All posts by Sumana Rao

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Vanilla extract uses

Clever Hacks Of Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is a natural food item that is used in dessert and other recipes. Apart from using as an ingredient in the food, vanilla extract can be used for other purposes too!

Vanilla extract is extraction of vanillin compound using alcohol. Vanillin is the compound that gives unique fragrance to vanilla. This dark brown liquid of vanilla extract can be used for various purposes.

Here are few vanilla extract hacks one should try:

  1. As air freshener: Fill sprayer bottle with water and add couple of drops of vanilla extract. Spray as needed. Another way to use the extract is place one or two drops of the concentrate close to light bulb. As the light glows, extract evaporates and the aroma spreads.
  2. Paint odor: To reduce paint odor, add few drops of vanilla extract and mix well before applying paint.
  3. Refrigerator odor: To remove odor from refrigerator, dip cotton in vanilla extract and place it inside the fridge.
  4. To relieve burn pain: Vanilla is known for reducing pain. Applying vanilla extract to small burns relieves the pain. When alcohol evaporates from extract, it cools down the burning sensation.
  5. As bug repellant: Spraying vanilla infused water repels the bugs
  6. For toothache: Some people use cotton ball dipped in vanilla to get rid of toothache.
  7. Deodorize microwave: Place vanilla infused water in microwave and turn on for few seconds to get rid of unwanted odor from microwave.
  8. For cleaning purpose: Vanilla extract contains some amount of alcohol. It is helpful in removing glue, tape or stickers.
  9. Salad dressing refinement: Adding a little vanilla extract to vinegar based salad dressing will soften the tanginess of salad dressing.
  10. For cold sore: Vanilla extract is useful in reducing cold sore. Dip cotton in extract and place it on cold sore.

There are many other medicinal properties of vanilla plant. You will get to know about it in Grandma’s remedies.

Image credit: : Attribution: Glane23, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Image by gate74 from Pixabay (cc by 0)

Vanilla plant: Image by Binesh A B from Pixabay (cc by 0)

Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on: January 15, 2021

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Diet working or not

How to tell your diet is working

You have been trying various types of diets to maintain your weight and it might be working or not working. It takes time to notice change in weight. However, one can find out whether a diet is working or not working by noticing body and mind expression after going through a diet program for one or two weeks. Your body will express whether the diet is working or not working in different ways.

16 signs that shows your diet is working:

  1. You are more energetic than before.
  2. You feel energized more after a good night sleep
  3. You are happy and cheerful than before your diet change
  4. You are at peace with food that you consume and your body feels great
  5. You are sleeping really well, not waking up in between
  6. Your mind is calm, sharp and creative than before
  7. Your digestion system is working great – you go to motion regularly, no or less constipation.
  8. Your body aches are reduced or no pain
  9. You feel like exercising everyday
  10. Your skin is glowing, your face showing less wrinkles
  11. Your confidence is back
  12. You love the food that you are eating everyday
  13. You prefer water than soda
  14. You hop onto scale every day!
  15. You try wearing good old clothes
  16. You are smiling and your temper is cool!

If you notice at least half of the positive changes from above mentioned list in your body and mind, then stick to that diet. You will soon notice weight change.

 16 Signs indicating diet is not working

  1.  You are constantly hungry
  2. You have more food cravings and love to eat more carbohydrates
  3. You feel tired when you wake up in the morning
  4. Your energy level crashes often, feels tired
  5. Your creativity level has gone down, your have brain fog
  6. You are less happy and have lack of motivation
  7. You don’t feel like exercising
  8. You take regular breaks
  9. You have regular mood swings and angry
  10. You have bloated tummy and feel gassy
  11. Your body ache is increased
  12. Your energy level crashes often
  13. You feel sick most time
  14. You are losing your confidence
  15. You don’t step out as much as you used to
  16. You have reduced your exercise routines

If you notice any negative changes stop that diet and go back to normal food. List what are suitable food for you and take control of your diet again. Don’t give up!

Image credit: Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on:

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Celebration of Makara Sankranthi

Celebration of Science & Spirituality: Makar Sankranthi

Respecting and honoring the Sun is practiced in all religions. The Sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. The Sun is source of energy. The movement of Sun into zodiac of Capricorn (Makara in Sanskrit) is called Makara Sankranthi. This day marks the end of cold, winter and gloomy days. What we are going experience next several months is brighter Sun, brighter days and plants coming back to life. On this auspicious day yogis also practice Sun Salutation to achieve the positive aura.

