar characteristics belong to the same cabbage family like Kale – some of these are broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, mustard greens, watercress, arugula, etc.,

In salad preparation, I try to make it an interesting concoction to savour, using a variety of ingredients every time. Of course, you start with lettuce (not too much of it like what they do in the salad shops, filling the bowl mostly with it), or arugula, or spinach, or a combination. Then I add onions, cherry tomatoes, broccolis, beetroots, bell peppers, zucchinis, cucumbers, half cup of millet or quinoa, a variety of nuts such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts and hazel nuts, some goji berries, blueberries, and top up the whole thing with sauteed kale, black olives, with the dressing simply by adding 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar. You can add flax seeds and chia seeds, and sprinkle some cinnamon powder as well.

There you go – one of the healthiest salads you can prepare on your own with fresh ingredients, and never mind the cost – it is not going to be as expensive as having a half-done salad in a high-end restaurant. The labour of preparation is your own, which cannot be costed. Well, I forgot – just add some mild and crumbly Greek Feta Cheese on top of the salad.

I am having this kind of salad (or a variation of it) every day, in place of the usual dinner. I can tell you that the benefits of such a salad are amazing. I feel better and energetic from 7 PM till whatever time I want to be awake. I do not feel drowsy, and I feel “full”, not hungry at all afterwards. The salad is healthy and it is also “light” on the stomach. It provides all the necessary nutrients that the body needs every day – I cannot say the same thing of the heavy carbs-oriented food that we all consume for dinner every day.

Further, it is a “perky” kind of food – you are up and ready to go early next morning. The trick is to make it yourselves with your chosen ingredients in a manner that you like, and have it just before 7 PM, consistently every day.

The question often arises – what do I do when I travel, which is quite often. It is of course, a big challenge. However, I find that most 5-Star hotels have a good salad offering on their menu. You won’t be able to get all the ingredients that I have described above, however, you need to be satisfied with their generic menu items, but you can always ask for extra add-ons, which they will be pleased to provide (such as nuts, fruits, etc.,). Adding lemon juice instead of apple cider vinegar is clearly a good and easy option when travelling. Just squeeze the lemons on to the salad! Avoid adding heavy salad dressings which are always available in hotels – these will take away all the health benefits of the raw salad that you have ordered.

In a nutshell, Kale on top of your salad is an outstanding combination, offering superfood benefits to one and all. Try out Kale, sooner than later!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th September 2018

 

 

 

Low-Carb Dieting


I thought it will be a good idea to report back on my experimentation with low-carb diet.

This is my third month of experimentation.

No rice, no pasta (my favourite for a long time!), no bread, and no other carbs except for fruits and millet.

It has been challenging for sure.

However, I am now getting used to such a food regimen.

I have added good fats like feta cheese to the millet meal with coloured vegetables (such as beetroots, yellow and red capsicum, broccoli, carrots, etc.,). That is the only full meal which needs to be taken before 7 PM everyday.

Lunch is salad with quinoa if available, otherwise the usual vegetables or chicken.

Breakfast is just two egg whites, either boiled or as omelette, sprinkled with cinnamon.

I noticed that I have been able to curb my cravings between meals significantly, which means I am not raiding the fridge for something to eat. Of course, I have tea between breakfast and lunch during the weekends with some nuts or biscuits. Need some spice to keep the taste buds going!

My objective is not to reduce my weight, though there has been a drop of some 2 KGs only – not the rapid drop of over 10 KGs that many people have reported in just 8 weeks of low-carb or keto dieting. My goal has been to control parameters that tend to go wrong or in the wrong direction, and the jury is still out at this point in time. I need to complete three months of dieting in the same consistent manner, before I will go in for a full medical checkup. Medicines of any kind are not required to be taken during this dieting procedure, though I would caution that it is my own decision, and it should not be followed by my audience without proper medical consultation.

What essentially this means is that I am in my own world of diet experimentation which I have arrived at after a long research. I mentioned it to my family doctor, and he encouraged me to follow the low-carb diet without any changes. I was surprised, given that he was a typical Singapore doctor (the doctors in Singapore tend to be over-conservative and cautious in any drug administration), but then he said that no harm can possibly come to me if I followed this diet. So there I went into a serious adoption of what I had crafted all by myself.

Of course, my wife was fully supporting me in this experimental diet adventure, and continues to support, though she had misgivings in the beginning. Now she has started seeing the positive effects of such dieting, though no one else in my family (including her) is following such a program. That’s fine, it is my own program and I have to prove it only to myself that I made the right decision and chose the right kind of diet for my own benefit.

