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Dr K K Aggarwal

Cinnamon in diabetes

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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In a meta-analysis of 10 studies in patients with type 2 diabetes, consumption of cinnamon supplements improved fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels, but not HbA1c levels. The report is published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

Small doses of cinnamon supplement could be used in association with traditional diabetes medication.

Cinnamomum cassia was the most common form of cinnamon studied in the trials.

The effect of cinnamon could be attributed to its active component cinnamaldehyde.

The advantages of cinnamon include its cost, tolerability and safety profile.

Long-term administration of high-dose cinnamon may be unsafe since its coumarin content has been tied to liver damage in animal studies.

Do Your Duty with Discipline and Devotion

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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“Vasudhaiva kutumbakam” (the whole world is one family) and “Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudavanti” (truth is one but the wise call it by various names) are two basic statements, which come from the ancient Rig Veda and form the fundamentals of Vedic philosophy.

One should do one’s duty with devotion and discipline. This principle can be remembered as the principle of three Ds.

In daily routine ‘one should remember the purpose for which one is born, which is to fulfil Dharma (duty), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire) and Moksha (liberation). To achieve them, one needs to follow the four Fs: (i) Follow the teacher (ii) Face the negative devils of the mind (iii) Fight till the end and (iv) Finish at the goal.

The essence of Bhagwad Gita can be summarized in one shloka (Chapter 2.48) where Krishna says to Arjuna “yogastha kuru karmani”, which means ‘concentrate on actions’ (do all actions while remaining in yoga). He further says that one should take success and failure in the same stride. (yogastha = steadfast in yoga, kuru = perform, karmani = duties or action).

To acquire spiritual health, one should follow three Ss which are: (i) Satsang (company of good people) (ii) Sadhana (hard work), and (iii) Sanskar (good deeds). Adi Shankaracharya in Bhaj Govindam describes them as Satnam or Simran (bhakti, or reciting the name of their God), Satsang (company of good people) and Seva (good karmas).

Before doing any work, one should follow the principles of three Hs: (i) listen with the Head (ii) follow the Heart to choose one of the choices and (iii) order the Hands to take an action.

The ABCs of a good professional are Availability, Behavior and Competence. Competence comes last; the first is the availability of the professional.

An action should be based on Truth; it should be coming from consciousness and should end in internal bliss. Various Vedic literatures have termed this triad by different names like satha, chitha, ananda, and satyam, shivam sundaram.

All about tea

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Tea is commonly thought of as black tea with milk and sugar. However, the word ‘tea’ refers to any herb. When Tulsi is boiled in water, it makes Tulsi tea; hot mint water makes mint tea. Several different herbs can be used to make different varieties of teas, such as jasmine tea, lemon tea, lemon grass tea, masala tea, sounf tea, etc.

When the decoction of the leaves and the water is reduced to half on boiling, it forms Kadha.

Black tea without milk and sugar is much healthier than the one with these two ingredients.

A tea without sugar and milk has an astringent taste. As per Ayurveda, this is good for health as it reduces Kapha imbalance. Addition of sugar and milk (both having sweet taste) neutralizes the weight reducing and kapha-relieving properties of black tea. Hence, for enhancing taste, add jaggery or an artificial plant sweetener, such as stevia.

Black tea also acts as a mild diuretic and increases urination on account of its caffeine content, which is a stimulant as well. That’s why tea helps you stay awake. Coffee is stronger than tea in this case. Taken in moderation, black tea is good for the heart and general health. While choosing between different teas, go for jasmine, lemon and lemongrass teas.

In Ayurveda, different teas have been prescribed for different personalities. Therefore, we can have vata-pacifying tea, pitta-pacifying tea and kapha-pacifying tea.

What is the importance of life force?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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A physical body becomes useless once the life force is gone. The same body, which was lovable to everyone, becomes a liability after death. Everyone wants to dispose it as early as possible as keeping a dead body at home is considered a bad omen.

During the transfer of dead body from one place to another nobody wants to keep the body in a vehicle other than a hearse van, whose job is only to transport dead bodies. No family will be willing to carry the dead body of a person in a car in which the deceased person has been traveling or driving for years.

Be it for any reason, health or rituals, once you touch a dead body you are required to take a bath before you commence your daily routine.

Within a matter of hours, in the absence of life force, the physical body starts disintegrating and in a matter of days, it shows signs of self-destruction and putrefaction.