Sankranti literally means “movement.” Makar Sankranti denotes neutralization of inner illusion by lightening inner glow. The day of Sankranti people worship nature and it is also symbolizes harvest season. On January 14  every year or occasionally  on 15th  January , we celebrate Makar Sankranti. It is the only Indian festival celebrated on a fixed calendared day of the solar calendar. On this day, people make offerings to the animals particularly the cow. Cow which plays a vital role in agriculture is worshipped on this harvest festival. In many villages, on this day cows are decorated with colors, bells & clothes and worshipped along with harvested crops. This signifies that nature is supreme.

On Makara Sankranthi day Surya (The Sun) is worshipped : Sankranti (Sanskrit: संक्रान्ति sankrānti) means transmigration of the Sun from one Rāshi (constellation of the zodiac in Indian astronomy) to the next. Hence, there are 12 Sankrantis in a year. Makara Sankranthi marks the transition of the Sun into Makara rashi (Capricorn) on its celestial path, and the six-month Uttarayana period. The term Uttarayana is derived from two different Sanskrit words “uttara” (North) and “ayana” (movement) thus indicating a semantic of the northward movement of the Sun on the celestial sphere. In India except Makara Sankranthi all other Indian festivals are celebrated as per the lunar calendar, which make days of celebration on the solar calendar vary every year. In India, we follow a lunar calendar; the moon goes from new moon to new moon or full moon to full moon in 29.5 days. We get 12 full moons in 354 days, making a lunar calendar year 354 days long. However, the Sun returns to the same spot in the sky every 365.25 days. This shows there is a difference of 11.25 days between the solar and lunar years. Every 2.5 years, therefore, an intercalary month (the Adhik Maas) is added to the lunar calendar to roughly synchronies the two.

Many astrological books are based upon solar calculations. The sun is the most important and the most prominent of our stars and the undisputed lord of our planetary system. The sun always comes first. First day of the week commences with Sunday (Ravi).  Science attaches great importance to the sun. The sun is the inexhaustible storehouse and the source of light and energy. Without sunlight, creatures and vegetation would cease to exist. People will lose their life sustaining vitality. Lack of nourishing substances would lead to the end of creation. This is why the sun’s existence, movements and positions in the cosmos are so important and that is why the sun earns our respect, admiration and reverence. As Makar Sankranti is one of the oldest solstice festivals and falls on the equinox, day and night on this day are believed to be equally long. Post the festival, it is officially the beginning of spring or the onset of Indian summer and the days become longer, and nights shorter.

According to Hinduism from Makar Sakranti onwards when the sun is travelling northwards, innumerable auspicious things start happening. Climate and atmosphere improve. Children born during this period are naturally progressive, well mannered, pleasant and of noble disposition. The Puranas say that on this day Sun visits the house of his son Shani, who is the owner of Makar Rashi. This day symbolizes the healthy relationship of father & son. It is responsibility of the  son to carry forward his father’s dream and the legacy of family.

Makar Sankranti is the festival of seeds and sweet – sesame, ground nut and jaggery where sesame and jaggery laddoos or chikkis are distributed among all. While eating sesame & jaggery  people say “Til-gul ghya ani gud gud bola”, meaning ‘eat these sesame seeds and jaggery and speak sweet words’.



Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on:

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Mould and mycotoxins

Why Set Limits For Mycotoxins in Food

Fungal toxins can cause severe illness and could be fatal. Food contamination with mycotoxins is a serious issue and over several years FSSAI has been taking action to revise the method of analysis of mycotoxins in food.

Quite recently FSSAI has issued a revised manual for analysis methods of mycotoxins including aflatoxin, vomitoxin, ochratoxin in various foods. Aflatoxin is a type of mycotoxin produced by a fungus that grows on seeds and cereals and produces toxins. Aspergillus is name of the fungus.

As per FSSAI’s new revised manual, all food samples suspected of being contaminated with fungal toxins must be handled with extreme care, especially the aflatoxins are carcinogenic toxins. In the manual a description regarding safety precautions, what precautions one must take during analysis, how to handle the glassware for aflatoxin analysis is explained.

The regulatory limit for all mycotoxins in food as defined by FSSAI is 15 micrograms per kilogram for cereals, cereal products, pulses and nuts. If the nuts are further processed, then also the same 15 microgram per kg is the upper limit. For oil seeds for further processing is also it is set at 15 microgram per kg. The limit of aflatoxin in ready to eat products and dried figs is 10 microgram per kg. For spices the limit is 15 microgram per kg.

In case of milk the limit is 0.5 microgram per kg. The other type of toxin called Ochratoxin A, produced by Aspergillus and other fungus like Penicillium that infects wheat, barley, rye, wine and coffee the limit is 20 micrograms. Patulin is a mycotoxin found in fruits and fruit juices like apple juice. It is produced by P. expansum, Aspergillus sp., and Byssochlamys fulva. The limit is 20 microgram per kg.