As I am progressing through my third month, I am also seeing that certain ingredients such as cinnamon (on top of egg white omelette and millet meal), ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) preferably before each meal, and plant nuts play a significant role in curbing hunger and avoiding any kind of health issues such as inflammation. There has been no pain in my legs after long walks or after working out in the gym. There is no incessant hunger to always eat something when not doing anything (which used to happen often in the past). Looking at food does not cause hunger. I have stopped wine consumption in a huge way which means alcohol’s effects are going away. All these practices contribute to eliminating health problems in the long run, as advocated by reputed medical research studies which have been published in reputed journals. So all this is not hogwash, these things are practical and useful for anyone, and except for the low-carb aspect, also useful for youngsters.

I am trying to market the idea to my own family and some friends, but there are no takers so far. I intend to research more into this fascinating area of diet control, which also illuminates the long-standing practice of fasting in various cultures, though I am not fasting under any circumstances!

It is critical for us to understand our own body and its needs and problems. One does not have to be a doctor to do so. I firmly believe that there are more than enough resources available to anyone who cares to look, and it does not have to be a tedious process.

So, kudos to low-carb diets, though I will report in due course what are the real benefits of following one such program.

Cheers, and have a good weekend folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

01 September 2018

The magic of Low Carb Diet


I have been following a Low Carb Diet for the past few weeks and the results have started coming in. Of course, the impact is positive.

I tend to experiment often with various things, otherwise life gets too boring and staid with no extra results or impact over and above the normal. As we say in corporate life (and also at the gym), “no additional pain, no gain at all”. My gym instructor keeps saying that he wants me to go a little bit beyond what I could possibly take. I have been struggling with that concept at the gym – how could I lift more than my maximum limit? I then slowly realized over the past couple of months that my “maximum” has been set by me in my own mind, not by anyone else. I might struggle to cross more than 15 repetitions with a specific maximum weight, but it is an artificial limit about which my brain intervenes to inform me that I have either reached the maximum weight possible, or I have reached the maximum number of repetitions.

I am following a similar concept when it comes to dieting which in my case, is not for reducing weight, but for gaining control over my body parameters. I went through extensive health tests both in India and Singapore, and analyzed the comparative results, and identified parameters that I need to focus on (I did get some consultation with qualified doctors both in India and Singapore of course). In order to tackle these identified parameters, I chose special diet advice over the possibility of medication.

There are various online resources available today to craft your own diet plan. I did extensive research, studied testimonials, consulted university hospital articles and advice, talked to doctors, and then hit upon a specific online tool which has helped me devise a plan for my own special situation. I did not follow all the inputs from the tool, and other resources, but devised a plan which seems to be working. Of course, I will continue to make changes as I go along in this journey.

The one key thing in this plan is to reduce calorie consumption from an average daily of 1,600 calories to less than 1,000 calories (specific numbers are unimportant as long as you realize that you do not need 1,600 or more calories to live, and can comfortably reduce the same). This, in turn means that I have to reduce my carbohydrate (carb) consumption dramatically – so I pushed out rice, pasta, french fries, potato wedges, chapathis/naans, and the like almost completely out of my menu. I did keep some “parboiled” basmati rice in the menu as it is far better than the regular rice, but the quantity of consumption is far lower than what I was accustomed to in the past. May be just two cups of cooked rice should be enough.

The other key factor is protein. In my regular food in the past, protein consumption was low. I increased it to some 40% (from 10%) while watching certain health parameters at the same time. Egg Whites (two or three, throw the yolk away) with Cinnamon powder sprinkled on them have become a staple for me for almost every breakfast, along with almonds and an apple. I also focus on Milk, Greek Yoghurt (a lot), other plant nuts like Hazel Nuts, Walnuts, and Pistachios, Broccoli, and White Chicken. I also like Salmon and White Fish, which are excellent sources of good protein (as well as good fat).

The other almost funny factor is “good fat” – I have been avoiding fats for a long time. In the process of going to gym, I learnt that one should not avoid good fats, and not all fats are bad. I started researching on good fats, and now have arrived at a somewhat interesting list of avocados (hardly tried it before), feta cheese, more extra virgin olive oil, full fat / whole cream milk, plant nuts, etc., I have stopped having coffee with low fat milk, and have switched to full cream milk in less quantity.

For me, I think I have stuck upon something which is working out finally. One critical observation is that I do not feel hungry all the time anymore – I feel good and satiated after a minimal meal, and my runs to the refrigerator have reduced or almost gone. Which only means my cravings for something with high carbs in it have dropped off significantly.

