By Kevin Reagan
A Chandler teenager is mixing her passions for science and nutrition by publishing a cookbook of healthy recipes designed to improve a reader’s digestive system.
Diya Nath, 14, published a list of smoothie recipes last month in her book, “Healthy Habits for a Healthier You,” and hopes readers will use them as a way to subtly add more fruits and vegetables into their daily diet.
“I want to use smoothies as a way to help develop a healthier lifestyle,” said Diya, a sophomore at Arizona College Prep-Erie.
Diya said the cookbook was the result of research she’s been for the last two years on bacteria and the human microbiome.
Her interest in the biological subject was triggered by a series of health problems that have been plaguing her since early adolescence.
Doctors had warned Diya she was gaining too much weight and prescribed a medication to treat early symptoms of diabetes. Diya said she dieted and exercised for months and yet her weight hardly changed.
The stress of dealing with her weight got to be too overwhelming and it eventually started to hinder Diya’s mental health, she said.
“I was dealing with my health and I used to hate talking about myself,” Diya recalled.
Diya’s anxiety was amplified again after she discovered a possible food allergy to eggs, rice, and some types of gluten – further restricting her few dietary options.
“I was devastated and had no way to figure out how to control my weight with all my favorite food gone from the list of foods that I could relish,” she recalled.
Diya eventually stumbled upon a series of videos on YouTube demonstrating how to make healthy smoothie shakes and she quickly became hooked.
She started using her family’s kitchen as a lab for mixing her own ingredients to produce smoothies that were tasty and nutritional.
Most of her smoothies have some sort of fruit base and Diya often tosses in “superfoods” like kale, spinach, or chia seeds to add some extra fiber to the blend.
Her recipes include smoothies with names like “Sweet Green Machine,” “Berry Delight,” “Almond Blueberry” and “Banana Surprise.” Diya’s personal favorite is the “Water Mango” smoothie – a combination of watermelon, lemon juice, and mango.
“It’s very tangy but also sweet and it has a beautiful orange color too,” Diya said.
Diya said her physical and mental health has improved immensely since she’s started making smoothies and believes it’s due to her digestive system getting infused with the right amount of nutrients.
Diya is fascinated by how human bacteria can be hindered by foods and medications and has already begun doing her own research to test out why certain medicines often result in causing stomach issues for a patient.
She’s conducted experiments on worms to find out how E. coli – a bacteria needed for a healthy intestinal tract – is impacted by the presence of common over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen.
Diya said she’s managed to collect some data indicating the bacteria isn’t able to thrive in the presence of certain medications.
“The medicines were so powerful that the bacteria didn’t even grow in the culture,” she said. “That was very alarming.”
Diya’s cookbook includes some background on the author’s scientific research and Diya said she hopes the information will enhance her argument for why smoothies are an easy choice for improving a person’s health.
Modern society has become so accustomed to relying on easy-to-make junk food to get through a hectic workday, Diya said, but her book proves there are alternative options that are cheaper, simpler, and healthier.
She plans to continue her research and would eventually like to examine how the brain is altered by different foods and hopefully uncover a clinical recipe for boosting a person’s self-esteem.
“I want to look at foods that help amplify those feelings on a healthy level to spread joy and happiness,” Diya said.
Aside from science and nutrition, Diya said she is on a broader mission to encourage young people to accept their own personal flaws and learn to love them, not reject them.
“I love promoting self-love and self-healing so people can be inspired to help themselves,” she added.
Diya’s book can be purchased on Amazon for $20 or on Kindle for $3.