Deoxynivalenol is a mycotoxin produced by fungus Fusarium species. Fusarium infects corn, wheat, barley, rice, oats and other grain either in field or in storage. It is also known as vomitoxin. The limit of Deoxynivalenol in case of wheat is fixed at 1000 ppm.

Why the Mycotoxin limits are set and monitored in food?

Mycotoxins are dangerous toxins produced by various types of moulds (fungi) and can cause adverse health issues and can pose serious threat to humans as well as to livestock. Moulds that infect cereals, dried fruits, spices and nuts during storage, harvest or when the food is warm, damp and humid conditions. Most of these mycotoxins are chemically stable and able survive the food processing.

The most found mycotoxins in foods are aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, patulin, fumonisins, zearalenone and deoxynivalenol also known vomitoxin or nivalenol. Anyone can get exposure to mycotoxins either directly by eating mould infected food or indirectly from livestock that are fed with contaminated feed, in particular from consuming milk.

 From the acute poisoning to long-term effects such as immune deficiency and cancer can occur due to mycotoxins. World Health Organization jointly with Food and Agriculture organization of United Nations (JECFA) has set international standards and codes of practice to limit exposure to mycotoxins from several foods that are established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission based on JECFA assessments.


Image credit: Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay (CC by 0)

Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on:

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Carrot laddu

Carrot Laddu Recipe For Makar Sankranthi

Carrot laddu is a tasty dessert that takes less time to prepare. On the occasion of Makar Sankranthi festival give it a try and prepare carrot laddu using simple ingredients.


  1. Grated carrot: 1 cup
  2. Grated coconut: 1 cup
  3. Jaggery: 1 cup (or sugar)
  4. Ghee: 2-3 spoons
  5. Besan (gram) flour- ¼ cup
  6. Cardamom powder – little
  7. Cashew and raisins- few


  1. Fry besan powder in ghee. Let it turn to golden brown color and release the fragrance.
  2. Prepare thick jaggery (or sugar) water using ½ cup water. Thickness can be tested by holding the jaggery water between two finger and it should stick to fingers, leaving thin thread when you separate the fingers.
  3. Add grated carrot and coconut to jaggery mix and continue mixing the contents on low flame.
  4. Add cardamom powder and mix well.
  5. In a separate vessel fry raisin and cashew to golden brown. Add this to carrot mix.
  6. Continue mixing on low flame till the whole mix starts separating from the bottom of the vessel.
  7. Prepare small round laddus. After cooling laddus completely, transfer laddus to airtight container.

Image credit: Image credit:

Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on: January 14, 2021

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Major health concerns in kids

Must Know Top Health Issues of kids

Apart from common cold, fever and allergy issues kids also suffer from many other health issues that parents should be aware of. Many of these health issues go unnoticed or children might not able to express what is going on with them or they will be scared to express the issues that is happening.

It is good for both parents to sit and talk about certain health concerns with children once a while to understand what might be happening in child’s health. These kind of talks and discussion will help children to open with parents and might learn to seek help from known adults.

Let us look at what are these major health concerns that parents must be aware of:

  1. Obesity: During this Covid-19 pandemic, obesity is one of the biggest concerns for kids. Obesity is one of the major problems in most countries. Obesity could lead to serious health conditions including type 2 diabetes, cancer, depression, sleep problem, heart conditions.
  2. Drug and alcohol abuse: Even though there is positive trend with decline in drug usage, young adults continue using alcohol, cigarettes, pain relievers, synthetic drugs and inhalants. In high populated countries, near schools’ drug selling used to be a practice. Closing educational centers and online classes has helped positively in this front and there is a decline in drug usage.
  3. Cyber safety: This is a growing concern. It is one of the major health concerns. Use of social media and use of newly innovated technologies exposing teens and little children to cyber bullying and to predators. Young adults and children are very vulnerable to smartphones and other gadgets that attract them easily.
  4. Abuse and neglect: Mental and physical abuse is another big threat for kids’ health. Many kids undergo mental torture and physical abuse by adults either at home or school that could have great impact on their future life. Feeling neglected by parents for reasons that they don’t understand will have huge impact on children.
  5. Stress and depression: Competitive world where we live in today is the main reason for stress and depression in children as well as in adolescents. Stress could lead to depression that needs to be addressed with experts. Stress also could lead to other health problems such as sleeping issues, eating habits and activities in school. Most of the time depression in children will be mistaken and neglected by parents.
  6. Smoking: Reports say kids use E-cigarettes and other vaporing gadgets for smoking. An increase in use of E-cigarettes shows that E-cigarettes are popular among teenagers. If not addressed this issue, it could lead to major health problems warns experts.
  7. Bullying: School bullying has come down this past year due to school closing. This year schools and colleges are opening in phases. This means, vulnerable kids are exposed to bullying. If you are concerned about this issue, talk to your child and understand school environment. Many times, bullying involves severe abuse which can cause unrepairable damage to a child.
  8. Teen pregnancy: According CDC, there is a rapid decline in teen birth rate in the past year in major racial and ethnic group. However, the disparities persist. It carries health risks both for mother and baby. Most time teens do not get parental care soon enough and it could lead to health problems later. High blood pressure and other complications, premature birth and low birth weight are major issues in teen pregnancy.
  9. Sexting: Another major issue that need parental attention. Strangers can make child’s life miserable by sending inappropriate text and messages. In many cases, teenagers are also convicted of felonies for sending such messages and images to underaged children. It is better to be direct and advice children when presenting a smart phone regarding these kind of issues and put rules and guidance in place. Tell them such images and texts remains on internet for longtime that could hurt their future.