This vital force is nothing but the soul, aatma, brahma, spirit or consciousness described in different Vedic texts.

Adi Shankaracharya in his book Bhaja Govindam Shloka 6 says:

yávat–pavano nivasati dehe

távat–pøcchati kuùalam gehe,

gatavati váyau dehápáye

bháryá bibhyati tasmin káye.(6)

“Till the life force remains in the body, people come and enquire about your welfare. But, the moment the life force goes out, even your wife is afraid of coming anywhere near your body”.

Life force can be equated to the network of information in computer, radio, television or mobile phone. All these gadgets without data are useless and are thrown away. This silent data, which can be retrieved by operational and application software, represent the life force or soul of these electronic gadgets.

Just as one does not give importance to a computer without data, one should not give importance to the physical body. It is the life force within the body which is respected and cared for and that is what real “I” or “We” is. All glories of the body are only until the life force remains in it.

In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna in Chapter 2 (2.23) says about this life force or ataman: “Fire cannot burn it, weapon cannot cut it, water cannot wet it, air cannot dry it; it is immortal”.

Life force has no dimensions: height, weight, color or image. It is immortal, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. The weight of a live and a dead body immediately after the death is the same.

It is the same life force, which dwells in everybody and during life is modified by actions, memory and desire cycles. If one gets attached to any of the three, one starts getting detached from the soul or the life force. People who are in touch with their life force all the time attain peace and happiness and die young in old age.

Most Vedic mahavakyas say that it is the same spirit, which dwells in everybody and hence every person in the society should be welcomed and treated with equal importance. Aham Brahmasami, Tat Tvam Asi, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, etc. are few such examples.

According to Adi Shankaracharya, one can achieve non-duality only by seeing God in everyone. Athithi devo bhava is also based on the same principle.

Thinking Differently

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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There are three ways to manage stress. One is to think opposite, second is to think different and the third is to think positive.

Thinking opposite was advocated by Patanjali, thinking differently by Adi Shankaracharya and thinking positive by Gautam Buddha. Out of the three approaches, the Indian Vedic philosophy focuses on thinking differently. Thinking positive and thinking opposite may not be feasible at the time of any adversity.

Thinking differently has been emphasized in mythology at multiple places. Ten heads of Ravana, five heads of Brahma, elephant head of Lord Ganesha, Fish incarnation of Lord Vishnu and third eye of Lord Shiva remind us of the principle of thinking differently.

We can see or analyze a person or a situation with the eyes of our physical body (physical eye) or eyes of the mind (thinking and analyzing) and eyes of the soul (consciousness-based decision).

Lord Buddha said that a good action should be based on truth, should be necessary and bring happiness both for the person doing it and the society.

The 3H principle advocated in the West is also based on the same, which means before any action, think from your Head and from multiple options available, choose from the Heart and then order the Hands to do the job.

The first incarnation of Lord Vishnu – Fish – indicates the capacity of swimming against the stream. The third eye of Lord Shiva means thinking from the mind and choosing the right answer from the heart. The 10 heads of Ravana and 5 heads of Brahma also indicate thinking to get multiple options.

The example of thinking differently comes from the dialogue between Urvashi and Arjuna. Once Urvashi, in a mind full of Kama, went to Arjuna and said “If you are not going to give me a son like you today, I am going to give you a curse”. Arjuna was in a dilemma but he thought differently and said, “Why do you want to wait for 25 years to get a son like me; from today I am your son: Mother.”

Women above 65 should take extra care of their health

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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  • All women should exercise a minimum of 30 min per day, but women who need to lose weight or maintain weight loss are advised to engage in 60 to 90 min of moderate-intensity activity on most, or preferably all, days of the week.
  • A heart-healthy diet should be rich in fruits, whole grains and fiber foods with a limited intake of alcohol and sodium.
  • Saturated fat should be reduced to less than 7 percent of calories.
  • Women at very high risk for heart disease should try to lower their LDL cholesterol to less than 70 mg/dL.
  • Women aged 65 and over should consider taking low-dose aspirin on a routine basis, regardless of their risk. Aspirin has been shown to prevent both heart attacks and stroke in this age group.
  • The upper dose of aspirin for high-risk women is 325 mg per day.
  • Hormone replacement therapy, selective estrogen receptor modulators or antioxidant supplements, such as vitamins C and E, should be used to prevent heart disease.
  • Folic acid should also not be used to prevent cardiovascular disease.
  • Women should eat oily fish or some other source of omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week.
  • Women should not only quit smoking but should use counseling, nicotine replacement or other forms of smoking cessation therapy.

