Good health begins with what you choose to put on your plate. Food not only affects our state of health, but it can lengthen our life span, change our mood, and affect our gut which has all to do with everything else that happens to us! By approaching disease with a holistic perspective, of which food is a crucial part, we can deal with the root causes of disease and live well. Viki Shah talks to Dr. Rupy Aujla, an NHS medical doctor and founder of The Doctor’s Kitchen, a project to inspire patients about the beauty of food and healing effects of eating well.
Tell us about the concept behind Doctor’s Kitchen.
I am Dr. Rupy Aujla Medical doctor at NHS, trained as a GP in emergency medicine and a qualified doctor for over a decade.
I started Doctor’s kitchen in 2015 as a way to inspire patients and colleagues to eat their way to good health and to talk about recipes and the research behind the ingredients I used, related to the beauty of food and medicinal effects of eating and living well.,
Can one really eat to beat illness? Does that mean that we are always on a regimen? Or does that empower you to make healthy choices?
My second book was about beating illness with food and that really is a concept around how we can eat well today to prevent disease tomorrow. The best way to beat illness in its entirety is to stop it from occurring in the first place. However, there are ways in which we can optimize our nutritional intake with a view to managing conditions today and that is quite an unusual viewpoint but there is a lot of evidence now about management and about how we can actually manage conditions and one of them for example is high blood pressure.
First of all, it’s about getting the principles of healthy eating right so quality fats, nuts and seeds and extra virgin olive oil and lots of colours and a variety of different ingredients with skins in lots of colours like aubergine, carrots, courgettes having a largely plant focused diet which is around 85 to 90 percent types of plants. I have seen studies having the best impact on overall health making sure you are having a lot of fiber in the form of beans, nuts, legumes, chickpeas beans and similiar stuff and also eating on time. That is eating within a general window of 10 to 12 hours; a feeding window of 10 to 12 hours. The other thing is about eating whole, minimally processed food, steaming and sauteing food, instead of over boiling and also using minimal sugar and refined carbohydrates as far as possible. So, removing things like pasta, bread, all sorts of flours that we tend to use and concentrating more on whole grains and whole vegetables.
High BP has a lot of research demonstrating that if you have a flavonol and a nitrate rich diet then you can actually help lessen the impact on the smooth muscles of vessels. So, things like rocket, beetroot, dark green leafy vegetables, these all contain nitrates that are potentially very beneficial for us, this is on top of the basic principles of healthy eating. You can’t just have these foods in isolation or treat it like a pill, doesn’t work like that, you have to get your foundational basics right. There’s also some evidence that came out of large studies in Europe looking at how a Mediterranean style diet supplemented with good amounts of extra virgin olive oil everyday actually had cardio protective benefits and that is one of the reasons why I am a big fan of a largely plant based diet with quality fats.
Immunity has become the most important topic in recent times. How do we eat to enhance our immunity?
Immunity is definitely a buzz word. The majority of our immune system is based in our gut. The first thing to say about immunity is that immunity is not something you would want to “boost’. It is something that is with us every moment of every day! Immune system can be thought of more as a physical barrier protection that our skin gives us, the acid in our stomach, our digestive system. Our immune cells are constantly seeking out any dysfunctions and mutations that need to be identified and removed by a number of different types of immune cells. The best way to maintain and support your immune health is a) with a healthy diet and the principles of healthy eating that I just talked about ; b)getting enough sleep – sleep is absolutely integral to immune health and you want to try and get 7 to 8 hours at a minimum as an adult and c) Fibre – fibre is critical because it develops your microbiota which is really very important when it comes to nurturing your immune cells as a large proportion of your immune system is located in your digestive tract so it is really important to get that balance right.
Gut health and probiotics have become buzzwords of late. What is your opinion on this? What are your tips to maintain a healthy gut?
I am a big food fan so it is getting probiotics in the form of food, pickles, ferments, kimchi, kefirs and even the yoghurt drinks are fantastic natural ways to introduce probiotics into the gut but it has to be combined with prebiotics that you get in most of the different types of fibres including specialized fibres such as onion, garlic, chicory, asparagus; these all contain fantastic sources of fibres that we cant digest but our microbes digest and it is that combination of pre and pro biotic that is very good for your gut as well as having a largely plant based diet, minimising sugar and any irritants to the gut which could damage the lining.
Diet impacts the brain in a multiple sort of ways – the first chapter of my book is all about brain health because we know that a body with minimal inflammation is very good for the brain because inflammation in the body can actually cross over and impact the brain and create new inflammation. It has been associated with things like dementia, depression. We know that there is some evidence to suggest that even in people with neuro-degenerative diseases can have some benefits with a largely plant based diet with lots of colours that is generally anti-inflammatory. So, our diet is crucial in a way in a scenario where dementia is increasingly becoming an issue in westernized countries or industrialising countries or in countries where a western diet is becoming more prominent, it is definitely something to take notice of.
What would be your diet advice to people who are working from home and have a semi-sedentary life these days?
Getting a good diet routine and a good night’s sleep is really coming down to small sustainable changes and small habits. Mastering just one meal at a time is fantastic so if you choose any one of my recipes or something that you find online and commit to making that at least once a week, and really master that recipe so you can make variations on it with different herbs and spices and that’s a very good sign for a lot of people. Getting a good night’s sleep, along with a number of things like removing caffeine from your diet or drinking at least earlier than 12 pm, making sure you have a no tech environment at least a couple of hours before bed and eating early so you don’t disturb the normal hormonal mechanisms that create sleepiness and put you into a sleepy state.
What do you eat in a day?
My personal diet is pretty much exactly like I preach. A collection of all the recipes that I have collected over time, well over 600 to 700 now from the social media, my website and my 3 books. I have a 3, 2 1 approach which is three portions of fruits and vegetables per person, two servings per recipe and only using one pan. I am talking curries, stews, tray bakes, casseroles, lots of recipes, hundreds of them using this formula! This is literally how I eat every single day.
Can you please share 2 recipes for boosting immunity for our readers?
Two easy recipes to build immunity would be a lentil-based recipe that I have on my website (https://thedoctorskitchen.com/recipes/lentil-salad-with-pumpkin-seeds-and-orange-segments) and one is a tray bake cauliflower on the website as well (https://thedoctorskitchen.com/recipes/pikt-box-5-dukkah-roast-cauliflower-and-pistachio).
Anything that contains chickpeas, lentils, beans and lots of different colourful vegetables is what you should be going for because that is known to be universally good for health.
Visit https://thedoctorskitchen.com/ to know more.
Dr. Rupy Aujla will be here for the Emirates Literature Festival 2021.
Visit https://www.emirateslitfest.com/product/dr-rupy-aujla-the-doctors-kitchen/ to attend his session.