While I cannot recommend any such meal to my audience, I can only say with confidence that the positive impact of a low carb diet is amazing to say the least, both in terms of healthcare parameters as well as in the mental make-up of how we perceive food as such. The downside is the caution that one has to exhibit to others about the food choices that one is constrained to follow at every meal. But that is one’s own choice. Let us not forget the fact that what goes in makes you at the end of the day.

I would suggest you look at resources such as the Diet Doctor online [Diet Doctor) and many other such high quality resources before making any changes to your diet plan. Of course, consultation with your doctor is necessary. Or else, you are happy with yourself and your food as you are, and do not need to make any changes at all!

Have a wonderful week ahead,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

1st July 2018

 

Salt Mango Tree


I felt only shame after viewing this Malayalam movie “Salt Mango Tree” on NetFlix along with my wife.

While there are many positive things I can say about my birth country India, there are equally many bad things that exist even today in modern India. I feel very proud when I see global corporate CEOs from India (far outnumbering many other countries), over 100 satellites being placed successfully in orbit by one single rocket launch by the Indian Space Research Organization, the very optimistic young generation in the entire world which India has in abundance, and so on and so forth – it is a rather long list of achievements by India and Indians in a short span of just six decades.

However, the things which went wrong over these same six decades, and which continue to hamper the potential and growth of India still bother me a lot. These should bother all well-wishers of India. What I am referring to here are things like corruption, lack of guaranteed, affordable and accessible education for all, lack of universal healthcare for all citizens, lack of safety and security for women and even for very young girl children, and lack of world-class infrastructure and facilities all across the country including uninterrupted access to electrical power, potable water, proper roads, high speed internet, etc., etc., Though there have been some improvements in the past few years, what India needs cannot be met with incremental enhancements of existing infrastructure. India needs to do what a China has done in the past 30 years of relentless public investment in a non-bureaucratic manner with the sole intention of enhancing the livelihood of its people. Communist China has done a far better job than a democratic India, and I am not going to listen to the democratic nonsense that many armchair philosophers expound on the superiority of democracy. Everything in the corporate world is measured on budgeted outcomes, why not in government and governance?

The movie “Salt Mango Tree” describes one facet of India’s systemic failure in providing quality education for all children. Parents have to run around for getting admissions to prestigeous schools, and are totally stressed out in the process. They have to perform better than their children in school admission interviews. What about children of hawker stalls and poor people? How will they get admission in such schools if the criteria is based on how well the parents perform in interviews? How will they speak in English, let alone come well dressed and well groomed for such nonsensical interviews?

I was seriously embarrassed to see how the movie portrays the anguish of both the parents, who struggle to make a living and save money for their only boy. The movie strongly hints about the so-called “donation” which is nothing but a bribe which parents have to offer to schools. When parents give up on the due process in getting school admissions, they turn towards short cuts such as bribe, and this practice continues throughout the life cycle of their children, embedding and validating the need for systemic corruption. Why would anybody outside the Indian system believe that our quality of education is good and impeccable, on par with the developed countries? Making an incorrect comparison with the IITs and IIMs is wrong, as the folks who get into such schools do so entirely on merit, and they go on to change the greater world in many ways. They are focused on making wealth and very few dedicate their lives to fixing the systemic issues of governance in India (I personally know of only one such classmate).

I am not going to describe the movie here, but the message from the movie cannot be more impactful – to get quality education in India even at the primary level (starting at Kindergarten) today, parents have to prepare well, get trained, perform very well in school admission interviews, and be ready to offer donations. This is not the case in any one of the developed nations of the world. If India wishes to achieve the status of the top 5 countries of the world (not just based on GDP), it has to pay serious attention to education, healthcare, quality of living, public infrastructure, etc., and follow the model of either the Nordic countries or countries like Singapore, where public systems by government trump even the best quality of private systems (which are also available but at a tremendous cost). If India cannot invest at least 5% of its national budget on improving public Education and another 5% on public Healthcare, then the future generations will continue to suffer.

The focus outside India today has turned positive about India after a long dry spell of negative media coverage about the bad things happening in India. I have seen that over the past quarter century (most of which I have spent outside India), and it sometimes used to pain me. I am out of it now and immune to the negative coverage on India. I look for some positive news on India every day. The political news is not encouraging. As I wrote in a recent blog post, my experience in Bangalore traffic in the midst of visiting foreigners was not positive. The “East Asians” detest infrastructure problems as they have long been used to good infrastructure and environment. I make it a point not to bad-mouth India in any manner to them, and I try to keep my views to myself. I tend to talk about the positives and push the envelope for their next visit.

However, as I write here this evening, it pains me again to see that India has not changed in fundamental public services.

Looks like this will be the situation in our life time.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

29th April 2018