Paint your plate with the colors of the rainbow: Include all 7 colors and 6 tastes

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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US Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The American Cancer Society recommends 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables in a day.

All vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and beans contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients have potential anti-cancer and anti-heart disease effects in addition to other health benefits.

Phytonutrients in different colors

  • Red: Rich in lycopene, a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals that seems to provide protection against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease [Strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, apples, beets, watermelon, red grapes, red peppers, red onions]
  • Orange and yellow: Provide beta cryptothanxin; it lends support in intracellular communication and may have a role in preventing heart disease [carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, mango, pumpkin, apricots, winter squash (butternut, acorn), peaches, cantaloupe, corn]
  • Green: Rich in cancer-blocking chemicals such as sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles, which inhibit the action of carcinogens [spinach, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, collard greens, green tea, green herbs (mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil)]
  • Blue and purple: Possess antioxidants called anthocyanins that seem to delay cellular aging and help the heart by inhibiting the formation of blood clots [blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, Concord grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, figs, prunes, lavender, purple cabbage]
  • White and brown: The onion family contains allicin, which is known to possess anti-tumor properties. Other foods in this group contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol [onions, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, parsnips, daikon radish, mushrooms]

Our ancient texts and traditions have always advocated the principles of “variety” and “moderation” i.e. eat a variety of food, and eat in moderation. A balanced diet includes all seven colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, white) and six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) for a balanced diet.

They also recommend mindful eating or eating with awareness. Mindful eating means being aware of the hunger and satiety signals of the body. It also means using all the five senses while eating: colors (eye), smells (nose), flavors (taste), textures (touch) and sound while chewing (ear) of the food. Mindful eating also relieves stress and will help to check the rising numbers of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, etc.

The Bhagwad Gita explains how to eat: “While eating, one should concentrate only on eating as the food is served to one’s consciousness” (9.27).

In Chapter 6 Shloka 17 of the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna “Yukaharaviharasya yuktachestasya karmasu. Yuktasvapnavabodhasya yoga bhavati duhkhaha.” This means “the one, whose diet and movements are balanced, whose actions are proper, whose hours of sleeping and waking up are regular, and who follows the path of meditation, is the destroyer of pain or unhappiness.”

(Source: Harvard Health Blog, Katherine D McManus)

You are the Temple of God and the Spirit of the God Dwells in You

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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This sutra from the Bible reflects the union between the spirit and the soul. The ‘Spirit’ represents the Parmatama or the Brahman and ‘You’ represents the individualized spirit or the Soul (Jivatama).

A temple is a place of worship and also the place where God resides. Every human being represents a temple (place of worship) where God exists (one’s soul) and this soul is nothing but the essence of God (the spirit).

One should treat every individual in the same manner as the same spirit dwells in every human being. The soul is also the reflection of individual’s past and present karmic expressions. Most people are in the habit of looking and searching for God in artificial temples, gurudwaras and churches, not realizing that the same God is present within us, provided we undertake the internal journey to look for Him.

He is present in between thoughts in the silent zone and can be approached by adopting any of the three pathways: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Gyana (Gnana) Yoga.

Doing selfless work with detachment to its results; working with the principles of duty, devotion and discipline and/or regularly doing Primordial Sound Meditation or other types of meditations can help one reach the stage of self-realization or meeting one’s true self. Once there, one can have all the happiness in life.

Plate Your Food Now

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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The traditional ‘Food Pyramid’ of the USDA has been replaced by a ‘Food Plate’ symbol. A healthy diet has been broken down into 4 main quadrants on a plate – red for fruits, green for vegetables, orange for grains and purple for protein. A small blue circle attached to the plate indicates dairy products.

Fruits and vegetables cover half of the space on the plate. The vegetable portion is slightly bigger than the fruit portion. Eating more fruits and vegetables equates to fewer calorie consumption on the whole, thus helping in maintaining a healthy body weight. Fruits and vegetables are also rich in fiber along with vitamins and minerals.

The other half on the plate is divided between grains and proteins. Grains portion emphasizes on whole grains and makes up one quarter of the plate. Protein is a smaller quarter of the plate. It is recommended to eat different kinds of protein in every meal.