Being parent is a big responsibility, parents are responsible for children future. Apart from addressing and taking care of children’s day to day needs and other health issues such as cold, fever, allergy, pain, skin infection etc, parents also must give attention to not so visible issues that could have huge impact on child’s future life and lifestyle.

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Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on:

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Food recommendation to reduce belly fat, inflammation & weight

Food recommendation to reduce belly fat, inflammation & weight

As per the reports, current pandemic has huge impact on human lifestyle. People who were active physically, have reduced their physical activities. Companies are closing their offices to save rent and people are continuing to work from home. While at home with family, many are choosing sedentary lifestyle and the obesity has increased around the globe. This includes both children as well as adults. Closed schools and colleges and online classes are making children to be more obese. Weight gain around the belly is an indication of an unhealthy lifestyle. This could result in weakened immune system and as a result people are inviting the diseases such as diabetes, body inflammation, heart conditions etc. Such health conditions make it easy for Covid-19 virus to get into our system. How to reduce and take control of increasing weight? By choosing healthy eating habits and getting back to exercise.

Reducing belly fat is important to be healthy. It is not that difficult to reduce belly fat with proper exercises and good choice of healthy food.

If not reduced, belly fat can cause health issues such as body inflammation and heaviness of the body that can lead to problems like knee pain, leg pain, lower back pain, diabetes, increase in other chronic conditions… etc. 

Overweight also acts on energy balance. How to reduce belly fat? Combination of exercises and good choice of food.

We are presenting here our choices of foods that helps to reduce not only belly fat also body weight and inflammation. 


  • Image credit: Belly fat: Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay (Free CC0)

Coffee and Green Tea: Click here to read more

Coffee and Green Tea: Click here to read more

Sweet Potatoes and Greens: Click here to read more

Sweet Potato And Greens

Pears and Apples: Click here to read more

Pears And Apples

Hot Peppers and Cinnamon: Click here to read more

Hot Peppers And Cinnamon

Quinoa and Soup: Click here to read more

Quinoa And Soup

Tabouli and Raw Vegetables: Click here to read more

Tabouli And Veg Salad


Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on: January 11, 2021

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Durable easy beauty tips

Durable And Easy Beauty Tips

Everyday easy to follow and durable beauty tips helps to keep our skin, hair and body parts healthy. Try these tips to feel better in and out.

  1. To remove eye bags – Place cut cucumber and or cold tea bags on eyes. This reduces puffiness under eyes
  2. Tired of looking tired and feeling lethargic? – Consider reducing or say no to sugar. Reduce salt or say no to salt. Drink plenty water and fresh fruit juice.
  3. Consider applying slightly warm coconut oil on face, hands and feet to have healthy skin and nails.
  4. Massage hair using sesame oil at night and wash hair in the morning using warm water for healthy hair.
  5. Don’t cut your hair end too often. Give a gap of 4 to 6 months. This will help hair to retain texture and supports growth.
  6. Keep your skin moisturized to get the glow and soft look. Whether it is winter, spring or summer. Don’t forget skin friendly moisturizer
  7. Apply moisturizer on hands, legs and face before going to bed. Morning when you wake up you will have better skin feel.
  8. Applying Vaseline on knees and elbows helps to get rid of roughness.
  9. For easy make up removal and to protect skin, use Vaseline.
  10. Exfoliating skin before going to bed is good idea. Exposing exfoliated skin to sunlight can cause irritation and give burning sensation.
  11. If you are exfoliating, do not over exfoliate as it could cause problem to skin texture.
  12. Applying vitamin E oil to finger and toenails helps to reduce brittleness.

Image credit: Photo by Photo by pics_pd on Pixnio (Free for commercial use)

Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on: January 8, 2021
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