The Plate does not mention the number of servings for any food group or portion size. It also does not mention fats and oils.

Tips for a healthy meal:

  • Eat less and enjoy the food by eating slowly
  • Fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Do not take oversized portions, as it can cause weight gain.
  • Half of the grains on your plate should be whole grains.
  • Limit foods high in solid fats and/or added sugar.
  • Use fat-free or low fat milk and/or dairy products.
  • Drink plenty of water and stay away from sugary drinks.
  • Avoid high sodium level foods such as snacks and processed foods.
  • Balance your food choices with your activity level.

How to Finish Your Pending Work?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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  • This involves principles of time management and some Vedic principles.
  • The first thing to do is to make a checklist of all the pending work by writing it down and re-categorizing them depending upon the urgency and importance.
  • Pending work can be classified under following four sections:

o Urgent and important: Should be done immediately

o Important but not urgent: Should be scheduled as per the time available

o Not important and not urgent: Learn to say no and dump it

o Urgent but not important: This work should be delegated to others.

  • Urgency of the work is decided by the deadlines available.
  • The importance of the work is decided by directing the result of the work to the mind, body or the soul. One should see whether the result of the work gives pleasure to the body, mind or the soul. The one which is giving pleasure to the soul will be free of fear or guilt.
  • When choosing between simple or difficult, choose the difficult jobs first so that you do not carry them back home in the mind. In terms of importance, difficult files are more important than simple files.
  • When choosing right versus convenient action, give priority to the right action and not the convenient action.
  • Delegation of work and team work is very important.
  • When deadlines are available, it is always better not to keep the work just near the deadlines.
  • Anticipate delay and keep time for unforeseen movements.
  • Work is work and not something personal.
  • Always remember the spiritual principle that you get what you deserve and not what you desire. So never get attached to the results of your actions.
  • Yoga, pranayama, afternoon naps and meditation help to prioritize your work.
  • Follow the principles of creativity and learn to give breaks in between jobs so that the mind is relaxed and can take soul boosting decisions.
  • Remember, Yudhishthir never kept anything pending for tomorrow. In this way, you can have a fearless, undisturbed sleep.
  • Organizing your pending list always helps.
  • Do not waste time on learning material on which you are already an expert.
  • Take advantage of down time. If you find free time in your routine, then convert it into a creative time so that you can plan strategies or do something new.
  • Always get up at the same time and never disturb your sleep time.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

Tips to prevent a peptic ulcer

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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  1. Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks daily.
  2. Stop smoking or chewing tobacco.
  3. If you need to take painkillers, avoid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin.
  4. Consider, with your doctor’s approval, paracetamol instead.

The Deeper Meaning of Lord Shiva

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Many of us are devout followers of Shiva. But, we worship Him without understanding the deeper meaning of Shiva.

In Hindu mythology, Shiva is one of the three forms (trimurtis) of God, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the Hindu Triumvirate.

The Parmatama or spirit or what is called as God can be classified as a mixture of three forces representing Generator (creator or Brahma), Organizer, (maintainer or Vishnu) and Destroyer (completing or Mahesh or Shiva). These three similar forces come into play in our body to perform any work. They can be denoted as: Idea generation or creation, maintaining or organizing the contents of the idea, and then destroying or completing, so that new work can be undertaken through Ganesha, the Lord of new beginnings.

One must understand and implement the principles of Lord Shiva in day-to-day life. This can be done by understanding the meaning of the form of Shiva.

Classically, Shiva is worshipped in a sitting meditating pose, sitting on a deer’s skin with a background of white Himalayas and blue sky (akash). Shiva is also depicted with ashes from graveyard smeared on his body, a snake around his neck, Ganga flowing out of his hair, three eyes, blue neck, trishul in one hand and damru in his other hand.

All these symbolic representations have a deep spiritual meaning and tell us about Shiva’s principles of success.

Of the three eyes of Shiva, the left eye indicates love; the right eye signifies justice and the third eye, wisdom or intelligence. To work effectively, one must use both eyes, i.e. doing every work with love and justice. Any work done with love and without justice will lead to pampering, and justice without love will lead to rudeness. The third eye should be used in times of difficulty. The message here is: whenever you are in difficulty, use your intelligence and wisdom. The opening of the third eye means the disappearance of ignorance (darkness or pralaya).

The half open-eye meditating pose teaches us that in daily life, one should be as calm as if you are in the meditation pose. Being calm or practicing calmness helps in achieving better results.

The snake around the neck represents ego. And, the downward posture of the head of the snake indicates that ego should be directed towards the consciousness and not outwards. The ego should be kept under control and not let it overpower you.

The blue color symbolizes sin or negative thoughts. Shiva as neelkanth (blue neck) teaches us that the negative emotions should never be expressed nor suppressed; instead they should be altered or modified. This indicates that the poison is neither to be drunk nor to be spitted out but to be kept in the throat by making it a part of the life. For example, an episode of anger should neither be expressed nor suppressed. Suppressed anger releases chemicals in the body causing acidity, asthma, angina, diarrhea, etc. Expressed anger creates an unhealthy social environment. The only way is to alter or modify the anger by wilful cultivation of opposite positive thoughts in the mind. Therefore, the process of silently passing on love to any individual can take away the angry thoughts from the mind (love is opposite of anger).

The ash on the body of Shiva reminds that everything in the universe is perishable and nothing is going to remain. The message here is that ‘you have come in this world without anything and will go back without anything, then why worry’.

The trishul in one hand represents control of three factors, i.e. mind, intellect and ego. It also represents controlling the three mental gunas, i.e. sattva, rajas and tamas.

The damru, the hollow structure, represents ‘taking all your ego and desires out of the body’.

The blue Akash represents vastness and openness; the white mountains represent purity and truthfulness.

It is customary to fast on Shivaratri. Fasting does not simply mean missing a meal or not eating that day; it also means fasting or abstaining from all negativities “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”. Fasting also indicates controlling the desires for eating foods (like fermented, sweet, sour and salt) and controlling the negative thoughts both in the mind as well as in action.

By adopting these principles, one will attain a free flow of knowledge, which is represented by the Ganga coming out of the hairs of the Lord Shiva. The matted hairs of Shiva represent tapas and signify that nothing in the universe is impossible without contemplation and repeated practice.

If one follows Shiva’s principles in everyday life, one will find no obstacles in routine life as well as in the spiritual journey.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

ECG not a reliable marker for predicting heart disease

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Doing an ECG has limited utility when it comes to predicting future heart problems for people being examined for chest pain.Chest pain is the most common reason for seeking medical care for a possible heart trouble, and an ECG is commonly done in such people. ECG results can come out as normal in the first six hours, even in frank heart attacks. The commonest mistake made in the emergency rooms is missing the diagnosis of heart attack on ECG.

The history and physical findings continue to be the most important parameters.• Chest pain, which can be pinpointed by a finger, is not a heart pain.• Pain lasting for <30 seconds is not related to heart.• Heart pain presents as diffuse pain in the center of the chest, which lasts more than minutes and is characterized by heaviness, burning, discomfort, or pain often triggered by physical or mental exertion.An exercise stress test should be done when there is doubt. If negative, reassess the patient for potential risk factors.

If the patient is found to be at high risk, then even with negative treadmill test, he should be subjected to risk reduction management in a bid to prevent future heart attacks.

High risk patients include smokers, those with high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes.

How long can one fast?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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As per Allopathy, one cannot live without air or oxygen for more than 3 minutes, without water for more than three days and without food for more than 3 weeks.

According to the Chandogya Upanishad, food is responsible for the making of motor organs (Karmaindriyas), sensory organs, Manas (mind, intellect, memory and ego) and Prana.

The fiery foods are responsible for making the motor indriyas, earthy foods for sensory indriyas and manas and water for making Prana Vayu.

Therefore, it is possible for a person to live on water for up to few weeks because he will keep making Prana and keep breathing but absence of food from 14th day onward will start affecting his Gnanaindriyas and Manas. The person will start losing power of hearing, touching and sensing and will start showing impairment in mental status, memory, intellect functions and egoistic behavior.

Tips for safe eating

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  • Snack with raw vegetables instead of potato chips.
  • Add fruits in breakfast.
  • Prefer juice instead of a usual coffee, tea or soda.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with water and scrub with a dish brush when appropriate.
  • Throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage.
  • Peel and cook when appropriate, although some nutrients and fiber may be lost when produce is peeled.
  • Avoid fruits and vegetables that look brownish, slimy or dried out. These are signs that the product has been held at an improper temperature.
  • Wash cutting boards with hot water, soap and a scrub brush to remove food particles.
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, especially fresh whole fruits and vegetables and raw meat, poultry and fish. Clean under fingernails, too.